Solar Energy Installation Process: A Step-by-Step Guide
These days, more people are looking toward alternative sources of energy than ever before. In Lancaster, PA, solar energy installation is something that is consistently gaining ground. Getting set-up with Solar Energy from Bright Eye Solar is easier than you may think.Within a few simple steps, the process and installation is complete, and you are ready to go!
Switching to solar is a significant decision and a big change for your home. The standard process to install solar panels involves six main steps. On this page, we provide a step-by-step guide detailing what’s involved and attempt to answer some of the most common questions our customers have.
Step 1 – Site Survey and Initial Consultation
While there are solar options for almost every home, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Installations can range in complexity based on your budget, timeline and the specifics of your property. It’s for this reason that every new job begins with a detailed consultation and site survey.
At Bright Eye Solar, we also provide a complete home energy audit to give you a clearer picture of the benefits of solar. Our technicians look at physical features such as the composition and structure of your roof, technical considerations such as your monthly power requirements and other factors that affect the overall efficiency of your home and its suitability for solar. In some cases, a solar upgrade may end up taking a backseat to other improvements, such as high-efficiency appliances or new insulation, which will deliver better immediate value for your money.
Step 2 – Proposal and Cost-Benefit Analysis
If you decide to proceed with solar, our team will complete a detailed proposal outlining all the necessary work, the cost of the system and its anticipated monthly and annual electricity output. With this information, you’ll have all the numbers you need to perform a cost-benefit analysis and determine how soon you can expect to see a return on your investment.
If your property allows for multiple installation options, we’ll go over the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision. We’ll also provide an overview of the financing and leasing opportunities available to you.
Step 3 – Engineering and Administration
Before any work gets done on your site, our team will complete detailed CAD drawings of the system’s panels, inverter and other components. Once these are finished, we will take care of a variety of administrative tasks for you, including submitting the paperwork for state and federal incentives, manufacturer’s rebates and third-party financing programs. We will also complete interconnection and net metering agreements for your utility provider and obtain any required building and electrical permits from state and local regulatory bodies.
When these tasks are in-process, we will contact you to arrange a date to begin the installation.
Step 4: Installation
Before the installation can begin, we order the necessary components from our manufacturer partner. Bright Eye Solar works with many leading manufacturers and can obtain competitive prices on some of the most advanced PV systems on the market today.
For a typical roof-mounted home solar panel, the install process involves taking care of all wiring, testing the structural integrity of your roof, installing the mounting system, inverter and hardware and, finally, connecting everything and flipping the switch!
Step 5: Testing and Tweaking
After the initial installation is complete, we test the system to ensure it is delivering the performance we promised and make any necessary adjustments. For fixed systems, it may be necessary to move the panels slightly to maximize their exposure to the sun and avoid any obstacles that weren’t apparent during the site survey.
Our team includes a journeyman electrician who works on each project to ensure it is completed according to code. We will take the time to explain to you everything you need to know about your new solar installation and put together a maintenance schedule to keep it working its best.
Step 6: Regular Maintenance
Most home solar installations don’t require much routine maintenance, other than keeping the core components clean and free of debris. We can provide on-site service and monitor the performance of your system to ensure it will continue to generate the power you need to keep your home running. Of course, if you have any questions at any time, you can reach us by phone or email at our Lancaster, PA, head office.
How Long Does It Take to Install Solar Panels?
The actual installation process — the amount of time we spend on your property — is usually no more than a day or two. Commercial or larger residential systems may take longer. From start to finish, when you count up the initial consultation, the paperwork, ordering parts and other tasks, the average project lifecycle is around six to eight weeks.
Inexperienced installers may encounter complications in the permitting and engineering stages of a project. That’s why it’s important to work with a company you can trust. Bright Eye Solar has a long history of installing solar panels for homeowners in central PA — we know how to streamline the process and minimize the risk of delays every step of the way.
Solar Panel Installation Tips
A solar installation is like any home renovation project. It’s a big investment and there’s a lot that can go wrong. Here are a few tips to minimize the risk:
- Be realistic about your expectations:Most residential solar systems don’t generate enough power to run an entire home without backup. Rather than a self-contained solution, think of solar as a way to offset your reliance on fossil fuels, reduce your carbon footprint and hedge against rising energy prices.
- Save costs by taking advantage of rebates and accessories:There are many ways to offset the initial cost of solar, including municipal, state, federal and private programs as well as manufacturers’ rebates. We will connect you with the most applicable of these and, in many cases, take care of the paperwork for you. However, it never hurts to do your own research, too, as new incentives are being created all the time.
- If you’re concerned about costs, ask about no money down and monthly payments: Keep in mind that when you go solar you are not really creating a new monthly bill but replacing one for another. Often times the monthly payments are less then what you would pay the utility company for the same amount of electricity. It may take a little longer to get to that payback period if you finance the system 100% but if you are saving money beginning month one and adding value to your home while going green it can make good financial sense.
What Should I Consider When Installing Solar Panels?
When you meet with Bright Eye Solar for the first time, we’ll provide the context necessary to make an informed decision about whether or not solar is right for you. That being said, there are a few things that are worth thinking about even before you make that initial call:
- How much do you want to spend? Solar offers incredible flexibility and freedom to design a system that works for your home. Having a ballpark figure of how much you want to spend will help us determine the best possible installation for your home.
- Is your home as energy-efficient as it could be? Solar is an excellent choice for going green, but if the rest of your home isn’t running its best, it may not be the right investment for you now. Think about upgrading your appliances, windows, insulation and other home components before committing to a solar conversion.
- How long do you plan on staying in your home? A solar installation will add value to your home if you’re planning to sell, but in most cases the best way to recoup your initial costs is through long-term use. While it is known that homes with “free electricity” from having a solar panel system sell faster and usually for more than what it was worth before the solar panels were installed, you may not get your investment back if you sell the home a year after buying the system.
Can You Buy and Install Your Own Solar Panels?
In most parts of the country, only certified installers are legally allowed to connect a home solar installation to the grid. Beyond that, there’s nothing preventing an ambitious do-it-yourselfer from taking on more of the design and engineering components of a solar installation. However, it’s important to bear in mind that a system’s design and installation play a major role in determining its efficiency. That efficiency, in turn, plays a role in how quickly you’ll see a return on your investment.
There’s no denying that a solar installation costs money — even when you do much of it yourself. In the long run, the small added cost of working with a professional is very likely to be worth it.
How Long Will a Solar Installation Last?
A set of new solar panels can typically last 30 years or longer, depending on the model, and provided they are maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications. However, solar panels do lose a small amount of efficiency each year — less than one percent of their overall capacity. This means that, after 25 years, the average panel will produce 85 to 87 percent of its original minimum peak power rating. Accordingly, most panel manufacturers stand behind their products with a 20- or 25-year warranty.
Solar modules are the costliest portion of the system however the mounting system and inverter are another portion of the entire cost. The mounting systems are generally high-grade aluminum and stainless steel so you will not need to worry about corrosion and rust. They are protected beneath the solar modules and generally have a warranty to match that of the solar modules. The inverter on the other hand is often seen as the “weak link.” It is important to make sure that you are using an inverter from a reputable company and hopefully one with a warranty of at least 10 years. In the case of micro inverters, you can often get a 25-year warranty from the company. Unlike Geothermal and Wind Turbines there are no moving parts and little to no maintenance over the life of the system. This makes going solar a great investment over the long term.
Learn More With Bright Eye Solar
We’ve covered a lot of information in this article, but the important thing to remember is that, when you work with an experienced and reputable installer, you’re more likely to get the system you want with a minimal number of headaches.
Want to learn more about the technology behind solar? Check out our How Solar Works page. Want to start exploring the options for your home? Get in touch with our head office today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation and energy audit.