Solar Panel Roof Mounting Detail Flat Roof An increasing number of PV systems are being installed in commercial applications across the US. While many of the available roof areas at the commercial facilities are considered flat, even flat roofs have a minimal slope to them. Often a rise of 0.25...
An increasing number of PV systems are being installed in commercial applications across the US. While many of the available roof areas at the commercial facilities are considered flat, even flat roofs have a minimal slope to them. Often a rise of 0.25 inch over a 12-inch run - referred to as a 1/4:12 pitch - is typical. So these are more properly thought of as low slope applications. While low pitch roofs are very often a dream installation site for many solar integrators, they present a number of design and installation challenges: valleys and ridges for drainage, the drains themselves, vents, exhaust fans, rooftop units, curbs and parapets. All of these have to be taken into account during the design process. In this article I examine the design constraints and considerations for flat roof mounting techniques. I also outline commercially available racking solutions for a variety of roof structures.
Three main options when racking a PV array on a flat roof exist: attached, ballasted and a hybrid option that uses both ballast and structural attachments. The latter is often referred to as a minimally attached system. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that need to be weighed against each other.
A structurally attached type of system relies on penetrations in the roof surface and connections to the framing. Several options for fastening the racking system to the building are available. Acceptable methods will be determined by the building construction method and an engineering review. Attachment details may include standoffs welded or screwed in place, curbs integrated into the roofing or steel grids suspended above the roof surface. In some cases direct attachment to steel or concrete deck material is structurally adequate; in other cases attachment to trusses or rafters is required. The advantages of attached racking systems include reduced dead loading to the structure, the ability to engineer specific requirements for live loads, increased options for array tilt and the ability to have an array that is level regardless of roof drainage features.
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