The process of putting solar panels on your home
You’ve decided solar is the right decision for your home, vetted the candidates, and found an installer who will work with you. So what’s next?
While you won’t be on top of your roof installing the panels yourself, it still helps to understand how the installation process works and what you can expect. Over the course of several days to a week, you’ll go from living as an energy user to an energy producer with the help of your local installer.
Learning more about the installation process lets you set realistic expectations for your new rooftop solar system. The stages of installation include:
- The pre-installation phase
- Completing paperwork and designing the rooftop system
- The installation phase
- Constructing the rooftop system and connecting to the home electric system
- The post-installation phase
- Inspecting the system, contacting utilities, and monitoring output
The pre-installation phase
Before construction begins on your roof, your installer will ask you to fill out paperwork relating to solar incentives and monthly electricity use. You may also need to schedule an energy-efficiency audit for your home, usually through your electric utility, depending on the incentives you seek.
At this point, your installation company will send a site inspector to survey your home. The inspector takes detailed measurements and analyzes your roof to determine solar system placement.
Site inspectors check on:
- Direction of the roof
- Size of the roof
- Type of roof
- Roof condition
- Angle of the roof
Then, working with in-house system designers, they create a custom system based on your electricity needs and roof architecture. You’ll be able to pick from a variety of different panels, and also have a say in the type of inverter you purchase with your system.
Inverters allow the electricity generated from your panels to be used in your home. You’ll choose from two main types of inverters: a traditional string inverter, and the more modern micro-inverter.
Traditional inverters convert an entire solar array’s energy output to AC electricity, while micro-inverters are installed on each panel separately. This helps prevent energy loss if shade hits one of your panels.
Once you’ve chosen your equipment, the installation company will put in any needed orders and begin the actual installation process.
The installation phase
Rooftop installers will arrive at your home and first install the solar mounting system on your roof. Most homes use flush mounting systems, which consist of parallel rails the panels will fit on.
Installers then place the solar panels on the rails, install the inverters, and begin tying the panels into your electric system. As installers integrate the panels with your electric system, you should expect to go without power for roughly an hour.
From the initial inspection to installation, the entire process typically takes between several days to a week, depending on your system size. For larger commercial systems, installation could take up to several weeks.
Even though installation is complete, you can’t start generating electricity just yet.
The post-installation phase
Now that your rooftop installation is ready to go, you must contact city or county inspectors who will check out the system. This process typically takes several days, and may result in permitting fees depending on local regulations.
Once you have your permit, you can then contact your electric utility, which will finish the inspection process. If everything is up to par, they install a new electricity meter, which runs both forward and backward, and then integrate the system with the power grid.
In the final step, your solar installer will take you on one last walkthrough to answer any questions you have. Some questions you might want to ask include:
- Who do I contact if I have trouble with my panels?
- When can I expect to receive rebates or other incentives?
- How can I monitor my panel output?
Many installers offer system monitoring software or tools, showing you electricity used, generated, and your panel efficiency. Some even feature smart phone applications, letting you check on solar energy production throughout the day.
With questions answered and the walkthrough complete, you can expect to generate free electricity from your solar panels for the next 25 years. If you want to learn more about the installation process, contact local installers and get started today.