With the focus on renewable energy and sustainability increasing, it’s no wonder that more conscious consumers in the United Kingdom are considering solar panel installation for their homes and businesses. By harnessing the sun’s energy, people can use solar panels to reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint.
One of the most important things to consider for your solar panel installation is the solar panel racking and mounting options. Let’s look at the types of solar panel racking and mounting options and what the best might be for your project.
What is solar racking?
Solar racking products (also known as solar mounting) hold your solar equipment in place in an installation. This hardware is necessary to safely fix the solar panels in your installation to buildings or the ground.
How do solar racking and mounting affect performance?
With proper installation, sturdy solar panel mounts will secure your panels in harsh weather and protect your solar panel installation.
If your solar panels are correctly installed, they will produce efficient, clean energy and reduce your energy bills. But installed incorrectly or on the wrong tilt, solar panels can be inefficient and produce less energy. Your choice of racking and mounting will impact the efficiency of your solar panel system over its entire lifespan, so you want to ensure you make the right choice for your home!
The first step to choosing your mounting products is to determine whether you’re doing ground mount or roof mount racking. This choice is usually determined by your available roof space and the orientation of your roof.
Roof mounts are common, but ground mounts are a popular choice if you need more space or live in snowy conditions where regular maintenance of your panels is required. You should take advice from your solar contractor or do your research thoroughly to ensure you get the maximum solar efficiency from your system.
What are the solar racking components?
A popular option for solar panel installation is roof installation, as you may have guessed. That involves adding solar panels onto your roof, which requires drilling holes. However, these can be susceptible to leaking if the holes are not properly covered, so solar installers use flashing as part of their solar mounting solution.
Flashing is a material used to stop water from leaking through to your roof. Flashing usually comes in the form of an aluminum rectangle, and on a traditional asphalt tile roof, the flashing is inserted underneath the shingles. If you have a roof made from tile, metal, rubber, or wood, you will need specially designed flashings to fit the shape of your roofing material.
Sometimes referred to as “feet,” mounts are used to attach solar panel systems to your roof. Mounts are typically attached to your roof with a bolt through the flashing and into a rafter, which secures your whole solar panel system. There is a wide variety of mounts used in different racking systems.
When preparing to install panels or solar panel kits on your roof, the solar panel installers will need access to your attic or underside of your roof. They can then ensure your rafters are structurally intact and spaced to accommodate the mounts for your solar panel system.
Rails are the component of solar racking that your solar panels sit on top of and are held up by mounts. Rails are typically long aluminum tracks and are installed either vertically or horizontally on your roof plane.
Another benefit of rails is that they provide a clear space to run the wiring of your solar panel system, which helps to reduce clutter and improves the safety of your installation.
Clamps keep your social panels secured in place on the racking by linking solar modules to the rails below. Mid-clamps sit between solar modules and hold panels in place on two sides, and end-clamps are usually larger and sit at the ends of solar arrays. Often both types of clamps are used in an installation.
What are the types of solar panel mounts?
Solar panels roughly fall into one of two categories, either roof mounts or ground mounts. Roof mounts include those on houses or commercial structures and those on the roof of campers or van conversions.
Fixed Roof Mounts
Typically roof mounts tend to be the most cost-effective way of mounting a solar panel system because the foundation for your panel already exists - your roof! This method saves money in racking materials and solar installation labour costs.
If you have a small property, a roof mount might also be the most effective use of your limited space.
To maximise your solar panel production, they should be tilted towards the sun on an angle called the optimal mounting angle. Fortunately, most house roofs are built in this way already and don’t need any additional tilt adjustments. If this is the case for your roof, a fixed roof mount is the easiest and most cost-effective option for you.
While most residential rooftops are sloped, yours may be the exception - or you may want to install solar panels on a commercial building but a flat or low slope roof.
Tilt legs allow you to lift the solar panels up to a fixed angle, so they face the sun at the optimal angle. A flat roof tilt mount is the ideal product to use for this type of roof installation. If you’re installing solar panels on the flat roof, a van conversion or a campervan, you will also need tilted panels. Our RV Tilt Mount Brackets can help you get the perfect solar setup on your vehicle.
Ballasted (Zero Penetration) Roof Mounts
Most roof-mounted racking techniques require holes to be drilled into your roof during installation. When that’s not possible, or you’d rather avoid drilling, a ballasted roof mount is your best option.
Ballasted mounts rest on a free-standing base and are secured in place by the weight of added concrete blocks. It’s important to note that ballasted mounts only work on flat or low-slope roofs and must be well-engineered to handle the weight of the concrete blocks.
Fixed Ground Mounts
A standard fixed ground mount uses a simple metal frame to support the weight of the solar panel system. They are typically installed at a fixed angle and position and are secured and set in a concrete slab.
You can also choose to lift your solar panel system off the ground by mounting your panels on top of a sturdy pole mount. This can be useful if you live in an area that experiences heavy snowfall, as the steep angle of the pole mounts means snow naturally falls off the face of the solar panels.
Another benefit of pole mounts is that they are adjustable, meaning you can tilt your panels seasonally to ensure they face the sun at the optimal angle.
Trackers are ground mounts that adjust automatically to ensure your solar panels are always facing the sun at the optimal angle. They are best suited for commercial-scale solar panel systems or for unique circumstances where space efficiency determines your solar panel installation.
If you need more output from your solar panels it’s usually more cost-effective to add an extra panel or two to your system, rather than use tracker mounts.
What’s the best solar panel mount for my project?
The best solar panel racking and mounting option for you depends on your roofing system - the shape, your ability or willingness to drill holes, and the space and needs of your property will all have an impact on what makes the racking and mounting options best for you.
We have a range of solar panel mounts and brackets, as well as racking in the Renogy range. You can buy these accessories individually, but it’s usually more efficient to plan out all your installation hardware in one go to ensure you buy compatible components.
To make things easy for the customer, Renogy has a wide range of solar panel kits for sale. These kits include solar panels, a charge controller, wiring and cables, and mounting hardware - you’ll only need to purchase an inverter and potentially solar batteries in order to complete your solar panel system.
It’s also important to consider the overall costs of and energy needs of your solar installation project. While solar racking is a vital part of any solar installation, the good news is that the cost of racking represents only a small portion of a total installation. We suggest you plan to spend roughly three percent of the total solar panel installation cost on solar racking.
Choosing the right solar panel racking and mounting options is a crucial part of your solar panel installation. It’s important the racking, and mounting systems meet the needs of your house, roof, and energy requirements. Be sure to check out Renogy’s wide range of solar panels, solar panel kits, and solar racking accessories to help with your solar panel installation.