Some solar installers in New Jersey promise that, if a house’s roof needs work in the future, the company will come back to remove and replace the solar panels free of charge. But the truth is that it’s a lot of work to remove and replace solar panels and no company will do it for free. Call EcoMen Solar at 732-SOLAR-NJ.
In talking with people interested in going solar around New Jersey, I’ve heard this again and again: solar installers promise homeowners that if they get solar panels installed now but they need a new roof in the future, that the solar company will come back and remove, and then replace, the solar panels. And since costs don’t seem to be discussed in most cases, the idea seems to be that the solar installer is going to provide this service free of charge.
Companies make this promise to homeowners to try to convince them to go solar now, whether they’ll need a new roof in ten years or next year.
The big problem is that usually this promise turns out to be false.
A Homeowner’s Disappointment
To stay away from commenting on any companies in New Jersey, let me share a story from a homeowner in Arizona whose solar installer promised to come back and remove and replace solar panels when the homeowner needed a new roof:
Kristin Meigh has had some roof leaks in the past, so before she installed solar panels, she asked the solar retailer what would happen if a future repair was needed.
“They told me, ‘Oh, we would just take the panels off and put them back on.’ There was no discussion of price,” Meigh said.
Nine months later, Meigh’s living room ceiling is puckering from another leak and is in need of repair. Meigh says the quote from the panel installer, Sun Valley Solar Solutions, to remove and reinstall the panels was about $4,500. She says that didn’t match her prior conversation.
“It seemed like it was no big deal,” she said. “It was, you know, ‘We just take them off and put them back on.’ $4,500 is a big deal.”
This sounds just like stories I’ve heard from homeowners in New Jersey. Too many solar installers promise that they’ll come back to take off and put back on solar panels in the future if a roof needs repairs or replacement. They’re vague about costs or they actually promise that the cost to come back is included in the original installation.
From consumers with solar I’ve spoken to who’ve tried to redeem this promise from their original solar installer, things have not gone well.
In some cases, the installer has gone out of business or left the state. In that situation, it’s rare for the company to refer its customers to some other contractor for service and to cover the cost of that service under any type of warranty. That means the homeowner is usually on their own.
EcoMen Solar gets more calls then we would expect from homeowners who have been left in the lurch by a solar installer who just disappeared. Of course, we like helping people out of a tough spot and making solar work for them. But it also seems like a big shame that the homeowner had to shell out the extra expense and go through the extra hassle in the first place.
In other cases, where the original installer is still around and is willing to help, there’s always a fee attached. That’s because it’s a big deal to remove and replace solar panels on a roof.
What It Takes to Remove and Replace Solar Panels
Taking solar panels off a roof and putting them back up involves more steps than you might think at first:
- Panels must be unbolted from the rack or other mounting device without damaging either physical connections (bolts and hardware) or electrical connections (wires and connectors). You may be surprised to learn that some hardware for mounting solar panels is only meant to be used once. For example, some bolts are built to be screwed in only a single time, at an initial installation. But these bolts are not designed to be unscrewed and then screwed back on a second time. Hardware like this has to be replaced entirely in case of removal and reinstall.
- The racking and other mounting hardware must be removed from the roof, again, without damage to its parts.
- Some work may also have to be done on your home’s electrical system, to make sure everything is safe while the panels are off the roof.
- Sometimes new permits and inspections are required, adding additional fees.
- Once the new roof is put in place, the solar panels and other rooftop equipment will have to be installed just as if you were getting solar at home for the first time.
That’s certainly not a process that you should try yourself, no matter how handy you may be around the house. With danger of falling, electric shock and damage to both roof and solar equipment, taking off and putting on solar panels is definitely a job best left to a pro.
The average solar company nationwide and around New Jersey will charge $3,000 or more to remove and reinstall solar panels on your roof. That doesn’t include replacing any parts that are broken in taking the original solar system off your roof. And of course, it doesn’t include the cost of a new roof, which can run $8,000 or more for an average size home in New Jersey.
So, no matter what anybody tells you, a solar installer will not come back in five or seven years when you need a new roof to take off your solar panels and put them back on again free of charge. If the company comes back at all — if they still exist — then they’re going to charge you for the service. It’s never included in the initial cost of installing a solar system.
What does this mean for homeowners in New Jersey who want to go solar?
First, if a company promises to come remove and reinstall solar panels in the future free of charge, then at least be sure to get that in writing. It’s probably safer to just look for a different solar installation company. At EcoMen Solar, for example, we never make this kind of promise, which is just good business.
Second, if you think you’ll need a new roof soon, then get it replaced before you install solar panels. This makes things more involved at the beginning, but can save you thousands of dollars and big hassles down the road. Get a qualified roofing company to inspect your roof and let you know how long it’s got left.
Whether you’re leasing or buying your solar panels, you get to make the call. If your roof can last another seven years or more, then you’re probably safe getting solar now without replacing your roof. Five years of estimated life remaining on your current roof is the minimum we require to install rooftop solar panels.
Since solar panels will last 30 years or more, this means that unless your roof lasts that long, you will have to remove and replace the solar panels at some point. But getting as much use from your current roof as you can will help reduce your overall cost. Also, the amount of money you’ll save on your electric bill over even a period of five or seven years before you need to fix your roof should more than cover the extra you’ll spend on removing/replacing panels when the time comes for that new roof.
Of course, if the roof is bad or has issues, EcoMen Solar simply would not install solar panels at all. Unfortunately, not all solar installers follow this guideline. The majority of replacements we are seeing these days are primarily solar systems less than five years old installed on roofs that need repair.
As with many things solar, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and your savings will depend on your particular situation. An experienced and trustworthy solar installer will come out to your house and give you reliable advice on how solar will work with your roof. If you’d like to know what it would take for you to go solar at home and how much you can save if you start soon, whatever the condition of your roof, then contact EcoMen Solar for a free quote.
— Joe Aurilia, Jr., EcoMen Solar