How Much Does it Cost to Mount Solar Panels on My Metal Roof with Rails and Rail-less Hardware?

When choosing your solar mounting system
you want to make sure that it lasts, especially when a metal roof's lifespan
is over 50 years. This is why it's important to use a mounting system that
won't damage your roof. When deciding which long-lasting method to use, it is
important to look at a number of factors: First, you need to know how you're going
to attach the modules to your roof. Are you going to use this rail system or a
Direct-Attach™ system? Second, most people want to know how they can save
money, right? Well, today we're going to show you how you can save up to 50% on your
mounting costs.

We'll break down an actual project comparing the two mounting
systems. Additionally, we'll go over a number of categories to help you
determine which system is the right one for your project. At the end of this video,
you'll be able to download the checklist to use on your next project! Hello, I'm Shawn Haddock with S-5! As we
get started I want to point out that metal roofs offer advantages over other
roofing types. They outlast the life of the PV system. They're easier to mount to
and when they're standing seam there are no penetrations. And when using the
proper attachment solutions, they come with free rails. This is a built in
structural, free rail. Rail-Less mounting means that you shift your thinking. And
instead of adding rails to a system you go with a direct-attach. You're using the
roof or the ribs of the roof for a rail-free mounting. Here are five things to
consider that we cover in this video: Design, Aesthetics, Logistics, Installation
and finally Cost. The first category we're going to discuss is Design. And some of the questions you will need to ask yourself are: Will you need to tilt your
panels? Are there shaded spots you need to avoid? And what wind factors need to
be considered? Can you install this system without damaging your roof and
voiding any warranties? Do I need tilt on this system? Do I need to tilt my panels? And there's several reasons why you may or may not
need to do this.

One of which would be, how steep is the roof slope you're
mounting to? Do you have good slope there where you don't need to tilt? Or would
you need to use a tilting system like a racking system or rail system that
allows you to tilt. This can be done to achieve optimal direct sunlight, as well
as washing of the solar panels when it rains. When using a rail-less system or
direct-attach, you're limited to the slope of the roofs. Another thing to
consider is your roof orientation and potential obstructions. These things can
be trees, roof vents, roof piping, things that will put shade on your modules. With
rail, you can often adjust and move away from those things, where with
direct-attach, you may have to move them to a different part of the roof or
give some spacing to avoid that shading. Another item to consider under layout
and design is, module orientation – whether you're going to attach in
portrait or in landscape. A lot of people are stuck on the portrait orientation
because they want to put rails that run east and west.

When with rail-less, you
can mount with rails that already exist running north and south, and this would
put you in the landscape orientation. So by mounting in portrait you have the
added rails, where mounting direct-attach, you don't have the added
rails since they're already on the roof as seams. So another item to consider, is
what are the wind factors that you have to consider? And those are a little bit
different in that some could be the area or the region you're attaching – such as
coastal regions. But also on your roof and what wind zones you're attaching to.
Are you able to avoid certain wind zones or do you need to attach in those
zones? And that can be important because with rail, you can attach at every seam,
but if you want to add more attachments from the module to the rail you may need
three or four rails to accommodate what you could do in landscape by attaching
to every seam with a rail-less system.

We briefly touched on wind loading and
another part of that is uniform load distribution. With a rail system, the way
those are usually set up, you're not going to have as uniform a load
distribution as you would with rail-less by attaching to the seams. Something that
everyone should consider, wants to consider, and does consider is avoiding
doing any damage to the roof and preserving all roof warranties. Both
systems you can do this with. It's important to know what products you're
using to attach to the roof, that they have round point set screws, things like
that, to avoid any damage to the roof.

Overall rail-less takes this category. Now we're going to talk about Aesthetics:
How to choose a solar system design? A few things to keep in mind with
Aesthetics are, will this be a new construction or a retrofit? What are you
doing for wire management? And what about module height? Are you installing on a new
roof or retrofitting an old one? Both rail and rail-less can retrofit an old
roof or install on a new roof. Concerns with wire management, rail, you must pre-lay out your wires before you begin panel installation. Rail-less, you do the same
thing but there may be some time savings during the staging process because you
can pre-lay out your wires and clip them to each module. So there's really no
significant cost savings either way. Module height and performance: You want
to make sure you have proper wind flow through and above your panels. In fact,
too much heat on solar panels reduces their efficiency a lot more than cold
temperatures. So having more efficient wind flow will actually help cool the
modules.

High profile solar systems do not increase module performance. When you
are figuring out the optimal airflow under your modules, it is important to
realize that the temperature of the glass cell does not really decrease once the
module is 4 inches above the roof. What this means is the module won't be any
cooler regardless of how high you install it off the roof.

With Aesthetics,
rail-less wins overall in this category. So let's talk a little about Logistics
and how you can lower shipping and handling costs for your solar project.
For rail, first you pay the freight on it. It has to be trucked on a flatbed
because of the length and weight. Not to mention, that that length if it's over
eight feet can increase your surcharges. Then you unload it at the yard or your
place of business, because the job's not ready yet. Then you have to haul it to
the job and risk possibly damaging it.

How quickly can you replace those
damaged products? Then you unload it by hand at the jobsite and you may need to
hire a crane or forklift. Then you lay it out and distribute it
and start anchoring it with specialty clamps. You may also have to field-cut at
valleys and so on as mentioned before. Now let's talk about rail-less. First, you pay
the freight on it, not too much. It ships in about three days to wherever you want.
It takes up to two or three cubic feet of space including the clamps that you
would have needed for the rail anyway.

It gets delivered to your shop. Now the job
is ready. Throw those boxes in the back of your pickup and drive to the jobsite.
Then use a bucket to carry it up the ladder as well as your screw gun. With a
rail-less system, your freight for a 4,000 sf roof, would require
about 150 lbs. of parts. Clamps and PVKITs™ are a fraction
of the weight and also a fraction of the space. Deliver them to your company or
jobsite. There's ease of transportation with these products, no special equipment
is needed. You can carry the clamps and direct-attach components up the roof
in a bucket. So with rail-less, your number of trips up and down a ladder, to
the jobsite, your handling of the materials, is drastically eliminated.

For
Logistics, rail-less takes this category. The next thing we're going to be
discussing is Installation and how you can make your solar installation faster.
Some things to consider when attaching rails are, will you need rail-cutting
equipment? If you're using rail you might encounter sloped roofs, with gables,
valleys, and other obstructions that require field-cutting and trimming to
remove excess rail overhang. With rail-less, you don't need rail-cutting
equipment because you're using the standing seams on the roof which are
already pre-cut and pre-laid out. Next, do any of your parts come pre-assembled?
Using rail, you'll have to buy all the components separately. You'll buy an
individual rail, clamps, and required number of L-Feet to attach the modules. But
with rail-less or direct-attach systems, these may come pre-assembled.
So you can save time even before you go up on the roof. So under the Installation
category rail-less wins. Now what you've been waiting for, Cost. Do you want the
best system that won't break the bank? Well we'll show you an actual solar
project and compare the cost between a railed system and a rail-less system.

Let's
look at the project specifications of an actual solar project. The roof size is 46'
x 92' with a total roof area of 4,232 sf. The system
size is 50.25 kWp. The module is an LG-335W. The dimensions
of that module are 40" x 66.4". We have a total of 150 modules
with a seam spacing of 16" on the roof. The roof space utilization is 68%.
For our specific project here's an actual bill of materials for a railed
and a direct-attach system. As you can see a more significant number of
materials are required for railed systems than rail-less. We also surveyed
installers who are familiar with both mounting methods and they provided us
with labor costs and installation time for both systems.

They estimate that it
would take 96 man-hours to install the S-5! clamps, L-Feet, and rails including modules
and torqueing. This would be for two workers at
$50/hr working for six days and eight hours per day. This hourly
rate is the contractor base cost plus payroll burden. When compared to rail-less it is estimated that the same project might only take 67 man-hours to
install clamps with pre-assembled PVKITs, including staging of material,
installing modules, and torqueing. With the same number of workers, at $50/hr,
the project could be completed in approximately four days, eight hours per
day. Again this hourly rate is the contractor base cost plus payroll burden.
Project Cost Summary: Now that we have calculated labor cost, installation time,
total cost of materials, and shipping, we can compare the entire installed cost of
our project with both systems.

Looking at the mounting system cost, the PVKIT can save you 42%. So the total labor costs are $4,800 for rails and $3,350 for rail-less.
That's a savings of 30%. One of the biggest savings between the two methods
is with shipping. You can save about 61% with this project because rail-less parts
will run you only $287 to ship at 149 lbs. Rails for this job will
weigh 970 lbs. and cost $733 to ship. The railed
system for our project cost $10,973. The rail-less system cost is $6,783. Overall, this entire installed system will cost you about 38%
less if you install direct-attach. Our cost comparison shows that you can save
almost 50% with your solar project when using a direct-attach. An
added benefit is that the PVKIT provides more of a uniform load
distribution and 25% more attachment points. So clearly for this
project a rail-less system for mounting solar panels is the right way to go. These project quotes clearly show you the range of costs associated with both
systems. With rails, you'll use less clamps so you can save money there.

But
with direct-attach, your overall weight of the system off and on the roof and
shipping that weight is much less, because there are no rails. So you save
significantly more in that area. That is why it is so important to
think of more than just the material costs. When you're choosing the right
solar mounting system you should always take into account whether you need to
tilt your system, how you're going to manage material transportation, and if
you need additional equipment for the installation, just to name a few.
Remember everything adds up. Time is Money! Now that you've learned all the things to consider when deciding whether to use
a direct-attach solar system or a rail system, download our checklist in the
description below and use it to find the right system for your next solar project..

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