Men installing new solar panels on the roof of a private house.

How Long Does It Take To Install Solar Panels?

Dec 7, 2022

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When homeowners decide to go solar, many want to know how long it takes to install solar panels. The actual installation, though, is only part of a bigger process.

Let’s explore what happens during a solar panel installation, from your first site visit to the day your new photovoltaic (PV) system starts producing renewable energy.

How Long Do Solar Panels Take To Install?

As you’ll soon see, installing solar panels might be the quickest part of the process. The real question is how long it will take for your PV array to go live.

In some cases, it can take months for a solar energy system to go live – even once it’s installed on your roof. Realistic estimates to complete a solar panel project vary, but 2 to 6 months from signing your contract is a good rule of thumb. Included with each step described below, when possible, is an estimated time of completion.

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Solar Power Installations: A Rough Timeline

Let’s check out a breakdown of the individual steps required to get a home solar panel system installed and to start producing power. Some of these steps overlap – especially the permitting, inspection and interconnection tasks.

Solar Panel Site Assessment

Your installer will discuss the financial, technical and logistical aspects of your home solar project. Some installers may visit your property to assess your shade, roof (orientation, pitch and condition), energy needs and existing electrical system. Companies such as Palmetto may use an app that allows a virtual assessment.

Estimated time: Less than 2 hours

Solar Energy System Engineering Design

System design is a major milestone, requiring approximately 1 week for your installer to prepare. They’ll review local utility company and municipality solar requirements, design a layout for your system and discuss any concerns about your home. This could include upgrades to the roof or main electrical panel, which could turn the installation into a larger construction project.

Estimated time: 1 – 2 weeks

Signing The Contract

Buying a solar array involves reviewing and signing documents. At this phase, most solar providers will present a contract providing details about the financial and technical aspects of your project. Some solar companies allow homeowners to sign the documents electronically or through a smartphone app. The solar company will likely review all the documents before approving the contract – a Rocket Solar Advisor would take you through your proposal and contract to ensure full understanding before signature.

Estimated time: 1 hour

Local Permitting Process And Utility Interconnection

While your installer is planning to install the solar panels, they’ll also apply for permits. The permitting process will vary by location. In most cases, though, you’ll require inspections from your utility company and local government. There may also be homeowners association (HOA) requirements. HOAs generally aren’t allowed to prohibit solar panels, but they may have some rules governing installations.

Also, utility companies carefully regulate all the equipment that connects to the grid. The “interconnection” of your solar energy system requires their approval. Your solar installation company should submit all the needed information and paperwork to start this process.

At this stage, your solar company may also handle the paperwork necessary to ensure you receive incentives, such as net metering, for which you may be eligible. It’s worth noting that some government agencies offer expedited permitting for solar projects.

Estimated time: 2 – 4 weeks

Physical Installation Of Solar Panels, Racking And Other Equipment

Installing the components of a solar array is straightforward. Your solar company’s technicians will arrive on site and install your inverter, wiring, mounting hardware (also called racking) and solar panels.

Estimated time: 1 – 2 days

Final Inspection

The final inspection of your system involves getting the final approval from the relevant government agencies and your local utility company. Scheduling can be a major challenge, especially if your project requires multiple inspections.

Safety is a major concern for inspectors, so your project may not pass the first inspection. That restarts the clock and requires coordination to arrange another inspection. Keep in mind that many issues that would result in a failed inspection are quickly and easily fixable.

Estimated time: 1 – 2 weeks

Permission To Operate And Activation

Once you’ve passed your inspections, it’s time for your solar panels to go live. In some areas, this is called permission to operate (PTO). Your local utility company may also install an electric meter that tracks energy going into your home from the grid as well as energy going from your solar panels into the grid.

It’s critical that you wait until receiving permission to operate before activating your system. In some cases, your installer may remove any potential guesswork by activating the system for you.

4 Common Causes Of Solar Power Installation Delays

When you install solar panels, what are the most likely causes for delay? Let’s discuss a few factors.

1. Weather

Precipitation and wind can slow your solar installation process. While solar panels and their components can handle moisture once installed, the wiring could be susceptible to damage if it gets wet during installation. Also, roofs can become slippery in rain or snow, creating a hazard for technicians.

2. Roof Condition

If your roof needs replacing, you’ll likely have a longer timeline. In many cases, the paperwork should be able to continue even while your roof is being fixed or replaced.

3. Availability Of Solar Components

Your solar installer will need to order parts, and any delays getting the necessary solar equipment could add to your project timeline.

4. Approvals And Inspections

Inspections and approval from regulatory agencies, utility companies and your HOA could delay your project. The best way to avoid this is choosing an experienced solar contractor who’s well-versed at navigating regulations and permitting.

FAQs: Solar Panel Installation

Here are a few common questions about the timeline for adding solar panels to a home.

Is solar panel installation difficult?

Installing the hardware – inverter, racking, wiring and panels – is one of the faster parts of the process. It usually happens in less than 3 days for homes, while permitting, design and inspections often add up to more than a month.

How long does it take to get solar up and running?

Once you’ve selected a solar installer and signed a contract, getting a solar system live on a home often takes 2 – 6 months. Weather, permitting and equipment shortages are common causes of delay.

The Bottom Line: Expect Months, Not Weeks For Solar To Go Live

Installation and connection timelines for new solar installations depend on multiple factors, include your roof condition, weather and other permitting requirements. A timeline of 2 – 4 months is realistic in many cases. Once the process is complete, you’ll start saving on electricity bills and reducing your carbon footprint. Don’t wait – get started with Rocket Solar today.

Rocket Solar does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

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Considering solar? Run the numbers to see if it all adds up for you.

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