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Over a million homes in the United States of America have already gone solar, and many more homeowners are thinking about installing solar i their homes. If you are in the market for solar, you probably would want to know what actually goes on during a the solar panel installation, or even how to install solar panels by yourself. There are five necessary steps that need to happen after you sign your solar contract before the solar panels on your roof can actually provide power for your home, and a lot of it is behind the scenes. To show you what you can expect, we have outlined a simple five-step guide for how to install solar panels.

How your solar company will get your solar system up and running: the main steps

There are five basic steps to a successful solar panel installation:

  1. Engineering site visit
  2. Permits and documentation
  3. Ordering equipment
  4. Solar panel installation
  5. Approval and interconnection

How to install solar panels: what is involved in the solar panel installation procedure?

Installing solar panels doesn’t take a very short duration as different steps needs to be passed – there’s a procedure for what needs to happen to get your panels ready to begin supplying your home with power. Overall, from the first day you sign the contract between you and with your installer, it will typically take between one and three months before your solar panels gets grid-connected and producing energy for your home. We have outlined the five-step solar panel installation guide below:

1. Engineering site inspection

After you sign your solar contract (whether it be a lease, loan, cash purchase or power purchase agreement), an engineer from the company will come to your property to evaluate the electrical status of your house or office and ensure everything is compatible with your new energy system. This engineer will typically work directly for your installer, but could also be an independent provider contracted by your installer. You can expect the engineering site inspection to occur soon after signing with your installer.

During the visit, the engineer will evaluate the condition of your roof to ensure that it’s structurally sound. He or she will also inspect your electrical panel – the grey box in your basement – to see if you’ll need to upgrade it. If an installer tells you that they need to upgrade the electrical panel, that means that your new solar panels will require more amps of current and the ampere capacity of your electrical box will need to be increased.

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It should be noted that this engineer inspection is different than a general site inspection which is when an installer evaluates your property to the consider system size, roof type, angle of roof, shading, and so on. before any contract is signed. Additionally, though an engineer will typically come by, in some cases the installer can take pictures of the house and conduct their own measurements of the roof and the engineer will be okay with signing off without doing his or her own inspection.

2. Permits and documents: the logistical paperwork required for your solar panel installation

As with any huge financial decision, installing solar panels involves lots of paperwork. Luckily, most of this paperwork is dealt with by the installer – regardless, it’s always a good idea to know what’s going on behind the scenes of your solar panel installation. One of the main things you’ll be applying for will be state and federal solar incentives such as the federal ITC, local solar programs, clean energy financing initiatives like PACE, government rebates and solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs).

To add to applying for incentives, you will need to fill out other paperwork like the building permits. These permits are specific to where you live. For example, certain states require that a roof has three feet of clear space surrounding the solar panels, whereas other areas of the United States will allow you to install panels across the entire surface of your roof. Your installer will know the restrictions and requirements of the states in which they work, and can help you figure out which permits you require – in many cases, the installer will fill out this paperwork on your behalf.

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The time frame for this step is mainly dependent on how long it takes your installer to get it all finished and submitted. If you’re eager to get your panel system up and running immediately, just make sure to follow up with your installer to check on the progress of your paperwork.

3. Ordering equipment: choosing the panels and inverters and getting your solar panel installation scheduled

Now that you’re set up with the proper paperwork, your installer will be ready to place an equipment order through their primary distributor. At this point, you will have already decided on the equipment your system will include – that decision occurs before the contract sign.

However, if you’re looking for advice on equipment selection, here are some things to consider. The two primary components you’ll need to evaluate for your system are solar panels and inverters. Your installer will likely recommend a particular brand for each, and will additionally offer a few alternatives. Durability, efficiency and aesthetics are the primary factors most homeowners will use to compare the various brands (other than price).

To be certain that you have chosen the correct equipment for your system, spend some time doing research on micro inverters versus string inverters vs. power optimizers and look into the best-rated solar panels on the market. Evaluating your equipment options can help you feel prepared for the buying and shipment stage of the solar panel installation procedure.

Once the equipment ordering procedure is complete, your property is added to your installer’s queue.Your equipment (panels and inverters) will likely arrive on the day of your installation, which can happen whenever your paperwork is approved (typically within one to two months). Time until install also depends on how many projects your installer has in their queue. If possible, try to get your solar installation fixed in the winter when solar companies are not too busy.

4. Solar panel installation: the big day

The actual installation is an exciting day for every solar homeowner. Your solar installer will start by prepping your roof and making sure the shingles or tiles are properly attached. Then, they put in electrical wiring that will connect to your electrical panel and general power system.

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After the electrical wiring is done, they will install racking to support your panels (this is the only piece of equipment that will actually be attached to your roof). Once the racking is level and safely attached, the panels are placed on top the racking. Finally, your inverter(s) are connected to the panels to convert direct current (DC) energy into the alternating current (AC) energy used in houses and on the electric grid.

The timeline for the installation will range from one to three days, completely dependent on the size of the system you are installing. One  factor that can add time to your installation procedure is putting in a power meter for net metering. If your installer needs to add a power meter, this will add a few hours to your solar panel installation.

5. The approval and interconnection

The final step of going solar in your home is “flipping the switch,” so to speak, and officially commencing to generate power from your rooftop. Before you can connect your solar panels to the electric grid, a representative from your town government will need to inspect the system and give approval. During this inspection, the representative will essentially be double-checking your installer’s work. He or she will verify that the electrical wiring was done correctly, the mounting was safely and sturdily attached, and the overall install meets standard electrical and roof setback codes.

Following this local checking, you will be ready for official grid interconnection. A representative from your electric company will come by to do their own final evaluation of the solar panel system. As long as there are no glaring issues, your panels will go live the moment they “give the okay” and connect your system to the grid. You can expect to wait for two weeks to a month for the town approval and utility approval to occur and interconnection to go live.

You can learn how to install solar panels and make it a business. As the world is revolving, someday solar panels may be the only source of electric energy

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