California Solar Mandate Energizes Metal Roofing

Written by Tim Triplett

As the first state in the nation to require all new homes to have solar power, California’s recent decision mandating solar panels in residential construction is likely to increase demand for metal roofing systems, said the Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA), a non-profit trade organization.

The initial cost of metal roofing is higher than conventional roofing materials, but it’s important to consider overall value, said MRA, including durability, performance, longevity and the streamlined installation for residential solar systems.

“California’s leadership is a giant step forward to bring solar power into the mainstream for all homeowners no matter where they live,” said Renee Ramey, MRA Executive Director. “It also promises to cause a major shift in the building and construction industry for how to adopt methods and materials that are better suited for solar systems. After all, the return on a residential roof-mounted solar investment is only as good as the quality and longevity of the roof where it’s installed.”

According to the California Energy Commission, when the state’s solar standards kick in two years from now, it will save consumers an estimated $80 on monthly heating, cooling and lighting bills, a positive long-term return on the investment that is predicted to easily offset the higher cost of installing solar.

However, while the benefits of producing their own rooftop electricity are significant for homeowners, MRA warns that those savings can quickly be wiped out if the roof underneath the solar system fails. That’s because repairing or replacing a roof—in addition to the substantial extra labor costs of removing and reinstalling a solar panel system—can be tremendously expensive. Strong and durable metal roofs are the best option for mounting photovoltaic systems, claims MRA, greatly reducing the risk of a roof failing before a solar panel system does. The estimated lifespan of solar panels is 20 to 25 years while metal roofs last for 50-plus years, two or three times the average lifespan of other types of roofing materials.

The California Energy Commission voted unanimously in May to require solar panels for new homes beginning in 2020. Included in the plan are new single-family homes, condos and apartment buildings up to three stories high. About 80,000 homes are built in California each year with approximately 15,000 equipped with solar panels. The new requirement would mean another 65,000 solar homes would be built per year starting in 2020. The CEC estimates the mandate for solar panels will increase the cost of constructing a single-family home by an average of $10,538, but will be offset by average savings of $16,251 over the 30-year life of the home.

Other states are watching California to see if its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality through the use of solar panels proves practical.

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