How to get panels onto roof?


I'm trying to DIY a photovoltaic grid-tie system, and feel handy enough to research and do things structurally and electrically to code.

However, there's one problem I need a creative solution for: how to get the panels onto the roof.  Details:

1) I'm not a big guy (and not so young, either) - I can get things like mounting rails up a ladder, as they're only 10# each.  But my limit for a non-clumsy load would be maybe 20# or 30#.

2) The panels are 3' x 5', so a single one won't fit under my arm.

3) Each panel weighs about 35#.

4) The panels have an aluminum frame, and glass top.  None of it would survive an impact if dropped, of course, but I'm also concerned about scraping the plastic back, from any kind of scheme to drag it up to the roof.

5) The lowest point of the eave is 8' off the ground.  The ground is concrete in that area.  The house is single-story.  The roof pitch is 4/12, so I can stand on it, but would not want to stand at the edge and pull up a 35# bundle with a rope.

6) There are no tall trees or anything in the area that I could hang a pulley off of.  The mounting racks are very solid, though, and I would trust my weight to any one of the standoffs.

7) Each panel seems to have some mounting holes in the frame, through which I might be able to thread an eye bolt or wire for the purposes of lifting.

8 ) I would work slowly, so would prefer not to try to get all the panels up there in one shot, but rather bring up a few each day.  This makes it hard to hire guys, ask friends, or rent equipment.  18 panels, total.

9) I'm not averse to building a ramp, stairs, crane, or other device, but if it can be avoided, I don't like to throw money away any more than the next guy.

Ideas, anyone?


  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: How to get panels onto roof?

    Many rental supply stores (and some Ace Hdwe locations) will rent simple scaffolds. That should get you to 6 ft. or so off the ground with a stable platform. Just a couple of feet to the roof from there.

    A couple of ladders with a 2X12 between them would also work, but I'd go for the scaffold if it was me. I'd trade a few bucks to avoid a broken bone any day.
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: How to get panels onto roof?

    it is not going to be easy getting them up there, but i would suggest at least 2 other people there to help reguardless if you figure out how to get them up there or not on your own. when you go by some workers putting on a roof, ask them if they'd like a few extra $ to help you out for a day or so. they have the experience of working with weights at heights and may learn something of solar at the same time. don't offer booze unless they are of age and done with the work of course. now if it were me i wouldn't offer booze at all as they can go get it on their own accord far removed from the work for you and possible harm to the work and the workers when booze is involved. do have plenty of water and maybe some soft drinks with a sandwich for lunch if they're far removed from a place to get something to eat. don't give anything heavy on the stomach like pizza as they might not want to work as well.
  • Roderick
    Roderick Solar Expert Posts: 253 ✭✭
    Re: How to get panels onto roof?

    FOUND MY SOLUTION - just thought I'd share it with the forum.

    Needed to get a length of rope, 50-100 feet, and a couple "quick links" - basically, a single link with a closing nut, something like a carabiner, meant to finish a chain without welding. The links came 3 to a package, about $4.

    1. Put a tarp or old blanket over the roof in the area where you will be bringing up the panels. Hang the tarp over the edge of the roof a foot or so, so that the panel won't scrape on the eave or gutter when it is pulled up.

    2. Loop the rope around one of the standoffs that hold the rails.

    3. Tie a "rescue knot" at one end of the rope, to make a loop that won't slip. The loop has to be big enough to reach across 2 of the mounting holes of the panels, and then some.

    4. Attach the quick links to the rope loop, and then to two of the mounting holes on the panel.

    5. One person (for example, my daughter), who does not need to be very strong, pulls on the rope. They do not need to lift the full weight of the panel.

    6. The majority of the lift is provided by a second person (me), who lifts the panel as it is being hoisted up. This second person can even go up a few rungs of a stepladder.

    7. When the panel is 3' off the ground, the its edge can be rested against the roof. It can be pushed up and over onto the tarp from there.

    8. First person keeps holding the rope to make sure the panel doesn't slide off the roof.

    9. Second person climbs up onto roof, retrieves panel for mounting.

    I watched my roofers work, but could never do what they did. It was a BIG guy, and his wife, who was also big. He picked up OSB sheeting like it was styrofoam, carrying two 4x8's at a time to the back of the house. His wife only carried one at a time. When they were ready, his wife would pick up one 4x8, and lift it up and slightly tilted over the edge of the roof. Then the guy just dragged it all the way up from there.