How to Install Solar Panels Guide (2023 Solar Panel Installations)
Each product and or company featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Written by Karsten Neumeister
Karsten is an editor and energy specialist focused on environmental, social and cultural development. His work has been shared by sources including NPR, the World Economic Forum, Marketwatch and the SEIA, and he is certified in ESG with the CFA Institute. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the solar energy sector, studying energy policy, climate tech and environmental education. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace. Learn About This Person
Reviewed by Melissa Smith
Melissa is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainability studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a nonprofit that’s featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral. Learn About This Person
Why You Can Trust EcoWatch
We work with a panel of solar experts to create unbiased reviews that empower you to make the right choice for your home. No other site has covered renewables as long as us, which means we have more data and insider information than other sites.
Jump to Section:
Find the best price from solar installers in your area.
Steps for Solar Panel Installation
By installing a home solar power system, you can reduce your dependence on traditional utility companies, offsetting the majority (or entirety) of your monthly energy bills. Plus, it offers a tangible method to curb your environmental footprint, making for cleaner, healthier communities.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the majority of what determines a successful solar project has little to do with the installation itself. Before getting into how to install solar panels, there are a couple of nuances to note off the bat. First, installing solar panels requires thorough knowledge of solar technology, design and engineering.
In other words, the average person will likely want to avoid a DIY solar panel installation and leave the process to professional local installers. A properly designed PV system will provide far more savings on the backend than most DIY installations will save on the front. The second thing to consider is that solar panel installation won’t happen overnight.
Even after you choose the best solar panels for the job, there are a few vital steps in the installation process essential for ensuring a reliable, effective and efficient renewable energy system. Here are the basic steps of solar panel installation:
SunPower designs and installs industry-leading residential solar and storage solutions across all 50 states. With a storied history of innovation dating back to 1985, no other company on this list can match SunPower’s experience and expertise.
SunPower earns its position as the top national installer on our list for a handful of reasons: It installs the most efficient solar technology on the residential market, offers the most expansive service area and backs its installations with a warranty well above the industry standard. All the while, SunPower pioneers sustainability efforts within the industry.
If that weren’t enough, SunPower systems come packaged with products all manufactured in-house by its sister company, Maxeon. This means that your panels, solar cells, inverters, battery and EV chargers are designed to work together and are all covered under the same warranty.
SunPower’s biggest downside? Its high-efficiency panels are considerably more expensive than most of its competitors’ products. However, its powerful panels are workhorses that make up for the initial cost with more backend production (think about this like spending more money for a car that gets more miles per gallon).
Facts and Figures: SunPower
|Solar Panels, Solar Batteries, EV Chargers, System Monitoring|
|25-year all-inclusive warranty|
Blue Raven Solar
We like Blue Raven Solar because it understands that, for most homeowners, the cost of solar presents the biggest barrier to entry.
For that reason, Blue Raven Solar developed an innovative solar financing plan that offers in-house, flexible, zero-money-down options. The results speak for themselves, as Blue Raven Solar is now one of the fastest-growing solar companies in the nation and was recently acquired by SunPower. Its BluePower Plus plan (exclusive to Blue Raven) mimics the flexible structure of a lease while still providing the greatest benefits of owning your system.
Eligible homeowners enjoy 18 months of solar power before having to pay their first bill. When coupled with the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), the initial energy savings can offset more than a third of the overall cost of a system before requiring a dollar down.
In contrast, other installers can only offer similar financing through solar leases, PPAs or third-party providers (such as Mosaic or Sunlight). Third-party loan providers can complicate the process, while opting for a loan or PPA will disqualify you from some of solar’s biggest benefits (additional property value, federal solar tax credit and local solar incentives).
Facts and Figures: Blue Raven Solar
|Solar Panels, System Monitoring|
|Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, SolarEdge, Silfab, SunPower|
|25-year manufacturer warranty; 10-year workmanship warranty, 2-year production guarantee|
ADT Solar sets the industry standard for warranty coverage by including a multifaceted guarantee, making it one of the top installers for homeowners who want added peace of mind.
Its warranty coverage includes all of the following for 25 years:
- Power Production Guarantee: Also known as a performance guarantee, this ensures your solar system will produce the amount of electricity that’s outlined in your proposal, or ADT will write you a check for the difference.
- Labor Guarantee: This covers any issues with the installation of your system and is also known as a workmanship warranty.
- Panel Module Performance Guarantee: This is what ADT Solar refers to the manufacturer warranty as, and it ensures that any manufacturing defects are repaired or your ineffective panels replaced.
- Enphase Microinverters Guarantee: This backs the performance of your inverters.
Though in recent years other solar companies have started to offer similar guarantees, ADT Solar has been at it since 2008, performing over 30,000 installations across the country.
Facts and Figures: ADT Solar
|Solar Panels, Solar Batteries, EV Chargers, Energy-Efficiency Upgrades|
|Silfab, Panasonic and others depending on location|
|25-year all-inclusive warranty|
1) Complete a Site Survey With an Engineer
Once you choose the best solar installation company for your home and sign a contract, the company will send an engineer to your home to evaluate your current electrical system, ensuring everything is compatible with your intended solar panel system design.
This engineer may be an employee of the solar company or an independent contractor. Be aware that if you have an old and outdated electrical system, the engineer may tell you that it needs to be upgraded or replaced. This is generally an indication that your new solar energy system will require more amps than what your current electrical system can accommodate.
In addition to checking out your electrical system, the engineer will also want to inspect your roof. They’ll need to ensure it is structurally sound and able to support the weight of solar paneling. Also, the engineer will be able to tell you if you need a specialized mounting system, such as for a flat roof.
A solar energy system will only perform as well as it’s designed, so hiring a trustworthy solar engineer is one of the most important steps in the process. Still looking for an installation company? Click here to get connected with a solar installer in your area and receive a free quote.
2) Secure the Right Permits
Before your solar panel installation, you’ll have a few bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Specifically, you’ll need to obtain all the right permits and documentation to ensure your solar panel installation is legal, meeting all local safety and zoning requirements.
You wouldn’t believe the headaches that can accompany an installation carried out before permits are issued. This step may sound intimidating, but here’s the good news: While there is plenty of paperwork associated with installing solar panels, the majority of it is handled by your solar company.
You may not have to do much at all beyond lending a signature here and there, but it’s still important to have some sense of what’s happening behind the scenes. Here’s what your solar installer will file for:
- Local electrical and/or building permits on your behalf
- Interconnection agreement with your local utility (in other words, permission from your utility to install solar and enroll in net metering programs)
- Applications for state or federal incentive programs that curb the upfront cost of solar panels
By completing this paperwork, you can potentially secure rebates, tax credits or other financial assistance to offset installation costs. It will take your solar installer some time to submit all the paperwork, and even longer for governmental bodies to process all the information — sometimes several weeks or more.
It’s not a bad idea to follow up and get updates every few days, just to make sure the process is still moving forward smoothly. Solar companies are busy with business, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
If you’re ready to start getting quotes from local installers near you. use the links below.
Residential Solar Installation In Michigan
Solar energy is the most cost-effective way to power your home, allowing you to produce robust and reliable energy while avoiding rising utility costs.
The average homeowner in Michigan pays nearly 200 per month for their electric bill. You will continue to pay more and more each year as your electric bill will increase by 2-3%, or more, on average each year.
If you bought a house today, you will likely spend almost 100,000 on your electric bill before you even pay off your mortgage.
Save Thousands Over Time
Peninsula Solar can help you save thousands of dollars over time by owning your energy instead of renting it from the utility company.
Let our team give you a free estimate.
Benefits of a Residential Solar System
There are many benefits to installing a solar system on your home, but the most important one is reducing your long-term expenditure on electricity.
By adding solar panels to your home, you can cut your electric costs by up to 100%. This can save you hundreds of dollars per month and thousands over the course of a year or more.
Most residential systems see a return on investment within 10 years. Use the chart to estimate your cost savings by going solar.
This chart shows the electric bill cost and savings with solar over time. Actual savings will be dependent on the total cost to install the solar system as well as any incentives you may receive.
The other benefits to installing a solar system are:
- You can earn a substantial tax credit.
- Your solar system can extend the life of your roof by protecting it from the elements (sun, snow, wind, or rain) and keep your home cooler in the summer by absorbing the heat from the sun.
- They have very little maintenance aside from making sure they aren’t covered by leaves or debris.
- You will typically see an increase of around 5% to your total home value.
Warranties for Residential Solar Panels
A modern solar panel system that’s maintained can provide power for over 25 years without any major maintenance or repairs.
The solar systems we install here at Peninsula Solar all have a 25 to 30-year manufacturer warranty.
Many of the solar systems we install for our customers outlive the warranty because of the quality of our installation and extra care we take with every system.
Home Solar Panel Mounting Locations
A trustworthy solar company will walk you through the best installation options and mounting locations for your home. The two most common solar mounting locations are on your roof or on the ground near your residence.
A solar mounting system, sometimes called a solar racking system, is the component that secures solar panels to your roof or the ground and holds them in place.
Before you install, you should research both types of mounting locations and talk to your solar installer to help make the right decision for your needs.
Roof Mounted Solar Systems
A roof-mounted system is the most common way many homeowners install solar panels as it’s aesthetically pleasing, helps protect your roof, and your roof often gets the most sun throughout the day.
These types of systems are generally maintenance-free, but you may have to brush off some snow periodically if you live in snowier areas.
Ground Mounted Solar Systems
A ground-mounted system is often a good alternative to roof mounting if your roof is too small, has awkward pitches, or is covered mostly in shade throughout the day.
This type of installation can benefit homeowners in that it will give them a lot of flexibility as to where the solar panels are installed. This allows them to have more control over the aesthetics and allows them to place the panels where they can be the most effective.
The biggest advantage to a ground-mounted solar system is that, depending on the installation, the solar panels can adjust their angle throughout the day to capture more sunlight.
Cost to Install a Residential Solar System
The total cost of your solar system will come down to how much electricity you use. The typical Michigan resident will need a 6-12kW solar system.
Before any final quote is given, the team at Peninsula Solar will use solar modeling software to determine the correct system size for your home.
Even though the cost may seem high at first glance, there are major incentives and tax breaks that help lower the initial cost of financing a solar system. When you pair these incentives with the immediate savings on your electric bill, you will find significant long-term savings.
Simple, Smart Solar Energy Solutions for Your Home
Many homeowners have been switching to solar power. With local incentives, net metering, and the federal tax credit, solar panel installation could be an affordable, wise investment that pays for itself over time.
Solar for Your Home Made Simple
Solar for your home
From the initial appointment to the go live date, our team of renewable energy experts and industry professionals handle all aspects of your residential solar project. We provide clean, green, solar energy solutions for your home in a variety of custom configurations.
Solar with energy storage
With residential battery storage you can store excess solar energy generated during the day for use during the evenings or any time your home needs to tap into extra power. Increase your energy independence and make the most of your solar panels with an energy storage system.
Solar with EV charger
Kick fossil fuels to the curb at home and on the road with solar panels and an EV charger for your current or future electric vehicle. You could be driving on sunshine with solar panels and an EV charger.
Solar to Fit Your Home and Your Needs
Solar is not one-size-fits-all. Each system is designed with the unique needs of the property in mind, from energy consumption to sunlight availability. Your solar consultant will work with you to learn about your needs.
Residential Solar FAQs
All Energy Solar is a premier full-service solar energy installer based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. We’ve been providing solar energy solutions since 2009, and we’ve installed thousands of systems throughout the country for property owners of all kinds.
Solar is a clean, renewable source of electricity that promotes local job growth and supports energy independence. By going solar, you are helping your state meet important goals to get more renewable energy on the grid. Solar electricity is reliable, noiseless, and adds value to your property without increasing your property taxes.
Solar panels are more affordable than you think! The cost of solar panel installation has fallen 45 percent over the last five years. Additionally, there are a variety of solar incentives that can help pay for residential or business solar installation.
Most systems come with 25-year warranties, though the system components should perform for approximately 30 to 35 years. Your solar consultant will review different design and product options, including warranty information.
That depends on a variety of factors, including the size of the proposed location for the solar panels, energy usage of the property, solar incentives, net metering agreements, and more. Typical time frames can range between eight to 15 years, but could be sooner. When your solar project is designed, it will include a customized payback timetable.
You can, but you don’t have to. There are options to pay for your system, including direct financing, solar incentives, tax rebates, and more. The only way to find out what’s available to help you pay for solar is to get a free evaluation. Act soon, some incentives are limited!
What You Should Know About Residential Solar Systems
Going solar has many benefits. It harnesses Arizona’s abundant sunshine to produce energy and is a renewable resource that creates no emissions. It also reduces your carbon footprint to help combat climate change. It may even increase your home value and reduce your monthly energy bills, if you continue to use energy wisely and conserve.
Beware of Scammers
Beware of companies that call you or come to your home claiming to be a preferred or approved contractor for TEP. TEP does not endorse or have formal partnerships with any solar company. Please call us at 520-623-7711 to report this and provide the name of the company and the salesperson, if possible. Homeowners should check a company’s credentials carefully before signing a contract.
Click to enlarge
Solar Analysis tool can help customers determine if installing a PV system makes sense for them. The tool helps you evaluate all of your solar options – whether to rent or own – so that you can determine if a PV system will meet your financial and sustainable goals. This tool estimates the upfront and long-term costs, the size of the system needed and the payback period for your residence.
The actual payback period for investing in a PV system depends on your energy usage, system size, PV technology, tax credits available, installed system cost, and electric rate changes, among other factors. Any payback projection should reflect TEP’s history of stable electric rates, which have increased less than 1 percent per year, on average, over the past two decades.
Use TEP’s Solar Analysis tool to estimate your payback period or follow these steps:
- Calculate your system cost after any federal and state tax credits. Check with a tax professional to verify if you are eligible for these credits.
- Estimate the amount of electricity your system will produce, which is the amount of energy you won’t buy from TEP. This estimate is calculated by multiplying your system size in kilowatts by 1,900.
- Multiply your annual system production by your electricity rate. This is your annual savings.
- Divide your system cost – calculated in step 1 – by your annual savings – calculated in step 3 to get the number of years for your payback period.
Choosing a Solar Company
It is critical for customers to choose an experienced, reputable solar company that will meet their needs and expectations. Here are some helpful tips for selecting a solar company:
- Only hire a licensed contractor qualified to do the project. Solar installers must be licensed by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (AZROC) and possess an Arizona business license that is active and in good standing.
- Verify the company’s license status by calling 877-692-9762 or visiting the AZROC website.
- Check to see if the installer is bonded and insured and ask for proof.
- Use a local installer, if possible. Tucson area installers are familiar with TEP’s requirements and the application process to help ensure project approval and a successful installation.
- Obtain detailed proposals and estimates from several installers and meet with each of them. Prices, project specifications and warranties vary significantly. Compare each of the proposals to make sure the system will meet your goals and expectations.
- Check references. Request at least three (3) references from customers whose projects are similar to yours. Consider the company’s experience and find out if they have any unresolved complaints, judgments or liens. Check their Better Business Bureau
- Get everything in writing. Any material changes to the system design, performance, equipment or estimate should be documented in writing.
Read all documents carefully before signing. You need to understand the terms and conditions before you sign. This helps prevents disagreements during and after installation. TEP advises against signing an agreement or making payments on leased systems until a DG meter is installed and a Permission to Operate is issued.
Questions to ask solar companies:
- Are you licensed, insured and bonded? Can you provide proof?
- How many other PV systems have you installed that are similar to mine?
- Can you provide several references?
- How much energy will my system produce?
- What will be my cost savings by having solar and what is the estimated payback period?
- What are the benefits of purchasing rather than leasing?
- Can the contract be renegotiated and under what circumstances?
- Is the contract transferrable to new owners if we sell our home?
- How long will the equipment last before it needs to be replaced?
- What are the warranties on the equipment, and can I purchase extended warranties?
- Should the age and condition of my roof affect my decision?
Selecting a TOU Pricing Plan
Solar customers may choose from any of our time-of-use (TOU) pricing plans. These plans can reduce your energy bills if you avoid using a lot of energy or operating several large appliances during times of peak demand. For the greatest cost savings, learn to shift your energy usage to off-peak hours, such as mid-day or later in the evening. Customers on TOU plans should reduce energy usage from 3-7 p.m. during the summer and from 6-9 a.m. and 6-9 p.m. in the winter.
Customers with PV systems sometimes make the mistake of actually using more energy and could see their TEP bills increase. It is important to remain as energy efficient as possible and continue to make every-saving upgrades even after a PV system is installed to keep energy costs low.
Even after you install your PV system, you will still be connected to TEP’s grid and will rely on us to provide safe, reliable power when the sun isn’t shining and your system isn’t generating electricity. Even if you have stored energy from a battery system, it may not meet your power needs. That means you will still get a bill from TEP every month, although it should be lower if you keep your energy usage in check.
All TEP customers, including those with solar systems, have monthly service charges that cover our costs associated with operating and maintaining our electrical grid.
Excess Energy Credits
Once your PV system is installed, TEP will replace your existing meter with billing and production meters to measure your energy usage and the amount of energy your system exports to our grid. The excess energy and credits will appear as “KBH” – kilowatt banked hours – on your monthly TEP bill.
The buyback rate for excess, unused energy is specified in TEP’s Rider-14 Resource Comparison Proxy (RCP) Export Rate. Customers’ bill credit is based on the RCP rate in effect when their interconnection application was submitted. This rate is fixed for 10 years.
After the initial 10-year period, the bill credit is based on the current export purchase rate, and may change from year to year. The RCP rate for new applications received before Oct. 1, 2022, is adjusted each year.
Each month if the customer’s RCP credit balance exceeds their TEP bill for electricity, the credit is applied to their next month’s bill. In October of each year, TEP will pay the customer any remaining RCP credits if the balance is more than 10.
Customers with grandfathered rates for PV systems installed before 2018 should refer to TEP’s Rider – 4 Net Metering for Certain Partial Requirements Service (NM-PRS).
If a power outage occurs, your PV system is required to shut down automatically for safety reasons. This prevents excess energy generated by your system from flowing back to our circuits while our crews are repairing equipment, which must be de-energized to prevent an electrical hazard.
Your system will not generate energy during a power outage unless you have a PV system with a battery storage system. Once power is restored, you can resume operation of your PV system, which may require a manual reset.
If your system requires maintenance or repairs, contact your solar company. If the existing DG meter needs to be pulled for repairs, a DG clearance from your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) will most likely be required. If the inverter(s) or modules are being replaced an application will need to be submitted to TEP.
Working with TEP
TEP’s role is to assist installers and customers through every step of the application and approval process and ensure that projects meet all safety and electrical requirements. At different stages of the application process, customers and your installers may work with up to four different departments at TEP: Energy Programs, Energy Services (engineering), Design Services and Metering.
Customers and installers can expect regular communications from TEP to help keep projects on track. Customers can do their part to advance their project and prevent delays by providing TEP with their correct address and email address, signing the Interconnection Agreement in a timely manner and ensuring there are no access issues – such as pets in the yard or locked gates – at their home.
TEP will review the Notice of Completion submitted by the installer once installation is complete and, if approved, the project will be released to TEP Metering for a meter exchange. Once TEP issues a Permission to Operate, the installer may energize the PV system.
Steps to Installing a Residential Solar System
- The solar company completes and submits the Interconnection Application and required documents to TEP on their customer’s behalf.
- TEP conducts an administrative review of the application and documents within 7 days of receipt to ensure they comply with program requirements.
- TEP completes an Interconnection Review of the project’s technical specifications within 14 days and notifies the customer and installer if the project is approved or needs corrections. For PV systems greater than 20 kWac, TEP has 21 days to complete its Interconnection Review.
- The solar company pick-ups TEP-supplied equipment and materials for the project from our designated vendor.
- The solar company installs the equipment and then notifies TEP when the installation is complete by submitting electronically a Notice of Installation Completion (NIC) along with “as-built” photos of the project. TEP may require a system inspection.
- TEP reviews the NIC and coordinates with our Metering Department to install billing and solar production meters and complete a revenue meter exchange.
- Upon receiving Permission to Operate from TEP, the solar company may energize the customer’s PV system.
Your Installer’s Role Responsibilities
Solar companies are responsible for designing a PV system tailored to the customer’s home and energy needs, and calculating its size, configuration and energy production. The installer should provide a detailed cost estimate, the manufacturer and model numbers for your equipment and a project timeline.
The installer will complete and submit the Interconnection Application and project drawings to TEP on your behalf, obtain the necessary permits, schedule inspections and secure the required approvals. They’ll also need to contact TEP if there are any major modifications to a project. Installers must adhere to TEP’s Distributed Generation Interconnection Requirements and our Electrical Requirements.
If a power kills is needed for installation, the installer needs to schedule this with TEP Design Services and notify the customer of that appointment.
When a PV system is completed, the installer must submit a Notice of Completion with TEP along with “as-built” photos of the PV system. After TEP installs new billing and production meters and issues a Permission to Operate, the installer will complete a walk-through with the customer and energize the system.
Changes to your PV System after Installation
Customers who want to expand their system by adding an inverter or more modules need to have their installer submit an application to TEP. They will keep their initial net metering rate for the duration of the 20-year contact if the addition to a grandfathered system does not require utility distribution upgrades.
Customers with an RCP rate can find more information about expanding their system and retaining their original rate.