Millions of homes have already gone solar in the United States, and for those homes that haven’t implemented the renewable energy source yet, you know that its been on their minds. If you are in the market for solar, you probably want to know the entire installation process before jumping into a new system purchase. To help you anticipate what to expect, here is an outlined guide for the five big steps for a typical solar panel installation.
Installing Your Solar System in five steps
Installing solar panels doesn’t happen overnight – there’s a process for what needs to happen to get your panels ready to begin powering your home. Overall, from the day you sign your contract with your installer, it will typically take between one and three months before your solar panels are grid-connected and producing energy for your home. There are five major steps to a solar installation that your chosen solar company will generally follow.
- The Initial Site Visit
- Permit Application
- Equipment purchase
- Solar Panel Installation
- Final Approval
The Initial Site Visit
Before you sign your contract, the installer will typically visit your home and evaluate your property to consider the potential system size, roof type, roof angle, shading, general environment, etc. In some cases, the installer will take pictures of your home to show the licensed engineer associated with the company. If the engineer feels comfortable signing off on the project without coming onsite to evaluate your home, then no further onsite visits are necessary. Otherwise, after you sign the contract, an engineer will need to make a second visit to your home.
After you sign the initial contract agreement, an engineer will also come to the property to evaluate your home. These engineers typically evaluate the electrical panel of your home, the condition of your roof, its surrounding structure, and ensure the system discussed in your initial agreement is compatible with your home. Engineers typically work hand in hand with the installer, but can be contracted independently. Talk to the engineer for more information and details regarding the onsite visit. The engineer will inform the installer of the details for surrounding their onsite audit, and you will be informed of any upgrades that need to be done before the solar panel installation can take place.
As with any big purchase, there is a ton of paperwork that needs to be filled out. Luckily, the installer will take care of the majority of the paperwork. Your installer will try to apply for federal and state solar incentives. You installer should know the restrictions and requirements of the states in which they operate, and can help you figure out which permits you need – in many cases, the installer will fill out this paperwork for you. The time frame for this step is mainly dependent on how long it takes your installer to get it all finished and submitted. If you’re eager to get your panel system up and running immediately, just make sure to follow up with your installer to check on the progress of your paperwork
Note: Before you sign your contract, the equipment required for the job is discussed. The two primary components of your solar system are the solar panels and the inverter. Your installer will likely recommend a particular brand of each with other incentives of purchase. Be sure to do your research and look particularly at the durability, efficiency and aesthetic ratings of each brand discussed (as well as the price of course). Spend some time looking at the advantages and disadvantages of microinverters, string inverters, power optimizers, Polycrystalline, Monocrystalline and Amorphous silicon cells, and other key features associated with the best solar panels on market.
After the required paperwork is submitted, your installer will need to place the order for the equipment needed for installation. It takes about one to two months for your paperwork to be approved and your equipment to be shipped.
Solar Panel Installation
Installation Day! Finally…
First your solar installer will start prepping the roof, and checks that the tiles/shingles are secure. Then, they begin to install the electrical wiring that will connect your solar panel to the general power system. Racks, which are responsible for securing the panels to your roof, are installed. Panels are then secured to the racks and connected to the inverter. The inverter is responsible for inverting direct current energy into alternating current energy. Alternating current energy is usable energy used in homes.
It takes about 1-3 days for the installation to take place, depending on the size of the system purchased.
Finally, a representative from your town government will need to inspect the system and give the final approval, basically double checking the installer’s work. A representative you’re your electrical company may also visit to of their own final evaluation of the solar panel system. Following the local inspection, you will be ready to connect your panel to the grid. After these miscellaneous inspections are approved, you’re finally able to connect your system to the grid.
It takes a couple weeks to a month for the town approval and utility approval to occur and the interconnection to go live.
To learn more about the solar panel installation process, check out this GreenMatch blog about Solar Installation and Maintenance!
Is it worth it?
In 2020, the average Solar System saved homeowners 94% of their electricity usage. At that rate, the average solar system installation would be paid off in 8 years’ time. With the lifespan of your average solar system lasting about 25 years, the little costs associated with the maintenance of your panels, and the corresponding added value to your home’s resale value, it is a no-brainer that going solar is a smart financial decision long term.
Interested in going solar? Contact AES to discuss your home and requirements.