They will have experts assess the electrical layout and building structure of your home and roof and your family’s electricity needs. They will look at whether your roof can bear the load of the solar panels. They will look at where the best place to put the panels is and what the tilt should be to optimize the energy produced. They will then design a blueprint plan for a solar panel array installation that will work for your situation.
This would be a comprehensive blueprint that includes everything needed, including the inverter. Once you approve the plans, and give the go ahead, the installation company submits them to the city and obtains the permits necessary to do the project.
Most of the time the installation will be done in one to a few days. Upon completion of your solar panel installation and modifications to your home, they arrange to have the city inspector come out to inspect the work and give his stamp of approval that it complies with all of the codes and regulations of the city, and the utility company so that it can be connected to the grid.
After the city and the utility company gives their approval, you turn on your new system and start reaping the rewards of a more efficient way to get electricity.
If you are buying your solar panels, the installation company will often help you file the forms to qualify for the tax incentives and rebates. If you are leasing, you may or may not get the rebates and tax incentives, often in that situation the company gets them. But you’ll want to ask to make sure.
You’ll want to know how long you can expect the whole process to take — from the signing of the contract to where you get to flip the switch and turn on your new system. The installers don’t have complete control since the city has to approve and give permits. If it gets done in not much more than a month, that is on the quick side. It may take longer, but they should know what is typical for you area. You certainly don’t want it to be taking 6 months. So ask.
Proper Bonding, Licenses and Insurance:
- Do they have a license for A,B,C-10, or C-46 license for photovoltaic (PV) systems?
- Do they have a local business license?
- Do they have a contractor’s license?
- Do they have liability insurance or workers comp.?
Certifications Some installers get certified with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Like anything else, If they aren’t certified with the NABCEP it doesn’t mean they aren’t a good installer, and if they are certified it doesn’t mean they are a good installer, but it’s one helpful indication.
There are other places that train solar installers, including classes sponsored by the solar installer companies.
Some of these certifications are newer and there may be installers who already know what they are doing and don’t want to spend money on a certification they feel they don’t need because they already have the skills.
Some installers may simply have years of experience and do a great job.
One way or the other though, ideally you want someone who has the skills and experience necessary to not botch up your roof and it wouldn’t hurt to ask them about what certification or experience they have.
Familiarity With Locale Are they familiar with your town and county? Do they know what permits are required? Do they know how to do it according to electrical and building codes for the area? Do they have a place of business? Will the panels be installed according to manufacturer's specifications so the warranty will be valid?
Subcontracting Will the solar installer you use subcontract any of their work? If so does the subcontractor meet all of the qualifications as listed above?
Mounting the Solar Panels on Your Roof
What kind mounting system do they use? What impact will it have on your roof? Ideally you want it to have as minimal an impact on your roof as possible. In other words, the fewer the new holes to bolt on the panels the better, as long as it is enough to hold it all in place considering winds etc. But in essence, if the installation is done right your roof will be just as structurally sound and waterproof as is was before the installation.
In addition, their mounting method shouldn’t have unsightly wires hanging out, and so forth.
It is also important to make sure they have the expertise to install on your type of roof. Composite shingles are the norm but if you have Spanish tiles or something else like that, you’ll want to know they can handle it.