Solar Panel Installation: What to Expect

Even as the 17-year price drop of solar panels came to an end in 2021, it's still time to jump on these energy savers before federal tax incentives fall away forever. 

All across the country, Americans are turning to rooftop or yard solar panel installation to reduce their electric bills. In some cases, in sunshine states where net metering is enforced, some homeowners are coming away with hefty credits.

Furthermore, solar technology has improved in efficiency and cost over the years. The panels are thinner, lighter, and generate more energy.

So, now that you've decided on a solar panel home installation, you're asking: What can I expect to happen next?

That depends on several factors. With none more important than the solar panel installation companies you're considering and the shape of your roof. In the following article, we'll examine how to install solar panels and what you can expect next.

Buy, Don't Lease

A solar panel installation is likely to increase the value of your home by about 3.5%. The U.S. Department of Energy also found that solar panels added about $15,000 to the value of your home.  But these figures on based on owning the system outright. 

If you lease the panels, you may reap some short-term financial gain, but you'll likely have to make accommodations with the solar contractor for the 20- to 30-year term of the lease. 

This can include arranging for repairs and removal due to roof issues and ensuring that a technician is available to check that the system is working properly.

In most cases, the solar provider has no problem letting a potential buyer take over your lease. They'll just need to meet the minimum credit requirements. However, anyone buying your home might balk at getting into a contract that could stretch longer than the life of your roof. 

Credits Are Important

If it is at all possible, consider finding the estimated $40,000 either in cash or through a home improvement loan to buy the system outright. If you play your cards right, you'll likely only pay $12,000 out of pocket for the installation after tax incentives. 

Worst of all, with a lease, you won't enjoy the lowest price of energy available from the panels, and the term of the lease could change, leading to higher costs later on. 

Check Your Roof Before Solar Panel Installation

When eyeballing your roof before installing solar panels, try to calculate how much life your roof has left in it. As a rule of thumb, if you replaced your roof within the last 10 years or have 10 years or more of life left in it, go ahead with the solar installation without hesitation.

If you don't know or can't tell how much life is left in your shingles and roof, then consult either a roofer or your prospective solar installer. 

This is a serious consideration since a roof replacement can cost close to $10,000 on average. 

Then take a look at the shape, slopes, and direction your roof faces. You'll need about 200 square feet for a suitable solar panel system. Also, you'll want to have a moderate pitch so that the panels collect the maximum amount of sun. Ideally, you'd like your home to face south or west to maximize your exposure to the sun. 

Lastly, you need to make certain that your roof can handle the additional weight. Again, a certified panel installer can help you determine the proper load-bearing requirements. 

What Are Your Power Requirements?

After you've examined the limitations of your roof, if there are any, you should estimate your system requirements.

To do this, you should identify your annual energy usage by looking at your utility bill. Then calculate how many hours of sunlight you can expect where you live. When you have these numbers, compare them to the total output of the system you are looking to purchase. 

How Do You Connect to the Grid?

The power that your new photovoltaic cells produce is direct current, or DC power. To turn that power into usable energy for your home, you'll need to convert that power into alternating current or AC. 

This conversion used to take place with a standard inverter box, but now most panels come with individual inverters. In many cases, this power is then sent through a battery to store some of the power and then into a meter and back into the power grid. 

Expect to have some equipment installed near your meter and fuse box that power can move from the panels to your home and onto the grid. 

Get the Correct Approvals

Before you set up your appointment with your panel installer, make sure you are aware of any local ordinances. For example, many subdivisions and condominiums have rules about if and when solar panels can be installed and how many.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are paying HOA fees, you need to check with the association about any solar panel ordinances. 

Insist on a Final Inspection

Before the solar panel installer walks off the grounds and on to the next job, ask them for a complete tour of the system and allow them to help you inspect the panels on top of your roof. 

Even if you are unfamiliar with the equipment, you'll be able to inspect the wiring and your roof. If you have any concerns, make sure you raise them when the contractor is on the job site. 

Solar Panel Maintenance

Now that the panels are up, make sure you know how to maintain them properly. This will help the panels retain their value and help you get the most out of their energy-producing capability. 

In general, you should clean your panels twice a year. To do this, spray them down with clean water and give them a gentle brushing with a light solution of soap and water. When you feel you've removed any dirt and build-up, rinse them off with more clean water. 

Watch the Meter Spin Backward

Now that your solar panel installation is finished, you can enjoy the power of the sun and watch that credit from the power company grow.

In many parts of the country, you can save anywhere from $400 to $3,500 yearly, depending on the number of sunny days you receive and the price of your current energy bills.

Are you ready to go solar? Contact us today to talk to start your estimate. 

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