There are many reasons to install solar PV panels for your home. They’re a great way to save money, reduce your home’s impact on the environment, support local businesses, while also giving yourself and your home energy-independence.
Before taking the leap into the future, it’s important to know exactly what the process is to install solar panels.
What You Should Know Before Installing Solar Panels
Before installing solar panels, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
Buying a solar panel system is better than leasing one most of the time
Make sure your roof is ready for panels. You do not want to install panels on a roof that will need to be fixed or replaced in a few years
Work with a trusted, seasoned installer to ensure the job is done properly and will hold up for the long-term
The actual installation of the panels is usually the quickest part of the process, but there’s a lot of red tape such as inspections, permits, and permissions to obtain as well that will lengthen the installation process significantly.
Know the facts and be prepared without overthinking to the point of paralysis. The majority of solar panel owners are very happy that they made the switch
You probably already know the benefits of solar panel installation. So, now you just need to make sure that you and your home are ready for the panels!
Solar panels are not something you want to cut corners on, and by doing things the “right” way and being well-prepared, you’ll ensure that your new solar panels work perfectly and will pay for themselves in no time!
What the Solar Panels Installation Process Looks Like
Now that you have some common knowledge of the installation process, we can go over what you should expect when taking on a solar panel installation project.
First, we’ll cover what will happen as soon as you’re ready to install solar panels and contact an installer:
1. Conceptual Design and Estimates
A solar PV conceptual design is an essential step in the planning and development of a solar photovoltaic system. This early stage plan lays out the general layout and design of the solar panels, providing an estimate of the system's electrical output and a rough cost. The conceptual design is used to evaluate the feasibility of the project, identify potential issues, and provide a clear understanding of the project's goals and objectives.
For solar companies, the conceptual design process typically begins with an assessment of the site's solar resource potential. This includes an analysis of the site's solar radiation levels, shading, and other factors that may affect the performance of the solar system.
Once the site's solar resource potential is understood, the conceptual design team will develop a general layout of the solar panels and estimate the system's electrical output. This output estimate will be used to determine the number and type of solar panels needed, as well as the size and capacity of the system's electrical components.
In addition to the solar panel layout and electrical output estimate, the conceptual design will also include a rough cost estimate for the project. This cost estimate will take into account the cost of the solar panel installation, the cost of the electrical components, and the cost of installation. The cost estimate will also include an estimate of the system's energy production, which can be used to determine the payback period and the system's overall economic feasibility.
2. Project Financing:
Once your system is planned out and the installers have a good estimate of the price, you can start looking into financing options for your system. Mosaic is one example of a great financing option specifically for solar PV panels, but there are plenty of options out there and you should explore them until you find the best fit for you.
Cash: Homeowners can purchase the solar panels outright, either with cash or through a loan. Purchasing solar panels allow the homeowner to own the system outright and receive the full financial benefits of the solar energy produced by the system.
Loans: Homeowners can take out a loan to finance the cost of solar panels. There are different types of loans available, such as personal loans, home improvement loans, and solar loans. The terms of the loan, such as the interest rate and repayment period, will vary depending on the lender and the borrower's creditworthiness.
HELOC: A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is a type of loan that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their home. The loan is secured by the home, and the homeowner can use the funds for any purpose, including the installation of solar panels. The interest rate on a HELOC is usually lower than on a personal loan or credit card, and the homeowner can access the funds as needed.
It's important to note that both loans and HELOCs have specific qualifications and conditions, such as credit score, income, or the value of your property. It's important for homeowners to evaluate their own financial situation and consult with a financial advisor or solar installer to determine which option works best for them.
Lease: Homeowners can lease solar panel systems from a solar company. This option allows homeowners to have a solar PV system installed on their property without having to pay the full cost upfront. Instead, the homeowner pays a monthly lease payment to the solar company, who owns and maintains the system.
Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): Homeowners can enter into a PPA with a solar company. Under a PPA, the solar companies install, own, and maintains the solar PV system on the homeowner's property, and the homeowner agrees to purchase the renewable energy generated by the system at a predetermined rate.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing: PACE financing is a way for homeowners to finance the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to their homes through special assessments on their property taxes.
It's also worth mentioning that the financing options and the terms of each option for a solar panel system can vary from state to state and even from utility to utility, so homeowners should research and ask local contractors the specific options available to them and consult with a financial advisor or solar installer to determine the best financing option for their situation.
3. Site Verification
During the site evaluation, someone from the installation company will come and check out your property. They’ll make sure that installing the solar panels will be safe and your roof can handle the weight.
They also check out the overall design and shape, size, and condition of your roof, and check out your electrical panel to make sure everything is ready for solar panels and that no upgrades are necessary. Usually the evaluation can be done in a day, but if something is unique about your property it could take a couple extra days to ensure everything is ready.
4. System Design Approval
After the site evaluation, the system design will also go through an approval process. This is just to ensure that the design is a good fit for your roof and that it isn’t breaking any rules.
5. Permit Approval
Finally, since installing solar panels is a construction project, it is required to get permission from your municipality. Which permits are required and how long it takes to get those permits will vary from locality to locality, but usually it doesn’t take more than a month (although two or more months is not unheard of.)
As you can see, a lot of the pre-installation steps are all about obtaining the correct permits, gauging what your roof needs, and making sure everything will go smoothly during the actual installation process.
6. Installation of Solar Panels
The average solar installation process will take 3 to 5 days. Expect this number to fluctuate based on the size of your system and the weather at the time of installation.
Some cities work very well with solar panel installers and will inspect approve everything in a timely manner. Other times it can take weeks just to get an inspector out.
However, the entire process usually shouldn’t last more than 6 months. Most homeowners can start using their panels within 3 months!
Here's a summary of the timeline along with an estimated timeframe:
Conceptualized Design: 1 to 3 weeks
Site Assessment: 1 to 3 days
Permits: Installation: 3 to 5 days
Installation of Solar Panels: 3 to 5 days
Inspection: 1 week
PTO (Permission to Operate): 1 to 3 months
The exact numbers will always vary depending on your location, but as you can see, the majority of time is spent waiting on inspectors, permits, and permissions.
The assessment, design, and solar panel installation process will usually only take about a week each, especially when working with an experienced installer.
The Process of Solar Panels Installation
The process of solar panel installation looks like this:
Racks are installed on the roof, which the panels will then be installed onto. Rack penetrations should be flashed properly. Flat roof penetrations should be flashed with Chem Curbs, while Pitched Roof racks should use Quick Mounts.
Racks are installed, the panels will be installed onto them.
After the panels are installed, they are connected to the electrical supply (Your power will be turned off during this step).
The technicians will test out the new solar system to ensure that everything is working correctly.
The actual installation of the panels is rather short and sweet! With that being said, no matter how simple it sounds, an inexperienced installer can easily damage your roof during this process so make sure you choose someone with a solid reputation.
What To Expect After Installing Solar Panels
After installing solar panels, there are only a couple of steps left before they are fully operational:
Final City Inspection: Finally, after your system is installed and working properly, a local inspector will come out to make sure that everything is on the up and up. This usually only takes a couple of hours, and is basically just a safety and insurance measure.
Utility Connection / Permission To Operate: Finally, you need permission to operate (PTO) from your utility company to actually use your solar panels. This process is one of the most lengthy steps of the solar panel process and usually takes 1 -3 months. During this time, the utility company will also likely install a meter to measure your solar energy production and use.
After the utility company has given you PTO, you’re good to go! No more inspections, no more stamps of approval, etc. You can start enjoying your solar panels and saving money on your electricity bill!
Don't forget Solar Panel System Maintenance
Alongside a solar panel installation, homeowners should look into a maintenance plan as it's an important aspect of ensuring the longevity and efficiency of a solar panel system. There are several steps that should be taken to properly maintain solar panels.
First, it's important to keep your solar panels clean and free of debris. Dust, dirt, and bird droppings can accumulate on the panels and reduce their efficiency. Regularly cleaning the panels with water and a mild detergent can help to maintain their performance.
Second, check your solar panels for damage or wear. This can include cracks, broken or missing panels, or damage to the wiring. Any damage should be repaired as soon as possible to ensure that your solar energy system continues to operate at its best.
Third, monitor the performance of the solar panels. This can be done by checking the output of your solar energy system, and comparing it to the expected output. Any significant deviation from the expected output could indicate a problem with the system.
Fourth, make sure that the solar panels are properly aligned. The panels should be angled to face the sun at the optimal angle for maximum efficiency. This angle can change depending on the season and location.
Finally, it's important to schedule regular maintenance checkups with a professional. A technician can clean your panels or check the system for any potential problems and make any necessary repairs.
Overall, maintenance for solar panels is an important part of ensuring that a solar energy system continues to product renewable energy for years to come. Regular cleaning, monitoring, and maintenance can help to extend the life of your solar system and maintain its efficiency.