Metal roofs could trend upward after California’s solar mandate

metal roof solar

As the first state in the nation to require all new homes to have solar power, California’s recent decision may result in a dramatic shift in the way American and Canadian homeowners think about their roofing options, says the Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA).

“California’s leadership is a giant step forward to bring solar power into the mainstream for all homeowners no matter where they live,” said Renee Ramey, Executive Director of the Metal Roofing Alliance. “It also promises to cause a major shift in the building and construction industry for how to adopt methods and materials that are better suited for solar systems. After all, the return on a residential roof-mounted solar investment is only as good as the quality and longevity of the roof where it’s installed.”

Beyond California, recent reports such as “Selling into the Sun: Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes” demonstrate that buyers in other areas of the country are willing to spend more for a home with solar panels. Utility company incentives available in many regions are also helping drive solar demand.

Return on solar investment: Why the right roof matters

According to the California Energy Commission, when the state’s solar standards kick in two years from now, it will save consumers an estimated $80 on monthly heating, cooling and lighting bills, a positive long-term return on the investment that is predicted to easily offset the higher cost of installing solar.

However, while the benefits of producing their own rooftop electricity are significant for homeowners, MRA warns that those savings can quickly be wiped out if the roof underneath the solar system fails. That’s because repairing or replacing a roof—in addition to the substantial extra labor costs of removing and reinstalling a solar panel system—can be tremendously expensive.

For homeowners and builders looking to protect their solar system investment, MRA suggests the following:

• Think long term. Metal roofs are the best option for photovoltaic systems, greatly reducing the risk of a roof failing before a solar panel system does. The estimated lifespan of solar panels is typically about 20 to 25 years while metal roofs last for 50-plus years, two or three times the average lifespan of other types of roofing materials. That means the roof will easily outlast the panels.

• Start with a strong base. Metal is exceptionally strong and durable, able to support the weight of heavy solar systems by using a simple attachment and clip solution that does not require drilling holes into the roof or the need for self-ballasted systems, reducing the possibility of roofing failures and potential leaks.

• Maximize the energy savings. Considered “cool roofs,” metal offers additional energy efficiency benefits, especially combined with solar. Even basic, unpainted metal roofs will reflect more solar radiation than asphalt, which typically absorbs and holds heat. Metal roofs with special coatings deliver high total solar reflectance and high infrared emittance, keeping homes cool and saving energy by re-emitting most of what solar radiation is absorbed.

• Reduce environmental impacts even more. Metal can be 100 percent recycled rather than dumped into a landfill at the end of its long life. It reduces long-term maintenance by naturally resisting moss and fungus, cutting down on the need for strong chemical treatments.

• Consider all-season climate conditions. Solar isn’t the only consideration in sunny climates. In extreme climate conditions that are becoming more prevalent in every season and region, metal stands up better to hurricane-force winds, severe rain and hailstorms, heavy snowfall and dangers including wildfires that are more likely to damage other types of roofs.

— Solar Builder magazine

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