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Can You Install Solar On A Flat Roof?

The words "Solar on a flat roof?" over an image of a flat roof home powered by solar panels.
PublishedFebruary 12, 2024
UpdatedMay 17, 2024
AuthorBrian ChurchWriterEditorCory O'Brien HeadshotCory O'BrienSenior Director - Growth Marketing
In this article
Flat Roofs and Solar Panels
Pros and Cons of Solar Panels on a Flat Roof
Flat Roof Solar Opportunities
Challenges to Keep in Mind
Ask Us Anything.

Can you install solar on a flat roof?

Yes, yes you can.

Can and should you install solar on every flat roof?

Well, no… but it is definitely worth investigating as a practical solution for many property owners.

In this article, we will outline exactly how a flat roof can impact your solar power journey, including all of the information you will need to evaluate your options and make the best decision for your flat-roofed home.

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Flat Roofs and Solar Panels

The majority of residential roofs in the US are pitched (also known as an angled roof or sloped roof). However, many Americans still live beneath a flat roof today – in modern condos, adobe-style homes, dense urban areas, and more. If you have found yourself within this small percentage of Americans, your dreams of adopting solar panels should be no different than your neighbors’ with a pitched roof next door.

In fact, flat roofs and solar panels can work very well together, especially at scale – which is why solar panels can frequently be seen on the flat roofs of commercial buildings like retail centers, offices, and manufacturing facilities.

However, since you probably do not have the same available roof space, energy demand, or budget as your local superstore, many limiting factors could prevent the plausibility or value of a solar installation on your flat-roofed home, which we will discuss below.

Learn more – How much roof space is needed for solar panels?

Pros and Cons of Solar Panels on a Flat Roof

Whether you are due for a green energy upgrade or are currently designing your dream home, having a flat roof may increase the cost of your solar energy system when compared to a house with a pitched roofline.

While solar panels can lay flat against a slanted roof, a system installed on a flat roof must be raised and tilted to receive direct sunlight – which can increase your project's material costs. That said, it is important to remember that this may actually result in better peak performance and long-term benefits – as systems on a flat roof can be raised to the best angle for solar panel efficiency on your specific property.

Pros Cons
Panels can be positioned at the perfect angle for sunlight absorption Possible increased installation costs for extra mounting materials
Flat roofs typically have a lot of usable space to install panels Panels are more at risk of damage or efficiency loss due to wind, water, or debris accumulation, especially around roof penetrations
Solar panels may be hidden from street view by the building's parapet walls May require structural enforcement to accommodate panels and mounting system

Flat Roof Solar Opportunities

Ultimately, having a flat roof does not necessarily limit your chances of saving money with solar energy, and there is no reason not to consider a solar installation solely because your roof is flat. Just as the massive flat roofs of commercial buildings across America are slowly being covered by electricity-generating panels, homes with flat roofs are typically strong candidates for solar savings.

A flat roof may also present a few interesting opportunities (within local building codes) that pitched roofs could not accommodate. For example, with the right home design, you may be able to install a solar “canopy” on a flat roof that creates a shaded outdoor area below its raised panels.

Learn more – Guide to Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BPIV).

Challenges to Keep in Mind

Whenever adding solar to a flat roof, there are several additional safety considerations you and your project manager will need to take into account. If your roof has any existing drainage issues, cracks, or damage, installing a solar panel system may make things worse and potentially dangerous without the necessary precautions.

In designing your flat roof solar panel system, you must also abide by the local building ordinances expressly set for flat roofs. These ordinances may limit the overall availability of your installation space if your panels must have a solar setback that allows for significant distances from the roof edges or features.

Ultimately, if you decide that solar panels are not suitable for your flat roof, you may still be able to achieve similar results with a ground-mounted solar installation, so talk with your solar panel installer about your available options.

Ask Us Anything.

Whether your roof is flat, pitched, or yet to be built, Palmetto is here to help you discover your home’s solar potential! For questions, free estimates, and more information on powering your home with low-cost green energy, consider Palmetto your solar partner.

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About the AuthorBrian ChurchWriter

Brian is a writer, NABCEP PV associate and outdoor enthusiast living in Denver, Colorado. As a freelancer, Brian has written hundreds of articles to help individuals, businesses and our planet benefit from solar power and sustainable energy systems.

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