Results 1 to 12 of 12
  1. #1

    Question Inspecting a home with solar panels

    I'm going on a Home Checkup inspection tomorrow morning for a client who had solar panels installed last year. She says she is now experiencing leaks in the house, although I don't know from where. I'll be inspecting the whole house. I know that solar panels are excluded from the SOP but what should I be looking for when it comes to the installation?

    Similar Threads:
    NHIE Practice Exam
    Welmoed Sisson
    Inspections by Bob, LLC, Boyds, MD
    "Given sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,252

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    By leaks you mean roof leaks, right?

    If related to the solar installation, and it may well be related to that solar installation, the typical locations of leaks will be: 1) first and foremost - the mounting bracket anchors; 2) penetrations for the electrical conduit(s) because they are not always properly flashed.

    Probably the mounting brackets and anchors because, at most, all they do is slap some plastic roof cement on the shingles (presuming shingles), set the bracket(s) in place, then drive the anchor screw(s) through the bracket mounting holes. The anchor screws are supposed to be into the trusses, however, many installers do not properly locate the mounting brackets at the trusses and place them at convenient locations on the roof sheathing where the designed anchoring load capacity of the anchor screw(s) are dramatically reduced (not only is the anchor screw not embedded to its proper depth, the roof sheathing (typically 1/2" to 5/8" plywood or OSB) does not provide the same withdrawal resistance as the truss top chord (typically 2x Southern Yellow Pine).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Chicago IL
    Posts
    1,984

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    What Jerry said
    I did a consult for a repeat client a few years ago. Had a meeting with the client and the solar guy. Client called because they wanted me there to listen and talk because they were worried about potential roof leaks from the install.
    During the meeting I asked the guy some basic questions about their mounting brackets, how many, how do they ensure at least some hit rafters and not just plywood, do the brackets go under the shingles, what kind of sealant etc. Simple stuff a tradesman would know but a homeowner typically doesn't.
    The guys answers were all very vague and basically BS.
    Even the simplest question, what kind of caulk do you use? ended up BS. 'We use the good kind"
    The client ended up not hiring the guy.
    If you can get into the attic or attic crawl that might be key. Don't know exactly what you are expecting to do but flooding the roof area with a garden hose and getting in the attic would be great. Two person job of course.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    869

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    How about looking for stains in the attic, if viewable. You could also look for screws.

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
    eifsinspectionsnewyork.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,252

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Turetsky View Post
    You could also look for screws.
    Yes, if you look in the attic see 1/4" lag bolts sticking down 2" to 3" ... you are looking at the mounting bracket anchor screws - and they should be into the truss top chords/rafter, you should not see *any* of them.

    Heck, if you see *any* "screws" sticking down through the plywood, those are probably the mounting bracket anchor screws as the roofer uses nails for just about everything (except mechanically attached tile, but I doubt that is the roof covering being referenced here). And if the screws are small screws, they probably also used screws which were too small.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  6. #6

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    Thanks for the input. Here's an update.

    I spent at least 20 minutes in the attic (and it was HOT today!) and didn't see any evidence of water intrusion. Couldn't see the bolts for the mounting brackets, so they were done correctly. Looked at where all the leaks were, and after matching up spots inside with the matching spots outside, concluded that the likely culprits were (a) rotted fascia boards behind the gutters of the original structure, and (b) possible lack of step flashing between the new roof shingles and the chimney (couldn't get all the way up to that part of the roof).

    The homeowners had had the entire roof replaced (including decking) about 18 months ago, in preparation for installation of the solar panels. But they did not replace the gutters; according to them, the roofers didn't touch them. There was rotted trim in several places, all leading me to believe that the fascia was also compromised. And the leaks inside matched up with areas of the gutters at seams and ends.

    They're going to have their roofer come back and ascertain that the step flashing is installed correctly (I told them to ask them to take pictures to prove it's done right), and will also have a gutter company check the fascias.

    If neither of these turns out to be the culprit, I'm really at a loss to figure out how the water is getting in. I'll report back once I hear from the client.

    Welmoed Sisson
    Inspections by Bob, LLC, Boyds, MD
    "Given sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Caledon, Ontario
    Posts
    5,005

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    Well... to confirm a leak and if the seller was game, I would have got a water hose out and wet the roof down to confirm where the leakage is.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
    Posts
    1,394

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    Well... to confirm a leak and if the seller was game, I would have got a water hose out and wet the roof down to confirm where the leakage is.
    To find an annoying leak on my own house, I put a sprinkler on the roof and ran it. It didn't help in my case. It turned out that rain was getting in under the ridge vent when the wind was blowing hard from one direction and running down the underside of the roof decking (in a vaulted ceiling that I couldn't get inside) and emerging 15 feet away in my kitchen.

    But still the hose on the roof is a good idea, imo.

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    869

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    Quote Originally Posted by Welmoed Sisson View Post
    Thanks for the input. Here's an update.

    I spent at least 20 minutes in the attic (and it was HOT today!) and didn't see any evidence of water intrusion. Couldn't see the bolts for the mounting brackets, so they were done correctly. Looked at where all the leaks were, and after matching up spots inside with the matching spots outside, concluded that the likely culprits were (a) rotted fascia boards behind the gutters of the original structure, and (b) possible lack of step flashing between the new roof shingles and the chimney (couldn't get all the way up to that part of the roof).

    The homeowners had had the entire roof replaced (including decking) about 18 months ago, in preparation for installation of the solar panels. But they did not replace the gutters; according to them, the roofers didn't touch them. There was rotted trim in several places, all leading me to believe that the fascia was also compromised. And the leaks inside matched up with areas of the gutters at seams and ends.

    They're going to have their roofer come back and ascertain that the step flashing is installed correctly (I told them to ask them to take pictures to prove it's done right), and will also have a gutter company check the fascias.

    If neither of these turns out to be the culprit, I'm really at a loss to figure out how the water is getting in. I'll report back once I hear from the client.
    Welmoed, It sounds like you really worked on this one. Other than obvious leaks, damage, infiltration and mounting; there is not much more you can evaluate about a solar system within the limits of a standard Home Inspection.

    I agree that the system not being flashed at the top is a likely culprit, and should be properly flashed, counter flashed, and if necessary a cricket, etc.

    If the fascia board is wood and not prepared and maintained it can also be damaged. But is there a chance that the damaged fascia board & trim is a symptom and not a cause. If the area not leaking is the objective; then replacing the fascia board and hoping it will not leak again may not be the best approach. And while I certainly agree that the damaged board should be replaced, I also believe the area should be upgraded so that it does no reoccur. Perhaps a properly formed and installed end cap/drip cap would more efficiently protect the area.

    Because of different factors, and especially during wind driven rain; water can infiltrate up and under the shingles at the bottom of the system. This water can be directed behind the fascia board where it is likely to do more damage to both the fascia board and the interior of the building..

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
    eifsinspectionsnewyork.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    North Las Vegas Nv 89081
    Posts
    37

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    As a home inspector I also have a solar panel installer's license. I got involved with solar installation because thier becoming very comon here in vegas. Jerry peck hit it right on the head. If brackets are not sealed properly they will leak. As far as inspecting the panels the only thing you can look for is cracked & broken panels. Also check the inverter display, it will tell you if it is working properly.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Lake Barrington, IL
    Posts
    1,363

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    I have always wondered how enthralled people were with these systems when it came time for roof replacement. Must be like moving "up" to a BMW and then learning what it costs for repairs.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  12. #12

    Default Re: Inspecting a home with solar panels

    The good thing is they had the roof done first...even if the roofer did not do a perfect job, it is difficult to work around the panels to re-roof!

    Jerry and others have mentioned many of the items to look for concerning the panels but I will attempt to summarize and add a few.

    As stated ALL roof penetrations must be sealed, preferably with some sort of flashing and not just sealant. Bolts should be used over lags. Lags rely on hitting the rafter perfectly and have been known to fail in storm winds prematurely. Using all thread or long bolts that go thru the roof, past the rafter and thru a strong back or uni-strut receiver when possible is best. If the system is a plumbed system (not photo electric) then the pipes may also leak and should be reviewed from top to bottom.
    Way back when Jimmy Carters brother was selling beer we mounted racks to the roof first using a stand-off system with thru bolts and boots at the bolt locations with bushings to support the feet. Boots at all pipe (& wire) penetrations as well.

    Jeff Zehnder - Home Inspector, Raleigh, NC
    http://www.jjeffzehnder.com/
    http://carolinahomeinspections.com/

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •