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Solar Installation Mounts and Racks

Lightweight metal racks are used to hold solar panel arrays.  These racks must be solidly attached and strong enough to withstand years of storms and wind loads.  Correctly mounting solar panels will allow you to maximize the systems electrical production.  Solar Panel Racks can be adjusted to the correct angle from flat to 60 degrees to maximize the exposure to direct sunlight in your climate.  Some advanced solar rack systems called active trackers can actually rotate to follow the sun.  Solar trackers use the same technology as was used for large cable satellite dishes in the 1980's. These systems are more expensive but are up to 70 percent more efficient. 

Most solar panels are mounted to the south facing roofs of houses and buildings although East and West exposures can also be effective.  In some situations solar panels can be fixed to poles or ground mounted.  A solar professional can determine the best location to install your system.

Always insist on using professionally engineered heavy duty mounting systems for solar panels.  Homemade systems that were not designed for this purpose can fail and become detached in severe weather.

A low rack profile can limit the amount of snow accumulation and allow snow to shed easier off the panels.  Most racks mount the panels 10" to 12" above the roof.  Higher racks must be engineered for higher wind loads.

You should work with the roofing contractor to make sure the installation will not void the roof warranty.  A structural engineer should also be involved to insure the roof is capable of supporting the additional loads.  Most structural engineers charge about $500 for a solar roof installation evaluation.  They may recommend or require corrective measures to the roof design before installation.  Flashing should always used when installing mounts.  Sealing roof penetrations will prevent call backs.  An extruded adjustable rack and feet can be used to spread the weight across the roof.
Ballasted racks can be designed for up to 120 mph wind loads. 

Flush mount hardware can be used with 1/4" bolts or RSS screws.  Double check measurements before any roof penetrations.  Bottom flush mount clips attach directly to the roof secured and sealed to asphalt shingles tieing into the top chord of the roof truss or rafter.


Residential awning mounts can hang panels from the side of a wall.  Using tilt mount hardware and unistrut for hangers the installation joins the panels and creates a solar energy functioning shade awning.  This also avoids penetrating roof membranes.

08/30/2010