Maybe it’s time to for a reroof. Maybe you plan on selling your home soon and want to bring your solar panels along with you to your new property. Or maybe your panels have become damaged, in need of repair or cleaning. Whatever the reason, sometimes removing solar panels just makes sense.
But looking for information about their removal often seems a lot like feeling around in the dark. While it sometimes feels like there’s almost too much information about new solar installations, when it comes to panel removal, the particulars can be hard to find.
This guide walks you through the basics of removal—who to call and what the job entails. It also offers some ballpark numbers to help you budget for the project, to ensure you get a fair price.
Solar Panel Removal Companies
Solar panels don’t weigh that much—between 33 to 44 pounds, on average. But they are extremely delicate and contain electrical wiring that could potentially cause enormous damage if improperly handled. Not to mention you’ll be doing the work while balancing on your roof. That means the job poses a risk of falls and/or damage to your shingles and decking, as well.
Any solar installer or solar company can remove panels for you in order to complete the work safely. Furthermore, installers and solar companies will carry insurance that allows them to cover any damage that occurs in the event of an accident. Typically, the company from whom you originally purchased the panels should perform the work. They will have the most knowledge about their installation practices. However, if the company you purchased from initially has folded, any electrician with an NABCEP PV installation certification can also do the work. You can search NABCEP’s database of installers to locate one operating in your area.
If for some reason you need to remove the panels yourself, then make sure to turn off the circuit breakers connected to the solar panels before you do any work. Also, wear insulated gloves to protect you from potential shocks.
Cost to Remove Solar Panels
The cost of panel removal is actually a little more complicated than it seems on its surface. Your method of purchasing the panels largely dictates the actual cost. For instance, if you installed panels on your home as part of a solar lease or other agreement, you could be charged fees for removing the panels before your contract has ended. For instance, a homeowner in Portsmouth, UK found himself facing a nearly $16,000 charge for removing his panels a year into his contract.
Even if you own your panels outright, just removing them from your roof will cost around $300 to $500. If the panels or glass needs to be repaired, expect to spend somewhere between $200 to $1000, depending on the extent of the damage.
However, a full removal that includes disconnecting the system from the utility main line will bump up the cost by about $100 or so. Taking down the mounting hardware raises the price significantly, too. You should also budget around $200 to have the panels shipped to a new location. And if your roof requires repairs to patch holes at the installation site, a roofing repair may cost you upwards of $600—or somewhere between $1,500 to $9,000 for a new roof.
Do Your Panels Actually Need To Be Removed?
If a recent storm or other weather event has damaged the glass in your panels, it may be possible to repair the glass or other pieces without removing them entirely from your roof.
Have your solar installer out to assess the damage. They may decide to make a partial repair by removing the broken glass. Or they might solder together cracked surfaces without taking the panels down. In fact, your system may still work fine or even well with broken surfaces, so have a solar professional check your panel output before you request a full removal.
How to Remove Solar Panels
If you need to have your panels cleaned or repaired, the removal may be as simple as unbolting the panels from their mounting device and unplugging the connecting power wires below. However, for a full removal, the solar circuit must also be disconnected from the main line, a task which can complicate the work and increase your labor fees.
Additionally, if you hope to sell your home after the panels are removed, you’ll also need to have your installer remove the mounting hardware that holds the panels upright. Once they remove these pieces, it’s possible that you will expose openings where the initial installer cut into your roof to add the mounting device. These will need to be patched to keep the roof from leaking. Typically, that means calling in an additional contractor who specializes in roofing—which also raises the price.
When to Remove Solar Panels from Your Roof
While those costs certainly don’t compare to the price of a new solar energy system, if you have old or outdated panels, in some cases, a full replacement might be a better option. Most installers warrantee solar panels for 25 years, and guarantee at least 80 percent of the system’s initial efficiency at the end of that duration. However, the cost of new panels has dropped enormously in the past few years, so if you’re coming up on that 25-year mark, you may want to look into purchasing a brand-new solar panel system for your home. Now that’s what we call a bright idea!