Ground-Mounted Solar vs. Rooftop Solar — Which Is Cheaper?

Both ground-mounted and rooftop solar panels offer unique benefits, and both provide you with a free source of electricity for your home. But if you’re like most homeowners, cost will factor into your decision.

So which type of photovoltaic array is more affordable?

ground mounted solar

Ground-Mounted Solar Installation Costs

Ground-mounted photovoltaic arrays typically cost more than rooftop systems.

The additional materials needed — including reinforced pole structures and cement foundations — are responsible for much of the added expense. Labor charges are also higher for ground-mounted panels, due to the more involved mounting process.

In addition, placing a photovoltaic array at ground level puts the wiring components in easy reach of rabbits, squirrels and other backyard pests. To prevent critters from munching on your wires, you may need to bury them.

Digging trenches for underground wiring is an extra cost you won’t have with a rooftop array.

Rooftop Solar Installation Costs

Rooftop solar panels are faster and easier to install than a ground-based solar energy system, so labor charges are minimal. Plus, the mounting components are much less expensive.

However, rooftop installation has one potential added cost — roof repair or replacement.

Photovoltaic panels must be mounted on a solid, stable structure. The modules are designed to last for decades, and placing them on a damaged roof is never a good plan. If your roof develops a leak or related problem, the panel array must be removed to fix the problem and subsequently reinstalled.

As this is an expensive, time-consuming and complicated process, professional photovoltaic contractors recommend repairing or replacing a damaged roof before scheduling a rooftop installation.

Which Type of Photovoltaic Installation Is Right for You?

If your roof is in good shape or needs only minor repairs, you can save money by choosing to install rooftop solar panels.

However, cost isn’t the only consideration.

Some rooftops face the wrong direction for capturing the sun’s energy. Others are shaded by obstructions, such as nearby buildings and trees, or are too small to hold more than a few photovoltaic modules.

Under these conditions, rooftop solar panels may not be as effective as a ground-mounted solar installation. A photovoltaic array mounted at ground level can be placed at the optimal orientation and angle for maximum energy production.

Ultimately, the best decision for your photovoltaic array will depend on several factors — not just your out-of-pocket expenses. A professional contractor can help you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option and offer recommendations for the most cost-effective installation.

Homeowners throughout Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada can schedule a free consultation with Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading photovoltaic installer. Contact us today to learn more about ground-mounted solar and rooftop PV panels.