Residential Solar Mounting Solutions Guide 2019: Situations and Solutions

solar mounting illustration

Solar installers face jobsite annoyances every day. Awkward roof space. Plastic baggies of tiny components. Missed rafters. And so on. Death by a thousand racking cuts. Luckily, for all of these situations, there is a mounting solution out there to make your life easier.

Micro but Mighty

It’s not the size of the flashing that counts, but the system that comes with it

QuickBOLT Mounting Kits

QuickBOLT is a cool new name and logo, with a newly registered trademark for its solar mounting product innovation, but don’t be fooled: all of it is tied to a company and system you already know with decades of roofing and solar experience. Yes, formerly known as SolarRoofHook, QuickBOLT is the solar wing of Quickscrews International Corp., and its one of a kind Microflashing system is a component of its QuickBOLT and Low Profile QuickBOLT Mounting Kits.

The QuickBOLT is the world’s first and only UL Certified Microflashing mounting system, which seals roof penetrations and can be installed without lifting shingles or removing nails and staples. The QuickBOLT with Microflashing has been installed over 600,000 times with zero leaks.

With its new branding and new trademark in hand, we thought it was time we reintroduce you to the company’s strategy and how its system works.

 

Situation

Holes must be made in the roof for a solar installer to mount an array. Those holes must be sealed in some manner, otherwise the roof will leak. An installer who doesn’t use flashing methods greatly increases their risk of a leaky roof. Plus, International Building Codes require flashing to be used on residential rooftop solar. Flashing is typically sold as part of the mounting system. Mounting manufacturers design flashing products that, first and foremost, prevent leaks. Factors like ease of use or install speed more often come second.

QuickBOLT’s goal from the outset was to improve upon the various flashing methods out there with a flashing product design that would prevent water from entering the penetration while reducing the installer’s time up on the roof.

Key Considerations

In the late 2000s, minor innovations in flashing technology took place as mounting manufacturers began shifting away from “standoff” type mounts and toward mounts that integrated traditional flashing into the design. Both rubber bushed flashing and elevated flashing were became designs which added an extra layer of security to protect against water entering the penetration.

“30 years ago, Installers were mounting L-Feet directly to the roof with sealant alone,” says Jared Wiener, executive vice president at QuickBOLT. “In efforts to reduce leaks, the solar industry adopted flashing products that were more effective at redirecting water away from the hole—but often at the expense of voiding the roof warranty.”

Most of the flashing products used in the past included 12 in. x 12 in. pieces of metal to cover a hole that is typically only 5/16-in. in diameter. Installers ended up cutting the material to fit according to their array or simply to remove excess metal. Industry “best practices” were to lift up the shingles and place the flashing product underneath the 3rd course or layer.

The idea was that even though material and labor costs increased, these flashing products would prevent water from entering a penetration. But leaks still happened. Solar installers were unknowingly voiding roof warranties to install solar, becoming responsible for repairing leaks they could have prevented.

“We spoke with installers and roofers around the U.S. and learned that if we could eliminate the need to lift shingles, then solar installers could save a minimum of 30% of the time it takes for a typical solar install job,” Wiener said. “By providing installers with Microflashing, we were able to find the sweet spot between the simple L-Foot 30 years ago and the expensive flashing products of the 2000s.”

Solution: Microflashing

The patented QuickBOLT Mounting System debuted in 2010 for asphalt shingle roofs, which includes what is now properly known as Microflashing. The design of the system addressed the problems installers were facing: voiding the roof warranty by lifting shingles, speed of install, and reducing costs.

The QuickBOLT Kit consists of just three components: a custom hangar bolt, Microflashing, and a flange nut. When installers drive the bolt down, the collar compresses the Microflashing onto the roof, closing the penetration and creating a watertight seal. Any racking system can then be mounted by connecting a any type of bolt to the L-Foot. Installers have fewer components to carry onto the roof and can install the system in less than 60 seconds. The Microflashing is large enough to cover any other holes that might be made from missing the rafters, but unlike traditional flashing methods, installers no longer have to pay for extra, unused material.

What separates Microflashing from previous flashing methods is its placement. Before, installers would lift up the shingles and slide in the flashing underneath. Not only is this time consuming, but it potentially voids the roof warranty and increases the installer’s risk. Instead, Microflashing is designed to be placed directly over the shingle. Water is redirected around the washer just like other flashing methods — but it is significantly easier for installers to use and completely closes the penetration.

This innovation in flashing methods has given installers a new way to install more solar and increase profits.

Notes: QuickBOLT Patent #8448407. Microflashing is a registered trademark. © Copyright 2019. All Rights reserved Quickscrews International Corporation.

Situation

Transporting, cutting and maneuvering the mounting rails will be cumbersome.

plp power disk

Key consideration: Where and how to place solar mounting rails on residential rooftops.

Solution: The POWER DISK from Preformed Line Products (PLP) is a solar mounting system that can be placed anywhere on residential rooftops and does not need to be secured to rafters. Featuring a rail-less design, easy height adjustment and integrated grounding, the POWER DISK is a simple yet cost-effective solution for residential solar applications. What sets this mounting system apart is the roof deck mounting feature which allows for an easier array layout and faster PV module placement. The roof grip fasteners, sealing washers and pre-applied butyl mwastic are all included to provide a secure and reliable roof attachment. The benefits of POWER DISK:

  • Flexible. Modules can be set in portrait or landscape format
  • Adaptable. Attach anywhere on the roof
  • Compatible. Fits most framed 60- and 72-cell modules
  • Quick installation. Comes pre-assembled
  • Built-in electrical grounding. Grounding clips are integrated in the mount

Situation

Steep roof and a large system, a solar array highly visible from home’s primary gathering place.

Ecolibrium EcoX Universal Railess Racking system

Key considerations

  • Maximum fit on roof, same part count in landscape or portrait
  • Low part count for easy and safe installation
  • Exceptional aesthetics from any angle

Solution: Use a safe, fast rail-less solution that eliminates handling 20-ft rails on a steep roof and enables no-reach, module drop-in. Ecolibrium’s EcoX Universal Rail-Less Racking eliminates the need for 20-ft rails and the cost, risks and unsightliness of rails. The EcoX reduces attachments needed by 33 percent and uses 65 percent less aluminum to secure the array. Its no-reach-over panel drop-in design is a key feature, particularly on steep roofs. Components are universal to fit any module frame size, which allows installation to continue even if the module is changed. The design is flexible, resulting in a portrait orientation that fits the roof beautifully. A low-profile, finished look provides exceptional aesthetics for the highly visible location. Cost-per-watt is low.

Situation

Solar roof mounts for a standard composition shingle roof in Greenwich, Conn.

Ecofasten’s RockIt system

 

Key consideration: It’s a typical 35° snowy Mid-March day complicating jobsite conditions, so installers want to move quick.

Solution: The simplicity of Ecofasten’s RockIt system allows the installation team to complete the nearly 12-kW project in 7 hours, enabling installers to escape the bitter weather conditions in as short a time as possible. RockIt has a one-tool approach and only six components, much fewer than typical rooftop mounting systems. Furthermore, the rail-less RockIt solution allows for fewer roof penetrations compared with a rail-based system, further cutting down installation time and product parts. The installation team comments that they were able to bring all materials up to the roof quickly, with products being packaged in small boxes.

Situation

A 7-kW PV system installed on a regular comp shingle roof, 18-degree pitch with 24-in. OC rafter spacing. Twenty-four REC 295 modules at three rows of eight modules. Due to zoning and maximum rail spans, there are 30 roof attachments.

SnapNrack Ultra Rail System’

Key consideration: Time on and off is a priority as the crew is required to complete two jobs per day.

Solution: The SnapNrack Ultra Rail System’s snap-in strategy is featured throughout the installation process — from the the snap-in Ultra Rail Mounts to the module clamps to the wire management accessories. The lightweight rail and pre-assembled components allow for easy transportation on and off the roof. All components are installed with a single tool, a ½-in. socket, eliminating the need for more parts and pieces on the roof. An installation team of four can install this 7-kW system in less than 4 hours, allowing them to get two jobs done and still get home in time for dinner with the family.

Situation

A typical existing asphalt roof for a retrofit PV installation.

Roof Tech MINI

 

Key consideration: The installer wants to secure the mounting system to the roof without having to undo the existing seal of the roof shingles or affect the roof warranty.

Solution: Because of its simplicity and the ICC-certified “flexible flashing” system, the Roof Tech MINI is fastened to the roof without the need to damage the seal of the existing shingles. This approach does not impose a damage of the underlayment nor does it require the removal of nails needed to secure the asphalt shingle roofing. By comparison, installing a traditional metal flashing system on an existing asphalt roof requires the breaking of the seal between shingles and can cause additional damage to the underlayment through scratching it with the metal flange. Also, the opening of a hole on the underlayment from pulling an existing nail used to secure the shingles above in order to slide the upper metal flange into the third course also poses another quality issue. RoofTech says it avoids violating the roof warranty while allowing for a quicker installation time. Additional time is saved in comparison to lag bolts, due to the use of wood screws which don’t need a pilot hole.

Situation

A homeowner getting an asphalt shingle roof replacement requests a quote for solar but express minimal interest in rack and panel systems feeling it’s a ‘dated’ look.

Apollo II solar roofing system

Key consideration:  Losing this sale by only offering traditional rack and panel solar.

Solution: The Apollo II solar roofing systems from CertainTeed are engineered for seamless integration with new or existing asphalt shingle roofs. Each all-black solar shingle offers 63 watts of rated power, and at 1.22 in. thick, provides a sleek, low-profile aesthetic. Apollo II solar shingles attach directly to the roof sheathing with standard deck screws, feature a concealed wiring design and can be installed in any wind zone (including Florida’s high velocity hurricane zone). Dynamic flashing allows for flexibility in rooftop system layout, with water channels and raised fastener locations providing superior protection against water intrusion.

Situation

A small 17-kW commercial job at Canterland Farms near the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area in Oregon.

SunModo’s 1-in. EZ Standing Seam Clamps

Key consideration: It can be a challenge for installers to fasten standing seam clamps onto the roof seams because many clamps have attachment screws that are too close to the flat roof surface.

Solution: SunModo’s 1-in. EZ Standing Seam Clamps can be attached to a wide variety of seam profiles. The EZ Standing Seam Clamps use set-screws to compress the seam material against the opposite wall of the clamp. The preassembled set-screws can be attached on the vertical leg of the clamp or on the adjacent leg with its 10-degree angle and hook for greater gripping. The clamps are super easy to install, and the upward angle of the set-screws leaves plenty of work space between the drill and the roof. The oval end set-screws and proper torque ensures the protective coating of the roof seam is not damaged during installation.

SunModo also offers 2-in. EZ Standing Seam Clamps which can be installed in-situ at the desired seam attachment location. These clamps are a two-part assembly and uses the same upward angled set-screws to secure them firmly to the roof; no more sliding clamps up the roof line.

Situation

Sloped metal roof on residential and commercial buildings are mostly standing seam, R-Panel trapezoidal and corrugated metal roofs, but due to different profiles from different manufacturers, there are various brackets available for solar installations.

MageBracket R

 

Key consideration: Save time wasted by checking out each roof profile and settle on only one or a few brackets that fit most of the metal roofs.

Solution: The MageBracket R has an angle-adjustable bracket that fits most of the popular R-panel trapezoidal metal roofs. The bracket has two adjustable parts that can rotate to fit the rib with different angles. Therefore, installers don’t need to check out the roof profile first, then look for the right bracket and then wait for the bracket to arrive. Instead, they can stock just one bracket to save money and time. Similarly, MageBracket CH is also an angle-adjustable bracket that fits most corrugated metal roofs with rotating parts for different angles. For low-profile corrugated metal roofs of only 1/4 in. to 1/2 in. tall, MageBracket CL is width-adjustable and fits most low-profile corrugated metal roofs.

Situation

Installer is struggling to find structural members. They are drilling enough probing holes to infer center from a series of hits and misses. Stud finders cannot read through layers of roofing material and plywood and other high-tech devices have given mixed results.

RafterEye LLC Clampster,

 

Key consideration: Locating rafters without creating more penetrations than are needed to install the PV system.

Solution: Tucson-based RafterEye LLC just launched Clampster, a rafter center locating tool, to assist PV installers and others in rooftop attachments. Clampster — which can be used in a variety of construction applications such as exposed beams, porches, navigable attics, skip sheathing, log rafters — works through any roof type except steel. The clamp portion of Clampster grips the rafter just below the deck, and it works by forming a magnetic field around and through a rafter or truss. A rooftop worker reads the magnetic field, which points precisely to rafter center before any penetrations are made. The magnetic field can be read through up to 6 in. of insulating material that may be present (above or below the roof deck) between the available portion of the rafter and the roof membrane. There is no need to infer from one or both edges. Workers move rapidly, precisely locating one attachment point after another before any penetrations are made.

Situation

A rooftop that’s not quite near replacement but getting there. Homeowner wants a solar system now, but also wants to avoid the hassle of removing/reinstalling at replacement time.

APA Solar Racking Pre-Engineered Kit

Key consideration: This is a home in the Northeast, which is notorious for rocky soil.

Solution: APA Solar Racking has a Pre-Engineered Kit that’s a concrete-free solution for project sizes under 150 kW. This system is custom to any two panel increments. It comes with every part necessary for the racking, and 10 kW can be installed in 4 hours with a skid steer and auger attachment. In lieu of concrete, APA offers three types of foundations: helical anchor, geoballast and ground screw. A ground screw is best used in rocky soils, whereas a helical is ideal for soft organic soils. A geoballast is used when the soil is non penetrative.

Situation

A farm with high electric load and a 15-kW AC capacity cap in place. There is a time-of-use (TOU) rate schedule in place from the utility, with the higher rate between 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. There is an open view of the sky E,S,W.

AllEarth Solar Tracker

 

Key consideration: The roof is not great from a structural or orientation perspective, and a ground-based solution should make best use of land.

Solution: The AllEarth Solar Tracker is a grid-tied, dual-axis solar tracker ideal for both commercial and residential settings to take advantage of the sky E,S,W to get maximum production. Here, there would be minimal if any shading from buildings, trees, etc. due to the open farm field. Any permit limitations with an AC limit (vs. DC) will be an advantage for this tracker which produces more power (kWh/kW). The tracker system can be sized to that 15-kW cap and produce up to 45 percent more energy than a similarly sized fixed-tilt system. All of this takes up less room compared to fixed, helping the farmer get the most yield from their land. Under and between the trackers is still usable land for most agricultural needs. Due to the increased afternoon/evening production of the tracker, more kWhs are produced during the TOU, which best offsets costs.

Situation

A new crew member is on a presidential shingle roof installing flashings and L-feet. He rips open a plastic bag containing EPDM washers for the lag screws, and several fly out, rolling off the roof. He then places a flashing over the uneven presidential shingle tabs and installs the lag with an impact driver.

Pegasus’ Comp Mount

 

Key consideration: Quality control. When installing on un-even shingle tabs, such as presidential shingles, 1) press-fit flashings can crack at the water seal; 2) flashings with deck-level water seals may not seat fully against the L-foot, and 3) adhesive reliant flashings may not seal to the shingles around the roof penetration. All of these scenarios have leak potential.

Solution: Pegasus’ Comp Mount has several features to ensure high-quality, lasting and consistent installations. The All-In-One kit packaging has no plastic bags and includes all flashings, L-feet, lags and EPDM washers so there’s less chance of forgetting parts at the shop. The EPDM washers come pre-installed onto the lags to ensure they are installed every time and not lost in gutters. Pegasus’ Comp Flashing has a 0.7-in.-tall cone formed from a single piece of metal, meaning there are no deck-level washers or press-fit pieces to break and allow a roof leak. Pegasus’ L-foot elevates the water seal 0.9-in. above the roof surface, diverting much of the water flow. Finally, a bonded EPDM washer at the lag head acts as a final defense against water intrusion.

— Solar Builder magazine

Pegasus Solar solar mounting product line added to Sunnova approved vendor list

Pegasus solar

Sunnova Energy Corporation added Pegasus Solar’s complete product line to its exclusive Approved Vendor List (AVL), noting that Pegasus’ Comp and Tile Replace mounts have proven waterproof designs, are easy to install, have a low cost and are covered by a 25-year warranty.

“We are excited to partner with Sunnova on offering our mounting systems to their channel partners,” said Kai Stephan, Chief Executive Officer of Pegasus. “Together, we’re enabling solar at lower costs and with the highest-quality, longest lasting components.”
Pegasus Solar supplies its mounting solutions to Sunnova’s channel partners through select distribution networks across the nation.

— Solar Builder magazine

Pegasus Solar solar mounting product line added to Sunnova approved vendor list

Pegasus solar

Sunnova Energy Corporation added Pegasus Solar’s complete product line to its exclusive Approved Vendor List (AVL), noting that Pegasus’ Comp and Tile Replace mounts have proven waterproof designs, are easy to install, have a low cost and are covered by a 25-year warranty.

“We are excited to partner with Sunnova on offering our mounting systems to their channel partners,” said Kai Stephan, Chief Executive Officer of Pegasus. “Together, we’re enabling solar at lower costs and with the highest-quality, longest lasting components.”
Pegasus Solar supplies its mounting solutions to Sunnova’s channel partners through select distribution networks across the nation.

— Solar Builder magazine

Pegasus Solar raises $10 million in Series A funding round

Pegasus solar

Pegasus Solar, a designer and manufacturer of rooftop mounting systems for solar installations, raised additional funding, reaching $10 million under its Series A round of equity financing. The round was led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund (“EIF”), with participation from Okapi Capital, Howard Wenger, Mike Miskovsky, and other solar industry executives.

“We are excited to expand our partnership with EIF and other investors who are enthusiastic about our mission to accelerate the adoption of rooftop solar,” said Kai Stephan, Chief Executive Officer of Pegasus. “We continue to develop the market leading suite of products for residential solar and the funding will accelerate our growth.”

“Pegasus is the leader in mounting hardware innovation, delivering greater ease of installation and lower costs to installers on most residential roof types,” said James Everett, Partner at EIF, where he leads the investment team. “We believe the company will become the new standard in solar mounting products, and EIF is proud to be involved.”

EIF made its investment out of its EIF Fund III.

— Solar Builder magazine

The Replacements: These solar mounts for tile rooftops cut labor costs, avoid OSHA issues

Quick Mount PV’s Tile Replacement Mount

It’s always reassuring when solar technology moves faster than a federal regulator, even if it is a well-intentioned agency like the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In this recent case, a new crop of solar tile replacements that support rooftop mounting systems are eliminating the need for drilling, grinding or sawing cement tiles, an activity that generates harmful dust for workers when not controlled carefully.

Stuck in the Middle

OSHA came down with a new silica rule (29 CFR 1926.55, 1910.1000) in October that limits worker exposure to 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour time-weighted average. Penny-wise-and-pound-foolish solar companies that still choose the cheapest tile hooks requiring them to saw or drill cement tiles now must monitor worker exposure to silica dust and mitigate exposure through practices including mask use, wet-cutting and dust collection. Other more forward-looking solar companies will simply opt for the new tech and cut their BOS labor costs for a net job gain.

Sawing or drilling concrete roof tiles was the standard for installing rooftop PV mounting systems up until a few years ago. Now a number of tile replacement manufacturers say that their products are no more costly than most old-design tile hooks, are faster to install and save a roof tile at every penetration point. Saving tiles for an older roof is no small event. Cement tile costs around $7 per square foot, when a replacement with the same shape can be found, much less with matching fade.

“I’m not sure how much the new OSHA rules will drive the tile replacement mounting market or affect it, because the market will change more as companies see the benefits of saving time and cost,” reckons Andrew Wickham, the marketing manager for SnapNrack Solar Mounting Solutions.

SnapNrack’s tile replacement

SnapNrack’s tile replacements feature a base assembly for simply lagging the base into place and then sliding the riser shaft into position for the tile replacement flashing.

Color Me Impressed

Several replacement tile mount manufacturers suggest that their cement tile replacement product goes on faster than tile sawing or drilling.

“We are a bit more expensive than hooks, but there is far less labor,” says Jordan Pacheco, the director of product management at Pegasus Solar. “An installer that is grinding tiles might use four crews of five men, but we can do five crews of four men with our Lightspeed Tile Replacement.”

The U.S. market for rail-less residential solar mounting systems, the Pegasus specialty, is expected to grow by 67 percent from $240 million in 2016 to $400 million by 2022, according to GTM Research. The Pegasus tile replacement system, available in rail or rail-less mounting configurations, has undergone several refinements in design since it initially launched in 2014.

“The tile replacement technology is definitely faster, and some studies say 20 percent faster than grinding,” says Stri Zulch, the vice president of marketing at Quick Mount PV.

In a time trial in 2016, Quick Mount conducted an in-house test with three different products. The trials were conducted on a test roof, with eight mounts installed for each trial. The installers were third-party contractors, and Quick Mount PV timed and monitored the trials.

“Results showed that the Tile Replacement Mount was 26 percent faster than the Universal Tile Mount and 22 percent faster than Quick Hook,” the company reports. “The Tile Replacement Mount eliminates the need to cut tiles, resulting in the Tile Replacement Mount saving time. Although, there are a number of variables that affect installation times, the Tile Replacement Mount will save on average a minute per mount.”

Quick Mount PV’s Tile Replacement Mount

Quick Mount PV’s Tile Replacement Mounts feature its patented Elevated Water Seal Technology for optimal waterproofing

Quick Mount’s Tile Replacement Mount comes with a 25-year warranty and features a universal base mount, which works with three flashing profiles including a flat tile, S-shaped tiles and W-shaped curved tiles.

“Once you see more of these large-scale installs, it will drive the market for tile replacements,” says Brandon Gwinner, the western region sales manager for SunModo. One of his customers using SunModo’s tile replacement on a large cement tile project in Hawaii with 2,800 support points, reports cutting project labor costs in half — with no tile breakage.

The SunModo tile replacement can be attached either by a single bolt into a rafter, like most tile replacement designs, or by four screws into the sheathing, in cases where a rafter is not reachable. The industry is now trending toward the sheathing-attached method since it is more reliable and is now proven, Gwinner notes. While his company specifies no less than 1/2-in. oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing, many home builders or roofers opting for cement tiles are upgrading the sheathing by using thicker OSB, if not structural-grade 5-ply plywood, he notes.

Here Comes a Regular

After the construction downturn resulting from the recession in 2008, roofing is on an upturn and expected to reach a global value of $95 billion by 2024, according to a September report by Global Industry Analysts.

Cement tile is the fastest growing segment of the global roofing market, with an estimated combined average growth rate of close to 7 percent by 2020, according to a recent study by Technavio. Recent hurricanes and other adverse weather have helped demonstrate the durability of cement tiles over asphalt shingles and over clay tiles, which are much lighter than cement tiles.

In the U.S. South and Southwest, where daily temperature highs and lows range widely, and air conditioning is a major use of electricity, cement tiles are a favorite because they can be used for cool roofs as well as for evening heat retention.

Tile replacements for cement tiles already are highly waterproof and manufactured with formable aluminum. But cement tiles also are evolving via nanotechnology. Nanotech coatings for cement tiles will provide additional benefits for protection against heat, mold, mildew, fungus and algae, according to Global Industry Analysts.

Overall, signs indicate that the U.S. adoption rate for tile replacements should accelerate. However, at the heart of the market is installer awareness and preference. “For the market to grow, installers will need more education about the advantages of tile replacements,” suggests Stella Sun, the marketing director for SunModo.

Charles Thurston is a freelance writer covering solar energy from Northern California. He is not to blame for all of the Replacements song references.

— Solar Builder magazine