Solar Panel Roof Replacement Costs

Should you replace the roof before you add solar panels? 

Q: Five years ago we contracted with a solar panel company to install a system on our house. We now find out we will need a new roof in about two years, after getting three opinions. We’re surprised by this. The roof is only 14 years old.

Solar panel companies charge for roof removal and replacement

Here’s the problem. The solar panel company wants $6,500 to remove and reinstall the panels. Shocking! The roof will be about $20,000. We keep trying to get in touch with the solar panel company, who gave us a verbal estimate for the roof and panels for $27,000. They promise to call, visit or send us written estimates. We call and call but nothing ever happens. We are told the call is being passed on to the right person.

When the time comes to get the new roof, we’re worried that they won’t respond. We are old and retired, and very worried about how we will pay for this unexpected expense. The money is in the bank but then the account will be empty. 

If anyone asks us if we would recommend going with solar panels, we’d say no. At first our electric bill went down, but now we will never recover the money from the cost of the panels. Is there any help out there to get an answer and also to help us reduce the cost of this project?

Be sure to time roof replacment and solar panel installation

A: Well, you make a good point about timing. To get the most for your money, you’d ideally want to put on a new roof first and then install a solar panel system. Conversely, if you don’t have a new roof, and in particular if you have an old roof that may need replacing soon, you might want to delay installing a solar system.

Sam recently represented a buyer who was purchasing a home with solar panels. When the inspector took a look at the roof, he determined that the home was in need of a new roof.

Solar panel agreements list cost of solar panel roof replacement cost

When Sam and his buyers reviewed the solar panel company agreement, they found the same clause you’re talking about. This agreement stated there would be a charge around $6,500 to remove and reinstall the solar panels. In this situation, the seller had to come up with funds to cover the cost or the buyer wouldn’t have closed on the purchase.

Unfortunately, your situation is a little different. Depending on where you live, the climate, and the type of roof you install, a new roof may last 15, 20, 30 or more years. In northern states, the more prevalent roofing systems are made of asphalt shingles. These shingles have different lifespans depending on the thickness of the shingles and other factors. If you do a little comparison shopping, you’ll see shingle manufacturers advertise how long their shingles will last. You’ll pay less for shingles that last only 15 to 20 years, and more for longer-lasting shingles.

Determine life span of current roof before needing replacement

If you decide to install solar panels on your home, you should first determine how many years left you have with your current roof. You want to make sure that the financial benefit you get from the solar panels exceeds their installation cost and that it comes well before you need to replace your roof.

We doubt that the solar panel company will do much for you now. They got paid to install the solar panels and you’re asking them to remove and reinstall them on your new roof. That work comes with a cost and they will tell you that they disclosed that to you in the forms you signed.

Solar panel roof replacement is expensive – especially for seniors on fixed incomes

But, we feel your pain. A significant unplanned expense is a serious problem for seniors on a fixed income. Here’s one thing that popped into our minds: roof leaks. You didn’t mention if you had any. You just said you believed your roof had a couple of years left. Sam has had clients that were told the same thing only to find that their roofs outlived their life expectancy. Perhaps your roof will last quite a bit longer while you continue to receive the savings from the solar panels.

Confirm that your roof needs replacing before hiring solar panel company

You wrote that you talked to several roofing companies. Invite a few more to come and inspect your roof. Once you decide to pull the trigger and replace your roof, you’ll need to determine whether the area of your roof that has the solar panels has weathered better than other parts of the roof. Talk to the roofers and see if a partial replacement would work. Perhaps you can salvage the portion of the roof that has the solar panels.

We are not roofing experts, of course. But unless you evaluate all of these options and ask these questions, your only option will appear to be to remove the solar panels, install a new roof and then reinstall the panels. And, you’ll end up having to pay the solar panel company the fee they quoted to take the panels off and put them back on.

We’re sorry about your situation and hope you find a solution that minimizes your roofing expenses. Let us know what happens.

Read more about roof replacement and solar panels:

Does Adding Solar Increase Property Values?

How to Power Your Home with a Battery


©2023 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. A1611