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  • 1.  Water infiltration after solar installation

    Posted 06-07-2022 04:12 PM
    Not sure this is even allowed here so please feel free to delete it if not, but I'm seeking advice from people with experience installing solar systems. We had our system installed about 18 months ago and just this spring we noticed some water damage to the interior of our dining room wall. After looking into it quite a bit it appears that because of the low angle of my roof and the proximity of the panels to the roof edge and gutters, when it snows and the snow eventually sheds off the panels the snow dumps directly into my gutters and sits there until it melts. As you might imagine the snow builds up well above the level of the gutter and above the edge of the roof.

    Apparently, as that snow melts it's basically dammed from below by the buildup in the gutter and the water backs up under the shingles and is leaking through a screw hole where the solar panel mounts are screwed to the roof. This then leaks down along the soffit supports, along the bottom edge of those supports, onto the top of the brick wall construction and then tries to make it's way into the house.

    I contacted my solar installer company and after several weeks of waiting for them to let me know what they found, they came back and said the screw hole is not the cause of the leak, it's the water backing up from the gutter and "improper construction" of my roof at the edge of the roof. So since the leak wasn't directly caused by the screw through the roofing they are denying any responsibility for the damage that's been caused to my home.

    I understand their position, but it seems pretty clear to me that the location of the solar panels and proximity to the gutters is a direct cause of the leak and therefore the damage to my home.

    One thing I need to mention is that I was never asked about the installation location of the panels, nor did anyone ever mention that snow buildup might be a problem that we'd need to deal with.

    Are there any installers out there that might want to weigh in with your opinion about this situation? I'm pretty peeved with the solar company for washing their hands of this problem. And now I'm in a position where I need to make a claim on my homeowners insurance and possibly consider suing the company for the damages (the ceiling in my dining room is compromised and I suspect it might fall in on our heads any day). Any and all feedback, pro-installer or otherwise, is welcome. Thanks.


    Earl Lewis

  • 2.  RE: Water infiltration after solar installation

    ASES Life Member
    Posted 06-11-2022 11:49 AM
    Hi Earl,

    Maybe using snow guards at the edge of your roof will stop the problem and keep the snow/ice from filling up your gutter. See example at


    Best of luck

    Robert Foster
    Assistant Professor
    New Mexico State University, College of Engineering
    Las Cruces NM

  • 3.  RE: Water infiltration after solar installation

    Posted 06-14-2022 01:38 PM
    Thanks for that response, but the solar panels are literally at the edge of the roof and dump snow directly into the gutter. The snow guards would have to be on/across the bottom of the panels somehow, and I doubt that's possible.

    The solar panels are really good at collecting snow, then shedding that snow in large quantities, all at once, and it's these mini avalanches that accumulate so quickly in the gutter that are the problem. Once that cycle starts it takes a consistent warm up of the weather to get the snow melted off.

    We are considering roof heat cable, under the lower edge of the panels and in the gutter, but not sure how effective that will be.

    My biggest disappointment in this whole situation is that the solar company is washing their hands of it, despite the fact that they are the ones that decided where the panels would be located, and probably knowing that snow accumulation might be a problem. But maybe I'm giving them too much credit. ;-/

    Earl Lewis

  • 4.  RE: Water infiltration after solar installation

    Chapter Leader
    Posted 06-15-2022 10:57 AM
    agreed solar company should rectify but u bear additional cost

    best to mount panels so they shed snow

    too high on roof leads to a pile on roof and reduced output and leaks

    in my case we have no gutters  panels extend to edge of roof and look out below when it clears dumping on anything  deck bbq picnic table etc

    remove ur gutters or repostion lower

    also painting black helps

  • 5.  RE: Water infiltration after solar installation

    ASES Life Member
    Posted 06-16-2022 05:11 PM
    Edited by Gail Burrington 06-19-2022 08:19 AM
      |   view attached
    Food for thought : ( in case the attachment gets lost: )

    Gail Burrington
    Burrington's Solar Edge
    Windsor Locks CT

  • 6.  RE: Water infiltration after solar installation

    Posted 06-18-2022 03:26 PM

    Responses to a couple posts:
    - Earl, sorry to hear about your water backup problems from snow. I have seen a number of installers installing perimeter skirting around the array to block the view under the modules. Some of the skirting sticks out at about a 45 degree angle from the bottom edge of the panels. You may want to consider adding something like this to make a ramp for the snow to the outside edge of your gutter, like a gutter guard for leaves, the snow should slide off and miss the gutter, but rain water should adhere to the rounded surface of the gutter guard and flow down into your gutter. These should be able to be clamped to the module frame edge. 

    - About single direction meters, only the older mechanical style, "if" it had an internal ratchet mechanism, would not turn backwards. The power would flow backwards but would not be measured. These were usually only installed at locations where people were tampering with the meters. Many/most old mechanical meters would/will turn backwards, however, the utility did not calibrate them going backwards. For some of my PV installs in the late 1990's, during brief testing at the end of the install to confirm the inverter was operational, the old mechanical meter did turn backwards (both the dial and the numbers). After AHJ inspection, the utility came out and replaced the old mechanical meter with a new mechanical meter, but the new mechanical meter had a label inside that said it was bidirectional. I think the label just meant the meter was calibrated in both directions, because the new meter was the same model as the old one. Newer electronic meters can also come in the single-direction or bidirectional versions, but the "ratchet"
    on the single direction version is electronic instead of mechanical, meaning the power still flows in reverse but the display will not register the negative number. I don't know if the newer SMART meters are always calibrated in both directions. The utility installed a SMART meter on my house over a decade ago. After the AHJ signed off on my grid-tied PV system 3 years ago, I was never notified by the utility of their inspection day/time. A week or so later I received a letter from the utility giving me permission to operate the PV system. I went out to check the meter because I expected the meter would get replaced with a bidirectional one, but no. The same SMART meter was there with the same broken seal on the lock-ring that was there when they installed the SMART meter a decade prior. I have been getting the normal NEM bill with + and - values since the PV was installed.

    Aaron Wellendorf

  • 7.  RE: Water infiltration after solar installation

    Posted 06-15-2022 06:08 PM
    Hello Earl,

    By way of introduction I'm an architect and have more than a little experience with edge details - roof / wall / gutter / eaves that are impacted by snow.  I would prefer to know more physical details about the house to provide a better explanation but I think you have described something of a classic problem that results from basic home-builder construction driven by speculation and low cost rather than quality design detailing and workmanship.  You have mentioned these important aspects that we can begin with: a low slope roof in a snow zone so I surmise a freeze / thaw cycle; the roof is shingled which will allow ice to migrate up the slope and between shingles; and, the install of the panels near the roof edge thus near the gutters which exacerbates the ice flow due to snow build-up.  You have not mentioned the overhanging eave dimension, if the eave cavity is vented, the color and age of the shingles, and I can only assume the brick is a veneer in front of a traditional wood stud frame wall.  And I suspect a poor or non-existent closure between the eave cavity and the attic / joist space, in other words the wall assembly does not close to the underside of the roof. 

    Finally, if you remember, what was the snow build-up condition prior to the install of solar panels?  And can you compare conditions to the northern facing roof slope?  I suspect there were no known or noticeable problems prior to the solar panel install although the conditions for eventual failure were built into the edge condition.  The fact that this is a southern facing slope does in fact create a daily freeze / thaw (night / day) cycle but after the solar panel install the daytime solar warming of the roof is now blocked by the panels.  This also contributes to the build-up of snow that will slide off the warm, black panels but not the cold roof.  Color does matter.  And more water is coming off the panels, concentrated at the eave than would have existed prior to the panel install.  And once the snow builds the roof sees no sun and remains frozen below the snow.  This is the classic ice damn.

    A properly constructed roof in your climate should have an ice & water shield that is applied to the roof deck, below the shingles, along the entire perimeter of the roof.  The shield is usually a peel & stick material that starts at the drip edge and extends beyond the wall line - in other words it must extend into the area above the attic space or living space that is insulated or heated.  We are assuming here that the eave cavity is not insulated and heated air cannot enter the cavity.  When snow is allowed to dwell at the edge it does melt at the underside due largely from heat loss from the house.  The melt will then freeze as temps drop at night.  The freezing water will climb up the slope, between the shingles, and eventually reach the plywood deck, where it will melt and penetrate the deck at joints and nail holes.  The ice & water shield is intended to prevent the penetration because it is a self-healing material; but, it must also extend beyond the climbing ice.

    As to the fault and cause of the leaking, it is possible, even likely, that the screws used to install the panel racking have become the point of entry for the melt water.  You should be able to verify this by observing discoloration at the underside of the deck, from inside the attic or joist cavity.  Then again, shingle nails would also allow water penetration and show the same discoloration.  If the roof / eave / wall had been built properly, and here I have to agree with your solar panel installer to a point, the proximity to the roof edge would not have mattered.  While they are not responsible for the existing roof, they show poor professional evaluation of the building condition, due largely to lack of experience - not uncommon in the residential service market today.

    But finally Earl, I think you have some responsibility as well.  You are an equal party to the contract.  What ever was not known about the house construction or about the installation of the racking and panels should have been asked and answered.  From this point I can only advise a careful reading of their proposal before you consider any legal action.

    So what's the quick solution?  1) Install electric resistance heat ice-melt line along the eave and control it with a thermostat.  2) Relocate the panels up slope and away from the edge, preferably beyond the wall line.  Or relocate down slope so the panels shed directly into the gutters.  3) Make corrections to the inside wall to roof intersection to block the heat loss from the house into the eave cavity.  This last option should be the long term goal for overall performance and efficiency.

    I hope this helps.  Cheers 


    [Dennis] [Garde AIA, LEED AP]
    [OMTC, NEC Ankara, Turkey]
    [US Dept. of State / OBO]
    [Savannah] [GA]