Solar Panels on Flat Roofs and Ground Mounting
Mounting solar panels on flat roofs and on the ground can often be the best option when installing your solar system. You may not have a suitable pitched roof facing south or your roof may be flat. You may also want to utilise some ground at the back of your garden and installing solar panels would make a once redundant area more productive.
The great thing about solar panels is that they are so flexible in terms of installation - they can go almost anywhere they can sit and face the sun. So if you have a flat roof or a piece of suitable ground here are a few pointers to consider when installing solar panels.
Solar Panels on Flat Roofs
A Frame: When mounting on a flat roof the solar panels are typically mounted on an A frame which is tilted somewhere between 15 - 45 degrees. The lower pitch lessens the exposure to wind and is typically the pitch for Solar PV flat roof mounting.
Fixing/Ballast: Depending on the type of roof the fixing is very important. This is the method which the A frame is attached to the roof. Mechanically fixing to the roof structure can mean drilling through the roof covering so care has to be taken to ensure this penetration is thoroughly weather proofed. The other option for solar panels is a ballast fixing where no penetration occurs, the A frame is fixed instead to weights (concrete lintels typically) which fix the solar panels to the roof. This is very common when mounting solar PV and less common with solar thermal.
Pipework/cabling: Again the need for a penetration through a roof to bring solar pipes or cables would need to be weather proofed sufficiently.
Wind Load: When on an A frame the solar panels will be exposed to wind lift. It is important that the method of fixing is appropriate to the amount of wind load - tubes can often be more suitable than flat plate solar panels as they present less of a sail area to the wind.
Foundations: Mounting solar panels on the ground requires a foundation to be installed to fix the A frames to. This is typically a concrete foundation but there are other options available that don't require concrete depending on the stability of the ground.
Pipe/cable run: If on the ground the solar panels may be mounted some distance from the house. Longer distances require consideration to be made about the size and length of pipe/cable. The size of the array may have to increase a little to cater for any energy losses.
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