Is it Safe to Install Solar Panels on an Asbestos Roof: A Factual Guide!
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”
↝↝ Albert Einstein
Solar energy has a lot of potential – the potential to save the world. But there are certain limitations that the world needs to know of.
When we say limitations, we aren’t talking about solar’s dependence on the Sun! That’s for another day! The limitation we’re talking about is related to the type of roof that you have.
There are 3 kinds of roofs commonly found in residences and commercial buildings: an RCC roof, a metallic roof, and an asbestos roof.
While solar can be installed on RCC and metallic roofs, it is not advisable to install solar on an asbestos roof.
If you’re here, it’s only for two reasons: either you have an asbestos roof and you want to know how to install a solar system on your roof or you’re simply a curious mind.
In either case, you already know our take – you can’t, and shouldn’t, install solar panels on asbestos sheet roofing.
In this guide, we have taken the initiative to walk you through the reasons why an asbestos roof cannot handle a solar power system and what you should do if you still want to switch to solar.
Asbestos roof and solar system installation: Can it be done?
There was a time between the 80s and 90s when asbestos cement sheets took the world by storm. People were using them as garage roofs. Many households and industries started installing asbestos sheets for roofing.
However, it didn’t take much time for the world to know that their beloved asbestos sheets were a big health hazard – they were found to be carcinogenic.
These sheets that were once admired for the terrific insulation they offered started getting banned, and banned for good.
The reasons they’re not reliable options for solar system installation are:
- – Asbestos sheets are brittle, they can easily break under the load of a rooftop solar system.
- – They don’t have a long life; whereas, a solar system lasts for 25 years, and even more.
- – They’re a safety risk for installation and maintenance experts.
So, putting it out simply: you shouldn’t install solar on an asbestos roof.
Top 3 reasons why you should not install solar panels on asbestos roof
Warren Buffett once said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing” – and we’re here to eliminate that risk for you.
The upcoming three reasons are eye-opening revelations why you shouldn’t install solar panels on an asbestos roof.
#1. Asbestos sheets cannot endure load
When we say load, we mean both static load and dynamic/impact load. Confused? Let us elaborate!
Static load (load from something that doesn’t move), in the case of solar system installation, is caused by the system itself.
Dynamic/impact load (load from something that’s in motion), in this case, is the weight of the installation agents as well as the maintenance team accessing the rooftop.
Did you know: a 1 KW solar system installed on a 6-9 ft. tall mounting structure on an RCC roof weighs between 25-30 kg/sq meter? And did you know that every 1 KW solar system requires about 10 sq meters of space for installation?
Asbestos sheets just don’t have this kind of load-bearing capacity.
- Under constant static and dynamic load, asbestos sheets can collapse.
- Under pressure, they start developing cracks, giving way to the water.
- Water seeping inside the cracks causes humidity. It compromises the structural strength of the building.
- Moisture and humidity can easily rust or corrode the mounting structures, especially if those structures aren’t properly galvanised in zinc.
- Moisture is a major concern when there’s electrical work going on under the shed. It’s a health concern in general too since it harbors germs and all sorts of organic growth.
So, no matter the angle you choose to look at, asbestos sheets aren’t ideal candidates for the installation of solar panels.
#2. Asbestos sheets do not have a long life
You expect them to last for a lifetime, but they don’t. Asbestos sheets have a pretty short life since they start losing their strength as soon as you start walking on them.
Imagine how drastically their life will deteriorate when there’ll be a solar system installed on them. Besides, experts will have to frequently walk on those sheets for maintenance of the solar panels post installation.
When somebody installs a solar system, it’s with the hope that the system would last for a minimum of 25 years. When the roof on which the system has been installed won’t have a long life, how would the system last?
#3. Asbestos sheets are a safety risk for installation and maintenance workers
As mentioned, asbestos sheets tend to give in very easily when subjected to load. There’s a very high possibility that the roof might entirely come down during the installation and maintenance.
These are major safety concerns.
Workers can get injured while working on an asbestos roof. That’s one major reason why a legacy solar installation company will never offer services for the installation of solar panels on asbestos sheet roofing and risk the safety of workers.
What to do if you still want to go solar?
“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”
↝↝ Lao Tzu
We’re sure, you must have taken our cue: removing asbestos sheets and replacing them with something else (a metallic shed, maybe) is the best, the only option!
As you know now, there are two kinds of roofs that installation experts suggest – an RCC roof and a metal sheet roof. It’s the latter out of the two that’s more affordable; hence, the more popular option.
Metal sheets come in different thicknesses. The thicker they are, the costlier they will be. The type you choose should depend on the nature of work that’s going on under the shed.
- – If, say, it’s for a garage, there’s going to be a lot of heat and electricity involved. Whenever the work is sensitive, you should opt for a thicker metallic sheet.
- – The thicker the metallic sheets, the higher the overlap. It eliminates the risk of water penetration through gaps since there are none.
If you want something a little more affordable, galvalume steel sheets are very good options. Many homeowners prefer these sheets when replacing their old asbestos roofs.
Although screws will be used to hold the thinner sheets together, if the overlap is higher, the problem of penetration can be tackled.
But either way, no matter the type you choose, metallic sheets for roofing are:
- – Strong enough to handle the weight of a solar system.
- – Long-lasting. Although their life is supposedly 15 years, when they’re properly maintained, they can easily last for 25 years.
- – Safe for installation workers and maintenance engineers.
- – Easy to maintain.
- – Not a risk to health like asbestos sheets that are carcinogenic.
Is replacing an asbestos roof with a metallic roof worth the investment?
The first thing a calculative, smart person would want to know is – changing the entire roof just for the installation of solar, is the investment worthy?
Let’s break it to you: it’s absolutely worth the money you’ll invest. You get all the benefits of installing a solar system – reduced electricity bills, free solar electricity for 25 years, and a negligible carbon footprint.
Undoubtedly, if you get the asbestos sheets replaced with metallic sheets, the initial investment will be higher. However, it will add only 6 to 8 months more than it would have otherwise been to recover the investment cost.
What you need to do is choose a trusted solar installation company that can help you make the right choices:
- – What size of solar system would be able to meet your power requirement
- – Which grade of metallic sheet – the ideal thickness – would be able to handle the weight of the suggested solar system
- Solar systems should not be installed on an asbestos roof.
- Asbestos cement sheets do not have a good load handling capacity. They’re also highly carcinogenic.
- These sheets have a very short life, they get brittle when there’s an impact load.
- The only way to install a solar system if you have an asbestos roof is by replacing the asbestos sheets with metallic sheets.
Did you know that even the manufacture of asbestos cement sheets has been banned by the government of India in many states?
The fumes released while mining – and manufacturing – asbestos are carcinogenic.
Besides, installing solar panels on an asbestos roof is a major safety risk for everybody: you, installation experts, and solar panel maintenance engineers and workers.
Always remember, nothing is worth the risk of life, and installing solar panels on asbestos sheets is one! Period.