To conserve natural resources, generating energy from the sun (AKA solar energy) is one of the smartest and easiest renewable energy sources available.
The true benefit of this “natural” energy is when solar energy is captured and used within an energy-efficient building. Otherwise, this precious energy is quickly wasted, escaping through minuscule wall and roof leaks, poor insulation, utility gaps, thermal bridging, and interior wall and roof convection.
Building Design Professionals & Energy Engineers have long recognized the need to pair renewable energy with high-performance, energy-efficient building envelopes. In fact, thousands of notable LEED, Net Zero, Passive projects have been designed and built pairing solar and SIPs (a superior high-performing building envelope system) together as key building system components in residential and commercial new construction.
A little over a decade ago, Premier SIPS published an article about a suggested way to attach solar arrays onto SIP roof decks. Common practice in the 2010 time frame was to make solar attachments to roofs by screwing or bolting into solid wood rafters, purlins, or beams. This method of attachment was being promoted by solar equipment suppliers as the approved approach for guaranteeing their solar arrays would withstand the rigors of high winds and deep snow.
As the building industry evolved, it became apparent to solar suppliers that they needed to develop alternative means and methods of attachment to meet a myriad of field conditions, adapt to new building systems, and provide flexibility for solar installers to meet these challenges. Case in point, Structural Insulated Panels, SIPs, that do not use energy robbing roof rafters, purlins, or beams at their deck surface.
Demand for high-energy efficient homes and commercial buildings have soared in the last decade. As this demand has increased, SIPs are being chosen frequently as the preferred “High-Performance Building Envelope.” Solar has also been part of this energy-efficient demand curve. So, it was inevitable that the SIP and Solar industries had to come together and have solar suppliers provide a strong, durable, and quick installation method for applying solar panel arrays to SIP roof decks.
We’ve come a long way since the clumsy method we suggested for solar attachment back in 2011. Great options exist today for attaching solar arrays to SIPs. It’s thanks to the development efforts of several innovative solar suppliers who have invented, manufactured, and now distribute attachment hardware that allows direct deck attachment – meaning, attachment of their attachment fixtures directly to OSB or plywood sheathing. No rafter attachment required!
Roof Tech Solar Mounting Solutions, a national solar supplier, makes the RT-MINI II. It can be used for rafter attachment but also features a spread plate design allowing for a 5-screw direct attachment through OSB or plywood. The RT-MINI II also has a self-sealing layer to insure a watertight installation at the roof line.
RT-MINI II by Roof Tech Solar Mounting Solutions
SnapNrack Solar Mounting Solutions, another national supplier, offers an elegant solution with their SpeedSeal™ DeckFoot attachment fixture. The DeckFoot features a 4-screw pattern that provides a high-strength attachment through OSB sheathing. The DeckFoot system also provides a water sealing interface at the roofing material contact line. “These rafter-independent attachments allow for layout adjustability on the roof without the need to locate & attach to rafters. More importantly, installers have the ability to mount on specialty roof structures without standard rafters.” -SnapNrack
SpeedSeal™ DeckFoot by SnapNrack
We encourage you to connect with these companies to learn more about their products, technical specifications, and engineering data. Caution: The attachment solutions presented here must be designed using the engineering data supplied by the solar attachment fixture supplier. The engineer of record for the project must be involved in the selection of the attachment fixture and the layout design for roof attachment.
As you can see, solar attachment to technologies like SIPs has come a long way. Designing structures with SIPs and Solar creates energy-efficient structures with an extremely bright future!