Sunny Side Up: Solar Panels On the Ground or Roof?

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solar panel in sunshine

Incorporating solar power into your home is a smart way to cut your energy costs while making a positive impact on the environment. You might think that installing solar panels on your home is pretty cut and dry, but there are actually several factors to consider. Perhaps the biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether to choose roof-mounted or ground-mounted solar panels. Learn more about the differences between these types of solar panels to discover which one is the best choice for your home.

Benefits of Roof-Mounted Solar Panels

solar panels on roof

Most people think of rooftop panels when they think of incorporating solar energy into their home. It’s the more common option for solar panels as opposed to ground-mounted panels. So, besides the energy efficiency it adds to your home, what are the benefits of mounting your solar panels on the roof?

  • Space: You already have your roof space available, so adding panels to that part of your home won’t take away from any livable space you have on your property.
  • Security: Rooftop panels are harder to access, which makes them more secure, and that’s important for this type of significant investment.
  • Aesthetics: Most people prefer having rooftop panels for aesthetic purposes, since the panels can be aligned with the roof for a sleek look.
  • Protection: The fact that solar panels are on top of your house actually helps to protect the roof from weather and regular wear and tear. As a result, having roof-mounted solar panels can actually extend the life of your roof.

There are also a few drawbacks of rooftop solar panels to consider. Perhaps the most important is that it may require roof work before your panels are even installed. Many homes need pre-installation roof upgrades to fortify old roofs before they can accommodate the solar panels.

One thing to keep in mind with roof-mounted panels is that, even if you prefer this type of setup, it’s really only a good option for those with a sunny, south-facing roof surface that is mostly or completely unshaded. This is necessary to get the maximum efficiency from your investment. If that’s not an option, it’s time to look into ground-mounted panels.

Benefits of Ground-Mounted Solar Panels

ground mount solar panels

When you’re unable (or unwilling) to put solar panels on the roof, consider ground-mounted panels instead. Generally, these panels cost about the same to purchase and install as roof panels, so there isn’t a significant cost difference. However, they do offer some unique benefits, including:

  • Orientation: When you have open, unshaded space for the panels, installers can make sure to set them up so that they’re in the perfect position for collecting solar energy. As a result, the panels will be as efficient as possible.
  • Space: Homeowners who have plenty of property to spare can set up more panels on the ground than on the limited space available on their roof. More panels means that you’ll be able to save even more by using solar energy instead of standard electricity.
  • Aesthetics: Many people like that they can set up their ground panels in their backyard or farther from their home on their property for aesthetic purposes. It keeps the home’s curb appeal intact, and the panels can be more discreet depending on the property size and layout. Plus, some homeowners’ associations don’t allow street-facing solar panels, making ground mounts their only viable option.
  • Maintenance: All solar panels require occasional maintenance and cleaning in order to function efficiently. When your solar panels are placed on the ground, they’re much easier to access for these purposes.

If you don’t have very much free land on your property, think carefully before installing solar panels on the ground. Once they’re installed, you’ll lose access to that area of your yard. In addition, the panels may feel like they’re very close to your home and always in your line of sight, whereas rooftop panels will be out of sight and out of mind when you’re in your home.

Keep in mind that there are a few different types of ground-mounted solar panels from which to choose. Some panels are mounted close to the ground (standard mount), while others are raised up (pole mounts). There are also fixed mounts that stay in one position and dual-axis mounts which can move the panels throughout the day to follow the sun.

Regardless of the type of ground-mounted panels you choose, keep in mind that you’ll likely need to factor in extra installation time for underground wiring. The farther from your home you’ll be placing your solar panels, the longer this process may take and the more costly it may become.

Possible Alternatives

solar shingle on alps roof

So what should you do if neither roof-mounted or ground-mounted solar panels seem right for your home? Fortunately, there are a few creative alternatives that might make it easier for you to make your home more efficient while also doing something that makes the most sense for your family:

  • Solar power pergola: If your roof doesn’t face south, and you don’t want to give up land space for panels on the ground, consider adding a solar power pergola to your backyard. This can function as a covered patio area where you can enjoy relaxing or eating with your family and your guests. You can use beautiful wooden beams to construct the frame and then install the solar panels on top. Best of all, you can angle the roof of the pergola to the perfect south-facing angle for maximum solar exposure.
  • Solar roof shingles: Some homeowners are less than thrilled about the aesthetics of solar panels on their roof or in their yard. For those who want to preserve the original look of their home as much as possible, there’s an option to install solar roof shingles and tiles. They look like traditional roof shingles, but they can still capture solar energy using the same technology as the solar panels.
  • Other solar products: If you’re not ready to make the leap to solar panels, consider starting small with another type of solar product, such as solar pool heaters, solar showers, or solar landscape lighting.

Use this information to decide which type of solar panels is right for your home. Whether you choose roof-mounted panels, ground-mounted panels, or another type of solar product, you’ll save money over the long run and do something positive for the environment while you’re at it.



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Sophie Ng

Sophie was born and raised in Vancouver, BC. She's an avid reader, aspiring DIYer, and above all, a foodie. When she doesn't have her nose in a book, you can probably find her waiting in line for brunch somewhere.