Considering solar power? Your many choices include buying or leasing the solar photovoltaic (PV) equipment, finding a contractor, and properly sizing a system. Consumer Reports covered much of what you need to know in our recent report about installing solar panels. But before you call in the PV installers, spend a little time with your roofer—even if your roof looks fine. A few pointers:

Not leaking isn’t enough

You might feel your roof is adequate, but your roofer is more qualified to judge before you install a system costing thousands on top of it. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends that a PV system be installed by a full-service system integrator who’s also well-versed in roofing. But not all installers have this expertise, so your roofer should not only inspect the roof’s condition but also work with the PV installer to ensure that the flashing and weatherproofing is satisfactory. Among other benefits, your roofer should also consult with the PV installer to make sure that fire classifications for both roof and system match.

A solar installer attaching a panel to a roof.

Timing a combo roof and PV installation

A roof’s working life can range anywhere from 15 to 30 years, and a PV system’s service life can be upwards of 25 years. So the National Roofing Contractors Association recommends that if you’re installing both a roof and a PV system at the same time, install the PV system on a roof with at least as long an expected service life as that of the solar components. If you think you might need to replace the roof during the working life of the solar panels, take care to specify the cost of removing and reinstalling the panels in the contract.

With problems, who gets the call?

The roofer should be your first call since your roof’s primary duty is to keep your home weather-tight. Properly installed PV panels should not cause any damage to your roof.

Need an installer?

To find a roofer, visit the National Roofing Contractors Association online. For a solar installer, both the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and the Solar Energy Industries Association both maintain state-by-state lists of contractors and solar installers, but only the former offers classes and certifies installers by specific proven skills. For any contractor, also check your municipality’s consumer affairs office for any complaints about a given installer.