Should You Replace Your Roof Before Getting Solar Panels Installed?

Kenneth Wilson

Should You Replace Your Roof Before Getting Solar Panels Installed?

Many Americans are making the decision to invest in solar. Despite the many financial benefits of installing solar panels, there are a number of things to consider. One is whether a roof is in suitable condition to install solar panels. 

This is something that can often confuse many people. After all, not many of us are experts on roofing. However, any homeowner can do some basic research and investigation in order to get a sense of whether or not their roof should be replaced prior to getting solar panels installed. 

However, before assessing your roof, there are some important things to understand about solar panels that can help illustrate the importance of the status of your roof. 

The Lifespan of Solar Panels

The first thing to consider is the lifespan of solar panels. The reality is that solar panels are incredibly durable. They are resistant to different weather conditions including even moderate-sized hail. 

Additionally, the technology that creates the photovoltaic cells has advanced significantly over time. The result is that the efficiency and lifespan of solar panels have greatly increased over time. In fact, modern solar panels typically come with warranties ranging from 20 to 25 years. 

The warranty on a solar panel is not simply the length of time it is expected to function; rather, it is a guarantee of efficiency. Typically, warranties guarantee that solar panels will produce 80% or more of their rated power for a specified number of years. This is because the degradation of solar panels is, on average, less than 0.4% per year. 

What does this mean for solar panels? It means that while solar panels are warrantied to last 20 to 25 years, they can often last much longer. Even solar panels that generate less than 80% efficiency still generate a considerable amount of power. The major point is that solar panels will last at least 20 years before you’ll want to replace them, possibly much longer. Because of this, it is important to ensure the quality of your roof. 

How Solar Panels Secure to a Roof

Additionally, it is important to understand how solar panels secure on a roof. This can vary depending upon the type of roof. For example, if you have asphalt shingles (the most common type of residential roof), the installer will drill into the roof studs and secure the mounting hardware. For metal seam roofs, the actual seams of the roof can be used to directly mount the hardware. With flat roofs, there will be quite a bit of structural equipment. 

The major takeaway here is that while solar panels can be removed to repair or replace a roof, the process can be a bit labor-intensive depending upon the type of roof. This means that removing and replacing solar panels is definitely an added expense, one that a homeowner doesn’t want to look at when they are already looking at the cost of a new roof. 

Thus, because solar panels have a very long lifespan and the cost to remove and reinstall them is an unwelcome addition to roof replacement, it is important to assess the quality of your roof prior to installing solar panels. 

Evaluating Your Roof Condition

Evaluating your roof does not require having a high degree of knowledge or necessarily even climbing up on a ladder. In fact, there are a number of different things that should be checked initially. 


Discoloration on your ceiling can signal that a roof is potentially damaged, and moisture is getting in. This can also go unnoticed since we typically don’t look up in our homes. Taking a look at your ceiling is a basic first step in the process. 

Missing, loose, or broken tiles

It is also important to take a look at the roof itself. If you have an angled roof, you can even take a look from the ground. Loose/broken tiles are easy to spot and a sign that the roof at least needs repair in some sections. Missing tiles suggest the possibility of more severe damage. 

Aged roof

This may be a bit more difficult to spot, so taking to a ladder may be a good idea for a closer inspection. Even if shingles aren’t broken, they may simply be worn down. This can be seen by the existence of rust or bare shingles. 


There are two major things to look for here: standing water and water damage. Roofs are designed to channel water off the home and to the ground so standing water after rainfall is a sign of a problem. Additionally, water damage can be seen in torn underlayment or worn out sealant. These two issues will eventually result in water entering your home.


Large impacts to roofs can cause the underlayment to become punctured or shingles to become cracked. These are signs of issues as well. This is more common in situations where the roof has experienced hail damage. 

Roof Age

If there are no signs of damage, this is another factor to consider. Most residential roofs will last 30 years while some types can last closer to 50 years. Most solar professionals recommend that if your roof is within five years of needing replacement, it should be replaced before solar panels are installed.  

After taking a look at your roof for these warning signs, you will have a sense of whether your roof needs professional attention. If you find any problems with your roof, contact a roofing company for an assessment. Some issues can be repaired while others require a complete replacement. If you have damage from something such as storms or hail, your insurance may cover the bulk of the replacement cost. 

If you are still unsure whether or not your roof is in good shape, you can always contact someone to complete a roof inspection. This is a relatively inexpensive way of finding out for sure the status of your roof. 

Many consumers may also wonder if a new roof is worth the cost. The answer is yes. A combination of a new roof and solar panels will increase a home’s value. However, if your roof is in good shape, you can forego this process and proceed directly to solar panel installation. 

Final Thoughts

Whether or not to replace a roof before installing solar panels is an important decision. The expense of replacing or repairing a roof after panels are already in place will be an extra cost that homeowners don’t want to cough up. This is why it is important to assess a roof before solar installation. 

Visually assessing a roof is a good starting point for this process. However, a professional can always be called in to do an examination if there are concerns. The general rule of thumb is that if a roof is not within five years of needing a replacement, it is fine to install solar panels. 

Kenneth Wilson
January 23, 2021

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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