With the steady advancement of solar technology, installing a solar panel has become much easier and will definitely simplify even more in the future. An increasing number of homeowners are considering the possibility of investing in a solar panel. However, the process of installing a solar panel is not that easy.
If you are in the market for solar, you are probably thinking about what actually happens during solar panel installation. What steps do you need to take? What are the main components of a solar system? Do you have the roof that supports solar panels? These are just some of the questions that might be swarming in your head.
To help you find the answers and get all the details on solar panel installation, we’ ve decided to outline a simple but ultimate guide for the typical solar panel installation process.
So, let’s dive right in!
Things You Need to Know Before You Start the Solar Panel Installation Process
As mentioned above, there are probably thousands of questions you need to consider before you even begin the installation. Why? Because buying a solar panel is a serious investment, and you sure don’t want to waste your time nor money on something that won’t bring you any benefits. So, here are some things you need to keep in mind:
Main Components of a Solar Panel System
Before even buying your solar panel system, you need to have a clear knowledge of all the parts that are included in a solar panel system. In a nutshell, there are three main components you need to consider:
- The Panels
- The Inverter
- The Racking/Mounting
The panels can be either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Basically, which one you buy doesn’t make much difference. The most important thing you need to keep in mind is that you buy a good brand that will last 25+ years on your roof. Be mindful that there are good budget brands and excellent premium brands. Which one you choose depends on your preferences, requirements and needs. Be aware that there are also no-name brands that can do more harm than good because these can last from 3 to 5 years which is not something you want to invest your money and time in.
The inverter can be either a string inverter (around the size of a briefcase) or microinverter which is approximately a size of a paper book. The difference between the two is that the microinverter goes on the back of each solar panel and a string inverter is installed on a wall.
However, besides these two types of inverters, you can also opt for a power optimiser which is like a mix of the two previously mentioned. When it comes to the string inverter, do not mount it where it will get lots of Sun. Instead, choose a shaded spot, or ask the installer to help you by building a simple shade over your inverter. This is very important because once you expose your inverter directly to the Sun, it can easily be damaged.
Before choosing your solar panel inverter, you need to have explicit knowledge of what types of solar inverters there are on the market, and which one will suit your particular needs. First thing you need to know is that a solar power system can have multiple inverters. This depends on the size of a photovoltaic system. To help you make up your mind, we decided to enlist all the types of the inverters you can use for your solar panel installation:
- String Inverters
These types of inverters are smaller in size. Around 40 of these inverters, 25 kW each can be used in 1 MW solar power system. In most cases residential solar installations use this kind of inverter, mostly one inverter is used for several panels in an array installation. The reason why it got this name is that you connect a string of panels into one inverter.
- Micro Inverters
These inverters are very small and also typically used for residential purposes. They are housed on the back of an individual solar panel with one inverter connection per solar panel. Their capacity can be as low as 240 W each. This is great because it allows you to optimise each panel to get the most energy from an array in case you have a shade over most solar panels.
- Hybrid inverters
Another inverter in a row is a hybrid inverter also called as a multi-mode inverter. This inverter allows you to plug your batteries into your solar power system. Also, it uses DC coupling to interface solar battery, and its electronics control the battery charging and recharging.
- Battery Inverters
In case you want to keep your battery system physically detached from your solar panels, you can always go for a separate battery inverter as one more option. The role of this inverter is to convert DC battery power into AC power and to feed it into your switchboard to replace a grid power.
- Central Inverter
Central Inverter is the only inverter which is not an ideal solution for residential and small commercial installations. These types of inverters convert DC to AC and handle power management from one device that is centrally located.
This kind of inverter is ideal for larger commercial plants and industrial installations or even utility-scale solar farms. While you can use more than one inverter in a solar farm, the size of each inverter will have to be 1 MW or above.
While string and micro-inverters require very little maintenance, they can be a bit expensive compared to a central inverter on their cost per watt. In case you have a smaller rooftop, you can use either of the three types.
Things you need to consider when choosing your solar panel inverter
- Inverter for PV to be upgraded
In some cases, the price of your inverter will offer you an option of a larger inverter assuming that you might want to upgrade your solar panels by adding more of them sometime in future. To know how many solar panels you will need in future, you need to make the measurements and figure out how much roof space you have for solar panels and check if that number suits your needs.
Before making a decision which inverter to buy, put solar panels on your roof and then purchase the inverter that perfectly fit the system’s power. If you intend expending the number of your solar panels later, you may as well consider micro-inverters, multi-string array or MPPT expandable solar inverter.
- Inverter Warranty
As with solar panels, you need to think about the warranty when choosing your solar inverters. Most of them have warranties ranging from 5 to 12 years. Also, a grid-connected inverter will last between 10 and 20 years. All in all, when buying a solar inverter, you should expect a ten years warranty minimum.
- Inverter Display
The display is another thing you need to have in mind when selecting your solar inverter. Most inverters have a digital display indicating that unit is on, off or in a standby mode. Those better inverters indicate some of the following information on their display:
- Hours that the unit has been producing power
- Kilowatt-hours of electricity produced from the moment you installed the unit
- Kilowatts of power that the unit is currently producing
- Kilowatt-hours of energy you have produced each day
If you don’t want to check the meter box to see if your system is performing as it should, you can always consider a remote monitoring option.
Tips on choosing the best inverter for your solar panel installation
- Your solar inverter should have MPPT
- Check the warranty offered by the manufacturer before buying your inverter. Most of the manufacturers sell inverters with a warranty cover for at least eight years. The best scenario is to choose an inverter that offers 10 to 20 years warranty. Manufacturers that provide less than eight years warranty should not even be considered as an option.
- Think about whether you need a single inverter or multiple inverters
- Think about whether you want to expand the number of your solar panels or stick to the initial amount of panels you installed. If you do, choose an inverter that best accommodates that future extra load
- An inverter you select should not cost more than 20% of the cost of the solar panel you decide to install. However, make sure you buy an inverter that will meet all of your requirements, and that will be excellent value for money in the upcoming years.
- Think about what the AC power rating of the best inverter is.
One of the things you need to keep in mind is that these solar inverters require high maintenance due to their capacity and size.
In its core, the role of the inverter is to convert DC electricity produced by solar panels into 240V AC electricity, which is the electricity most devices and appliances in your home use. Nevertheless, the inverter is the component of the solar system that might quickly fail in the first 10-15 years. This is because the inverter works hard all day and they can easily wear out over the years. That’s why it is crucial to invest in a premium- end inverter and feel safe over the upcoming period. There is a wide variety of inverters you can choose from, and here are some of the most popular ones: Solax, ABB, SMA, Fronius, SolarEdge, Huawei, Sungrow, Enphase, etc.
To get a clear picture of how solar inverter works, check the video below.
Finally, the third part you need to consider is mounting. Solar mounting is what supports your solar panel and what the entire construction is attached on. As with solar panels and inverters, there is a wide array of mounting systems out there on the market, from Clenergy and Sunlock to Rasol and Radiant.
As with solar panels and inverters, there are different types of mounting systems. To help you get a grasp on installation, we will go over the basic categories of mounting systems:
Sloped Roof Mounting System
When it comes to residential solar installations, solar panels are often found on sloped rooftops. There is a wide range of mounting options for this kind of roofs including railed, rail-less and shared rail. Most of these roofs require some penetration or anchoring into the roof.
Most residential systems use rails that are attached to the roof to support rows of solar panels. Most panels are positioned portrait style/vertically, and they connect to two rails with clamps.
Rail-less systems attach directly to the hardware connected to the bolts/screw that goes into the roof instead of attaching them to rails. These systems still need the same number of attachments into the roof as is the case with the railed system. However, the process of removing the rails reduces the shipping and manufacturing costs. Generally, when a system has fewer components, it speeds up install time which is another benefit of this kind of mounting systems. Also, with this type of mounting system, solar panels can be positioned in any orientation with a rail-free system.
Shared-rail systems have two rows of solar panels attached to four rails and remove one rail, clamping the two rows of panels on a shared middle rail. In these shared-rail systems, only a few penetrations are necessary, considering the fact that one entire length of rail is previously removed. Once the accurate positioning of rails is determined, the installation process is straightforward and quick. Also, this means that solar panels can be positioned in any direction.
Even though it was believed that ballasted and non-penetrating mounting systems are impossible to install on sloped roofs, they are gaining more and more popularity. What makes these systems so special is the fact that they are generally draped over the peak of the roof, allowing the system’s weight to distribute equally on both sides.
2. Flat roof mounting systems
Manufacturing plants and big box stores applications usually have flat rooftops ideal for commercial and industrial solar applications. These roofs may still have a slight tilt but not nearly as much as sloped residential roofs. The best thing about flat roof mounting systems is that they are usually positioned on a large level surface, which makes the installation process easy and quick.
Most of them use the “foot” as the base assembly. This is a basket or a tray-like piece of hardware that is positioned on the top of the roof, holding ballast blocks in the bottom and panels along its top and bottom edges. Panels are installed at the best angle to capture the most sunlight.
How much ballast you will need depends mostly on the roof’s load limit. If your roof can’t support much weight, you might need to make certain penetrations. Clams or clips are used to attach panels to the mounting system.
If you have a large flat roof, the best position of your solar panel is facing south. However, solar energy can also be generated in east-west configurations. There is a wide range of make-ups for flat roof mounting systems.
For example, while aluminium and stainless steel solar panels are still among the most common ones, many plastic and polymer-based systems are also becoming very popular. They have very light and moldable designs which make the installation very easy and quick.
Solar shingles are a relatively new design of solar panels which is also gaining much popularity. More and more people are interested in the aesthetics and unique solar installations besides the efficiency and functionality of solar panels.
Basically, this kind of solar panels is a part of a building-integrated family. This means that the solar panel is built into the structure. In this case, there is no need for a mounting system as the solar panel is integrated into the roof; it is a part of the roof, which is what makes it so appealing.
How does a solar system work?
A solar panel system is made of highly excitable, conductive materials. In its core, they work by allowing photons or particles of light to knock electrons free from atoms and then generate a flow of electricity. There are many smaller units called photovoltaic cells in solar panels. Photovoltaic means that they convert solar energy into electricity. All those cells linked together make up a solar panel.
Taking into account that most homes use alternating current (AC), your solar-generated DC energy will pass through an inverter to become AC. This is why inverter plays a massive role in the solar panel system. Once DC transforms int0 AC, it moves further, flows through your property’s wiring and acts like any electricity you have been using for any application or device you have in your house.
2. How many solar panels do you need to buy? How much do solar panels cost?
It depends. One thing you need to know is that the price of solar panels have significantly fallen over the years, and the electricity prices have risen dramatically. This changes the whole situation and has a significant impact on your decision which type of solar panel to buy. Feed-in tariffs have also risen over the years.
The only limitations you might have are your budget and the space on your roof, and the amount your DNSP allows you to install. For most homes, an ideal number of panels is 6.6 kW, (approximately 22 in total), including 5 kW inverter. Adding new solar panels after the installation process can be very expensive and complicated while adding them in the initial phase can be surprisingly cheap.
The cost of many panels depends on many factors. However, most U.S homeowners can expect to pay approximately $3 per watt. For instance, a 5000-watt solar panel installation might cost you around $15,000. Keep in mind that these figures are excluding solar tax credits which reduce costs by 30% to approximately $10,500.
As mentioned before, solar energy systems experience economies of scale. To put it simply, a large solar panel installation will definitely have a lower cost per watt, even though there is an increase in the total cost of panels. Medium-sized businesses can also reach solar panel costs below$2 per watt, which is significantly lower than the cost of the residentially installed solar panels. Interestingly, solar energy can achieve an installed system cost below $1 per watt in extensive facilities.
When it comes to residential solar power systems, they do not have such a huge variation in cost. Still, there is a slight price variation based on scale. For instance, a 10-kW solar system is more expensive than a 2-kW solar system installation, but its cost per watt will be lower.
Most of the solar companies usually have their calculators on their websites, which you can use to calculate the amount you can expect to pay for your solar panel system in accordance with your requirements and home conditions.
Do note that an accurate solar panel installation cost can only be calculated with the assistance of a professional assessment of your property.
3. Does your roof support solar panels?
Your roof must have enough “solar window” to justify the cost of the panel. If there is a lot of shade, a solar panel will not absorb enough sunlight and make solar energy. Also, if your roof has enough sunlight, make sure it is in good shape structurally.
Also, keep in mind that most solar panels come with warranties for 20 or 25 years. If you already know that your roof will need a renovation in a few years, you should do that prior to solar panel installation.
Finally, if there is a lot of greenery around your house, and you planted very tall trees, you might be in trouble in a couple of years. One way to solve that is to prune your foliage to keep your roof clear and useful for solar panel installation.
4. Have you done everything that’ in your power to improve efficiency?
Before paying for solar panels, you need to trim your usage as much as possible. In a nutshell, the amount of solar energy you need to produce depends heavily on how much energy you use.
5. Should you hire a professional solar panel installer or install the panel yourself?
One of the options when thinking about solar panel installation is to consider installing a solar panel yourself. However, while many people believe that the knowledge and expertise of a professional solar panel installer is invaluable when installing a solar panel, others believe that there is no need to hire them and that technical knowledge needed is more trouble than worth.
If you do not feel comfortable installing a solar panel yourself and if you think you do not have enough knowledge and that things may easily go wrong if you do it by yourself it’s always advisable to rely on a professional.
You’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of solar power and get some peace of mind that the installation process was done correctly, efficiently and safely. Instead of worrying about whether things might collapse, damage or even fail in a few years, get a professional’s help, and you will know that everything is the way it supposed to be.
One of the reasons why people choose to install a solar panel themselves is because it allows them to save a lot of money. Theoretically, it is possible to do that as long as you plan properly, follow the instructions carefully and are willing to work. No matter whether you decide to hire a professional or do it yourself, know that the most important thing in this process is to do the planning properly.
Before you purchase panels, you’ll want to do your research on how to go solar. Everything from permitting laws to leasing panels instead of buying should be considered.
6. What Are the Advantages of DIY Solar?
Home solar kits are an excellent solution if you aim to power just a part of your property. In other words, RVs, increasingly popular tiny houses and boats are all good opportunities to explore DIY solar because most of these objects are already off-grid and mobile.
In other words, if you have a large property and want to power up an outlying area such as a toolshed or a barn, or you want to install outdoor lights, you might consider doing solar yourself. Namely, in such cases, your electricity demands might be relatively low, which means that purchasing a small home solar kit and installing it yourself is feasible.
7. What to Expect from the Professional Solar Installation Process?
You probably noticed how technical, dangerous, and time-consuming it is to install solar panels on your own. Though a DIY solar energy system can save you money on installation costs, it may not always be the best choice. The professional solar installation allows you to enjoy the cost-saving and energy benefits of solar without the dangers of a DIY installation.
The first and the most important thing you need to have in mind is that professional solar installation saves you a lot of money and time. A professional will have enough knowledge, experience and skills to do the installation process perfectly.
Basically, a solar panel can be installed in approximately one to three months from the day you sign your contract. This is good because it allows you to do the planning, inspections and permitting process easily and without stress. However, the actual installation takes only two or three days to be accomplished.
Check out a professional solar panel installation timeline:
- Site visit to determine the home’s solar potential, inspect the wiring and check the roof structure
- Applying for local permits
- Selecting your solar equipment and payment option— leasing, leasing to own, or buying outright
- Panel installation
- Final inspection and approval by government and utility company inspectors
Benefits of a professional solar installation
If you are still having second thoughts about whether to do the installation process yourself or hire a professional, take all the benefits of the professional solar panel installation into account:
Certified technicians: If you decide to hire a reputable professional solar panel technician, they will be certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. This kind of certification requires the professional to pass the written test and complete solar installation training.
DIY may not be allowed: Some local governments and HOAs may not allow DIY solar panel installations and will require installation exclusively by professionals who are trained to install solar panels in the right way.
Safer than DIY: As we mentioned before, while DIY solar panel installation might be a cheaper way to install a solar panel, it can also be sometimes hazardous and unsafe. Unless you have experience working with electricity, inverters, and wiring, professional installation is much safer. If you improperly wire a solar energy system, the system can spark fires and will most likely void your solar panel warranty.
Expert advice: Another great benefit of hiring a solar panel professional is the expert advice he or she will give you regarding any issue or dilemma that may arise along the way. For instance, a professional may help you decide on the best solar panel for your home, the best location where to install it, and troubleshooting once the installation is completed.
Higher quality materials: If you choose a professional, they will most certainly and most often offer multiple options in several price ranges. Also, solar panels installed by professionals often come with extensive warranties, which means you’re protected if anything malfunctions.
8. How to Find a Knowledgeable and Qualified Solar Panel Installer?
With a wide variety of solar panels on the ever-increasing market, choosing the one that will fit your needs is not an easy task. However, it is vital to select a solar panel that will work for you in the years to come. There are two dominant solar technologies you can choose from: photovoltaic and thermal. Photovoltaic uses arrays of cells to turn sunlight into electricity, and thermal uses sunlight to heat water or air for the use inside.
Naturally, what type of solar panels you decide to put on your roof depends highly on your needs and preferences. If you want to generate usable electricity from your rooftop and contribute back to the larger grid, you should probably go for true photovoltaic arrays.
These kinds of solar panels can cost quite a lot of money, and therefore are not the right choice for anyone who is looking for the cheapest but effective solution. On the other hand, homeowners who buy photovoltaic solar panels can rest assured that they will have the power to spare as long as the sun shines.
Any qualified solar panel installer will always advise buyers to focus on the solar panel that will work the best for the given specific location of their home. Qualified solar installers can usually advise clients on which particular types of systems will work best given the precise location of a home.
If you are planning to install solar panels to provide electricity from less demanding applications, such as heating water for your home swimming pool, a much simpler solar thermal system, should be your choice. A basic hot water system usually consists of a solar collector—basically a small metal box with a glass or plastic cover and a black copper or aluminium absorber plate inside—tied into the building’s plumbing and electrical works.
However, according to experts, a thermal solar panel is rare for homes, which means that finding a qualified installer might be challenging.
If you hire a professional installer, they can get your home up and running for less than $4,000 in most cases. While you will probably spend more money on your electricity bills, you will enjoy the fact that you have lowered your family’s carbon footprint significantly.
Another thing you need to pay close attention to is the installer you plan to hire. You don’t want to rely on someone who will not be around to help you in case something goes wrong. Even though solar panel cells need very little maintenance, you can never be sure whether something will stop working during the warranty period or not. That’s why it is best to hire some company that will stick around for the lifetime of your installation.
There are a few things you need to consider when looking for a professional and reliable installer:
- Is your installer licensed and reputable solar panel installer?
- Have you contacted the installation company to check if they are dealing with any pending or active judgements?
- How much experience does that installer have?
9. Lease or buy?
Doing financial analysis is imperative when making such a big investment like solar panel installation. If you buy your system, it will cost you much more upfront but pays bigger dividends. On the other hand, leasing lets you access cheaper electricity, but the benefits are more limited. Basically, if you lease the company you contract with owns the solar system.
This means that when the lease is up, they may take the solar panel away. Also, when doing your financial analysis, keep in mind that other components of a solar power system like a solar inverter and other equipment do not last long. So, you need to factor the replacement of those parts as well.
10. What things do you need to pay attention to in your contract?
Signing a contract can be very stressful, especially if a lot of money is at stake. Therefore, the contract you sign should cover all the essentials, including details of financing, ownership and performance expectations. Also, be mindful that solar systems are collecting data on your home energy production. Before signing a contract, you need to check if anyone is collecting data and who has access to it.
However, if you are not sure about what details your contract needs to cover, it’s always better to hire a legal advisor.
Make sure the contract specifies the models of equipment which will be installed. If any other additional work is required like upgrading your electric distribution board, this should also be listed in the contract. On top of this, your contract should provide you with all the details on what your solar panel production will be like given the characteristics of your roof.
Unlike some other homes where solar panels are unshaded and are perfectly facing the Sun, your home might be in a position where the roof is in half shade and does not have such great solar potential. However, be mindful that only a few solar systems are constructed in a way that installers can guarantee a real-world production for your site.
If you have any questions regarding either solar panel installation, its parts or warranties, feel free to ask the contractors. You have the right to cancel and get the full refund in case the contractor does not install the brand of the equipment specified in the contract.
Now that you have evaluated your home’s efficiency, considered the type of a solar panel you want to invest in and thought about whether your rooftop is adequate for solar panel installation, you are ready to start the installation process.
11. What other ways are there to save money when doing solar?
When making such a big decision like installing in a solar system, you are probably considering a variety of options and want to choose the one that will have the highest financial benefit for you. Here are another three things you can do besides DIY solar to save your money:
- Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or even more
It is now apparent that when making massive purchases like a solar power system for your home, you need to do a lot of research and consider a whole range of options before you find the one that perfectly suits your needs and requirements. This includes a thorough review of companies in your area.
According to recent research by U.S Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, it is advisable for consumers to compare as many solar options as possible before to avoid paying huge prices offered by large installers in the solar system industry. Sometimes you can save up to $5000 to $10.000 on your solar panel installation if you get 3 or more quotes.
2. All the big installers usually don’t offer the best price
Although the best installer offers the best service and most efficient solar panels, they usually do not provide the best pricing options. The bigger is not always the better. For instance, a report done by the US Government found that large installers are from $2000 to $5000 more expensive than smaller solar panel installers.
So, to get all the benefits from your solar panel installer, make sure you compare the bids of the biggest solar panel installers to the local ones so that you don’t overpay for the solar.
3. Comparing the prices of the entire equipment that is included in solar power systems and is also important
The biggest national scale installers often offer solar power systems that do not include various equipment options for your solar panel installation. This might have a huge impact on your system’s electricity production.
That’s why doing a thorough research and collecting a diverse array of bids can help you compare costs and savings based on different equipment packages that those smaller local distributors offer.
When choosing your solar panel, there are many factors to think about. While some panels will have higher efficiency level, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that will result in higher savings. One of the ways you can find a solar panel that will perfectly suit your needs is to get quotes from local contractors.
12. What Steps do I Need to Take before Installation
Here are some crucial steps you need to take before the installation process begins.
- Engineering site visit
Once you sign the contract with your installation company, an engineer will visit you and your property to do the evaluation of your home’s electrical status and make sure that everything is compatible with your new energy system. The engineer will visit your home soon after you sign with your installer.
The first thing the engineer will do is evaluate the condition of your roof because he needs to make sure that everything is structurally sound. He will check your electrical panel and tell if you need to upgrade it. This means that your new solar panel will require more Amps of current, and the ampere capacity of your electrical box will have to decrease.
Keep in mind though that this engineer visit differs from a general site visit when an installer evaluates the size, angle of the roof, shading, roof type and other home properties to check if your home is adequate for solar panel installation. Also, in some cases, an installer might take photos and do all the measurements.
- Mount Installation
To install your solar panels, you need to make sure your mounts will support them. These mounts can be flush mounts or roof ground mounts, depending on the requirements. This is the base structure that provides support and sturdiness to solar panels. The best way to fix the mounting structure is in the direction where solar panels will get the maximum sunlight.
For instance, for the countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the best direction is south because it gets maximum sunlight. When it comes to the Southern Hemisphere, the best direction is North. Also, the mounting structure should be slightly tilted.
A typical mounting structure is made of aluminium. A solar panel tilt angle should be in accordance with the latitude of your location anywhere in the world. This is important because modules placed at the tilt angle equivalent to the latitude will generate the maximum energy output.
13. How to Install Solar Panels?
Probably the most important thing when it comes to installing solar panels is to hire a competent and experienced installer. These people have a lot of experience in solar panel systems; they know the ins and outs of installation. A qualified installer will install and position the solar system correctly and ensure that everything runs smoothly and that everything is safe for use.
The installation process lasts for about two hours on average. However, the process might also be very long and drawn out because there are a lot of contracts you need to go through before you actually start the installation. So the entire process might last for a few days. Once you sign a contract with an installer, you have to contact the electrical company and sign the contract with them.
But, the procedure doesn’t stop there. The electrical company must approve the contract and then evaluate the efficiency of the system and the safety of connections. This is of enormous importance as it may warn us about any potential dangers, malfunctions or safety issues.
Besides this, you will need to have some additional consultations. If you are installing your solar panel on your roof, a roofing constructor should come to your home to determine if your roof will be able to bear the weight of the solar panel.
Next, you will have to work yourself into the schedule of solar panel installers. However, all that effort and waiting time pay off – you will take advantage of going green and reducing your carbon footprint.
We will walk you through all the steps you need to take to install your solar panel correctly:
Assemble Solar Panels
Naturally, before installing the solar panels, you need to assemble them. First, we fix the solar structure accurately, and then we connect it with solar modules. Do note that all the pieces of solar modules are fixed with solar structure so that it is adequately secured and that it lasts long.
2. Electrical Wiring
To connect your solar panels you need MC4 connectors. These connectors are universal, and you can connect them to any solar panel. The entire wiring becomes more simple with these connectors.
One thing you need to have in mind before you begin wiring your solar system are the types of wires you use to connect your solar panels with the rest of the solar construction. Choosing the right cabling is critical when installing your solar panel system because it assures that the system will function properly without causing any malfunctions or damages in the years to come.
If you choose the wrong wiring, this may have an adverse impact on your batteries causing them not to charge your batteries fully, and as a result, your appliances may not work at their full power.
Solar Wire Types
Solar systems use electrical wire which is categorised mainly based on its conductor type. There are two basic wire types: a wire with a single metal wire core (a single-stranded conductor), and a multiple wire core ( a multi-stranded conductor). Unlike single-stranded conductor, multiple stranded conductors perform better in continuous vibration environments like mobile applications in cars, planes, boats and trains.
On the other hand, a single-stranded conductor is most frequently used in domestic wiring and should work fine for your solar system. However, if you live in area where there are a lot of high winds, you might want to think about using wire types with multi-stranded conductor mainly because it is more durable and more flexible.
PV Wire Ratings
Another thing you need to bear in mind is the way wires you use for your solar panel system are rated. Amps measure them. In a nutshell, the higher the current (amps) your solar system is rated at, the thicker your PV wire has to be. For instance, if your system produces 7 Amps, you will need a 7 Amp wire. However, it is sometimes better to get a slightly higher Amps wire (9 or 10 Amp wire) because it will ensure you can handle the current.
On the other hand, if you use wire that is rated at less Ams than your solar system produces, your voltage may drop, and this may cause severe damage, as your solar panel wire will most likely heat up and may even catch fire. So, choosing your wiring wisely.
Solar Wire thickness
Besides the type of your solar panel wiring and its ratings, you also need to think about solar wire thickness. Thicker solar panel wires cost more than the regular PV wires because they can handle more Amps.
For example, when choosing wire for your system, you can choose either a little thicker for safety or just thick enough but vulnerable to a sudden power surge. Probably the best solution is to opt for the solar panel wire big enough to cope with the biggest current drawing appliances.
Also, there is a solar panel wire calculator you can use to find the best wire for your solar panel system.
Another thing to think about when selecting your solar panel wire is its length. Basically, if you choose to use a longer wire for your solar panel system, and connect it to a high current appliance, you need to make sure that wire is with more Amps.
Otherwise, there might be a voltage drop which might cause a fire. The longer your cable is, the higher the Amp rating on your wire needs to be. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to follow the safety measure and avoid causing any serious damage or even dangerous environment not only for you but also for your neighbourhood. So, when choosing a wire, don’t be shy to buy a thicker one.
Also, if you buy a thicker wire, you can ensure that potentially high current appliances bought in the future will be able to handle the current. To cut a long story short, if you want to invest in the future and avoid thinking and worrying about whether something wrong will happen or not, make sure you prepare for the future and get the solar panel wires that will ensure the safety of your solar system and your home.
PV wire Gauge Guide
To choose the right wiring for your solar panel more easily, take a look at the Amps column below and choose the right wire gauge (thickness) for your Amp rating plus your wire length.
There is one more thing to think about when choosing the wiring system of your solar. The wire from your battery to the rest of your photovoltaic components must be able to handle the total Amps of all individual runs, plus at least 35% more.
In addition to all the previously mentioned safety measure when choosing wiring, bear in mind that it is always a safer option to select solar wires that are shorter in length instead of buying very thick and expensive cables to compensate for unnecessary length.
However, to make sure have done all things right, it’s not a bad idea to consult an expert, a certified electrician who will let you know that you have chosen the right solar wires before your solar power system before you do the wiring and solar panel installation.
By sticking to the rules, you will definitely improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of your solar panel system without having to worry about whether it will cause damage to your home or not in future.
3. Connecting the solar panel with the solar inverter
The next thing you need to do is connect the solar panel wires to the inverter. The picture above illustrates that. You need to join the negative cable of the solar panel with the negative terminal and the positive wire with the positive terminal.
In addition to this, there are battery wire connections and output wire connections with the inverter too. All in all, solar battery, grid, and solar panel are connected with the solar inverter to produce electricity. Also, ensure that the inverter is turned off while you are connecting the wires.
4. Connecting the solar battery with the solar inverter
The battery is a mandatory part of the solar installation process because it keeps the energy stored in one place. It is connected to with a solar inverter to recharge it with a solar panel and grid. Again, the negative terminal of the battery is connected to the negative of the inverter and vice versa.
5. Connecting a solar inverter and grid
To connect the inverter to the grid, plug it in in the main power switchboard. In this way, it will get power from the grid. There is an output wire which is directly connected to the board whose role is to supply the electricity in the home.
6. Starting solar inverter through solar panel and grid
Once you make all the necessary connections, the next step is to switch on the mains. There is a digital display showing the total solar unit that has been generated throughout the day (information like what is supply Walt and current (in amps) coming from solar panels, etc.
If you are still not sure how the entire solar system should be installed, check out the video below.
14. How to Maintain Solar Panel?
Once you have installed your solar power system, you need to devote your time and consider the ways how to maintain your solar panel.
Since solar panels do not have moving parts, there is no need for a lot of maintenance. In other words, once you have covered all the costs of solar panel installation, you do not have to spend a lot of money on maintaining it.
However, what you should do is to inspect them a few times per year to check if there is dirt or some other things have piled up on top of the solar panel. Solar panels must be clean without anything blocking them from absorbing sun efficiently.
You can clean your solar panels efficiently, but before you do that consult the installer regarding warranty conditions. Some manufacturers may even terminate the warranty in case you clean them yourself. If you decide to do general cleaning, you can simply use a normal hose to wash the front side of solar panels and the best time to do this is either in the morning or evening.
Also, keep in mind that you will probably damage them if you spray them with cold water while they are still hot. If your solar panels are very dirty, you might clean them with a sponge with soapy water or look for the services from some reputable cleaning company.
On top of this, its always advisable to have your solar system examined every 4-6 years by the installer just to check if there are any malfunctions you need to fix, or something similar.
If you have any dilemmas regarding how to maintain your solar panel system, you can always consult your solar panel installer about specific maintenance requirements for your solar system.
15. What are some of the Top Solar Panel Installers?
Now that we have gone through the things you need to consider when installing a solar panel and what steps you need to take to install your solar panel, let’s outline some of the best solar panel installers on the market:
- Sunrise Solar Solutions: If you’re in the New York Tri-State area, take a look at Sunrise Solar Solutions. They see a perfect score on Yelp (5 out of 5 stars, based on 12 reviews) and customers varyingly praise the installer for seamless installation experiences, excellent post-installation support and repair, and system design so that homeowners see that greatest – and fastest – financial payback. That kind of customer attention is what you’re looking for!
- Ipsun Solar: Washington DC homeowners love Ipsun and rate it 5 out of 5 stars (based on ten reviews). Customers report their staff is responsive and thorough, without any sales pressure – quite a rarity in the solar industry. Their installers are tidy, quick, and professional. Customer after customer praises their near-perfect customer service – even after the installation is complete.
- LA Solar Group: Serving the Los Angeles area, LA Solar Group enjoys an incredible 5-star rating out of a whopping 300+ reviews! Homeowners praise the company’s accurate production estimates, low-pressure salespeople, and fast installation time. Exactly what you’re looking for, with a perfect score to match.
- Good Faith Energy: Good Faith Energy installs solar as well as EV charging equipment and smart home equipment in the Dallas/Ft Worth area. Customers praise their management and customer service, saying the employees generally care about you and your home. Can’t get better than that. On Yelp, they have 4.5 out of 5 stars, based on 13 reviews.
- Jinko Solar – one of the world’s largest solar energy companies and top solar panel manufacturers. Headquartered in Shanghai, China, JinkoSolar distributes its solar products and sells its solutions and services to a diversified international utility, commercial and residential customer base in China, the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Chile, South Africa, India, Mexico, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, and other countries and regions. In 2018, JinkoSolar shipped a total 11.4 GW of modules, making it the largest solar panel manufacturer in the world.
- Canadian Solar – Canadian Solar is another one of the largest solar panel manufacturers in the world, providing the world’s leading solar PV modules and advanced solar energy solutions. Canadian Solar is headquartered in Ontario, Canada, but has production facilities in China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil, where ingots, wafers, solar cells, solar PV modules, solar power systems and specialized solar products are manufactured. By far, Canadian Solar has shipped more than 32 GW PV modules over its 18-year history; it also has over 9.5 GW shipment in the pipeline.
- Tesla, Los Angeles: Like the other national companies above, SolarCity/Tesla suffers from extremely polarized reviews. Customers either love them and praise their work, or absolutely hate them with a vengeance. Case in point, 190 customers have left Tesla’s Los Angeles branch reviews. Sixty-two left a perfect five stars, while 111 left 1 star (the worst possible rating, as zero stars, isn’t an option). That leaves just 17 reviewers who gave 2 to 4 stars. Complaints range from poor customer service to roof damage with an accompanying refusal to fix. Generally speaking, if nothing goes wrong, customers have a great experience. However, if something unexpected comes up, be prepared for a headache. Other SolarCity branches suffer from similar scores. Their Pethpage, NY branch sees 1.5 stars, and their Phoenix branch sees 2.5 stars.
- Longi Solar is a world-leading mono-crystalline solar module manufacturer and LCOE (Levelized cost of electricity) solution provider. The company, headquartered in Xi’an, China and owned by the LONGi Group, has focused on p-mono for nearly two decades and is nowadays the largest supplier of mono-crystalline products in the world, with total assets above $5.71 billion by 2018, LONGi Group has plans to reach 45 GW monocrystalline wafer production capacity by 2020.
- Sunrun, Sacramento: Thirty-two reviewers have left Yelp feedback on Sunrun’s Sacramento branch, which sees an average review of 2.5 out of 5 stars. Reviews run the gamut from praising professional, knowledgeable sales staff (of which there are many at Sunrun) to horror stories of both terrible customer experiences and poorly installed systems. At a branch like this, where experiences are so polarized, a good salesperson can either make or break your experience, so best to get a referral from a friend. Sunrun’s Denver branch and Burbank branch fair better, both seeing 3.5 stars, but their reviews are still not entirely up to the companies above.
- Vivint Solar, Salt Lake City: On the extreme low end comes Vivint Solar’s hometown branch of Salt Lake City. The branch sees a dismal 1.5 out of 5 stars, based on 14 reviews. Customers continually complain of dodgy sales tactics and extremely poor customer service, with one waiting six months+ for a maintenance call. Best to stay away from this branch. Unfortunately, Vivint doesn’t fair too well in other areas either, with both their Fresno, CA branch and Mesa, AZ branch suffering from 2-star reviews.
- GCL-SI is a Hong Kong-based solar energy companies, which was founded in 1990. Since then, the company has had significant growth. As 2018, GCL-SI supplies nearly 30% of the total global wafer capacity wafer yield, represents 22.2% silicon market shares, and owns global assets worth nearly 3.3 billion USD, making it one of the leading solar energy companies in the world.
- Talesun Solar Technologies is a world’s leading manufacturer of photovoltaic solar cells and modules. Headquartered in Suzhou, China, Talesun Solar has an annual capacity of 4 GW cells and 5 GW modules. So far, Talesun Solar has cumulatively invested and developed more than 6 GW PV power plants, and its accumulative module shipment surpassed 10 GW.
15. What Is my Return on Investment?
One of the reasons why people spend a lot of time considering the idea of investing in a solar panel system is the money they have to invest in it. But, let’s say you decide to set up a solar array of at least 345 square feet and manage to reduce your annual grid-based power consumption by at least 90%. How long do you think it will take for you to earn back the investment?
If your overall installation costs amount to a total of $33,000 to $40, 000 dollars for an array of 345 square feet, you will be able to reduce an average annual power bill of $1500 by 90% and save $1350 annually.
There is also a possibility you will attain complete electrical self-sufficiency. However, if you take weather conditions, electrical efficiency and other conditions into account, this is unlikely to happen. However, if you save $1350 each year, your investment of $33, 000 will pay off in less than 20 years.
Apart from this, other things can help you have your return on investment rapidly. Namely, there is a federal tax credit available to all homeowners who decide to go solar. This tax covers 30% of your solar panel installation costs. On top of this, you may choose from a number of annual or one-time state tax and utility credits your state offers and take advantage of them.
These programs vary depending on the country you live in, but most countries offer similar programs which will shorten your ROI.
16. How to Connect Solar Panels Together
If you want to increase your solar panel capabilities, the easiest and the most effective way to do that is to connect solar panels simply and effectively. The ultimate aim of using solar panels is to go green through solar power as the ultimate power source.
Naturally, as solar energy is so accessible to all of us, it makes sense to use it as much as possible to power up our homes and stay environmentally friendly at the same time. Interestingly, people tend to overlook the immense impact of connecting solar panels in a parallel or series combination.
By connecting your solar panels will increase the voltage and power output significantly. But how to do that? The trick is to choose a connection method that will provide you with the most energy-efficient configuration for your particular situation.
Although it might seem like a real challenge, connecting solar panels is not that complex with a little thought.
In its core, there are three primary ways you can connect your solar panel systems, and each of those connection methods is designed for a specific purpose. For instance, solar panels systems can be wired in a series or parallel combination to increase the voltage or amperage.
Plus, they can be wired together in both series and parallel in order to increase both current output and the voltage. In that way, they will produce a higher wattage array which is precisely what you need to get the full value of your solar panels.
You can connect two or more solar panels to improve the efficiency of your solar system. The most important thing is to understand the basic principles of connecting your solar systems and how each of the connection methods works.
Connecting solar panels in series is mostly used when you have a grid-connected inverter or a charge controller that requires 24 volts or more. You connect the positive terminal with the negative terminal until you are left with a single positive and negative connection. In this way, solar panels sum the voltages produced by each panel.
Connecting your solar panels in parallel is used to boost the total system current. It is the reverse of connecting solar panels in series. This type of wiring allows you to connect all the positive terminals (positive with positive) and all the negative terminals until you are left with a single positive and a single negative connection which you then attach to your regulator and batteries.
As a result, once you connect all of your solar panels in parallels, the total voltage remains the same as it would for a single solar panel, but the output current becomes the sum of the output of each individual solar panel.
To sum up, if you are thinking about connecting your solar panel to increase its potential and get the biggest value from your solar panel installation, keep in mind that parallel wiring means more amperes and that series wiring means more voltage. So, with the right solar panels, wrong and their combination, you can easily power up almost any electrical appliance or device you might have in your house.
Still in doubt? Take a look at some of the most common solar questions:
Solar Panel Installation questions – answered and explained
How much will I save on my electricity bills every month?
This depends on several factors: the rate for your utility company charges, the place where you live, etc.
Generally, the goal of most solar panel providers is to offset 70%-90% of your monthly electricity bill. This means that at the end of the months you will only have to pay for the net amount of electricity.
For instance, you have banked $150 in solar energy credits and used $200 worth of electricity for the entire month. Instead of paying $150, you would only need to pay $50.
2. Will I have to replace solar panels at some point in future?
If you invest in a solar panel produced by a reputable solar installer company who offer warranties that last between 20 and 30 years, you probably won’t need to change your solar panel ever. Taking into account that solar panels are easy to maintain and that there are no moving parts, they will keep on generating energy for you for a long time so that you may expect the return on your investment in the upcoming years. Namely, newer models will offer warranties that last 50+ years.
3. Will solar panel installation increase my home or business’ property value?
As mentioned before, solar panel systems are a significant investment. According to the research conducted by A.U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development Study every $1000 you save in electric costs thanks to a solar array every year, you will be able to earn around $20,000 in property value. How great is that?
4. How does solar energy benefit the environment?
The best thing about solar energy is that it is free and there is a lot of it. If we find a way to use it a variety of ways, we will never have to dig for coal or refine other toxic energy sources to keep the lights on. Also, solar energy reduces your carbon footprint by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. This significantly contributes to climate change. Plus, this means that there will be considerably less harmful pollutants in air, land and water.
5. Will Installing solar panels damage my roof?
There is no way solar panels can damage your roof. The only thing solar panels can do is to protect your roof from damage and keep it cooler. As we have already mentioned before, there is a whole range of mounting systems you can choose from, all of which will damage your roof as little as possible.
6. Is solar energy robust and reliable for my home or business?
The only time solar panel stops producing energy is in the evening when the sun sets. Sun is constant, it is always there to produce energy and is more reliable than most of the power plants, which often experience outages, and this happens several thousand times a year. This is why solar energy is gaining more popularity every day.
According to recent research, there are currently more than 1.5 million residential solar systems in the U.S. This means that one consumer switches to residential solar energy every 90 seconds. Solar energy contributes to a cleaner environment and lowers electricity bills.
If you are environmentally-aware and would like to do something not only for your environment but also for your well-being and the well-being of your family, you need to be environmentally aware and ready to do everything that’s in your power to make the world greener.
Investing in a solar panel system is one way to contribute to the world you live in. Although it might seem like a considerable investment that doesn’t bring much value, solar panel installation is imperative if you are looking for clean energy.
Don’t waste your time thinking about whether the solar panel system is a good investment. Instead, consider the information we presented in this guide and choose a solar panel that suits your needs.
If you have any more questions regarding solar panel installation, feel free to contact us! We will be more than eager to answer any of your questions and make your decision-making process as easy and smooth as possible.