Tuesday 20 March 2012

Q: When is a roof not a roof? A: When you put a solar panel on it

The launch of a new roofing standard for solar panels in the UK aims to fix this

Not a roof?

                “Will these solar panels make my roof leak?”
                “Will they blow off the roof in the wind?”
                “Will the fire-safety of the roof be affected?”

You might think that being able to confidently answer “no” to the questions above would be a position that solar manufacturers would aim for, if only for their own peace of mind.  However, with the exception of a small number of companies that have tested their products, the solar industry has avoided the need to comply with important regulations that apply to all other roofing materials for years. 
With the release of new roofing requirements (MCS 012) from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), in the UK at least, this ends now. 

Aren’t there existing standards for solar panels?
European standards exist for both solar thermal and solar photovoltaic panels.  While these are excellent tests of the durability of the panels, they do not consider their performance as part of a building.  For example the wind loading test in the European standards for solar panels doesn’t fix the panels to a representative roof – even though the weakest link is often between the fixing brackets and the roof itself.  The weatherproofing tests only check if water gets into the solar panel, not whether it gets into the building.

MCS 012
This new standard published by the MCS now requires that solar roofing installation kits are tested by an independent test laboratory which will issue a certificate declaring the resistance to wind loads and the fire rating.  In addition there will be tests to confirm that the installation doesn’t decrease the weathertightness of the roof.

MCS 012 now requires tests for fire safety, weatherproofing and wind resistance
Installers must calculate the maximum wind load on the roof and check that the strength of the panel and its fixings are adequate.  Depending on the fire rating of the solar panel kit there may be restrictions on where the panels can be placed and the maximum area that can be given over to solar panels.