How Heavy Are Solar Panels?

solar panels on townhouses - how heavy are solar panels

If you want to cut electricity costs while making a difference for the environment, consider going solar. You can harness the power of sunlight to power your home by installing solar panels. While the upfront costs may be high, this form of inexhaustible energy is getting less expensive and more popular by the year.

You may be thinking about the logistics of installing them, though, and wondering, how heavy are solar panels? Will they fit on any type of roof? This post will give you some straight answers.

What Does a Solar Panel Weigh?

According to Forbes, in general, residential solar panels weigh around 40 pounds—including mounting equipment—and are 65 by 39 inches in size with an average depth of 1.5-2 inches. Commercial solar panels are heavier, weighing an average of 50 pounds with the same materials and are 77 by 39 inches in size with an average depth of 1.5-2 inches.

Different brands vary in their weight and dimensions. However, this is an industry average.

Will They Be Too Heavy for My Roof?

Probably not, with a couple of exceptions. If your roof needs major repairs, you should get it fixed before placing anything on it—you don’t want anyone to fall through, after all. However, a roof is designed to hold a lot of weight, including hundreds of pounds in a single spot, since people have to walk on it during installation and repair.

If you have an older home (like, 19th-century old), you’ll want to speak with a professional installer or engineer. Roofs that old aren’t built to contemporary codes, which doesn’t mean they’re unsafe but it does mean that the rafters could be spread more widely apart than solar panels are designed to work with.

Wood and slate shingles are typically a poor choice for installing solar panels on due to the brittleness of these materials, but these are less common roofing materials in the first place. If your roof is in good repair and made with more common materials like asphalt and metal, you can install solar panels without affecting your roof’s integrity. They’ll spread out in a single layer and your roof can hold them without any risk of collapsing under their weight.

What Are Solar Panels Made Of?

Solar panels are composed of solar cells, also called photovoltaic cells. These are the squares that form the grid on a solar panel, which is where the magic happens. The cells convert sunlight into electricity via the photovoltaic effect. Commercial solar panels have 72 cells, while residential types have 60.

There are three types of solar panels with photovoltaic cells made of different materials:

  • Monocrystalline panels: These are the most efficient type of solar panels and take up less space than thin-film panels. They’re also the most expensive.
  • Polycrystalline panels: Also called multicrystalline panels, they are moderately efficient and less expensive than their monocrystalline counterparts.
  • Thin-film panels: With a lower cost than either type of crystalline panel, thin-film solar panels are the least expensive option and have a short life span. They’re not very efficient, so they require much more space than crystalline panels.

In general, more efficient solar panels are pricier, but they take up less space on the roof and are lighter in weight.

Which Type Do I Need?

owl on solar paneled roof - how heavy are solar panels

Choosing the right type of solar panel depends on your budget and aesthetic tastes, as well as the location of the panels. Monocrystalline is the most expensive type of solar panel with a high power capacity. They have an average efficiency of 25% and can last up to 40 years. These solar panels come in a glossy, dark black shade that blends well with many color schemes and designs.

You’ve probably seen polycrystalline panels on rooftops. These blue panels fall into a moderate price range, average around 20% efficiency and have a low heat tolerance. Their average life span is 25-35 years.

Thin-film panels are most commonly found on solar farms or as a window covering. These are rarely used on homes since their low efficiency makes them impractical for rooftops. You would need a lot more of them to generate the same amount of energy as the other types of panels. They last 10-20 years, come in multiple sizes to fit specific needs and are solid black.

How Long Will They Last?

Solar panels last an average of 30 years. However, this doesn’t mean the panel will suddenly shut off when it reaches a specific date. It will gradually slow down and produce less electricity over time and after around 30 years, it will make so little electricity that it’s essentially doing nothing. This is when people typically replace their solar panels.

The good news is, if you buy the same type of panels as the ones you’re replacing, you may be able to use the same mounting hardware that’s already on your roof.

Will I Save Money?

One of the most significant benefits of solar panels is that they lower your electric bill in the long run. If you live somewhere that gets a lot of sunny days, you will likely save money by installing solar panels. Depending on whether your region has net metering, you might even make money by selling the power back to the grid and getting a credit.

The exact savings will depend on how much energy you use, whether you purchase or lease the solar panels, how many direct hours of daily sunlight you get and local energy rates. Solar panels can also increase the value of your home, so if you ever want to sell it, going solar can be a wise investment.

The upfront cost of solar panels prohibits some people from installing them, but the price continues to fall, making them more accessible to the general public every year.

Will They Fit on My Roof?

Unless you live in a tiny shed, your roof is likely more than big enough to accommodate as many solar panels as you need to power your residence. You won’t have to cover the entire surface with them.

The number of panels that will fit on your roof is based on its size, tilt, shading, location and construction type. You can use numerous tools to calculate how many panels will fit on your roof. And, remember—solar panels only weigh 40-50 pounds, so they’re not too heavy to install up there.

Why Should I Install Solar Panels?

A solar panel produces no emissions, greenhouse gases or fossil fuels as it generates power, unlike traditional energy that comes from coal and natural gas. This is one reason solar power continues to grow in popularity, especially among people interested in sustainable living and green energy.

Using renewable energy plays a huge part in reducing your carbon footprint. People indeed have to use fossil fuels to build solar panels. However, over the course of a panel’s lifetime, it will more than make up for the energy it took to produce, install and recycle it.

A Green Solution

Solar panels are heavy, weighing around 40-50 pounds, but except in rare instances, you can install them without damaging your roof. They vary in price and material types and last an average of 30 years. As a source of renewable energy, solar panels are an excellent investment for anyone who wants to reduce their environmental impact and lower their energy bill.

Feature image: Daria Nepriakhina; Image 1: Erik Karits

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