Removing Solar Panels From a Roof | 5+ Steps to Follow

The renewable energy revolution has given us cleaner and greener power, but what about the end of the road? Removing solar panels properly ensures safety, prevents damage, and makes future solar projects easier.

uninstalling solar panels involves a meticulous process divided into six essential steps. From inspecting and preparing to the final decision of reinstallation or disposal, each phase demands attention to detail.

Let’s break down and follow all the 6 steps to safely remove solar panels from a roof.

Removing Solar Panels From a Roof

Step 1: Inspect and Prepare for Removal

Before removing solar panels, take time to thoroughly inspect the system and make preparations:

Inspect and Prepare for Removal

Inspect Solar Panels and Mounts for Damage

Closely check panels and mounts for cracks, loose parts, or other damage. Assess whether panels and mounts can withstand removal or if certain pieces should be dismantled first. Document any pre-existing flaws with photos.

Gather Replacement Roofing Materials

Have new shingles, tiles, flashing, or other materials on hand for any roof repairs needed after removing panels and mounts. Match materials to the existing roof.

Assemble Necessary Equipment

Gather tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, wire cutters, heavy work gloves, sealant, etc. Consider renting a lift if the roof is especially high or steep. Ensure ladders are secure and harness systems are in place.

Protect the Interior from Weather and Debris

Cover any open skylights or other openings and seal attic entrances. Clear plants/items from under the roof edges and place drop cloths inside to catch falling debris. Check indoor spaces for roof leaks afterward.

Disconnect Electrical Components and Turn Off System

Switch off the solar electric system at the main utility panel. Then, individually unplug all electrical connectors on panels, disconnect the inverter and batteries, and label all wires clearly.

Step 2: Remove Solar Panels and Racking

With safety checks complete and the roof protected, it’s time to dismantle the solar array:

Remove Solar Panels and Racking

Disconnect Panel-to-Panel Connections

Unclip or unscrew the wires/cords connecting one solar panel to the next in series. Coil up and label cords neatly to prevent tangling.

Unbolt Panels from Racking

Using proper tools, remove the bolts or clamps securing each panel to the racking system. Be extremely careful handling panels as they detach.

Take Down Racking and Rails

Once all individual panels are removed, dismantle the underlying aluminum/steel rails and rack one section at a time. Lower racking pieces safely to the ground.

Use Care with Difficult Hardware

For stubborn bolts or clamps, use penetrating oils, leverage tools, heat, vibration, and other methods to break them free. Avoid damaging panels or racking.

Pass Panels/Items Down Safely

At least two people should handle passing panels—carefully tilt panels to avoid wind damage as they are lowered. Padding landing areas helps prevent dents and cracks.

Step 3: Repair Any Roof Damage

Inspect the full roof surface after removing solar components to identify and fix the following:

Repair Any Roof Damage

Replace Missing or Damaged Shingles

Fill in newly exposed areas on asphalt shingle roofs using the replacement shingles set aside before starting removal.

Seal Holes from Racking Mounts

Using silicon or other sealants, plug all screws holes, gaps or cracks left in the roof decking so water cannot penetrate the holes.

Check Roof Decking Structure

Examine areas under the array for moisture damage or soft, cracked decking needing replacement to maintain structural integrity.

Step 4: Dismantle Electrical System

With the panels and racks down, electrical safety checks are critical:

Dismantle Electrical System

Disconnect Exterior Conduit and Wiring

At both roof and ground locations, undo screwed connections tying solar wiring conduits to structures. Coil wires neatly.

Remove Attachment Bolts

Unscrew any bolts affixing electrical boxes, conduit straps and other items to the home. Patch the leftover holes.

Seal External Conduit Holes

Fill any openings to the interior left by electrical conduit sleeves using silicone caulk. Check seals for water leaks later.

Step 5: Remove Mounting Hardware

Taking down solar mounting structures attached to the roof requires patience and care:

Remove Mounting Hardware

Identify the Mounting System Type

Assess whether panels were mounted with lag bolts into rafters, concrete footers, adhesive pads, or another method. This determines the removal technique.

Remove Bolts and Adhesive Pads

For lag bolt mounts, carefully back bolts out of roof beams using a powered drill. Remove adhesive footers by scraping/chipping the pad to the roof.

Handle Components Safely

When dismantling large commercial ballasted or racking systems, take precautions to avoid heavy items damaging the roof or falling uncontrollably.

Recycle or Dispose of Hardware Properly

Sort removed mounting items into metal recycling, hazardous waste disposal, general trash, etc. Permits may be required for commercial disposal.

Step 6: Recycle Panels or Prepare for Reinstall

Finally, to wrap up the project:

Recycle Panels or Prepare for Reinstall

Recycle Unwanted Solar Panels

Contact solar panel recycling services to dispose of any damaged or obsolete panels properly. This avoids toxic e-waste in landfills.

Reuse or Reinstall Panels

For still-functioning panels being relocated, prepare them for safe transport and temporary storage. Get professional help reinstalling reused panels later.

How long does it take to remove solar panels from a roof?

With 2-3 installers, plan for solar panel removal to take 1-2 full working days including roof repairs. The exact timeframe depends on system size, mount types, and access challenges.

Can I remove solar panels myself?

While DIY removal is physically possible, it’s highly risky unless you have professional training. Solar involves electrical dangers, working at heights, heavy lifting, and complex steps.

How much does it cost to have solar panels professionally removed?

For a typical 5kW system, professional removal costs $1,500-$2,500 including labor, equipment, repairs, transport, and disposal fees. Larger or more complex systems are more.

What is the lifespan of a solar panel?

Modern solar panels can still produce over 80% of the original output after 25 years. Many panels operate for 30+ years with minor yearly output declines. Heat and weather extremes accelerate lifespan reductions over decades of exposure. Proper removal and reinstallation can extend solar panel lifespans further.

End Notes

Removing solar panels doesn’t have to be dangerous or damaging if systematic safety checks are performed first and every step follows best practices. While hiring professionals is often wisest, DIYers can also succeed if they exercise extreme caution. If reinstalling panels elsewhere later, taking time to disconnect components and dismount hardware carefully ensures solar investments last. Hopefully, this comprehensive guide gave you all the techniques needed to safely remove solar panels from a roof yourself or gain insight into what professional solar contractors will perform. Thanks for reading! Please leave any remaining questions in the comments below.

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