More than a million homes have already gone solar in the U.S., and many more homeowners are considering installing solar PV systems. If you’re in the market for a clean energy system like solar, you probably want to know what actually happens during a solar panel installation. There are several main steps that need to happen between deciding to go solar, signing your contract, and your home being powered by solar electricity. Most of that is behind the scenes. To show you what you can expect, we’ve outlined a simple guide on how to set up solar panels for your home.
Planning to go solar: five steps
Before you make the decision to actually install solar panels, it is important to take stock of your own energy needs and determine if your home is a good fit for solar.
1. Evaluate your electric bill
For many people, the first step toward going solar can simply be to look at how much you are paying per month on your electricity bill and want to spend less. In addition to the environmental benefits, using solar panels has the potential to offset or even eliminate your electricity bill. The higher your bill is, the more you could benefit from going solar.
2. Find out how efficient your home is
A home energy audit will uncover issues that make your home less efficient. By correcting those problem areas, you can reduce energy demands and make your home more energy efficient.
3. Ask yourself if your home is a good fit for solar
Once you find out how efficient your home is, the next step should be to find out if solar energy will work for your home and ultimately if your home can accommodate solar panels.
4. Explore available incentives
Once you’ve evaluated your home and your energy needs, the next step before installing solar panels is to find what kind of incentives are available in your area. In recent years, the federal and many state governments have made it easier than ever to install solar panels and invest in clean energy through tax breaks.
5. Compare and choose an installer
Once you have evaluated your own needs, your home’s potential, and the incentives in your area, you should start finding solar providers near you.
Solar panel installation: five main steps
There are five major steps to a solar installation that your chosen solar company will generally follow.
The Site Evaluation
During the site evaluation, the installer comes to your home to verify the planned system design. The installer will check the roof and attic, the electrical setup, and battery placement (if applicable).
System Design Approval
At this point, the results of the site evaluation have come back and any changes needed are now to be approved. If there were changes from the original design, the homeowner may now review those changes and give feedback, or approve the final design before it’s sent for permit approval. Not only the aesthetics of the design are checked, but also the electrical work and system production
Permit approval is necessary so everyone installing a solar system is in accordance with safety codes (fire, electrical, and structural). The installer will send permitting documents, such as the design approved in the previous stage, to the city to be approved.
Installation just takes a few days, usually one to two. You don’t necessarily even need to be home during installation. This is when you let the professionals do their job and you can sit back and relax. Note that your power will likely need to be turned off for a few hours.
Final City Inspection
Once the installation is complete, the city inspector comes out to make sure that everything has been done in alignment with the scope of work that was permitted.
The final step in turning your solar system on is for the utility company to approve the system for connection to their grid. The homeowner/installer applies for a utility connection showing the contract and scope of work that has been installed. The utility representative will inspect the project to make sure it is in accordance with the utility guidelines.