In a world of quick expiration dates and unreliable subsidies, the time it takes to install a solar system on your house matters. A lot of it depends on how quickly your local government gives permits, and the companies you decide to use. Here is a rough estimate of what to expect:
Pre-Work: Two months or less
This really depends on the customer. If applying for federal loans or grants, this amount of time varies. If you are on top of it, it could take much less time. You also need to pick a company and get estimates for the cost. When you finally sign the paperwork, the project becomes official.
Gathering Site Specific Data: Weeks One and Two
Various experts from the solar installation company come out to assess the job that must be done. Construction workers and engineers will survey the house and land surrounding it. Electricians may come in to update wiring and make sure the energy produced from the PV cells can be transferred into your house and onto the grid.
“So usually what you do is sign a customer for a contract for a certain system size,” said Dan Lezama, the owner of Sun Dollar Energy LLC, a solar installation company based in Raleigh, NC. This ‘system size’ means the actual number of panels you want on and around your house.
Photo by: Takver
Designing the Project: Weeks Three and Four
The contractors and company design a feasible plan of what the PV cells will look like, and how to go about installing them. You must then look them over and approve of the plans. If you want to make changes, the designing process could go on much longer.
“We are a full service turnkey provider,” said Bethany Theede, the office manager of Yes Solar Solutions, a solar panel installing company. “ We design the system based on the consumer’s energy usage and we design the panels to be placed on the roof to get the most usage. South facing roofs are best.”
Permit Submission and Approval: Week Five
This depends on your local government, and how prepared you are to apply for a permit. Some governments take only a day, whereas others can take weeks, especially if the customer doesn’t apply properly.
Installation: Week Six
After you have the go ahead to install, you must then schedule the installation. It usually takes one or two days to properly assemble the PV cells on the building.
Photo by: Chris Kantos
Inspection and Approval: Weeks Seven and Eight
The city will usually come out and make sure the PV cells are working properly. Your electric utility may also inspect and put in a new meter for you.
“The most time consuming thing is getting approval from the utility company and getting a building permit,” said Lezama. “It entirely depends on what town you’re in; some places you can get them in a day, sometimes in a week. The utility approval is usually a 2 week process.”