Installing solar panels is a great way for you to save on electricity bills and contribute to a greener planet. It's also an ideal way to begin establishing more energy independence. However, you'll quickly find that the installation process involves several critical decisions, one of which is determining the conduit's route. If you're unfamiliar with conduit, it's the tube or piping that’s used to protect electrical wiring on its route from the solar panels on your roof to the ground where the electrical equipment is located.
The two common routes for the conduit are through the attic or on the roof. Each option has its pros and cons, and the best choice depends on various factors such as your home's structure, aesthetic preferences, and weather conditions. In this article, our team at Solar ME will guide you through the considerations we’ll be taking into account when determining the best way to route the conduit for your solar energy system.
What Is Conduit in a Solar Energy System?
An electrical conduit is a thick-walled tubing made of metal, plastic, or fiber used to protect and route electrical wires. During your solar energy system installation, the specialist will route the conduit from each solar array to your solar inverter, running either through your attic (if there's available access) or along your roof, and down an exterior wall of your home. Additionally, a junction box may be installed if your solar design includes points where multiple lines of conduit intersect or any transitions from outdoor to indoor conduit.
Types of Conduits for Solar Panels
While there are multiple types of conduit available, we typically use the following five in solar panel installation:
- Rigid Metal Conduit
- Flexible Metal Conduit
- Flexible Metallic Tubing
- Metal Clad Cable
- Rigid PVC Conduit
The first four are made of galvanized steel or aluminum and have a matte-gray metallic finish.
Should a Solar Conduit Run Through the Attic or on the Roof?
Solar conduit that runs outside of your home on the roof is very common, but it doesn't look aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, it's also more susceptible to elements such as rain, snow, and wind. As an alternative, you can consider running inside the home, usually through the attic space, which can provide protection from these elements and keep up with the aesthetic of your roof line.
Having your conduit run through the attic or on the roof really depends on what you want and what will work best for your specific home. Depending on how much space there is in the attic, you may be able to run conduit without compromising headspace or insulation in your house. This may be a better option than running conduit on top of your roof which will most likely interfere with other items such as vents, shingles, and skylights.
If you're home or building has vaulted or cathedral ceilings with no attic the rooftop is the only option. That requires taking up the roof and decking and passing the wires through the rafters or between them. Regardless, rest assured that before deciding to make any holes or structural changes to the rafters or the framing members supporting your roof, we’ll consult with a licensed professional engineer.
If you're considering getting solar panels installed on your roof as your first step toward energy independence, make sure to weigh all of your options when it comes to running conduit. Ask as many questions as needed during the design process.
Although it may be a bit more expensive to hide the conduit in the attics or behind walls, if the look is that important to you, then money shouldn't sway your decision. Also, it may be impossible to the roof if it's made of some fragile or expensive roofing material. It's important to know this and ask these questions because oftentimes solar installers are required to follow the plans that are provided to them.
Roof Penetrations & How to Do Them Properly
Proper conduit penetrations are key in preventing water intrusion into the attic and can extend the longevity of your solar energy system. This involves using a base flashing and a top flashing at the underlayment level and the tile surface, respectively. The base flashing is your first line of defense against water intrusion, while the top flashing ensures that water doesn't get beneath the tile where the conduit penetrates.
For example, conduit penetrations require drilling a hole larger than the conduit itself, creating a gap between the conduit and the roof deck that needs to be sealed carefully. This gap cannot be sealed simply with a little sealant around the hole; you'll need both a base flashing and a top flashing for all penetrations.
The conduit must also be well secured to prevent any movement that can eventually work the sealants and the base flashing loose, causing cracks and leaks. Ultimately, this step toward energy independence is about using the right products and installing them properly to ensure waterproof and durable ground wire conduit penetration that you'll benefit from for years to come.
Determining the best route for the conduit and properly sealing the roof penetrations are crucial steps in your solar panel installation process. You'll need to weigh the pros and cons of running the conduit through the attic or on the roof with your designer and consider the specific characteristics of your home and your aesthetic preferences. Properly sealing the roof penetrations will ensure the longevity of your solar energy system and prevent any water damage to your home.
Remember, the goal is to have a solar energy system that's both functional and aesthetically pleasing. If you're considering installing solar panels on your property, Solar ME is here to help. Our team of experts will guide you through the entire process, ensure every detail is addressed, and provide you with a slick and clean install. We're here to answer your questions every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you make the best decisions for your solar energy system!
Ready to Go Solar?
We are proud to provide NJ residents with high pristine hassle-free solar solutions. Contact us today!