Key Installation Steps of a Residential Solar Power System
This guide works best if you are engaging a reputable solar system contractor or installer. The key to your successful installation is understanding your system and being able to communicate effectively with the contractor. The more you understand what the contractor is tasked with doing, the better the overall installation quality.
The Installation Process
- Solar Panel details - Know the manufacturer’s specification for each panel in your system (they may differ). Important information is panel type (mono, poly, etc.), output wattage-DC, size, weight and warranty. The power rating for each panel is listed on the “nameplate”. This power rating is valid at Standard Test Conditions (STC) which are common conditions under which all panels are tested and measured. STC rated wattage is usually lower than what is realized after installation due primarily to differences in installation, available solar energy and temperature.
- Planning - ensure that the installation plan makes sense, looks clean, straight and professional. Ensure that all setbacks from the roof edges are observed.
- Flashing – It is critical for your to understand that the installer will be drilling into and through your roof shingles. Water leaks are a main concern, so ensure that the rack system you have chosen prevents any leakage. Some systems have flashing that covers lag screws/bolts that penetrate the roof shingle. Other systems, not recommended, do not use flashing but have water tight silicon and/or rubber gaskets.
- Install Location – Know the layout and where on your roof the panels will be installed. It is your responsibility to ensure that panels are installed facing the sun, at the appropriate angle toward the sun and the no shade is blocking any panels.
- Installation Parts – Parts vary, but the key is to ensure all parts are weatherproof or resistant. The solar panel racks will most certainly be weather resistant, but take some time to look at all the other components. Bolts, screws, lag screws, tabs, rails, connectors, support plates, roof pads, sliders, slider brackets, stand offs, mounting flash assembly, etc. should ALL be exterior-grade, weather resistant and/or anti-corrosive.
- Installation – The contractor will layout the rack system on your roof, mark mounting locations, then install in this order – mounting brackets & flashing, racks, sliders, solar panels, electrical boxes, electrical wiring, system inverter, connect wires and test system.