Interested in going solar, but not sure how to install solar panels? As you’ll read in this article, the process requires more than ordering panels online and watching a few YouTube videos on how to install them. Unless you have electrical contracting experience, you’ll need to hire a solar company to carry out the solar panel installation itself.
Luckily, there are a number of reputable top solar companies with decades of solar experience to choose from. In addition to finding the best company for your home’s energy needs, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to ensure your clean energy system is permitted and set up properly.
In this article, we’ll walk through the steps you’ll need to take when installing solar panels on your home or business. If you’re ready to start getting quotes from local installers near you, use this tool or fill out the form below.
5 Steps for Solar Panel Installation
By installing a home solar power system, you can reduce your dependence on traditional utility companies, offsetting the majority (or entirety) of your monthly energy bills. Plus, it offers a tangible method to curb your environmental footprint, making for cleaner, healthier communities.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the majority of what determines a successful solar project has little to do with the installation itself. Before getting into how to install solar panels, there are a couple of nuances to note off the bat.
First, installing solar panels requires thorough knowledge of solar technology, design and engineering. In other words, the average person will likely want to avoid a DIY solar panel installation and leave the process to professional local installers. A properly designed PV system will provide far more savings on the backend than most DIY installations will save on the front.
The second thing to consider is that solar panel installation won’t happen overnight. Even after you choose the best solar panels for the job, there are a few vital steps in the installation process essential for ensuring a reliable, effective and efficient renewable energy system.
Here are the basic steps of solar panel installation:
1) Complete a Site Survey With an Engineer
Once you choose the best solar installation company for your home and sign a contract, the company will send an engineer to your home to evaluate your current electrical system, ensuring everything is compatible with your intended solar panel system design. This engineer may be an employee of the solar company or an independent contractor.
Be aware that if you have an old and outdated electrical system, the engineer may tell you that it needs to be upgraded or replaced. This is generally an indication that your new solar energy system will require more amps than what your current electrical system can accommodate.
In addition to checking out your electrical system, the engineer will also want to inspect your roof. They’ll need to ensure it is structurally sound and able to support the weight of solar paneling. Also, the engineer will be able to tell you if you need a specialized mounting system, such as for a flat roof.
A solar energy system will only perform as well as it’s designed, so hiring a trustworthy solar engineer is one of the most important steps in the process. Still looking for an installation company? Click here to get connected with a solar installer in your area and receive a free quote.
2) Secure the Right Permits
Before your solar panel installation, you’ll have a few bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Specifically, you’ll need to obtain all the right permits and documentation to ensure your solar panel installation is legal, meeting all local safety and zoning requirements. You wouldn’t believe the headaches that can accompany an installation carried out before permits are issued.
This step may sound intimidating, but here’s the good news: While there is plenty of paperwork associated with installing solar panels, the majority of it is handled by your solar company. You may not have to do much at all beyond lending a signature here and there, but it’s still important to have some sense of what’s happening behind the scenes.
Here’s what your solar installer will file for:
Local electrical and/or building permits on your behalfInterconnection agreement with your local utility (in other words, permission from your utility to install solar and enroll in net metering)Applications for state or federal incentive programs that curb the upfront cost of solar panels
By completing this paperwork, you can potentially secure rebates, tax credits or other financial assistance to offset installation costs.
It will take your solar installer some time to submit all the paperwork, and even longer for governmental bodies to process all the information — sometimes several weeks or more. It’s not a bad idea to follow up and get updates every few days, just to make sure the process is still moving forward smoothly. Solar companies are busy with business, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
3) Order the Right Equipment
Once you have all the correct permits and paperwork in place, your solar installer will be ready to order your equipment.
Note that, by this point, you will already have picked out the types of solar panels you need and the best solar batteries and inverters for your home. These decisions are typically laid out in a solar proposal, sent well before you sign your contract.
Naturally, you’ll want to make sure you research how solar panels work and the different options available to you. Whether you want the most efficient solar panels or the most affordable, your solar installer can help you pick equipment that will help you achieve your solar energy goals.
Once your solar equipment is ordered, your name will be added to the installer’s queue. Basically, this means you’ll be put on the schedule for an installer to assemble your solar panels as soon as they arrive from the distributor.
4) Get Your Solar Panels Installed
Finally, the big day arrives. Your solar installer will show up and begin preparing your roof, specifically by verifying that all tiles or shingles are securely attached. Then, the installer will place the wiring that’s needed to connect your residential solar system to the electrical system.
After the wires are placed, your installer will place racking, which is used to hold the solar panels in position. The panels are placed into the racks, and the inverter (or several microinverters) is connected to the panels. If you have a battery bank, your installer will also set that up.
One of the most common questions about installing solar panels is how long the work will take. It all depends on the size of your home and the scope of the solar panel installation, but you can anticipate a timeline of one to three days in total.
If your solar system is properly designed and planned out, this step of the process should actually be the most straightforward.
5) Get your system approved and connected.
Once the system is in place, your installer will essentially “flip the switch” to turn it on. Before this happens, you’ll likely need a municipal government representative to assess and approve your residential solar system, issuing what’s called permission to operate (PTO). Basically, this is just a safety precaution, ensuring there’s a fresh set of eyes to validate the wiring and electrical work.
You’ll also need a representative from your local utility company to interconnect the system, which means hooking it up to the electrical grid. This allows you to keep drawing electricity when you need it, as well as safely feed any surplus energy back into the grid, which can result in credits from your utility company via net metering programs.
Questions About How to Install Solar Panels?
These five steps represent the basics of how to install solar panels. But of course, these are just general guidelines, and specific steps can vary from home to home and from installer to installer.
If you have additional questions about how to install solar panels, a good next step would be to seek out the top solar companies in your area and make an appointment for a consultation. You can ask more about specific solar panel installation processes and what you might expect if you decide to make the leap into solar power.
You can fill out the quick form below or use this tool to get a free quote and book a consultation with a certified solar energy installer in your area.
FAQ: How to Install Solar Panels
Can I install solar panels on my home myself?
Technically speaking, yes, you can install solar panels on your own home. However, we don’t recommend this unless you have experience as an electrician and advanced knowledge of solar energy.
Though we don’t doubt your ability to pull off a satisfying DIY home project, the modern technology solar companies use to design and plan solar installations can provide far more long-term benefits than the savings you might secure from installing solar panels yourself.
How many solar panels are needed to power a house?
The number of solar panels needed to power a house will vary depending on the amount of electricity your home consumes. As a minimum, however, we’d expect most homes will require at least 10 panels.
How do you install solar panels step by step?
Solar panels are installed roughly in the following order. Note that unless you have electrical contracting experience, we recommend homeowners hire professionals to carry this out.
Step 1: Install your racking or build a platform for the solar panels
Step 2: Mount and secure the solar panels on the racking
Step 3: Wire the solar panels
Step 4: Connect the wiring to your control panel
Step 5: Ground your system for safety purposes
Step 6: Connect your solar array to your home
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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