You’ve probably encountered prospects who are excited to go solar...until they start to worry about someone drilling holes in their roof.
They get nervous about possible damages, leaks, or their roof not holding up under the weight of the solar panels. It doesn’t help when they inevitably go to Google and scroll through a few horror stories of what happened to other roofs of unsuspecting solar customers.
Believe it or not, this is where your solar company can actually stand out from competitors. By making sure you’re using proper installation practices, you can build a strong reputation for high-quality, reliable, leak-free installations and increase your solar referrals.
Here are the 5 questions that you can ask to avoid common mistakes and create happy customers and enthusiastic referrals:
1. Is the Roof Ready for Solar?
Solar installation best practices begin well before anyone sets foot on the roof — especially if that roof needs more preparation before going solar.
It’s important that you never risk your company’s good reputation by agreeing to install solar on a damaged or unsuitable roof. To assess if the roof is ready for solar, here are a few questions you should get answers to:
- How much longer will the roof last? (Since solar panels last 25+ years, ideally the roof will too.)
- Does the roof leak?
- Can the roof carry the added weight of a solar panel system?
- Is the roof in a condition to bear regular solar panel maintenance?
If it turns out that the roof needs to be replaced, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost the sale. Discovering this information for your potential customer will help you build valuable trust with your prospects. They’ll likely appreciate your honesty and keep you at the top of the list to use your services once their roof is ready.
2. Am I Using the Correct Roof Materials?
It’s important to match each roof to the best installation materials possible. Beyond the usual considerations, such as solar panels, racking, ballast, and other materials, it’s good to look at the type of roof you’re installing these components to.
Here are a couple of roof types that require some additional equipment:
Although concrete tile roofs are usually ready for solar, installers occasionally run across an older version, known as the clay tile roof.
Since clay tiles are too brittle to bear solar panels, a solar installation on that roof will require what’s called a “comp-out process.” This involves replacing some tiles with shingles and then installing the panels on top of the shingles.
This process requires not only extra shingles, but also extra tiles that match those on the original roof, which will replace any tiles that are still visible after the solar installation.
Pro Tip: If you’re remotely designing a system for a tile roof, try to find out the tile material before sending a quote. Many installers will price themselves out of an installation because they assume the tile roof is made of clay tiles. If you find out that the roof uses concrete tiles, you can provide a much more competitive quote since you know you won’t need a comp-out process.
Most solar installers love installing on flat roofs since there’s usually no need to drill holes. However, flat roofs do require the following:
- Additional brackets: to tilt solar panels at 10-25 degrees
- A roof pad: to prevent the heavy ballasted system from perforating the roof membrane
- Cold-resistant concrete ballast: to improve longevity as some concrete ballast breaks down if exposed to repeated below-freezing temperatures
3. Am I Using the Right Design for This Roof?
What works perfectly on a particular shingle roof (such as rail-less mounting) may be a disaster on a tile roof, and vice versa. While most common roof types work well with solar, each type has unique installation needs.
Moreover, each individual roof always differs in its size, water flow, available space, obstructions, etc. When designing a solar panel system, you should take into account:
- Type (tile, shingle, or tin)
- Slope (or, with flat roofs, lack thereof)
- Available space
- Sun exposure
- Necessary walkways
- Water Flow
If this sounds like a lot of variables, that’s because it is. But thankfully, you don’t have to crunch all the numbers yourself.
A top-notch 3D solar design program, like Aurora, will give you the best-fit and most productive roof design based on your parameters. Aurora’s Smart Roof feature can automatically take into account most of these considerations. And if you’re really pressed for time, you can use the built-in solar design service, which will have a professional designer create and deliver the perfect design for your project within three hours.
4. Am I Using Good Installation Habits?
Even the best solar system designs and materials are only as good as the team who installs them. While it can be tempting to finish up a job quickly, a dissatisfied customer with a leaking roof will not only cost you a good review, but possibly dozens of potential referrals.
Here are a few common bad habits when it comes to solar installations and how to avoid them:
Surround roof penetrations, especially lag bolts, with flashing. Flashing is a metal or plastic shield with an additional tar or rubber seal around it, which also has a final waterproofing sealant.
Clean up all debris and ballast material after installation. Extra debris can often get caught in pipes and clog up the house’s water system.
Don’t leave heavy tools lying on rooftops, even for a short time. The weight can often weaken or even puncture the roof membrane and cause unnecessary leaks.
Don’t drag solar panels or racks across rooftops. Their weight can also cause leaks and their edges can scratch roof materials and membranes.
To create a leak-free PV system, you need to have the right design and the right installation practices. Following these simple best practices doesn’t cost much, but it will make sure that you secure those positive reviews that are crucial for your business.
5. Do I Offer a Solar Maintenance Plan?
Offering a solar maintenance plan is not only a great way to increase long-term revenue, but also a great way to continue receiving positive referrals from happy customers. Even though a solar panel system is relatively low-maintenance, both it and its roof need some TLC once in a while to keep them performing at their best.
Here are a couple of easy ways you can help customers maintain their solar system:
- Recommend the customer installs screens and squirrel guards to protect the roof from animal activity. The spaces beneath solar panels can encourage animals to nest or chew on wires, so preventing them from getting on the roof in the first place is recommended.
- Offer to inspect the solar pv system annually. Maintaining a clean PV system can prevent energy loss due to soiling and other roof-related issues.
These practices will ensure that your customers enjoy a long and satisfied experience with their high-performing solar PV system — and make them far more likely to send positive referrals and reviews your way.