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What is Involved in Solar Energy Installation?

By Robert Grimmick
Updated May 23, 2024
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The process and impact of solar energy installation can vary depending on what type of solar power is being installed. A good first step in the process is to research the factors that will impact the cost-effectiveness of the system, such as energy prices and government incentives. During installation, it is crucial to optimize the amount of sunlight the system will receive. Additional supporting devices, such as an electric inverter for photovoltaic (PV) panels or a water storage tank for solar water heaters, may need to be installed in a house or other building. Permits or inspections are often required after the installation is complete.

A precursor to any solar energy installation, whether it’s an electricity-producing set of PV panels, a solar water heater, or some other form of solar energy, is good research. Each type of solar energy has its own unique costs and impacts. The cost-effectiveness of a solar system can also depend on the amount of sunshine received, regional energy prices, government incentives and permit and building inspection fees. A smart solar consumer will be aware of these variables as well as any building codes or homeowner’s association rules that may limit placement of solar collectors or PV modules. An energy audit can help home and business owners determine what type and size of solar energy system is most suitable.

A crucial step during the installation process is ensuring that the system receives the maximum possible amount of sunshine. This is accomplished by removing obstructions and shadows whenever possible and mounting solar devices at an angle that receives the greatest amount of sunshine for the longest possible period. Some types of roofs pose special challenges or may need to be strengthened to support the new equipment, so a professional contractor should always be used. In cases where the existing home or structure is unsuitable for a solar energy installation, the system may be mounted on a secondary structure like a garage or tool shed, or on free-standing poles. The most elaborate systems may be equipped with a tracking system that adjusts the angle of PV panels or other devices throughout the day.

In addition to elements mounted on a roof or structure, a solar energy installation may have additional components that need to be housed in an indoor structure. PV modules need to be paired with large inverters that convert the direct current produced by the panels into alternating current used in home appliances. Many types of solar water heaters use water storage tanks, and these may be in addition to existing tank or tankless water heaters often installed as a backup. These elements are often placed inside a house or garage, so installing them can have an impact on the interior of a building.

Home and business owners often must obtain a permit or submit to a building inspection following a solar energy installation. The exact requirements and costs vary widely between different regions and municipalities, but qualified solar energy contracts should be able to provide this information to consumers before any purchase. In addition, utility companies may require their own inspections before PV systems are allowed to connect to the electric grid.

The Solar Panel Guide is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Sporkasia — On Jan 13, 2014

Drentel - There are step by step instructions and videos that show you how to build your own panels at a fraction of the cost. You can get instructions for the entire process from start to finish and create your own solar renewable energy system.

Even if you do it on a small scale, I would think it would be worthwhile since you don't have to invest too much money.

By Drentel — On Jan 12, 2014
Aimandel: One reason the average person hasn't done more with solar energy is the cost. Setting up solar energy panels and then converting the energy can be costly.
By Animandel — On Jan 11, 2014

Did you know humans have been harnessing solar energy since several hundreds BC? Some of the early uses included combining sunlight and magnifying glass to incinerate ants. We have come along way since then, but I wonder why we haven't taken greater advantage of the sun's energy.

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