Over the last few years there has been an increase of renewable and clean energies usage in North America. Along with this tendency, installation of photovoltaic cells arrays - also called solar panels- on consumers homes roofs has been increasing exponentially.
This section describes the installation process of such solar panels, with the purpose of illustrating the process to anyone interested on going solar. We strongly recommend that you do not try to do this yourself unless you have expert knowledge on electricity installation and engineering. For the great majority a professional installation is normally the cheaper, cleaner and safer solution.
In some US states it is really convenient to hire a specialized company as they are offering programs that can help saving thousands of dollars on installation costs. Anyway, we recommend you check the following guide to get a good idea of the process. In this section we will cover roof Grid-tied systems installation
STEP 1. Analizing the possible efficiency of your installation.
This can be done for free using an online free calculator. You can check a list of the best ones on our How much solar power could you produce? section. This will give you a good idea on how efficient your installation could be.
STEP 2. Get estimates from contractors available in your area. By completing the form below you can get free quotes for installers available in your area, this will give you an accurate idea of the costs.
STEP 3 (for DIYs). Make a more in-depth analysis of the actual conditions of sunlight exposure of your roof.
Most professionals use a tool like Solar Pathfinder PV Positioners. This is a professional device that includes a software for data analysis, and has the NREL solar insulation data built in. It auto-computes the percentage of sunlight, azimuth, solar radiation and KWhr and it can even be adjust for the removal of trees and other shadow-casting barriers. For the Do-It-Yourself kind of person these can be rented for around 25 dollars a week, however, if you are hiring a contractor for the whole instalation process, must probabily they will have to perform tests of their own.
STEP 4. Installing / Buying.
note: It is important to consider that installing solar panels is really convenient during a re-roofing process.
At this point you should already have an approximate idea of how efficient & costly your installation could be. So now it is time to consider how to proceed.
There are basically two options:
A. You choose to install with one of the contractors that have sent you estimates by filling the above form.
B. You can also consider a Power Purchase Agreement, which is a contract with a company that takes care of all installation costs and in turn owns the solar installation and then sells you electricity at guaranteed rate under a long-term contract. You can read more about this Enviromental Protection Agency page.
Whether you must / can buy solar panels yourself or not, depends on the chosen contractor. Most contractors include their own materials on estimates.
The installation process also varies widely depending on your roof type. Below we include some videos from installer companies that serve very well to get an idea of the actual installation process.