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

SnapNrack’s new RL System requires only four components

snapnrack rl mounting

SnapNrack announced late last year that it would be debuting its all new RL System, which was to further reduce solar installation times and lower installations costs for customers. Word is that this new RL System is now ready for purchase.

What’s new?

The RL System requires only 4 components for complete assembly with A Mounts, B Mounts, C Links, and Flash Tracks. Flash Tracks secure A Mounts and B Mounts to the roof using patented Umbrella Seal technology.

  • A Mounts align the front of the array with a sleek black finish and drop-in design for module insertion.
  • B Mounts secure the top side of modules and provide drop-in mounting for next row of modules.
  • C Links attach modules within a row and provide both a structural and electrical connection.

SnapNrack believes its RL system is the only one without rails that doesn’t require a skirt to look aesthetically pleasing.

RL provides top-notch wire management solutions for systems that don’t contain rails. New Smart Clips provides intuitive wire management at any point along the module and easily tucks wires away within the module envelope to avoid any unintended removal over time. Wire Savers provide the ability to secure loose wires post module install perfect for last minute wire management.

See it live

On Feb. 7, SnapNrack will host a live online webinar course, Benefits in Speed and Logistics Using the RL System. The course is also registered for one NACEP CE credit. The one hour course will discuss the features and benefits of the new system as well as how logistics are improved by removing rails from the system. Participants can register for online webinar by visiting SnapNrack’s Events Calendar.

— Solar Builder magazine

SnapNrack debuts new universal wire clamp (compatible with Enphase Q Cables)

SnapNrack mounting

At Solar Power International, SnapNrack debuted its new Universal Wire Clamp, which will further enhance the company’s wire management solutions to reduce solar installation times and lower installations costs for customers.

The new SnapNrack Universal Wire Clamp is perfect for managing PV Wires and Enphase Q Cables on the roof. In fact, SnapNrack says this is the only wire clamp currently offered by any racking manufacturer for the Enphase Q Cables and PV Wires. The Universal Wire Clamp has the capability of securing four PV wires or two Enphase Q cables.

The Universal Wire Clamp is designed to organize and secure wires and cables with a lasting tight fit over the life of the system for any SnapNrack Series 100 Residential Roof Mount installation.

In addition to the Universal Wire Clamp, SnapNrack’s line of wire management solutions includes the Junction Box, Wire Retention Clips and Conduit Support Clamps. The full wire management line is made of materials which have been selected for their high UV exposure capability and ability to handle extreme rooftop conditions commonly seen under solar arrays.

SnapNrack customers can now purchase the entire wire management product line, including the Universal Wire Clamp, through their authorized SnapNrack Distributor.

The Ultimate SPI Showcase: Here’s what to see at Solar Power International 2017

— Solar Builder magazine

On the scene: New solar installation products we saw at the California Solar Power Expo

We attended the California Solar Expo in San Diego last week. Here’s a rundown of some of the notable new solar products we spotted around the trade show floor.

S5 standing seam

S-5! is known for its rigorous testing and compliance standards for mounting solar on standing seam metal roofs. Its latest update on the module here (which you probably can’t see) is a better wire management solution than the disc they had been using, after customer feedback indicated it wasn’t wide enough for every application. The update here completely addresses that concern.

Coming soon, you can look out for a solar installation calculator on the S-5! site.

Pegasus

Pegasus Solar is introducing a new tile replacement solution that they say will remove the need for cutting tile while still fitting a wide variety of tile sizes. Key to the design is the attachment sitting on the ridge of the replacement instead of the valley, which keeps it clearer from water that would be funneling through the valley.

Solar connections

Solar Connections is promoting its Solar Connection Kit. Tested to UL 2703, the kit’s cable management disc allows for cables to be top loaded and sit securely. Push-Lock Technology secures the disc to the standing seam base clamp without extra nuts and bolts. Installation is made easy with Silver Bullet set screws that have a rounded bullet tip to maximize strength without digging in and damaging paint or piercing the seam.

CED Greentech

More to come on this, because it isn’t ready yet, but be on the lookout for a new website from CED Greentech.

Snapnrack mounting

SnapNrack is all about aesthetics. Well, they do more than that, but a lot of their latest products do give a sleeker look to a rooftop array while still being functional. The look, specifically is the black skirt with no end cap required.

solar roof hooks

Solarroofhook, known for its direct attach and tile hook solutions, has an updated flashing product. Unlike its previous solution that could bend, this one is stiff, which is something its customers were asking for.

APsystems

APSystems is coming out with a trunk cable version of its microinverters for those who couldn’t get into the daisy chain installation.

Energy toolbase

Energy Toolbase packed the demo stage with attendees who wanted to hear more about its new energy storage software. Energy Toolbase might be the most robust tool out there for behind the meter data and PV system modeling and proposal generation, and its new energy storage component is going to be just as robust. We will have more coverage on this posted soon.

Unirac

Unirac was promoting the shorter rows and greater energy density its rooftop mounting solution makes possible. Oh, and the company recently bumped up its warranty to 25 years.

If you are looking for more product info, check out our 2017 Inverters Buyer’s Guide.

— Solar Builder magazine

SnapNrack hits 1 GW milestone in residential solar space

SnapNrack mountingSnapNrack, a manufacturer of solar panel mounting solutions, officially eclipsed the 1 GW mark for total deployed solar mounting systems — a pretty big achievement in the residential side of the industry. This major milestone highlights eight years and more than 150,000 installations worth of knowledge and experience that SnapNrack has in the engineering, manufacturing, design and deployment of solar mounting solutions.

“Our success is a direct result of our loyal distribution partners and installers that put SnapNrack product into use every day, they are our greatest source of learning. We truly value their input and appreciate their support”, said Chris Oestreich, Sr. Director, SnapNrack. “We were developed in the field by veteran solar installers and since our inception, focusing on the needs of the installer has been the foundation of SnapNrack”.

SnapNrack is owned by Sunrun and produces innovative residential solar mounting solutions engineered to simplify the process of installing solar modules, shorten installation times and lower installation costs to maximize productivity and profits for our customers. SnapNrack residential solar mounting solutions are designed for composition shingle, tile, metal and flat membrane roof types, as well as ground systems.

RELATED: Eight innovations for rooftop mounting at SPI 

— Solar Builder magazine