BUILDING A BETTER TILE HOOK

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Powerarch Improves Strength by up to 60%

Installers are constantly looking for a better tile hook, and thanks to a product development team deeply committed to improvement and innovation, Unirac recently delivered. Its new Powerarch technology yields a Pro Series Solarhook that’s up to 60% stronger, at the same price and with the same installation steps.

To understand how this came to pass, you first need to step back and look at the tile hook environment as a whole. There are more installs than ever happening on tile roofs, which have been an untapped market for installers. At the same time, existing market solutions haven’t been ideal. Before the new Pro Series Solarhook, installers could choose from flat bar hooks, which are inexpensive but relatively weak, or extruded hooks, which are relatively stronger but more expensive.

Unirac Certification Engineer Klaus Nicolaedis and Director of Product Development Todd Ganshaw knew installers were looking for a product with Unirac’s proven quality that was covered by Unirac’s 25-year full-system warranty, but that price is also a necessary factor. They thought: “Unirac can do it better,” and after conferring with the team, the organization agreed.

They first looked at existing solutions, some of which were undeniably good but costly to produce. They quickly decided to go in a different direction. The basic sheet metal structure is what has kept tile hooks affordable, so rather than switching to aluminum extrusions, they first tried making the hooks thicker. This didn’t yield much improvement for the added cost, so they went “back to the drawing board,” Nicolaedis says. Next, they tried just thickening certain parts of the design, but that also wasn’t found to be effective. They also had to consider that thicker structures could mean having to modify tiles during installation, which crews want to avoid.

Finally, they hit on the Powerarch—a half-tube structure which they call a “rib” running down the stamped-metal hook. “We found the improvement then,” Nicolaedis says.

Even though the manufacturing process became more complicated with the arch (existing stamped hooks are very simple to produce), thanks in part to its excellent supply chain, Unirac found it could make a hook with 60% greater strength for the same price. Greater strength means less deflection – allaying concerns about rattling with traditional commodity hooks – and longer distances between attachment points.

Joey Flournoy, President and CEO of Energy Renovation Center, based in Riverdale, Calif., says the impact on the roof is quickly apparent.

“Unirac’s new Pro hooks solve a problem for us – getting the strength and reliability we need from hooks without pricing out of the job for the customer,” he says. “A stronger hook at the same price with the 25-year warranty is an obvious win, which is why we’ve been using them since they came out.”

Ben Billings, Supply Chain Manager for V3 Electric, also in California, said they’re anticipating several benefits from the new Pro Series line.

“Being able to use an attachment every six feet instead of every four feet will mean fewer penetrations and lower costs,” Billings says. “And where we often get pushback from inspectors when it comes to the engineering phase—going to the department and getting the stamp—this is definitely going to help.”

The result of the project is that installers can put in the hooks exactly the way they always have – the hole patterns and overall dimensions are the same as always – but with far greater confidence and without raising costs. And with Pro Series Solarhooks, installers will still get Unirac’s 25-year full-system warranty.

Nicolaedis notes that Unirac has a 20-plus-year history of firsts in the industry and says this project was interesting in part because it was, ultimately, such a small change that led to such a significant gain. He was able to work with the entire team at Unirac, from the executive office down, using a data-driven process to find a careful solution where everyone came out ahead.

“I think we are nicely balanced in the middle,” he says. “We can get stuff done, we can change it quickly, and input is valued, but it’s not so extreme that we’re paralyzed.”

Unirac’s product management team is living Unirac’s commitment to innovation and making sure that Better Solar Starts Here.

We also have a new video up on the Pro Series Solarhook, which you can view here: SolarHooks: Strength Test.