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The Solar Installation Process: Understanding the Basics

Florida is one of the sunniest states in the union, and it has one of the fastest-growing solar energy markets in the nation as well. Perhaps, that shouldn’t come as a surprise – after all, it isn’t called “The Sunshine State” for nothing!

Maybe you are a Florida homeowner who has decided to “go solar,” but you still aren’t sure about the process? What should you expect? What steps are involved in solar installation?

For answers to these questions and more, continue reading below! There is a lot more involved in the solar installation process than most people realize, but don’t worry, the professionals can handle it all so you don’t have to be a solar energy expert. It may be beneficial, however, to have a basic idea of how the installation process works.

Site Evaluation – Step One

Once you decide to go solar and contact a solar installation company, the first thing installers will need to do is a site evaluation. Some basic information may be gathered over the phone in an initial interview, but an on-site inspection is a must before solar installation actually begins.

First of all, inspectors will determine if your roof is adequate for solar panels or if a ground-mounted unit might be superior. Most people go with roof-mounted systems, but you do need to have enough roof space that gets plenty of sunshine to make the panels fully efficient.

Assuming a roof-mounted system, the next step is to determine where to position the solar panels on the roof. Aside from considerations of avoiding shade from, perhaps, nearby trees or other buildings, solar positioning is based on optimal orientation to the sun – normally orienting towards “true south” in the US. 

Because of the difference between the true south pole and the south magnetic pole, the optimal orientation for solar energy collection varies from place to place. Installation experts can determine this and plan for optimal orientation. As long as your roof is within thirty degrees of true south, this can be done. Rarely is the building itself already oriented optimally since most homes were not built with solar panels in mind.

Next, the pitch of your roof has to be taken into account as this will affect what angle the panels should be installed at. The angle of solar installation will also affect at what times of day the most solar energy is collected, and this is calculated in conjunction with local climate patterns to determine the best overall angle to aim for.

Finally, inspectors will need to look at the condition of your roof and roofing. You need to know that the roof can handle the extra weight. Plus, you may want to go for full roof replacement (of shingles) unless your roofing is very new. Why? Because it will cost something extra to have to remove and reinstall solar panels when you do re-roof – better to install new panels on roofing that is “as new as possible.”

Step Two – Getting the Power Grid Ready

If your home’s electrical system isn’t already ready for solar panels, that will have to be done before you can activate your solar system. Inspectors will have to analyze the capacity of your current setup and compare that to the amount of output you will need based on your desired solar system size.

You may be able to drastically reduce or eliminate your power bill through solar installation – or even end up getting a check from the electric company each month for surplus power you contribute to the grid. A specific formula will determine how many solar panels you need to accomplish your goals.

You will have to look at how much energy you typically consume, how much sun exposure (solar insolation) your roof gets daily, seasonally, and annually, and at the locations where the most sunshine falls overall (your solar window). 

The electric panel, home wiring, inverters, storage batteries, and all other components of your chosen solar system design will affect how much power is being dealt with (the “load”) – and obviously, safety needs to come first. 

Finally, you will also need to consider where to place the “firefighter safety switch.” This switch allows the solar system to be isolated in case of a fire – and given how high-voltage many solar systems are, that’s a very wise safety precaution.

Step Three – The Actual Solar Installation

Installation day has finally arrived! Everything has been inspected and brought up to snuff it was not already. What should you expect?

First of all, roof anchors will be attached to your roof in the relevant locations to support the overall roof racks (which hold the solar panels.) This is a time-consuming part of the job. It has to be done with great care because it will determine the outcome of the rest of the process.

Framing may consist of aluminum rails that are bolted to the brackets, though every system is a little bit different in how it is put together. Again, a lot of time will be taken up ensuring that the framing is put on straight. Fine adjustments can be made through built-in adjusters, but it has to be very close to begin with to make fine-tuning possible.

The solar panels are then attached to the frame. The panels must then be wired together correctly to each other and to the power inverter(s). Charge controllers, power storage batteries, and other system components will also have to be wired up at this point. The total system is then wired to the breaker box. Oftentimes, there may be specialized monitoring devices that also need to be installed so you can easily track your power production and consumption.

Finally, the completely installed solar system has to be inspected by a local authority, tested, and certified. Depending on your jurisdiction, your solar installation company may be able to do this for you, while other localities require a government inspector for this final part of the solar installation process.

This brief overview of what to expect during the solar installation process should make installation day a lot more interesting and give you some comfort in knowing the basics of what is going on on your roof!

To learn more about solar installation or about the benefits of solar energy, contact your local solar installation experts at Sheegog Contracting today! We can give you a free consultation and a free, no-obligation quote.

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