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A Complete Guide To Home Solar Panel Installation

Jun 29, 2022

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The wind and solar industries are the leading new power sources in the United States. Increasingly, homeowners are joining the renewable energy movement by installing solar panels on their homes. This could lower electric bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while taking advantage of solar incentives, like tax credits and utility rebates for eligible homeowners. 

Many homeowners wonder what solar panel installation involves and if they should try to do it themselves. So let’s explore what going solar entails and what you can expect.

Understanding The Steps To Install Solar Panels

Although installing the solar panels may only take a day or two, the entire process can take several months. To take a solar project from start to finish, the installer needs to design the system, order the solar equipment and obtain permits before installing the equipment.

The solar installation schedules of solar companies will vary. Some are available to get started as soon as the permits and equipment are ready, while others have a backlog of work.

1.   Choosing The Right Solar Company

Most homeowners have several solar installers to choose from in their area. The best way to get started is to read online reviews and ask people you know with solar what they thought of their installer. You may find that some solar installation companies have very good reputations while others do not. It is also a good idea to find a company with North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)-certified installers.

Once you have found a few reputable installers, ask for quotes. Consider if you want a battery bank with your system. Although it boosts the total cost by thousands, it will allow you to have battery backup during grid outages.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison between quotes because they may involve different equipment or total system capacity. For example, a higher capacity solar panel system will generate a higher percentage of your total energy needs but might have a higher cost.

2.   Site Visit

During the site visit, the solar company will determine where exactly they will install your solar panels, the condition of your roof, if shading is an issue and if you need to upgrade your electrical panel. This is also an excellent opportunity to ask questions, such as how net metering works in your area or if there are local or state solar incentives.

3.   Permitting And Other Documentation

Installing solar panels usually requires filling out paperwork with local officials and obtaining permission from the utility company to connect the solar panels to their electric grid. The solar installer will handle all this paperwork, but they might need to wait to get started with the installation until the proper permits are issued.

4.   System Design

The solar company will design your solar energy system based on your goals and property constraints. For example, if the roof of your house is heavily shaded, they could suggest you install a ground-mounted array or perhaps use a garage roof. Typically, roof mounts cost less than ground mounts and take up less space but aren’t always ideal for optimum energy production if you have a shaded roof.

The installer will also determine what type of inverter your solar panel system will use. There are a few options: a string or central inverter and microinverters. As the name implies, a central inverter works with multiple solar panels. By contrast, microinverters are paired with just one solar panel and are mounted on the back of each module.

In addition, the solar installer will select the solar panels for your system. Because they are designed to last decades, they could have far-reaching impacts. However, many solar panel manufacturers now offer product warranties for 20 or more years.

5.   Solar Panel Installation

During this stage, the solar installers come out and complete the installation. Depending on the size of the installation crew and the size of the solar panel system, this usually takes a day or two.

The solar panel installation will involve mounting the solar panels on the roof and connecting the array to your electrical panel, so the installers will also need access to your electrical panel. Many solar installation companies operate throughout the year and even install solar panels in the winter months.

6.   Approval And Commissioning

The solar installer arranges inspections from the local municipality and utility company.

The company needs to get approval for the system to go live and begin producing energy. Often, this involves having an inspection from your municipality and utility company. After this, you should start seeing significant energy bill savings.

DIY Solar Panel Installation

Although some handy homeowners may go the DIY route, most do not. Installing a solar power system involves some advanced skills, such as working with electricity and alternating current (AC) power. So, a DIY solar project isn’t appealing or even safe for most homeowners.

Also, if it is a roof-mounted system, most racking systems involve putting holes in the roof. If not properly sealed, it can create roofing issues, and some homeowners might not be comfortable working on a roof.

In addition, it is critical that various solar equipment and components are compatible with each other. For example, if the inverter for the solar system is undersized, some of the energy produced from the solar panels will be wasted. However, there are some kits available for DIY solar systems that include most or all of the components. Finally, the paperwork and inspection process can be challenging for DIY homeowners, even if they are skilled with other aspects of installation.

Solar Panel Cleaning: DIY For Any Skill Level

Cleaning solar panels is often a pretty easy task that many homeowners can complete themselves periodically. It helps the PV system produce solar power efficiently by removing dust, leaves, bird droppings and grime.

However, it is critical to be safe, especially in high places. Likewise, avoid using abrasive equipment or a high-pressure washer that could damage the array. A mild soap, garden hose and sponge can do the trick.

Also, most solar experts advise against removing snow from solar panels. Typically, snow will melt or slide off of the solar panels more quickly than snow on the ground or even the roof because solar panels are a dark color and warm up in the sun. In addition, most solar panels are mounted at an angle that encourages some of the snow to slide or blow off.

The Bottom Line: Professional Solar Installers Are Best For Many Homeowners

Using a skilled solar installer can make it easy to go solar and transition your home to clean energy. The installation itself usually only takes a couple of days, and the company will handle all the required paperwork for permits and utility interconnection.

The solar technician can also determine the sunniest location to install the solar panels either on the home roof, using a ground mount, or perhaps on a garage or barn. Finally, don’t forget to apply your federal solar tax credit when submitting your federal income taxes (assuming you can take advantage of this incentive).

If you’re interested in discovering more about the solar panel installation process, consult a Rocket SolarSM expert and learn more about how to go solar.

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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