More than a million households in the United States have already installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, and many more homeowners are considering doing so. If you're in the market for a clean energy source such as solar, you may be curious about what happens during a solar panel installation or how to install solar panels yourself. Between deciding to go solar, signing a contract, and powering your home with solar electricity, several crucial procedures must occur, most of which occur behind the scenes. To give you an idea of what to expect, we have prepared a short guide for installing a residential solar power system.
Solar energy planning: Five Steps
Before installing solar panels, assessing your energy consumption and establishing if your property is a good candidate for solar is essential.
1. Evaluate your electric bill
For many consumers, high energy costs are the key motivation for going solar. Installing solar panels will dramatically lower your monthly electricity expenses, especially if you cannot minimize your energy consumption. In addition to offering environmental benefits, solar panels will balance (or possibly eliminate) your electricity expense - the higher your expenditure, the greater the potential savings from installing solar panels.
2. Determine the efficiency of your home
A home energy audit will reveal inefficiencies in your residence. Addressing these issues may minimize energy use and increase your home's energy efficiency. It may be necessary to install energy-efficient lighting and appliances and to weatherize your home.
3. Determine if solar energy is a good fit for your home
Once you have determined the efficiency of your home, the next step is to determine if solar energy will work for your home and if your home can handle solar panels. Numerous resources are available to assist you in estimating your home's capacity to generate solar energy. Important factors include the shade of your roof, the direction and angle of your roof, any restrictions imposed by your homeowner's organization, and the roof's age.
4. Explore available incentives
After evaluating your property and energy needs, the next step before installing solar panels is to determine what local incentives are available. Through tax incentives, the federal and many state governments have made it easier than ever in recent years to install solar panels and invest in sustainable energy. The federal tax credit for solar energy allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. There may also be state-level incentives that could minimize your upfront expenditures, depending on where you live.
5. Evaluate and select an installer
After evaluating your needs, the potential of your home, and the local incentives, you will need to select a skilled solar specialist to build your solar array. Using the QuestGreens Marketplace, you can locate solar providers in your area, compare estimates, and select the best installer based on your specific requirements.
Installation of solar panels: five primary steps
Before you can begin producing clean electricity at home with solar panels, a process must be completed. Generally, it will take between one and three months from the date you sign your contract with your solar provider until your solar panels are grid-connected and provide energy for your home.
Your chosen solar business will typically adhere to the following five procedures while installing solar panels:
- Engineering site visit
- Permissions and documents
- Ordering equipment
- Solar panel installation
- Acceptance and connection
1- The initial phase of installing your solar system is engineering site inspection.
After you sign your solar contract (whether it's a lease, loan, cash purchase, or power purchase agreement), an expert will analyze your home's electrical system to ensure compatibility with the new PV system. Typically, this engineer will work directly for your installer, but they may also be an independent contractor hired by your solar company. Expect the engineering site visit shortly after signing with your installer.
The engineer will check the state of your roof to ensure that it is structurally sound during their visit. They will also examine your electrical panel - the grey box in your basement - to determine if it needs to be upgraded. If an installer informs you that the electrical panel needs to be upgraded, it means that your new solar panels will require more amps of current; hence the ampere capacity of your electrical box will need to be increased; your electrical panel may also be too old.
This engineer visit is distinct from a routine site visit, during which an installer evaluates your property to produce a system design based on your roof type, roof pitch, shading, etc., before signing a contract. In some circumstances, the installer can take photographs of the property and conduct their measurements of the roof, and the engineer will still be willing to sign off on the work without making their visit.
2- Permits and papers: the logistical documentation necessary for the installation of solar panels
As with any major financial decision, installing solar panels requires substantial documentation. Fortunately, most of this paperwork is handled by the installer; nonetheless, it is always a good idea to be aware of what is occurring behind the scenes of your solar installation. State and federal solar incentives, such as the federal ITC, and local solar programs, such as government rebates and solar renewable energy certificates, will be among the primary things for which you will apply (SRECs). If you decide on a solar loan or lease, you will need to work with your installer to complete the necessary documentation.
During the solar panel installation procedure, you will need to apply for building permissions and incentives; these permits are specific to your location. For instance, certain states require a clear space of three feet around solar panels on a roof, whereas other U.S. regions allow you to place panels across the full roof surface. Your installer will be familiar with the regulations and requirements of the states in which they operate and can assist you in determining which permissions you require; in many cases, the installation will complete this paperwork for you.
This step's duration largely depends on how long your installer takes to complete and submit the documentation. If you're eager to get your panel system up and running as soon as possible, check with the installer about the status of your paperwork.
3- Ordering equipment: selecting solar panels and inverters and scheduling installation
Now that the necessary paperwork has been completed, your installer can order equipment through their primary distributor. Before signing the contract specifies the overall expenses, you will have previously chosen the equipment that will comprise your system.
However, if you're seeking advice on equipment selection, solar panels and inverters are the two key components you'll need to assess for your clean energy system. Typically, your installer will recommend a specific brand for each and provide alternatives. Most homeowners will evaluate the various manufacturers based on their durability, efficiency, warranty, and aesthetics (other than price).
Spend time researching the various types of inverters and the best solar panels available to ensure that you've selected the appropriate equipment for your system. Evaluating your equipment alternatives helps prepare you for the ordering and shipping phase of the installation procedure.
After completing the equipment ordering process, your property is added to the installer's queue. Your equipment (panels and inverters) will likely arrive on the day of your installation, which is contingent on the approval of your documentation (typically within one to three months). Time till installation also relies on the number of projects in your installer's queue. Try to complete your solar installation during the winter, when solar firms are less active.
4- Installing solar panels: the big day
The actual installation is an exciting moment for any solar homeowner who wants to rely on green energy rather than a utility provider. The installation process will take between one and three days, depending on your system's size and the roof's complexity. Installing a power meter for net metering is an extra component that can add time to your solar panel installation. If your installer must install a power meter, this will add a few hours to your solar panel installation.
5- Acceptance and connection
The final step of becoming solar is, so to speak, "turning the switch" and formally beginning solar energy production at home. Before connecting your solar panels to the grid, a representative from your local government must inspect and approve the system. During this inspection, the representative will double-check your installer's work: they will confirm that the electrical wiring was done properly, that the mounting was securely attached, and that the overall installation complies with conventional electrical and roof setback requirements.
After passing this local inspection, you will be prepared for an official grid connection. A representative from your utility provider will visit your home to final assess the solar panel system. Assuming no glaring flaws, your panels will become operational as soon as they "give the go-ahead" and link your system to the grid. Expect to wait between two weeks and one month for municipal and utility approvals and for the interconnection to go active.
How to locate a local solar installer
So, you've determined you're ready to install solar panels; what's next? QuestGreens is ready to aid with the intimidating chore of selecting an installer from various options. We thoroughly screen the installers in our Marketplace, provide installer-specific differentiators in the quotations you receive on QuestGreens, and display our installer-tiering badge system to assist you in locating the best solar installers in your area. Discover how to select a solar installer.