Can You Install Solar Panels on Asbestos or Cement Roof?

Can You Install Solar Panels on Asbestos or Cement Roof?
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Can I install solar panels on asbestos roof or cement roof, this is a common question most customers who want to go solar have. After spending hours on the internet doing research on solar power generation system and collecting several quotation from various solar EPC, you get their answer, we cannot install solar panels on your asbestos sheet, you have change it to metal one, but why?

The life of a solar panel is minimum 25 years so ideally the roof on which it is going to be installed should also last for at least 25 years. But the asbestos or cement sheet has maximum life of 15 years after which it begins to crumble and disintegrate. Hence after 15 years if you want to change your asbestos or cement roof then the only option is to remove the solar panels and mount it back again on new roof which is a waste of time, money and effort. For this reason most solar installer do not install solar panels on asbestos roof

Can asbestos or cement roof be used for mounting solar panels?

In an ideal scenario you want your roof on which solar panels are being mounted to last for at least 25 years because the life of  solar panels is well over 25 years (performance warranty period of solar panels is 25 years), but the asbestos or cement sheet poses the following problems in achieving this:

  • The only major maintenance required for an on grid solar system in 25 years is to clean the solar panels in every 20 – 40 days (depends on the settlement of dust in your area). For cleaning, a person has to climb the roof in every 25 – 40 days to clean the solar panels. For a RCC roof or a metal shed the frequent roof access is not an issue but for the asbestos or cement sheet since they are less flexible they might might crack if not accessed carefully, and the crack will give rise to water seepage in rainy season which is a big problem in itself.
  • Other major reason is that the shelf life of an asbestos sheet is maximum 15 years after which it will start crumbling and disintegrating, so if you want to change your asbestos sheet you have to remove the solar panels and mount it back again once the roof is installed, this will cost you time, money and lots of frustration.
  • Drilling holes into asbestos roofs generates dust which is a danger to both installers and the household if inhaled hence some installer even back out because of the health hazard.Health hazard of asbestos roof.

Hence If you want to use solar panels only for 5-10 years then go ahead and use the cement roof but if you are like most of us who wants to use solar panels till they die out than it’s best to change your asbestos or cement roof to a metal one.

Alternatives Of Asbestos Roof For Installing Solar Panels?

solar-panels-on-metal-roof
Trapezoidal Metal Sheets For Solar Installation

Keeping in mind the longevity of solar panels (minimum 25 years warranty) and frequent roof access to clean the solar panels you can either change your asbestos roof to a metal one or use any open area on the ground (if available). If you have a RCC roof then you can use it as well.

More and more companies are working on this problem to provide customers with asbestos roof a cheap and effective way to install solar. One such innovative idea is use of light weight flexible solar panels. The only issue with flexible solar panels is that their shelf life is less than 5 years hence it makes the overall project economically not viable.

Benefits of metal sheet over asbestos or cement sheet for solar Panels Installation:

The reason why every solar installer forces you to use a metal roof is because of the benefits it provided over the asbestos or cement roof.

  • Metal sheets have high load bearing capacity so won’t crack or tear apart because of the weight of solar panels.
  • Metal sheets are flexible and frequent access won’t endure any crack.
  • The shelf life of a good metal sheet is near 25 – 30 years. Buy a reputed brand thicker gauge metal roof (> 6mm) and you are sorted for the next 25-30 years.
solar-panels-on-metal-shed
Courtesy – DNA – Solar Panels Mounted On Metal Sheets

Which is the best type of roof for solar panels installation?

Two things that affect the solar panels generation is the orientation of the solar panels and the inclination from the ground level.

The problem with mounting solar panels on a metal or asbestos roof is that the pitch of the roof is fixed so you cannot change the inclination for the most part and to orient the solar panels toward north or south whichever is best as per your location is also not possible in most cases.

So to flexible mount the solar panels by the correct orientation and inclination the best option is a RCC mounted solar system or a ground mounted solar system.

elevated-solar-system-design
Courtesy – Prakritik Solar – RCC Mounted Superstructure

In both RCC and ground mounted solar system you can change the orientation and angle of inclination as per your requirement.

The cost of installing solar panels on RCC or ground is more than the roof mounted system because of the use of additional structure and custom on site fabrication.

Conclusion:

If you are planning to use solar only for 5-10 years then go ahead with the asbestos or cement sheet for installation they will be just fine but if you are like most of us who wants to use solar panels till they die out then you should change your asbestos sheet to a metal one since metal sheet will last for more than 25 years and won’t crack or tear even under heavy weight and frequent access to the roof.

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