Solar Panel Installation: A Step-By-Step Guide
If you have considered switching to solar energy in your home, you’ve probably wondered how the solar panels are installed. As you might expect, it’s not as simple as attaching the panels to your roof and connecting them to an electrical panel. It’s actually a rather complex process, one that requires planning and expertise to ensure that not only are the panels properly installed to maximize the amount of power you can collect from the sun, but also to ensure the safety and reliability of the system.
Although some homeowners do opt for a DIY approach to installing solar panels, it’s generally a much better idea to leave this job to the pros. To help you understand why, here’s a behind the scenes look at how to install solar panels step by step and what goes in to getting your solar energy system up and running.
Step 1: The Site Visit
Maximizing the value of your solar panels depends on a number of factors, including the size and angle of your roof, your roofing materials, the direction your home faces, and the amount of shade that covers your roof throughout the day. Typically, before you even sign a contract, a solar company representative will make a site visit to determine your home’s suitability for solar and take preliminary measurements to determine the number of solar panels you’ll need.
Once you’ve signed the contract to install a system, an engineer will make a separate visit to your home to make sure that your roof is in good condition and will be able to bear the weight of the solar panels. He or she will also test your existing electrical system to confirm that it is compatible with the new system and able to handle its demands. The engineer will evaluate your home’s electrical panel (that gray box you always have to open to reset the breakers when they trip) and determine whether the ampere capacity of your electrical system can handle the increased amps required by the solar panels. Depending on the engineer’s report, you may need to repair or replace your roof or upgrade your electrical system before the solar panels are installed to ensure the safety and proper functioning of the system. In some cases, you may also need to trim back some foliage or take down a tree or two to ensure the panels get enough sunlight.
Step 2: Permits, Etc.
Again, installing solar panels isn’t simply a matter of popping them up on your roof and calling it a day. Switching to solar energy does have some significant financial incentives, but in order to get all of the credits and rebates you’re entitled to, you’ll need to complete paperwork.
Even more importantly, installing panels requires building permits. Every municipality has its own rules regarding the proper installation of panels, which your installer will be aware of, and its own requirements for permits and licenses to do so. One of the benefits of using a professional solar installation company is that they will most likely handle this step for you, saving time and aggravation of dealing with city offices.
Step 3: Installation Day
Once all of the permits are in place and your solar equipment has been ordered, it’s time for installation. In many cases, solar companies can install panels in any season, depending on the weather.
The installation begins with one final inspection of the roof to make sure everything is in place, and any loose shingles or tiles are secured. Wiring comes next; the installer will place the wiring necessary to connect the panels to your electrical panel and power system.
Once the wiring is in place, racking is attached to the roof to hold the solar panels. The racking is securely fastened and leveled to ensure safety and the maximum amount of energy collected. Then the panels themselves are placed into the racks, and connected to the inverters. The inverters are what actually takes the energy collected from the sun and turns it into usable electricity. The last step in the installation process is the adding a power meter if you will be using net metering to get credit from the local power company for the energy you collect from the sun.
All together the actual installation can take up to several days, depending on the size of the system.
Step 4: We Have Power!
The installation is complete and now all you need to do is flip the proverbial switch and start harnessing the energy of the sun, right?
Well, it’s not that simple. Before you can officially begin using the panels for your power, the system needs to pass inspection by both your local government and your power company.
Someone from your municipal government will inspect the installation to make sure that the wiring was done correctly, that the racing is secure, and that the installation was done in compliance with all local regulations.
Once your town signs off on the installation, then a representative from the local power company will visit to give the okay to connect the grid. Only then will you finally be up and running and officially using solar energy. These inspections usually take a few weeks to complete after the installation, depending on the availability of inspectors.
From start to finish, the process of installing solar panels and switching to solar energy usually takes a minimum of several weeks, but once it is up and running, you’ll enjoy lower utility bills and the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re making an environmentally-friendly choice. To learn more about solar energy and whether it’s right for your home, get in touch with Fusion Power today.