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Three things to know about your roof before going solar

If you're a homeowner thinking about solar power for your home, you have a lot to keep in mind. Shopping around and comparing the costs and benefits of different installers, keeping track of rebates and tax incentives, preparing your home – the list is long with things you have to keep track of.

While all of those are important and should be thoughtfully considered, the first step in seeing if solar is right for you is examining your roof. Getting some basic information about your roof can be very useful in setting up the rest of the decision-making process when you're deciding if solar is right for your home. Failure to gain a good understanding of your roof before you start can hamstring the entire installation process, costing you more time and money later on. Here are three things you should know about your roof before you go solar. 

Your roof is in good condition
Obviously, a rooftop solar PV system has to go on your roof. This is difficult, if not impossible if your roof is in need of a repair. If you think you'll have to repair or replace your roof within the next few years, you should do that before you mount solar panels on your roof. 

Fortunately, some states can offer additional rebates for solar panels if you fix your roof along with it. Massachusetts has a rebate available for homeowners who have storm damaged roofs. If your roof was partially or completely destroyed due to a storm since June 1, 2011, you can qualify for extra rebates. Check with your installer to see if rebates for roof repair are available in your state or locality.

Your roof is made of the right material
The material your roof is made of can greatly impact the ease and effectiveness with which a PV system can be installed on it. Spanish-style tile roofs are very difficult to install solar panels on, and therefore are more costly. 

SolarEnergy found that asphalt shingles are the best roof type for solar installations. They are not as brittle as tile or shake roofs, nor do they protrude in the way that the Spanish-style does. If you have one of these less optimal types of roof, ask your installer how much extra time it will take them to install the system, or if they will even do it at all.

You have a southern facing roof
Here in the northern hemisphere, the sun tracks through the southern part of the sky, giving south-facing roofs the most direct exposure to the sun. This can help you maximize the amount of electricity your system will generate.

It is important to note, however, that this is absolutely not a necessary requirement for going solar. Plenty of homes without southern facing roofs can still be good candidates for solar panels. The panels can always be shifted to face south, and western and southeastern facing systems have also proved to be very effective in generating power. 

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