Solar Metal Roofing – How to Make your Metal Roof work for you!

In this solar roofing guide you will learn about the pros and cons of metal roofing with laminated thin-film PV panels such as the ones manufactured by Uni-Solar Ovonics, or simply UniSolar, which is an Energy Conversion Devices company/brand.

UniSolar thin-film solar panels have been specifically designed to be installed with a standing seam metal roof and have a nominal width of 15.5 inches, which fits perfectly onto a 16″ standing seam panel. With a special butyl adhesive backing, the installation of thin-film solar panels is very simple and fast.

Watch how the the solar metal roof is installed and how free electricity is produced right away:

Benefits of Solar Metal Roofing and Roof-Integrated Solar Systems

Installing a solar metal roof is the most cost effective way to get a lifetime roof together with a solar PV system. The savings come from the fact that the installation of a solar power system is greatly simplified, because there is no need to install the racking system, which is needed to hold your conventional solar panels. This saves you about $1 (one dollar) per watt DC of solar system, and eliminates an additional $0.50 per watt for the installation of the racking system and solar panels. With thin-film solar PV laminates, the installation is reduced to cleaning the inside of the metal roof panels, applying and rolling in the PV laminate and installing the metal roofing panels.

Later, when all the standing seam metal roofing panels have been installed, the solar integrator connects the mom and pop contacts on each solar panel to form one, two or more strings of solar panels, and runs the wiring down to the inverter, which then converts the DC power from solar panels into AC power at 240 volts and feeds the electricity into your home’s power network. All excess electricity is sent into the grid (for grid-tied solar systems), or to your storage batteries (for off-grid systems).

Installation of Solar Metal Roofing

Why use a Roof-Integrated Solar System vs. Conventional Solar Panels?

The main problem associated with general solar PV systems that you can now see on many homes around the country, is the fact that an asphalt shingles roof will fail much sooner than the PV solar panels. When that happens, those homeowners will be faced not only with the re-roofing expense, but also with complete removal re-installation of the solar array. This MUST be performed by both the roofer and the solar integrator, as the roofer alone will 99% of the time screw things up. And bear in mind that a roofing warranty will usually not cover damages to the solar equipment, let alone all the possible short-circuit type situations.

Solar Metal Roof Installation Video:

The additional cost associated with these procedures should be at-least the same as the cost of the new roof itself. Think about it: Electricians unlike roofers have to be licensed. An apprentice electrician needs at-least 4 years of schooling/work experience. This is like an undergraduate degree. A master electrician needs another 4 years. Therefore, electricians usually charge $75-100 per man-hour. You’ll need at least two electricians for this job, which will take a whole day to remove the panels and another day to put them back, if not more.

The math is simple: 2 guys * $75/h * 8 hrs. * 2 days = $2400 plus any possible parts and supplies that may be required. So let’s say it costs you $2500 extra. In some parts of the country that is how much an average 1200 sq. ft. cape house roof will cost to install (materials included).

Thin Film Solar Panel Installation Video:

Metal Roofs vs. Asphalt Shingles

Unlike the very “popular” asphalt shingles, metal roofs are pretty much permanent. They are for the most part manufactured from recycled metals, and when installed by a trained professional, they will not leak for decades.

Metal roofs combined with Renewable Energy technologies can create an ideal, long lasting and affordable solution for residential Solar Electric and Solar Hot Water needs.

Solar electric, hot water and heating

There are other numerous benefits to having a metal roof combined with Solar PV and other renewable energy technologies. When looking at a metal roof vs. asphalt shingles, also consider that a metal roof will save our landfills from getting more shingles dumped there in 10 years or so. With metal, you get a beautiful, permanent roofing solution that you can combined with a solar system, and if you choose to add a Geothermal system, you can design a 100% energy-free home!

35 thoughts on “Solar Metal Roofing – How to Make your Metal Roof work for you!

  1. Pingback: Solar Roofing | Roofing Blog

  2. Bob Clark says:

    The solar electric and hot water metal roof looks interesting. Can you provide details on its construction and source for materials? How will this system be expected to perform in northern New England?

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  4. The solar electric and hot water roof is a good idea, but I think I would go with a geothermal system for my hot water. Actually between geothermal and solar you really wouldn’t ever need to be on the grid again.

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  6. Eggert BOEHLAU says:

    thank you for article. I have a home with two problems, failing geothermal system, done in about 1990. It appears to gobble a lot of electricity & is becoming expensive from this perspective. Also failing cedar roof, again after only 20 years. Do you know someone in Ontario I could contact to have metal roof work done with integrated thin film solar? What are approximate costs per sq ft? Do you know a good geothermal co?

  7. Great article! We are taking the same approach in the Atlanta, GA market with a product we’ve dubbed the “SmarterROOF” which is a package of Energy Star rated Kynar coated metal roofing combined with affordable solar technologies.

    Sunny regards!

    -The Energy Roofing Systems team

  8. Pingback: Solar systems for flat roofs at Solar Calculator – calculate solar PV prices, PV system payback period.

  9. Sally Peterson says:

    I am looking to install a new metal roof on a cottage near Winchester, VA. I would love to get more info on this system and also the name of an installer in the Winchester or Clarke County, VA. area.

  10. Hello Sally,

    You can find a metal roofing installer in the directory of roofing contractors, suppliers and manufacturers. You can also try metal roofing contractors directory. You can also search for solar metal roofing in Virginia.

    Good Luck,


  11. Ken Downen says:

    Is there a company that I can contact about the metal roofing combined with the thin film?

  12. Depends what company you need to contact, where you are located and what you need to find out…

  13. Your photo of the standing seam / PV system appears to be set on top of PEX tubing inlaid into aluminum supports, I am assuming this is a hot water and PV in one system? Where can I get additional info on this set up? We are building a home this spring in southern NJ and want to incorporate solar. Thank you.

  14. richard boston says:

    many questions. This thin film need to be have more info length width and output… Size of inverter for 10k system, how many batters and what amps Most green metal roofs are rib about 8 inch span then a 3/4 rize so how do the adhisive panels install

  15. Hi Richard,

    As far the inverter – I’d recommend using multiple inverters – say 4 at 2500 watt each. Reason for this – inverter will probably have the shortest life out of all your components (except for maybe batteries, but this is more dependent on who manufactures them). Therefore, if one 2500 watt inverter goes, it is much cheaper to replace than the 10kW inverter, and most of your system would still be operational.

    Batteries – I don’t know that much about them, and if you are tied into grid, it make no sense to have batteries… or maybe just a little system if grid goes out for a day or two.

    Now the metal roof – you can have flat pan on standing seam panels, and it is actually required for proper adhesion of the solar panels. The stiffening ribs are put in when panels are made, and it is easy to not have them put in.

    Are you planning to have this done soon?

  16. Pingback: Uni-Solar’s Bankruptcy and what it reveals about the state of the Solar Industry in US | Solar Panel Prices – research the cost of Solar PV

  17. Hello, could you send some more info on prices and tech specs of the PV film used. I am from Lithuania and would like to start importing these films. As for the metal part, I think it will be less expensive and easier to get it here. Thanks in advance.

  18. Tim Mooney says:

    I love this metal roof/solar panel idea. Do you know who can install this in the greater Phoenix Arizona area?


    Tim Mooney

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  20. Does your roof have to face a particular direction? Does the wiring go into your box or do you have to get a special box or rewire? Can the lamenent be applied to an existing metal roof?

  21. Nice tutorial and to answer the person above I think they are meant to be South facing so a south facing roof would be best.

  22. Jamie Lipsett says:

    I am interested in this roof system.My thinking is the entire back roof facing south being solar. House is expected to be 1500 sq ‘ so looking at about 850sq’ of solar. Is it possible to get a ball park figure.?

  23. I am about to build a new home also. I wanted a metal roof and solar panels but “HELP U BUILD” said the cost would be absorb-anent. So do I need to get 2 electricians and a roofer (will any roofer do?)? The house will be around 2600 SF.

    The electric company in San Antonio will give me some kind of rebate to install solar panels and then there is some kind of write off on the taxes.

    Does this system give me any upfront financial benefit. I certainly don’t want to be paying on the roof longer than the 20 yr loan on the house.

    Can you explain more about the water heating system and the geothermal heating/cooling. Is this an either/or get the panels or geothermal heating/cooling. Frankly I want my electric company to send me a check for putting more electricity in there system.


  24. Hi. System looks good but I am wondering if it is is being distributed in Australia and if so, by whom. We really like the low profile look of the panels and was wondering what is the length of warranty on this product (especially as a DYI product)? If there is a need for someone to walk on the roof to perform other maintenance, are they able to walk on the film at all to access things such as antennae etc.? Also your video did not show how the roof capping was finished off. Was wondering what type of system you used to ensure the there was no damage to the wiring? What type of insulation is needed to ensure there are no issues with the roof becoming “live”? Also is there any issues with damage to the film by severe weather conditions ie. hail storms or flying debris in wind storms (does the panel become inoperable if it is cut or damaged and are there safety issues related to this?)
    Hopefully you can address these questions as it is a much more attractive looking system than the current ones we have here (especially when installed on mass).

  25. D,

    So, the Unisolar is bankrupt (no more production / warranty in question), but there are other companies (namely in China) that make similar thin film panels with higher efficiency.

    You can walk on them, but I would not recommend it 🙂 … since you only put these panels on the southern exposure (norther for Australia 🙂 of the house, you have the entire opposite side of the roof to go where you need to.

    The wiring is concealed under ridge cap. There are special spots at the top of the panel (near terminals) where you can put screws to hold down Z-bar flashing.

    I don’t see how warranty relates to DIY 🙂 … warranty covers the production and manufacturer defects (usually). It is typical for production (electrical output) to drop 0.5% per year (or 10% over 20 years).

    No “insulation” is needed. If everything is wired correctly, electricity should flow to the inverter ONLY .

    If panel is cut (severely damaged / punctured) where the solar cells are, it will probably stop working … Should be resistant to most hail (except maybe really large ones).

    Good luck – let me know if you end up getting this, which brand you get, and send pictures too.

  26. Hello, Interesting concept.
    I’m going to be building a new home and shop and want to utilize as much green technology as possible.
    Please contact me or send me some info on material types and options, ROI, suppliers etc.

    Thank You, Phil

  27. Hi Leo, Hi All,

    I have a building co in the U.K., doing mostly refurbs and would like to get into the field of solar installations.
    Is the solar roofing system a good option to fit if someone would like to redo the roof (slates/tiles)? Can someone help where to buy good quality and efficient panels for this in the U.K.? Or shall we import it from somewhere?

    Thanks in advance


  28. I am starting a solar company and I am interested in buying the material, any information on which company is manufacturing it

  29. Hannan Ahmad says:

    Metal roofing is a better option for large area roofs, like warehouses and airplane hangars. Roofs are easy to install and very easy to remove, if damaged. Metal roofing is generally very long lasting the only damage it gets is from rust, through maintenance once in a while will provide the surety that the roof metal panels have no rust developing.

  30. I purchased the unisolar metal roofing panels about 6 yrs ago. We purchased a 3k system after the installer/sales person analyzed 12 months of our electric bills.
    We were sold a bill of goods on this system. The sales rep said it would at minimum cut our bill by 50%.
    What a crock.
    It has never produced what they said it would. And had we known this we never would have had it installed . it was 34k before rebates. Very expensive and will never pay for itself.
    It is a grid tied system and we can’t be off grid because of laws here in Michigan.
    They also told us it would increase the sake price if our house by17%. Another bullshit statement.
    Don’t get the PV systems they don’t give the output people say they do.

  31. Chris Logan says:

    Looking to replace my roof and wiould like more information on doing this in the NE Connecticut area.

  32. building home, 3000+ sp ft. want solar metal roof. in Youngstown, ohio. any referrals

  33. Michael Gumm says:

    Today there are new thin film solar products for metal roofs. Miasole manufacturers a CIGS based flexible thin film modules that are rated up to 17% efficiency. The new FLEX NL series are 19′-4″ long and are rated at 300-watts. Companies like McElroy Metal offer the FLEX series modules already factory laminated to the standing seam metal roofs – just install the metal as you always do and the wiring is just plug-n-play.

  34. Lisa – do you mean don’t get Unisolar pv systems or ANY PV systems?

    If Unisolar, they’ve been out of business for a LONG time, and back 6 years ago PV prices were MUCH higher. You paid $12/watt installed, before taxes. Now homeowners can have it installed for $3-3.50/Watt and commercial solar installations are as low as $2/w.

    As for these Unisolar panels not producing the power – it could be many things from shading on your roof, to the way your house is turned to roof slope, etc.

    I see houses in Massachusetts that face East/West and still have solar panels on them. I mean those roofs see an average of 2 hours of sun per day, for each side (Average sun-days-hours here in MA is about 4 hrs / day if your roof faces south). That is absurd, but because SolarCity and similar scam solar companies collect Federal and State Rebates, they’ve made their money back before they sold you 1KWh of electricity, so they don’t care that installation is crap… And we the taxpayers are making them rich 🙁

    Also the actual production is about 10-15% less that stated, because of loss during conversion from DC to AC … but yea … Maybe Unisolar panels are just crap …

    You see – back when we wrote this – all solar was around $10/w and because you could write off your roof as part of solar, this was more economical.

    Who knew that Unisolar will go out of business? And that there will be no similar products produced.

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