What You Need to Know About Ground Mount vs Roof Mount Solar Systems
When you’re considering purchasing a home solar panel system, you’ve got lots of options! But one of the options you might not have considered before is whether to go with ground mounted solar panels or roof mounted solar panels.
Sure, we’ve all seen massive solar arrays on the ground in commercial and utility settings. But ground mounted solar panels are an option for residential too, and there are lots of advantages to them you might not know about.
In this blog, we will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of both roof mount and ground mount solar panels. There is really no right or wrong way to go. It just depends on what your priorities are and what your home and property are like.
What is Roof Mounted Solar?
Roof mounted solar is when the solar panels are fastened to the roof of your home. The solar panels themselves need to be fixed to roof mounts. Whether the mounts are placed on a flat roof or pitched roof, the mounts help get the panels at the best angle and secure the panels to the roof.
Solar installers drill holes in the roof, ensuring the mounts are fixed to the rafters. Other parts of the solar system, like the inverter and any solar batteries, will be on the side of the home, but the panels themselves are on the roof.
What is Ground Mounted Solar?
Ground mounted solar panels are solar panels that are detached from the home. There are two main ways installers do this—either with a pole-mounted system with poles that are cemented into the ground, or with a standard system, which is very similar to the roof mounted solar mounts, just on the ground.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Roof Mounted and Ground Mounted Solar Systems
As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to each method. Talk with your solar salesperson and ask them to help you weigh the pros and cons, considering your home and your needs.
Top Benefits of Ground Mounted Solar Panels
- Cooler panels (panels get hotter on a roof) provide more energy production
- Much easier to access on the ground than on your roof for cleaning and repairs
- Stronger racking that roof mounted solar overall
- The system can be larger than the dimensions of the roof if needed
- If the roof needs to be replaced, you don’t have to move the solar panels and then reinstall them
- Ground mounted solar panels can be set up to pivot throughout the day for higher efficiency
Top Benefits of Rooftop Solar Panels
- Materials and labors costs are less expensive than ground mounted solar panels
- Roof mounted solar takes advantage of unused space
- Easier to permit than ground mounted solar
- Generally aesthetically pleasing
Things to Consider About Ground Mounted Solar
Ground mounted solar panels certainly have lots of advantages, but still, you tend to see way more roof mounted solar systems. So here are a few things to consider.
Ground Mount Racking Requires a Longer Permitting Process
Depending on where you live, and certainly here in New Mexico, permitting is the longest part of the solar process. In many places, since you’re technically building something new, you’ll need an additional building permit.
Building permits are a nuisance because you’ll have to submit a design plan, take into account soil type and property line setback requirements, and you’ll have additional permitting fees (over a roof mount.)
If getting solar panels for your home as soon as possible is a priority, then roof mounted is likely the way to go.
Higher Installation Costs
Certainly if you’re having your solar panels installed on your roof, you’ll want to consider the state of your roof first. You don’t want to remove your panels and pay to have them reinstalled if you have to get your roof replaced. So if you ended up deciding you needed a new roof before it made sense to go solar, certainly that would be a major added expense.
Having said that, just looking at the systems themselves, ground mounted systems cost more. Labor costs are higher, as are material costs.
Ground Mount Takes Up Real Estate
Ground mount systems are ideal for people who have at least some property since they do take up real estate. If you have a smaller property and if you have kids and pets, that solar array could be in the way quite a bit with a ground mount system.
Optimize Your System’s Output
This is one of the best features of ground mounted solar systems! They’re able to optimize output in a few ways. First, just because of their placement, you can avoid shading from any trees or other structures in the area by getting to choose exactly where you will place it.
Additionally, ground systems can be installed to tilt throughout the day to increase daily exposure.
Most people don’t like to crawl up on their roof, flat roof or not. So having a ground array makes maintenance and upkeep much easier. Granted, you’d be hiring a professional to do maintenance, some homeowners like to clean their panels themselves between maintenance appointments to keep them running optimally.
Ideal if You Have Limited Roof Space
Your roof doesn’t have to limit your ability to go solar. Ground mount systems allow people who do not have ideal roofs for solar to still explore this great source of renewable energy.
Things to Consider About Roof Mounted Solar
We’ve shared a few of the pros and cons of ground mount systems, and there are just as many for roof mount systems. Let’s dive in!
Makes Roof Repairs Difficult
Roof mounted solar systems are great for a lot of reasons. But one thing they do complicate are roof repairs. If your roof needs to be repaired or replaced due to weather damage, or just the passage of time, solar panels may need to be removed to do the repairs. If so, this is an added expense.
Makes Use Of Unused Space
Other than hanging up holiday lights in the winter, what use does a roof have anyway?! (Well, and protecting your home from the elements—that too!)
You might as well take advantage of that unused space to add value to your home and reduce your environmental footprint.
Potential for Roof Leaks
You probably remember from before that we mentioned in a roof mount system, installers actually drill holes through your roof and into the rafter to attach the solar panels. When installed by a reputable installer, this shouldn’t cause any problems since they should know how to ensure a tight fit that doesn’t allow for leaks.
However, it is possible, especially if you go with a cut-rate install company that isn’t licensed, then leaks could occur.
Another thing that could produce leaks would be installing solar panels on an old roof. Again, a reputable solar salesperson would not suggest that you do this since there can be dry rot and soft spots are already vulnerable. If you know you have an older roof and a solar salesperson is saying that is not a problem, that’s a red flag.
Using your roof does limit the total number of panels, and doesn’t necessarily allow the array to grow with you if you add to your home or build new outbuildings. A ground mount array can grow with you to meet the needs of your home.
Does your HOA have constraints on where you can mount your panels?
If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, it’s also important to see if they have guidelines for where you put your panels. You’ll need to make sure that the suggestions from your solar salesperson align with your HOA requirements.
Which is Better? Roof Mounted or Ground Mounted Solar Systems?
The answer to this question remains that truly, neither one is better than the other. Both roof mounted and ground mounted systems have advantages and disadvantages. And while one solution might be right for one home, the other solution might be right for another home.
If you have questions about which would be best for you, we’d be happy to chat with you! Just fill out the contact form on our website, and we will reach out!