Tips for Solar Panel Usage on Steel Structures

steel metal extraction processes
How Steel and Metal Extraction Processes Work
December 4, 2022
avoiding steel metal fatigue
Avoiding Steel and Metal Fatigue Issues
January 6, 2023
Show all

Tips for Solar Panel Usage on Steel Structures

solar panel usage steel

The use of solar panels has grown exponentially around the globe in the last couple decades, and continues to rise in recent years especially. Steel is one of several surfaces that solar panels can be applied to, and it often carries some significant benefits here – but there are also some important themes to keep in mind if you’re moving forward with such an upgrade.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re here to assist with any and all of your steel needs, from supplying high-quality steel sheet, beam and other products to offering expertise on any kind of project you’re involved in. What are some of the possible benefits of utilizing solar panels on steel structures in particular, and which key tips should you keep in mind while doing so? Here’s a simple rundown.

Why Steel is Great for Hosting Solar Panels

There are a few reasons why steel and other metal roofs are often considered ideal for solar panel installation:

  • Lower-pitched roofs: In many situations, steel and other metal roofing materials can be mounted with a lower pitch than other options. This is beneficial for solar panel installation, as it allows for more effective panel placement.
  • Steel roofs are longer-lasting: Steel roofing materials are often much longer lasting than shingle or tile options, meaning you may not have to replace the material beneath your solar panels nearly as often.
  • Steel is more fire resistant: If you choose to install solar panels on a steel roof, you can rest easy knowing that it’s more fire-resistant than other materials – which can be an important factor in some areas.

If you’re thinking of going this route for a steel building, what should you be thinking about? Our next several sections will go over some simple considerations to make.

Choosing Ideal Installation Type

Firstly, you’ll want to think about which solar panel installation type is best for your structure. Generally speaking, there are two options here:

  • Crystalline panel array: The older of the two options, this panel setup involves drilling into your steel roof and mounting the panels directly.
  • Laminate solar panels: Modern, lightweight solar panels that are installed using peel-and-stick materials and are meant to be less intrusive to your steel roofing.

Depending on the specifics of your project, one or both of these options may be best for you. Moreover, some solar panel installers recommend specific methods over others and will choose accordingly – so it’s important to make sure that whatever installer you hire is familiar with the particularities of your steel roof.

Ensure Building Can Support the Weight

One key factor to consider here is the weight of your solar panel array – especially since steel roofs are typically less able to handle heavy loads than other materials. Make sure that the structure can support the weight of your intended array before you move forward; otherwise, you may run into problems down the line.

For instance, if you’re installing a large array of crystalline panels (which are the heavier option), it’s important to make sure that your steel roof is capable and safe for this kind of weight.

Consider Directional Positioning

One element that will be relatively similar for steel structures as with other roofs is the directional positioning of your solar panels. Make sure that you’re taking into account the angle, tilt, and other factors here in order to ensure maximum efficiency – as this will be one of the most important elements in a successful installation.

Generally, you want your panels to be facing south and tilted at around a 30-degree angle, in order to maximize the amount of sunlight they can absorb throughout the day.

Don’t Forget About Ventilation

One important factor that’s often overlooked when installing solar panels on steel roofs is ventilation. Since solar panels absorb heat from the sun, it’s important to make sure that your steel roof is well-ventilated enough to prevent overheating.

However, this is actually one area where solar panels are beneficial for steel buildings. Instead of the hot sun beating down directly on your steel roof, solar panels can act as a buffer, which helps to keep your roof (and the interior of your building) cooler. Still, it remains important to choose the right materials and techniques to ensure proper ventilation.

Consider Your Warranty

If you’ve purchased a steel or metal building, you likely have a warranty in place – and it’s important to make sure that your roofing material is compatible with whatever solar panel installation type you choose.

Check with the manufacturer of your metal building (or the installer who set it up, if applicable) to ensure that any changes or modifications won’t void your warranty. This may be especially true if you’re using a crystalline panel array, as drilling into your roof could be considered a modification.

Finally, make sure that the solar panel manufacturer you choose has a good warranty program in place to protect your investment. That way, if something does go wrong with the panels themselves, you’ll have some form of protection against malfunction and other issues.

Overall, the installation of solar panels on steel roofs can be a great way to upgrade your building and make it more energy efficient. Just remember to keep these key themes in mind before you begin – from directional positioning to ventilation, warranties, and weight considerations. By taking all of these factors into account, you’ll be well-prepared for a successful installation.

For more on this, or to learn about any of our steel products or services, speak to our team at Wasatch Steel today.