There are three types of roofs that present significant challenges for installing solar: clay tile roofs, lightweight concrete tile roofs, and metal tile roofs. These roof types each have benefits that make them a great choice for homes. Unfortunately, tile roofs do not withstand the impact involved with rooftop solar installation. In fact, tile roofs are easy to break just by simply stepping on them, a necessary part of any rooftop solar installation.
Clay tile roofs
A clay tile roof has an estimated lifespan of 100 years. This means that they can be decades old and still a great roof. In fact, many clay tile roofs still around today were installed in the 1930s. If needed, homeowners can replace individual tiles. Sourcing tiles that match a roof installed a long time ago, however, can become a problem. If, for example, during a solar installation a solar contractor came along and broke 50 tiles, the homeowner would need to source the tiles again. This may result in tiles that have a different look or a really long lead time to receive.
Lightweight concrete tile roofs
Lightweight concrete is different from concrete tile. Lightweight concrete is, as the name implies, lighter in weight which allows for an easier, faster and safer installation than standard concrete tiles. Lightweight concrete tile can also be used as a replacement for composite shingle, if a homeowner wanted the look and fire resistance of a concrete roof. The downside is the tiles are delicate enough that a solar installer carrying a solar panel cannot work on that roof. We have heard of cases in which hundreds of lightweight concrete tiles have been broken on a roof before the solar contractor ultimately decided that they could not complete the installation.
Metal tile roofs
Metal tile roofs are great because they last for 30+ years, deflect heat from the sun, and look good, but they can easily be damaged during a solar installation. Metal tile roofs can be installed in three ways. The first method for installing metal tile roofs is on plywood decking and the second is on old wood shakes. With either of these methods, solar can be installed if the workers are really careful. Realistically, however, even the best teams will dent a few tiles. The third method of installing metal tile roofs is a method in which solar installation becomes a significant problem. This method involves tearing off the wood shakes and then installing the metal tiles on what is called skip sheeting. This is decking made of 1x4s with 4 inch gaps between the boards. Skip sheeting makes the tile too delicate to walk on while working. Installing on these roofs is a lot like lightweight concrete in the sense that contractors will try to do it and after wrecking dozens of tiles realize they should not have taken the job.
In all of these cases homeowners end up with a damaged roof that will never look the same. If the homeowner is able to source matching tiles, which is not a guarantee, new tiles of any material will not be as faded as the current ones and thus will not blend in with the rest of the roof. If you have a clay tile roof, lightweight concrete tile roof, or metal tile roof, please reach out to us to find out if a solar pergola or solar carport installation can help you power your home with solar energy.