Buying solar panels has gotten easier in recent years, thanks to the availability of evaluations comparing solar panels, solar installers, and solar inverters. Yet, finding useful information about solar panel racking and installation solutions remains difficult.
Solar panel mounts are essential components of your solar panel installation. There are numerous options available for what you require, regardless of your roof design or ground mounting system requirements. Your solar installer will know the best solution to make the most use of your solar system.
In this blog post, we will find out what is the best solar mounting system for solar panels? and we will present an expert evaluation of solar panel mounting solutions, highlight the top solar panel mount brands, and examine the advantages and disadvantages of rooftop solar systems versus ground-mounted systems.
What is the difference between solar panel mounting and racking?
In the context of solar energy systems, solar panel mounting and racking are often used interchangeably to refer to the structural support system used to attach solar panels to rooftops, ground mounts, or other mounting locations. However, there is a subtle difference between the two terms.
Solar panel mounting refers to the physical installation of solar panels onto the mounting structure. It involves attaching the solar panels to the mounting brackets, which are then secured to the mounting surface using bolts, clamps, or other attachment methods.
Solar racking, on the other hand, is the framework or support structure that holds the solar panels in place. It includes the various components that make up the mounting system, such as the rails, brackets, and hardware that secure the solar panels to the mounting surface.
In short, solar panel mounting is the process of attaching solar panels to the racking or mounting structure, while solar racking refers to the system of support and hardware that holds the solar panels in place.
Mounts and racking typically account for roughly 10% of the total cost of a conventional solar system. For example, if your solar system costs $10,000, the racking system will account for around $1,000 of the entire cost.
The cost will be determined by the type of racking used, the amount of equipment required, and the labor charges for installation.
A solar panel mounting bracket is the most typical form of module attachment. Mounting brackets are heavy-duty pieces of equipment that are often composed of stainless steel or aluminum. All solar racking and mounting devices, whether for the rooftop or the ground, must adhere to strict requirements in order to ensure durability and structural integrity in the face of severe winds and weather events.
Following that, we will walk you through the basic components of racking equipment so that you have a better understanding of the structure that will support your solar panels.
What are the major components of a racking system?
A solar racking system is a crucial component of a solar power system that helps support and secure the solar panels in place, and it typically consists of several major components, including:
These are long, horizontal metal bars that are attached to the roof or ground and hold the solar panels in place.
These are the brackets that attach the solar panels to the rails. There are different types of mounts, such as end clamps, mid clamps, and top clamps, depending on the design of the racking system.
Although rail-less racking is an option, rails are the most usually utilized since they can be attached to most roof angles and many installers are trained to use rail mounting techniques.
While many manufacturers create solar panel mounts, only a few stands out when it comes to quality. You can’t go wrong with the below-mentioned brands, however, we’ll go over the advantages and disadvantages of each brand.
This is used to ensure that the solar panels and racking system are properly grounded, which is important for safety and to protect the system from lightning strikes.
If the solar panels are mounted on a roof, there are various types of roof attachments used to secure the rails to the roof, including roof mounts, roof hooks, and flashing.
The holes made by these drills will be enclosed with ‘flashing,’ which is a plastic or metal shield fitted between shingles to keep water out. Roof attachments, on the other hand, change depending on the type of roof.
These are used to connect the rails together and create a continuous row that can support multiple solar panels.
These are adjustable legs that can be attached to the rails to tilt the solar panels at an optimal angle for maximum energy production.
Module Clamps And Fasteners
These are used to secure the various components of the racking system together and ensure that the entire system is stable and secure. Each angle and corner of the solar panel requires a different type of module clamp.
Overall, the design and composition of a solar racking system can vary depending on the specific installation site and the preferences of the installer. However, the above components are typically included in most solar racking systems.
Which roof mount brands are best?
There are several reputable brands for roof mounts for solar panels, and the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and the characteristics of your roof. Here are a few prominent brands to think about:
This brand offers a variety of roof mounts for different types of roofs, including composition shingles, tile, and metal roofs. They are known for their durability and easy installation.
IronRidge initially funded mostly tiny, off-grid initiatives and is now best recognized for its distinctively formed and long-lasting XR rail line for pitched roofs. They also provide excellent options for flat roofs and ground mounting.
UniRac offers a variety of roof mounts for both residential and commercial installations, including ballasted and mechanically attached systems.
Unirac sells flat roof mounts as well as fixed-tilt ground-mount frames. Unirac’s solar mounts are available in a variety of tilts, allowing the direction of the solar array to be independent of the roof angle, assuring maximum production. They are well-known for their adaptability and simplicity of installation.
Quick Mount PV
Quick Mount PV is a popular brand for residential installations and offers mounts for composition shingles, tile, and metal roofs. They are known for their easy installation and strong attachment to the roof.
Solaria offers a range of solar panels and roof mounts, including a unique “PowerXT” panel that combines both functions. They are known for their sleek, low-profile design.
SnapNrack offers a variety of roof mounts, including rail-based and rail-less systems. They are known for their ease of installation and compatibility with different types of roofs.
It’s important to note that the best brand for your specific needs will depend on factors such as your roof type, local weather conditions, and the specific solar panels you are using. It’s always a good idea to consult with a professional solar installer to determine the best roof mount for your solar panel system.
Each brand has no visible flaws and offers extremely inventive installation and racking kits to satisfy the majority of solar needs. However, the top three, high-quality, solar mounting and racking brands are Ironridge, Quick Mount PV, and Unirac.
For do-it-yourself projects, you can purchase any of these options from a local solar equipment seller. Nevertheless, if you deal with a solar contractor, they will purchase the panel mounts for you because they are familiar with what will work best with your roof and solar panels.
Where can I purchase solar panel mounts?
Taking on a solar paneling project DIY can make things a little more challenging. Most of the time, you cannot buy a fully-assembled solar panel mount system. Each component must be purchased separately in order to construct a full mount. If you want to do it yourself, buying complete solar panel kits with racking solutions makes things easier.
If you do not want to buy a kit, you can explore racking equipment on the AltE website and buy the individual components that make up the racking system. Simply ensure that they are the correct size for the solar panels you purchase.
Working with a registered solar contractor is the best method to ensure that your solar installation goes off without a hitch (and that the right equipment is used for your unique roof).
Which ground-mount system is the most effective?
There are several types of ground-mount systems for solar panels, and the most effective one for a particular project will depend on factors such as the site location, soil conditions, weather patterns, local regulations, and project budget. Some of the most common ground-mount systems for solar panels include:
Fixed-Tilt Racking Systems
This is the simplest and most affordable type of ground-mount system. It consists of a fixed-angle frame that holds the solar panels in place. Fixed-tilt systems are generally easier to install and require less maintenance than other types of systems. However, they are less efficient than tracking systems because they cannot follow the sun’s movement.
Single-Axis Tracking Systems
This type of ground-mount system allows solar panels to follow the sun’s movement from east to west. This increases energy production by up to 25% compared to fixed-tilt systems. Single-axis tracking systems are more expensive and complex to install than fixed-tilt systems, but they can provide a higher return on investment in the long term.
Dual-Axis Tracking Systems
This is the most expensive and complex type of ground-mount system. It allows solar panels to follow the sun’s movement in both the east-west and north-south directions. This provides the highest energy production and can increase it by up to 40% compared to fixed-tilt systems. Dual-axis tracking systems are typically used in areas with high energy demand and limited space for solar panels.
In general, the most effective ground-mount system for solar panels is one that is customized to meet the specific needs of the project. It is recommended to consult with a solar installation professional who can assess the site and provide recommendations based on the project’s requirements.
Usually, ground-mounted solar panels are installed by homeowners for one of three reasons:
- They do not have enough roof space.
- Their roof faces north, which is terrible for panel output.
- They wish to improve the system’s performance.
When solar panels face south, they produce the maximum electricity. This isn’t always possible depending on the orientation of your home. On a roof, there may be additional constraints such as shade from nearby buildings and trees.
There are ground mounts that may be fixed into the ground as well as ballasted mounts to choose from. Ballasted mounts are not attached to the ground and are held in place by the weight of the panels themselves. Ballasted ground mounts are more common because they require no drilling to install.
Which brand of ground-mount systems is the best?
There are many different brands of ground-mount systems for solar panels, and the “best” one will depend on a variety of factors, including your specific needs and budget.
Some popular and reputable brands in the solar industry include:
Unirac Ground Fixed Tilt
They offer a variety of ground-mount systems that are durable and easy to install, making them a popular choice among residential and commercial customers.
The Unirac Ground Fixed Tilt, which is both robust and lightweight and comes with a 25-year warranty, is another fantastic alternative. Unirac guarantees fast shipping and simple assembly.
They specialize in high-quality aluminum racking and mounting systems, which are known for their strength and adaptability to different types of terrain. They are made to be long-lasting, flexible, and weatherproof. They also come with a 25-year warranty.
Pricing is difficult to predict because it is dependent on the size of your solar array, material costs at the time of purchase, and the fact that many providers require you to obtain a quote.
They offer their own proprietary ground-mount systems, designed to be efficient and durable while also reducing installation time and cost.
They are a German-based company that offers a wide range of mounting systems, including ground-mount solutions that are well-regarded for their quality and versatility.
They specialize in large-scale commercial solar projects and offer customizable ground-mount solutions that can be tailored to meet specific project requirements.
The greatest ground mounts are also available from the above top companies, Ironridge and Unirac.
Ultimately, it’s important to do your research, compare different options, and work with a reputable installer who can help you select the best ground-mount system for your solar panel project.
How much would a solar panel system, including racking and installation, set you back?
An average 6kW solar system, including racking and mounting, would cost around $18,000, based on the US average of roughly $3.00 per watt in January 2023. After applying the federal 30% solar tax credit, that comes to $12,600.
It is entirely up to you and your energy demands whether or not to add solar tracking systems, but installing either roof-mounted or ground-mounted solar panels will work for any property.
Dealing with qualified installers is the most effective approach to identifying which solar panel mount solution is ideal for your roof. If you’ve done your homework and have a preference, you can share it with your solar installation.