Today more than ever, more home and business owners are reaping the energy benefits of the sun and installing solar panels. The benefits of panels are many—not only will you save money on your monthly utility bill, you’ll also increase the value of your property, lessen your dependence on fossil fuels, and make your home a cleaner, brighter place to live.
After your solar contractor completes their site evaluation, applies for the necessary permits, and receives the go-ahead from city officials, the next step is the installation of the solar panels and related components. While the actual process will be left up to your solar contractor, it’s always beneficial to understand what’s going on during a major home renovation. Here’s what you can expect during the solar panel installation.
The Installation Team Arrives
Your solar contractor will arrive at a pre-determined time to begin the installation. Since the installation is not a one-man job, they will have a crew—usually three to four workers—who will assist. After reviewing your installation specifications and site plan, they will unpack and inspect all solar panels and related electrical equipment to ensure that it was not damaged during the shipping process.
Preparing the Jobsite
First, they will locate the attic access points and electrical panels for the property and set up applicable work areas. In addition, the team may move some furniture or equipment to provide a clear path to necessary work areas, as well as cover and protect any applicable flooring. Their first order of business should be to prevent any damage to your property and personal belongings during the solar panel installation. Next, the installation team will set up ladders and/or scaffolding to gain access to the roof. Most city codes require that safety ropes be installed before the team begins the installation to ensure worker safety.
Beginning the Installation
Workers will install metal rails on your roof that are necessary to mount the solar panels. The rails are fastened to the structure with mounting screws or bolts to provide a solid foundation for the panels. And although the mounting screws will penetrate the roof, a good contractor will take great care to seal any applicable holes before the end of the installation. Other crew members will begin installing the electrical components for the system. These might include the inverter—which transforms the direct current generated by the solar panels to the alternating current required for your home—as well as the applicable conduit and the necessary wiring required to connect the panels to the electrical system. Next, depending on the type of system you purchased—off-grid, grid tie-in or grid tie-in with battery backup—the workers will install and connect the batteries to provide you with backup power during a power outage or when conditions are not conducive to solar power production.
The final phase of the solar panel installation involves setting, mounting, and connecting the panels to the main service panel. The panels are carried to the roof and secured to the metal rails that were installed earlier. The electrical conduits from the electrical service panel and inverter are connected to the panels. Testing and final adjustments are made to the system to ensure it is working properly.
After the installation is complete, your solar contractor will make a final inspection of installed equipment, which includes mounting hardware to ensure it was installed correctly. This will also include a verification that any roof penetrations were sealed properly. Workers will close service panels and attic accesses as well as return furniture to its respective places and uncover any protected flooring. They’ll also remove ladders, tools, safety ropes, and any debris created during the installation process from the job site.
In the coming weeks, your local building department will perform a final inspection to verify the system was installed correctly. Upon passing the said inspection, your utility company will schedule a time to install their net meter, when applicable, and connect your solar panel system to the main power grid. Net meters measure the amount of excess electricity produced by your solar panel system that’s contributed to the grid. Many utilities buy this excess electricity and reimburse you in the form of credits on your monthly utility bill or annual reimbursement checks. While many states allow the use of net meters, there are several that do not, so make sure to check with your utility company or solar contractor to verify.
Now that your solar panel system is officially installed, all that’s left to do is for you to sit back and reap the benefits of cheaper, cleaner, and sustainable solar power.