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HOW RESIDENTIAL SOLAR AND ENERGY STORAGE ARE INSTALLED

Published Jan. 13, 2022

The benefits of installing solar energy and energy storage at your home are clear: lower electric bills, increased independence from the utility, a smaller carbon footprint, and higher home value.

But to achieve those benefits, you must choose a solar company with an organized, well-defined, and proven process—one that they can explain to you clearly, so you know what to expect at every stage.

Here's an overview of how the process works when you sign up for residential solar, with or without energy storage.

Home Evaluation

It all starts with an assessment of your property--the roof, and the land if you’re considering a ground-mounted system--and its ability to support a solar energy system that can deliver the benefits you seek.

If you’re also interested in solar energy storage, your assessment will delve into how much of your home’s electrical “load” can be covered by batteries.

Be sure to ask any questions you have at this early stage. If your proposal doesn’t explain in detail how the financial part works—what the system costs, how you’re paying for it, and what savings you can expect—be sure to request more information. Better yet—find a different installer!

Main Panel Upgrade

As demand for larger solar systems and EV charging equipment grows, we at Citadel are seeing an increase in the number of homes requiring upgrades to their main electrical panels to support their solar projects. These “MPUs” as they’re called are coordinated by the solar company with the utility, from applying for the permit to scheduling a utility visit to disconnect power to the home to performing the actual MPU work.

System Design

Deciding on the best location and direction for solar panels on your roof isn’t as easy as you might think. Just as every home is unique, every system is unique.

A good designer will consider whether to situate the panels in the way that collects the most sun or the way that maximizes your savings. The two are not always the same thing. A system facing south usually collects the most sunlight. A system facing west or southwest produces more power in the late afternoon/early evening.

This matters because California charges more for electricity during those “peak hours” of late afternoon/early evening. So a system designed to capture more sunlight during those hours, even if the overall production is less as a result, can sometimes be more valuable to the homeowner.

Solar designers can sometimes squeeze in one more panel if you want it, and often upon request can design the system to eliminate or minimize any visible wiring, all while aiming for maximum aesthetics.

The batteries in an energy storage system are most often situated outside or in a garage. The system design and size are largely dependent on how much electricity you want to store and have available for use at night, on cloudy days or during power outages.

Permitting

Solar energy systems, and energy storage systems, require permits and approvals from entities that often include your city or town building department, your local fire department, and your utility. If you’re part of a Homeowners’ Association (HOA), they likely have a review and approval process as well.

A solar installation company like Citadel Roofing & Solar will manage as many of the applications, follow-up, permits and approvals as possible. Most homeowners are involved in their HOA approval process.

Installation

The day the solar company’s installation crew pulls up in your driveway and unloads crates of panels is a very exciting one! The installation itself is relatively straightforward. But as with any construction project, you want a highly trained and experienced crew doing the work for the best result.

The actual method used to affix panels to your roof varies a bit depending on what material your roof is made of. But in general, mounting attachments are attached to your roof, long rails are attached to the mounting attachments, and the solar panels are attached to the rails. Most of the systems Citadel installs have a microinverter under each panel. Electrical wiring connects the microinverters to your home’s electrical system.shutterstock_1880758528

Installation usually only takes a day or two. Systems on steep roofs and roofs with complex layouts can take a bit longer.

If you go with a ground-mounted system instead of a rooftop one, the process starts with trenching and running electrical conduit from your house to the system’s location and installing either poles or a grid-like “stadium-style” frame to support the panels. Then, as with a rooftop system, the panels are attached to their supports and electrical wiring is run to connect the system to your home’s electrical system.

Ground-mounts tend to take a little longer to install because of the additional first two steps.

If you choose to install an energy storage system to maximize the value of your solar, the batteries and associated wiring usually take an extra day or two to get in place and ready for operations.

To learn more about the equipment used in a solar energy installation, see our post on What’s In Your Solar Energy System? For more on how solar photovoltaic (PV) technology works, visit our Learn page. And for guidance on how to tell if your roof would be good for solar, see How to Tell If Your Roof Works for Solar.

Final Inspections

Many people think that once the panels are on the roof and the batteries connected, the system can be turned on. But there are a few more administrative and safety hurdles to get past.

Your city or town will come out for a final inspection to ensure the system meets all necessary codes. The utility may upgrade your electrical meter or install a new one. And the utility will have to give the final approval to “interconnect” your power-producing system to their network of transmission and distribution lines.shutterstock_1588831741

As with the earlier round of permits, inspections and approvals, your solar company should manage all of this for you.

Turning the System On

It’s debatable which of the two final steps is better: Turning on the system for the first time. (Yes, you may actually get to flip a switch!) Or opening the first electric bill that reflects your solar savings.

Either way, it only gets better from there as your savings pile up and your system, working with the sun, continues to crank out pollution-free clean energy, for your benefit and the planet’s.

Give us a call at (800) 400-2852 or fill out our web form if you’d like to learn what solar can do for you.

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Topics: How Residential Solar is Installed