How to Install Solar Panels: 2021 Solar Panel Installation Guide
Interested in going solar, but not sure how to install solar panels? Luckily, professionals will handle the actual solar panel installation, but there are still a few steps you'll need to take to ensure your clean energy system is properly permitted and set up correctly.
By installing a home solar power system, you can reduce your dependence on traditional utility companies, potentially cutting or altogether eliminating your monthly energy bills. Plus, you can curb your environmental footprint, contributing less and less to direct ecological pollution.
In this article, we'll walk through the steps you'll need to take when installing solar panels on your home.
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5 Steps for Solar Panel Installation
Before getting into how to install solar panels, there are a couple of caveats to keep in mind. First, installing solar panels requires intimate knowledge of solar technology, as well as basic skills in electrical work and in engineering. In other words, you'll likely want to avoid DIY solar panel installation and leave the process to professional local installers.
The second thing to consider is that solar panel installation won't happen overnight. After you buy solar panels, there are a few steps in the installation process, and each one is essential for ensuring a reliable renewable energy system.
1) Meet with an engineer.
Once you choose the best solar panels for your home and sign a contract, your solar installation company will send an engineer to your home to evaluate the current electrical system, ensuring everything is compatible with your intended solar panel system design. This engineer may be an employee of the solar company or an independent contractor.
Be aware that, if you have an old and outdated electrical system, your engineer may tell you that it needs to be replaced. This is generally an indication that your new solar energy system will require more amps than what your current electrical system can accommodate.
In addition to checking out your electrical system, the engineer will also want to inspect your roof. They'll need to ensure it is structurally sound and able to support the weight of solar paneling. Also, the engineer will be able to tell you if you need a specialized mounting system, such as for a flat roof.
2) Secure the right permits.
Before your solar panel installation, you'll have a few logistical and bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Specifically, you'll need to obtain all the right permits and documentation to ensure your solar panel installation is legal.
That may sound a bit daunting, but here's the good news: While there is plenty of paperwork associated with installing solar panels, the majority of it is handled by your solar company. You may not have to do much at all, beyond lending a signature here and there, but it's still important to have some sense of what's happening behind the scenes.
Specifically, your installer will file for local building permits on your behalf, plus fill out any forms needed for you to apply for state or federal incentive programs that curb the upfront cost of solar panels. By completing this paperwork, you can potentially get a rebate, tax credit or other financial help to offset installation costs.
It will take your solar installer some time to submit all the paperwork — sometimes multiple weeks. Naturally, you'll want to follow up and get updates every few days, just to make sure the process is moving forward smoothly.
3) Order the right equipment.
Once you have all the correct permits and paperwork in place, your solar installer will be ready to order your equipment.
Note that, by this point, you will already have picked out the types of solar panels you need and the best solar batteries and inverters for your home. These decisions are typically made before you sign your contract.
Naturally, you'll want to make sure you research how solar panels work and the different options available to you. Whether you want the most efficient solar panels or something a little more budget-friendly, your solar installer can help you pick equipment that will help you achieve your solar energy goals.
Once your solar panels are ordered, your name will be added to the installer's queue. Basically, this means you'll be put on the schedule for an installer to assemble your solar panels as soon as they arrive from the distributor.
4) Get your solar panels installed.
Finally, the big day arrives. Your solar installer will show up and begin preparing your roof, specifically by verifying that all tiles or shingles are securely attached. Then, the installer will place the wiring that's needed to connect your residential solar system to the electrical system.
After the wires are placed, your installer will place racking, which is used to hold the solar panels in position. The panels are placed into the racks, and the inverter is connected to the panels. If you have a battery bank, your installer will also set that up.
One of the most common questions about installing solar panels is how long the work will take. It all depends on the size of your home and the scope of the solar panel installation, but you can anticipate a timeline of one to three days in total.
5) Get your system approved and connected.
Once the system is in place, your installer will essentially "flip the switch" to turn it on. Before this happens, you'll likely need a municipal government representative to assess and approve your residential solar system. Basically, this is just a safety precaution, ensuring there's a fresh set of eyes to validate the wiring and electrical work.
You'll also need a representative from the local utility company to interconnect the system, which means hooking it up to the electrical grid. This allows you to keep drawing electricity when you need it, as well as feed any surplus energy back into the grid, resulting in credits from your utility company.
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Questions About How to Install Solar Panels?
These five steps represent the basics of how to install solar panels. But of course, these are just general guidelines, and the specific steps can vary from homeowner to homeowner and from installer to installer.
If you have additional questions about how to install solar panels, a good next step would be to seek out the top solar companies in your area and make an appointment. You can ask more about specific solar panel installation processes and what you might expect if you decide to make the leap into solar power.