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12 min read

A Complete Guide to Solar Roof Installation

12 min read

A Complete Guide to Solar Roof Installation

A Complete Guide to Solar Roof Installation

Installing a solar roof is a decision that's worth careful consideration. Quebec does have enough solar energy to render your installation financially worthwhile, provided that you take into account all costs involved:

  • Labour

  • Available square footage on roof 

  • Installation 

  • etc. 

Here’s a complete solar roof installation guide. We’ll detail everything you should know about which solar cell to turn to and what to expect in terms of energy production capacity. 

Solar Roof Overview

What is a solar roof and how does it work?

Solar roofs are made up of three core components:

  • Photovoltaic modules 

  • Inverter

  • Battery 

Photovoltaic Modules

There are three main types of cells:

  • Monocrystalline silicon 

  • Polycrystalline silicon  

  • Thin-film (amorphous silicon)

The first cells are either blue or black, practically square-shaped, for a standard size of 6 in. by 6 in. (156 mm x 156 mm). They have a decent yield, between 16-20%, meaning it offsets the initial upfront costs. 

The polycrystalline silicon cells are perfectly square modules. They’re fitted with cooling elements placed into parallelepiped ingot moulds. These cells are dark blue in colour with reflective properties due to their crystalline orientation. These modules aren’t as expensive and have a 14-16% yield

Thin-film modules are aesthetically pleasing. They're black, which makes for an eye-catching panel, yet in terms of yield, they're rather mediocre (6-8%) and require a large installation surface


An inverter, housed in a casing, optimizes electricity production generated by photovoltaic modules. Its purpose is to smooth out energy production, which oscillates based on the amount of sunshine. 

The inverter transforms the energy produced by the modules into a power capable of supplying an electrical grid while complying with Hydro-Québec standards.

There are different types of inverters based on the system used:

  • Microinverter 

  • Central inverter 

  • String inverter

  • Hybrid inverter 

  • Battery-powered

Some of these use smart technology, such as the hybrid inverter. In other words, the device is capable of determining whether the power produced must be stored, is meant for the grid, or should be used immediately. 


The battery is used to store excess energy produced by the photovoltaic panels. That way, when you need electricity, and your panels aren’t producing any, the battery-stored energy can be used as backup. 

This solution increases self-consumption by 30%, thereby reducing electricity bills. Typically, batteries have a lifespan of 2,000 cycles, with the following storage capacities:

  • 5 kWh 

  • 10 kWh 

  • 15 kWh 

The Basic Function of a Solar Panel 

By intermingling three physical factors, a solar cell can produce rooftop electricity.

  1. Absorb photons

  2. Transform their energy into an electric charge

  3. Collect the electricity produced 

Therefore, photovoltaic solar panels are made of:

  • An optical band capable of capturing sunlight

  • A transition between the two energy levels (sunlight and electrical energy)

  • A harvesting system

Therefore, a solar roof can pick up a part of the energy contained in light to turn it into electricity.

Why just a part of it, though? Because there's a pressure drop when solar energy is turned into electricity.

In fact, when a photon is absorbed by the material, it produces both an electron and a hot hole, known as an “electron-hole pair.” On one side, the electron will move throughout the cell, from one chemical bond to another, while the hole will follow a less predictable path. 

As such, a part of this kinetic energy will be lost within the span of a picosecond while a phenomenon known as “relaxation” occurs. The rest of the energy is transformed into electricity and stored, consumed, or sent to Hydro-Québec’s grid.

The Pros of a Solar Roof

Lowering energy costs

The primary goal behind a solar roof is to lower electricity bills via power generation. 

Using this renewable source of energy helps address potential energy shortages (rare in Quebec) as well as fluctuating costs.

Reducing carbon footprint

At this point, a solar panel emits between 40 and 55 grams of CO2 per kW produced. This means that only 1 to 3 years are needed to offset the carbon emissions from its manufacturing, transportation, use, and end-of-life.

Albeit, no less than 40 manufacturing steps are needed to make a single solar panel, it still doesn’t contain any rare earth, solely:

  • Glass (80% of the panel)

  • Aluminum (frame) 

  • Silicon (reusable 4 times) 

  • Copper and silver (cells) 

  • Plastic film (solid fuel transformation)

As such, throughout its life cycle, a solar panel produces between 10 and 30 times more electricity than was required during its production.

Energy independence

Solar panels facilitate energy self-sufficiency, but alluding to energy self-sufficiency, in most cases, is an overstatement. As a matter of fact, to supply an average-sized home, one needs roughly 70 solar panels. Surface-wise, it’s ¾ of a 2,808 square-foot tennis court. 

Therefore, solar panels are perfectly suited to make your way to energy self-sufficiency, yet aren’t sufficient for complete energy self-sufficiency. Keep in mind that the best cells—monocrystalline silicon cells—solely have a 16-20% yield.

The Different Types of Solar Roofs

Now that we're here, it might be best to distinguish Tesla’s photovoltaic roofing tile system from standard solar panels. 

Solar Panels

How do you choose a type of solar panel?

There are three main types of solar panels: 

  • Photovoltaic technology

  • Solar thermal collector 

  • Hybrid solar panel

We’ve already established photovoltaic technology, with monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film cells. However, what we haven’t mentioned yet is that such solar panels can only generate electricity.

On the other hand, the solar thermal collector is solely designed to generate sanitary hot water. It consists of a heat-transfer fluid, which is channelled into a sun-exposed circuit, yet it doesn’t generate electricity at all. 

However, hybrid modules generate electricity, hot water, and even heating (PVT panel). Reach out to field experts should you be on the fence about the three types of panels and unsure of what needs must be met (sanity hot water, heating, or electricity). Specialists in the matter will send you a quote for each system, taking into account labour, grid connection, battery, etc. That way, you can make a well-informed decision. 

How many panels do you need to install on your roof to be self-sufficient?

It depends on your yearly energy consumption and your house’s square footage.

Hydro-Québec states that 70 photovoltaic panels are sufficient in Quebec to meet the needs of an average-sized household. This means covering your rooftop with ¾ of a tennis court worth of panels, meaning 2,106 square feet. 

Unless you own a big house, you most certainly won’t be self-sufficient, but you’ll still be able to save money on your monthly electricity bill. 

Tesla’s Photovoltaic Roofing Tiles

Tesla Energy developed a new type of solar panel by directly integrating cells into roofing tiles. Such technology benefits from: 

  • Curb appeal 

  • Subtlety 

  • Durability (3 times stronger than standard roofing tiles)

Tesla roofing tiles can be installed on roofs with a 2:12 to 24:12 pitch and are designed to generate power for at least 25 years

However, they’re very expensive. Before taxes, they’re $31 per square foot, which comes out to $55,800 for an average-sized 1,800-square-foot roof. The truth of the matter is that once everything is accounted for (removing existing roofing, accounting for chimneys, satellite dishes, dormers, vents, and pitch), the total roofing project can cost up to $100,000

However, is it worth it? Considering that Quebec is supplied with affordable hydroelectricity, the cost-benefits of such an endeavour are questionable. 

To address this matter, we’ve taken into consideration the steepest kWh rate billed by Hydro-Québec, meaning Rate D outside peak demand, which is 10.041 cents per kWh.

In terms of consumption, we’ve considered the following property: 

  • A single home 

  • With air conditioning

  • With a pool or hot tub

According to Hydro-Québec, such a household consumes about 29,000 kWh per year. The annual utility bill comes out to $2,911.89.

Considering power generation for a 25-year period and aiming for complete energy self-sufficiency, with Tesla's Solar Roof, you could stand to save $72,797.25. 

Clearly, it doesn’t cut it. Even if you were to favour a single panel—the one that’s exposed to the most sunlight—and cut your installation bill in half, you’ll still have to say goodbye to energy self-sufficiency. 

Another drawback with Tesla is the way contract amendments are made—specifically, through email. In 2020, it had a significant impact on many customers. One of them even reported a staggering increase in their contract from $65,000 to $110,000.

Installing a Solar Roof: The Key Steps

Prep the Roof 

A roof prepared for photovoltaic technology is a roof that’s:

  • Sturdy enough 

  • South-facing

  • With a 15° to 35° slope at most

  • Cleared (satellite dish, vents, etc.)

Regarding the roof’s stability, hire a professional to ascertain your framework’s load-bearing capacity.

Installation Steps

Step 1: Install solar panels

Solar panels must be installed by industry professionals. They will set up the inverter and battery, both of which are indispensable features to ensure the proper functioning of the solar panels. Naturally, labour costs will drive up total expenses, but at least you’ll be left with a properly functioning system.  

Step 2: Connect solar panels to the grid

By installing rooftop solar panels—for which a part of the electricity generated is destined for the grid—you'll be labelled a customer-generator. Note that grid connection is contingent upon meeting Hydro-Québec’s established standards. To ensure grid connectivity, the company advises one to submit their project prior to purchasing photovoltaic equipment. As a matter of fact, your installation must comply with the following:

  • be located at the same delivery point stipulated in your contract;

  • respect Hydro-Québec’s standards E.12‑05 and E.12‑07; 

  • have a maximum generation capacity of 50 kW; and

  • purchased as an owner-occupant.

Next, you can choose the net metering option, which allows you to access credits in kilowatthours applied to your power bill. 

Step 3: Wire solar panels

Wiring solar panels depends on the model in question:

  • Photovoltaic 

  • Thermal

In terms of a standard photovoltaic panel, meaning devoid of a power storage battery, the equipment will be plugged into your house using a circuit made of:

  • Regulator 

  • Inverter 

  • Electric outlets

In order, thermal solar installations have a circuit made of:

  • Solar panels

  • Heat-transfer fluid distribution circuit 

  • Hot water cylinder

  • Piping (solar water heating) or heated slab (solar heating) 

Solar Roof Maintenance

The Value of Regular Maintenance

Sure, photovoltaic panels are safeguarded by a self-cleaning plastic film. Nonetheless, maintaining your panels once a year, two even if you live in a region where air pollution is significant, is a must.

As a matter of fact, as soon as dirt settles on the protective film, it will act as a barrier between the cells and the light photons, preventing energy absorption. 

Maintenance Tips 

Step 1: Inverter maintenance 

Inverters always have an air intake vent that’s shielded by a grid. To prevent any maintenance-related inverter malfunctions, make sure to wipe clean the protective grid.

Step 2: Be mindful of your actions

Photovoltaic cells are fragile. Avoid treading on the panels when you climb onto your rooftop for maintenance purposes. 

The same goes for cleaning. Cleaning using a pressure washer is advised against, as the water pressure could weaken the joints around the aluminum frame. Also important is your cleaning water temperature. Thermal shock isn’t out of the question and could damage the cells. Therefore, no cold water during summer, and avoid using hot water in wintertime

Most importantly, never use solvents or detergents. Keep in mind that solar panels and floor tiles couldn’t be more different. 

Step 3: The right way to clean your solar panels

A soft cloth and purified water are your two must-haves. Using purified water prevents any limescale deposits on the surface of the panels, which could later hinder the passage of sunlight. 

As for the soft cloth or rag, it can be used to clean your solar panels since, as you might recall, the panels are safeguarded by a self-cleaning film.  

Solar panels are easy to clean. So much so that in most extremes of cases, a foam squeegee head will work just fine to remove a stubborn spot.

Routine Inspections

You might be tempted to believe that as long as you don’t notice a decline in power generation, there’s no need to carry out an inspection. However, inspecting your solar equipment is important because it encompasses not only the panels but also the fasteners securing the panels to your rooftop. 

The holes made can, over time, lead to waterproofing failures. Therefore, it's super important to routinely inspect your rooftop to ensure there are no leaks.

And, while you’re up there, take a gander at your solar panels and related equipment to ascertain any damage or wear-related warning signs.  

Solar Roofs and Energy Savings

What’s the average cost of installing solar panels?


Average Cost

Solar panel (per unit)

$350 to $400

Lithium battery 



$10,000 to $20,000


$5,000 to $7,000


$22,350 to $34,400

Is it really financially beneficial to have solar panels in Quebec?

The perception we have of Quebec is rather underappreciated in terms of solar potential. In fact, Montréal, Québec City, and Saguenay annually generate between 1,294.2 kWh/kWp (Saguenay) and 1,372.4 kWh/kWp (Québec City). Compared to other cities, here’s what the yearly solar power generation looks like: 


Yearly Generation (kWh/kWp)















New York


Rio de Janeiro


Based on Hydro-Québec's estimated costs of $3/W, factoring in installation, one would see a return on investment after about 30 years. However, certain Quebec-based suppliers nowadays tend to disagree and gauge a return on investment after about 15 to 20 years.

Nonetheless, photovoltaic panel installation costs have significantly decreased over the years, making it an increasingly appealing option. Bearing in mind that a solar panel has a lifespan of roughly 30 years, solar energy production becomes a viable long-term option. To assess your installation's return on investment, we recommend consulting with an expert who will walk you through all the details, assessing both your needs and the expected financial investment.

Financial Aid Made Available in Quebec for Solar Rooftops

If you still haven’t decided on installing rooftop solar equipment due to the upfront costs, note that there’s a grant available to that effect: Canada Greener Homes Grant.

This grant is made possible through the Rénoclimat Program and is financially supported by two organizations:

  • Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) 

  • Government of Quebec 

The available grants are as follows:

  • $125 to $5,000 for eligible home retrofit-related costs

  • Up to $600 for an EnerGuide evaluation 

The good news is that renewable energy investments, such as solar energy, are eligible. However, when it comes to connecting your equipment to Hydro-Québec’s grid, best to put together a file prior to carrying out the work, just to be on the safe side.

Solar Roof: A Step Toward Green Practices

Our complete solar roof installation guide provides you with helpful guidelines should you be looking to embrace solar technology. From the steps provided to the maintenance plan proscribed, it all sheds some light on the meticulous planning such a project requires. For a guaranteed proper and safe installation, you must collaborate with qualified industry professionals. By installing solar rooftop equipment, you’re investing in the future by actively contributing to a clean and renewable energy transition. 

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Last modified 2023-12-20

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