When thinking about installing solar panels, the very first thing homeowners think of is how long will it take to install solar panels. While the actual installation can take less than six to eight hours, going the solar route is more than just getting those electricians up your roof. With all the inspection and applying for building and solar permits, you are looking at a two to six months timeframe from purchase to power.
Read on for a detailed walkthrough on how much time you should expect to spend on each step of your solar panel installation journey. Let’s begin.
A Timeline of Solar Panel Installation
The timeline for going solar can vary depending on several factors such as your location, chosen solar company, selected solar panels, etc. Anything additional like service panel installation can further delay the whole process. Under normal circumstances, the process takes approximately 45 days from the time a signed contract is submitted in California. However, the majority of the delay is typically due to the permit process and waiting for the utility company to process your solar billing application. It is important to have strong project communication and professional installation partners to minimize the overall time.
Now while you may not be directly involved in the actual installation process, understanding how each step works is crucial to estimate how much time exactly each step takes and why.
1. Choosing an Installer
Required amount of time: A few hours to a day
Often the first step is the most important one. So is the case here too. choosing the right company makes all the difference between getting it done within your budget and grossly overpaying. Find a solar installer company that has proper experience and NABCEP-certified installers.
Although you can do it in just a few hours, take your time and get quotes from a few companies and compare. Make sure that you are getting the best quality of work for the best price.
2. Site Assessment
Required amount of time: About a week from the moment you schedule the assessment.
After selecting a solar company, the first step is to assess the site for solar readiness and safety. This is done to ensure that your existing electrical panel can safely handle the amount of energy production you are willing to get from the solar panel. They also inspect the condition and dimensions of your roof to make sure there’s adequate room and it can handle the added weight. Depending on your situation, they may also need to collect HOA (Homeowners Association) documentation.
3. Designing the System
Required amount of time: Two to three weeks
Once they’ve collected site assessment data, a team of engineers will use it to create and adjust the designs to meet local code requirements. Subsequently, they will review and approve the solar building plans, which will be submitted to the city for permits. Fire access pathways and setback laws are critical considerations in every project, as each city has its own specific rules and regulations.
Generally, this whole process takes two to three weeks. But depending on the complexity of your building and the local law, it can take slightly longer.
4. Applying for Solar Permits
Required amount of time: Two to eight weeks.
Just like any other construction project, it is important to acquire the necessary permissions to install a new solar panel. More often than not, this is where it takes the longest time. Depending on the city you live in and its regulations, you might need to apply both for building and electrical permits. This can take upwards of a month.
5. The Actual Installation
Required amount of time: Six hours to three days
This is the most exciting and perhaps the shortest part of the process. For regular residential installation, it takes around six to eight hours to fully complete the installation.
Even for the most complex designs, it doesn’t take longer than a few days.
6. Inspection and Approval
Required amount of time: One week from the moment you call for inspection.
Once they have completed the installation, your installation company will arrange for an inspection right away. A city building inspector will then visit and make sure that everything’s been done with adherence to the city code. He’ll also make sure that the equipment used matches the approved ratings. In some states like California, the city will also do a Fire Department inspection.
7. Permission to Operate
Required amount of time: Two to four weeks from scheduling.
In addition to obtaining permits, you will also need to wait for permission to operate from your utility company before you can start using your solar panels. Do note that it can take quite some time to get permission from your utility company.
The utility company will visit your property and install a new electrical meter that accurately measures your solar energy production. They will also conduct a brief inspection of the solar panels during their visit. Once these steps are completed, your interconnection agreement will receive the final stamp of approval. You are now officially ready to power your home with solar energy.
The actual inspection will take about an hour or so, but you may have to wait for weeks after scheduling an appointment.
Is it Worth the Wait?
Although it can take at least two to three months, six in some cases, in our opinion, it’s worth the wait. Why? Because it’s an excellent way of saving up on electricity bills and going green in the process. Properly-maintained solar panels can last for more than 20 years and they usually pay for themselves in 9 years or less. So, you get more than a decade of free electricity while cutting down on your carbon footprints to a great extent.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
How long do solar panels take to start working?
When you are done installing, it can take about three to eight weeks to get permission to operate.
Can solar panels be installed easily?
If you are talking about DIY solar panels that act as a standalone unit, then yes. Those are relatively easy to install. However, those can’t be hooked to the regular energy grid.
Hopefully, we were able to give you a clear idea of how long you should expect to wait for installing a new solar panel and starting to use it. Most of the time it’ll take more than a few months. So, plan ahead and start getting quotes from companies that install solar panels in your area as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading.