If you are interested in how to mount the photovoltaic panels for your solar power system, and also:
- How to mount the solar panel on a roof,
- How to install ground-mounted solar panels,
- How to mount a solar panel on a pole,
- How to mount a solar panel on an RV,
- How to mount a solar panel on a caravan,
- What is a solar panel mounting structure,
- Can solar panels be mounted on the ground and how to mount solar panels on the ground,
This article will reveal the essentials and some details.
Read on to get prepared and make the right decision about the solar system you are going to build or buy.
After selecting the location for the solar array, you should determine its mounting type.
Generally, how to mount a solar photovoltaic (PV) panel depends on:
- The house and roof orientation
- Shading by surrounding objects
- The roof material and load-bearing capacity
- The need for protection – from animals or children, vandalism, theft, etc.
- Weather conditions.
Mounting structures hold solar panels and arrays in the proper place.
A solar panel mounting structure is supposed to bear various kinds of loads – wind, snow, mechanical pressure, thermal influence, as well as the load of the mounting structure itself.
Solar array mounting and related wiring should be reliable yet simple to enable easy panel replacement, without the need of dismantling the whole system.
Racking components hold the solar array to the spot where the solar panels are placed.
There are various ways for solar array mounting.
The solar array can be mounted on a roof.
Another option, which is becoming increasingly popular, is building-integrated mounting where a solar array can be a physical replacement of the roof covering (on modern office buildings).
Very often a solar array can be mounted on the top of a pole rack – as is the case of solar lamps in parks.
The solar array mounting type is selected by carefully considering:
- Orientation towards the sun
- Site shading
- Weather at the location
- Roof material and bearing capacity (in the case of roof mounting)
- Soil type and condition (in the case of ground-mounting)
These are the main types of solar panel mounting:
- Roof mounting – on a sloped roof, flat roof or roof-integrated
- Pole mounting
- Ground mounting
- Facade mounting
We’ll briefly review them by stressing on their benefits and drawbacks.
Solar Panel Roof Mounting
Roof mounts are harder to access, and unfortunately, this is valid not only for any malicious person but for you as well.
For you, ‘harder access’ means not only difficulties when adjusting the optimal tilt angle (and do that a couple of times a year) but also clean the panels from heavy snow (if you live in an area with long cold winters) or from any occasionally accumulated soiling.
Often the slope of your roof does not coincide with the optimal tilt angle of the solar array, and you have to invest extra money to improve such a situation.
Sloped roof mounting of solar photovoltaic panels
- A recommended mounting method for homes.
- Above and parallel to the roof slope.
- Promotes array cooling by allowing air to circulate beneath the array, which:
– Reduces heat gain into buildings by separation from the roof, and
– Provides underside access on the rooftop for diagnostics and maintenance.
- Can be used effectively for new construction on existing homes.
- Cables should be selected according to the outdoor environment.
- The supporting structure should be designed for at least 30 years of lifetime.
- Preferred materials: aluminum, stainless steel, and glass fiber.
Benefits of sloped roof mounting of solar panels :
- It is the easiest, the quickest and the most economical way of photovoltaic panels mounting. Often such constructions are installed without any external help.
- Can be usually installed on existing roofs.
- Easy to dismantle and not so easy to be stolen.
- Solar panels are mounted in high, so shades from trees and neighbor buildings are avoided.
- There is sufficient cooling in the rear part of every photovoltaic panel.
Drawbacks of photovoltaic panels sloped roof mounting:
- Often roof orientation and slope are not the best for achieving maximum performance of the solar array
- If the roof needs to be repaired during the next 15-20 years, the best moment to do that is before installing the PV array. This means that the system installation costs are going to increase.
Flat roof mounting of solar panels
Benefits of flat roof mounting of solar panels:
- Easy, quick and economical to install.
- PV panels can be installed in an optimal orientation and tilt.
- Easy to uninstall for repair and maintenance.
- Sufficient air flux in the rear part of every panel.
Drawbacks of flat roof mounting:
- Not every panel type is suitable for flat roof mounting. The wind effect on the construction should be carefully considered since solar arrays act like ship sails to the wind. Therefore, the constructions have to be balanced by concrete blocks or another type of counterweight, which appears as an additional load for the roof.
- Panels mounted on flat roofs are more vulnerable to shading than panels mounted on sloped roofs, especially in winter when the sun is low in the sky and shadows are longer.
- On high roofs, due to wind exposure, reinforcing the construction (e.g., by fixing the mounting construction of the strings at several points on the roof) might be needed which is an additional load for the roof. Furthermore, enough spacing should be provided between rows of solar panels in order to avoid inter-row shading.
- If during PV panels mounting, hydro insulation of the roof gets compromised, a piece of advice from roof repair experts might be needed.
Roof-integrated solar panel mounting
In roof-integrated mounting, conventional roofing materials thus enabling cost savings in new buildings are replaced with solar panels. Amorphous panels are suitable for roof integration.
Furthermore, there are special photovoltaic tiles – a specific design of PV panels designed for roof integration.
Benefits of solar panel roof-integrated mounting:
- Such constructions are usually quite agreeable aesthetically.
- They are mounted in high, thus shades from trees and neighbor buildings are avoided.
- Solar panels are hard to be stolen.
- The panel wiring is not exposed to outdoor conditions.
- Self-shading is avoided.
Drawbacks of roof-integrated mounting of pv solar panels:
- Labor intensive.
- Limits planning any possible roof repair activities, at least in the near future.
- Dimensional tolerances are important.
- Relatively more difficult access to panel wiring.
- Increased operating temperature due to warming the surrounding air layer – therefore efficient venting elements should be provided.
Solar panel pole mounting
Pole mounts are popular for arrays of residential solar panel systems since they:
- Are easy to install,
- Allow mounting the panels at some distance from the ground to avoid touch by animals or humans,
- Enable easy adjustment of the orientation and tilt according to the daily sunny hours or seasons,
- Are easy to clean, both from soiling and snow.
Pole mounts can be either fixed on a rack or combined with a tracker enabling the solar array to move with the sun.
Pole mounts are good for small solar arrays – up to 4 modules.
When buying a pole mount for solar panels, it is smart to mind any further expansion of the solar array, similar to when buying a charge controller.
It is always cost-effective to buy a mount for 4 panels although you might need now just two ones than buy a pole mount for 2 panels and after some time realize you have to buy another mount!
Ground mounting of solar photovoltaic panels
Ground mounts have the benefits that roof mounts do not have and vice versa.
In some aspects, they are similar to pole mounting.
Unlike pole mounts, however, ground mounts are designed to bear between 1 and 8 solar panels.
Some ground mounts are fixed, others have adjustable legs.
Benefits of solar electric panel mounting:
- Easy, quick and economical to implement.
- Photovoltaic panels can be installed at optimal orientation and tilt.
- Panels are easy to uninstall for repair and maintenance.
- Sufficient air flux in the rear part of every panel.
- Solar panels are even easier to install than on flat roofs since no load-carrying capacity of the roof is to be estimated.
Drawbacks of photovoltaic panels mounting:
- Occupies a part of an area that could be used otherwise
- Vulnerable to shading (from the neighboring panels and from the nearby buildings and trees)
- Vulnerable to soiling
- PV panels are easier to be stolen than when mounted on the roof.
Facade mounting of solar photovoltaic panels
Photovoltaic solar panels can be used not only for producing electricity but also to present a specific corporate identity.
Facade mounting of pv solar panels is usually related to the mounting methods of conventional facade construction elements.
Benefits of facade mounting:
- Solar panels mounted on the fa?ades of prestigious buildings could be certain kind of alternative of expensive facings
- Usually, there is enough area available for panels mounting.
Drawbacks of facade mounting:
- Low performance (sunlight is not falling at an optimal angle)
- Facade mounting is to be done by experts rather than by amateurs
- Not every panel is suitable for facade mounting
- A careful research of regulatory documents related to facades might be required.
Mounting solar panels on campers, caravans, RVs or motorhomes
When camping, there are two options available to mount the solar array – either on the roof of your vehicle or on the ground as a set of portable solar panels, sometimes called ‘solar blankets’.
Portable solar panels are suitable if your camper or caravan is to be parked in a shady area.
The drawback, however, is that you should care for deploying them every time you stop for camping.
Another drawback is that you should always pack your solar array along with and among the other baggage.
Furthermore, if mounted on the roof, panels are always safer despite the need for cleaning them occasionally from dirt and dust.
For the reason of self-cleaning (glass surface) and due to their better performance, crystalline panels are often preferred to be mounted on the roof of RVs, motorhomes, caravans or campers.
Certainly, by mounting a couple of solar panels on the roof of your vehicle, you should forget about angling them according to your wish and the sun’s position.
What you gain, however, is storage space and full elimination of the risk to leave the panels unattended.
Generally, crystalline (mono- or poly) PV panels are suitable both for roof-mounting and ground-mounting, with the pros and cons described above.
Thin-film panels, due to their low efficiency combined with the limited space on the roof of your vehicle, are rarely mounted on roofs and are typically used in portable configurations.
If the number of panels is not an issue, with a limited budget available, you can deploy a number of thin-film panels around your camper.
Recommendations about solar panels mounting
- Place the solar array as near to the charge controller and the battery as possible. Thus you reduce voltage drops and improve the performance of your system.
- If you are going to install the panels on a metal surface (e.g. metal roof), be sure to leave 10 cm (4 inches) above the metal surface. Otherwise, the panels get overheated and, along with underperforming, they might get damaged.
- Even if your roof is not metallic, don’t mount solar panels without leaving some space underneath them.
- Do not install the panels near chimneys or any other sources of continuous soiling.
- Do not mount the solar array at the highest point of the roof as it can attract lightning.
- Ground-mounted panels should always be mounted tilted at minimum 10 degrees. Never install panels flat on the ground.
- Whether mounted on a pole, on a ground or on a roof, solar panels should be grounded as a protection against lightning strikes.
You also may like:
1. German Energy Society. 2008. Planning and Installing Photovoltaic Systems – a Guide for Installer, Designers and Engineers.
2. Antony, Falk, Christian Durschner, Karl-Heinz Remmers. 2007. Photovoltaics for Professionals: Solar Electric Systems Marketing, Design and Installation, Routledge.
3. Hankins, Mark. 2010. Stand-Alone Solar Electric Systems: The Earthscan Expert Handbook for Planning, Design and Installation, Earthscan.
4. Photovoltaic mounting system-Wikipedia