Solar Solutions For Metal Buildings

Solar energy is a hot topic these days and can help all of us.

Metal buildings and metal roofs are beautiful and long-lasting platforms for solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity-producing systems. Builders know that steel is the superior choice for all types of structural building designs and why metal roofs outlast the life of the PV system. Steel is affordable, durable, lightweight, and easy to maintain. Whether solar canopy or roofing structures, learn about solar options for your commercial or residential metal building customers.  

The Benefits of Solar

Metal buildings tend to have a low roof pitch and significant surface area, which is perfect for solar panels. The combination of metal roofs with solar panels can achieve a sleek and modern design aesthetic for a steel building. Adding solar panels to new or retrofit construction, or creating solar canopy systems, will increase your customers’ business’ value and its return on investment (ROI).  By offering solar solutions to building owners, you can help them save hundreds to thousands (based on building size) in electricity costs when solar panels are installed via a trusted solar partner. Your customer’s brand is now marketed as eco-friendly. Solar panels help protect a roof from the weather and harsh elements. Depending upon the U.S. state in which you build, there may be incentives offered for businesses and homeowners. Tax credits, rebates, or savings are listed at . Find programs in your area here. “Cool Roofs” help reduce solar reflective radiant heat that can cause the ‘urban heat island’ effect, and instead increase solar energy. These coated metal roofs can comply with energy code requirements for cool roofing.  

Solar Panels – Laminate or Crystalline

Laminate solar panels are lightweight, with a minimal profile. They use thin film peel-and-stick method for an easy application to a steel roof. While beautifully aesthetic, this option generates half as much electricity than panels. Crystalline panels are the most effective in generating electricity and commonly used for solar roof and canopy options.  

Solar and Steel Considerations

Building location and position are major considerations when adding solar, in addition to the structural capacity. Placing panels facing the south is optimal, and important to angle the solar panels to secure the most sun. Help your customers consider the panel placement for long term. Will trees grow in the future and end up covering the sun exposure? Make sure there’s no obstructions that could affect your customer’s solar power now and down the road. When working with solar panels on steel buildings, ensure to review the International Building Code (IBC) and International Existing Building Code (IEBC) for gravity and lateral load restrictions. It’s important that before any solar panels are considered, builders ensure the structure’s design can accommodate adding panels and weight. Some metal buildings are designed with a tight weight tolerance and why it’s imperative to understand the weight limitations to an existing structure.   An experienced [metal building] engineer should evaluate the building to understand if solar panels would work within permit codes and resist additional lateral and gravity loads. The engineer must reference the building’s original design drawings and work with an experienced contractor to gather the required information. An engineering expert must analyze the effects of seismic, wind, snow, live and dead loads and combinations of loads, per code requirements.  

Solar Canopy Options

If a building’s structure cannot hold the weight of solar panels, solar canopies can be an alternative solution. Solar canopies are structures designed to hold overhanging solar panels with usable space underneath. They can take many forms: commercial and residential solar carports, gazebos, pergolas and solar patio covers. Solar canopies offer flexibility for the installation location and allow for optimization of the solar panel direction and angle for maximum sun coverage. It’s important to know that solar canopies typically cost more than rooftop solar and special building permits may be required.  

Future Proof as Solar Ready

New construction building projects are typically designed to be “solar-ready” for future installation, given most modern building codes ensure enough capacity to support a solar PV or hot water system. More businesses are inquiring about “net-zero” energy projects where a building produces as much energy as it consumes, with non-polluting energy. Help your commercial and residential customers with solar options for their metal buildings.   Tip: Build relationships with local solar contractors through project collaboration. This way you can service your customers with trusted solar partners who understand steel building projects.