So you’ve made the decision to go solar and signed all your paperwork. Congratulations! Now you may find yourself, like King George III in Hamilton, asking, “What’s next?”
It can take a few weeks to a few months to get your solar system installed and activated. This depends on the company you sign with, the equipment you choose, and where you live. (Some building departments are quicker to approve plans than others and some utilities are quicker to give permission to operate (PTO) than others.)
Let’s take a look at the steps to going solar, from the moment you sign to the moment you’re making clean, green, sustainable energy.
Step One: The Site Survey
Your solar consultant probably designed a layout of your solar system in a software program based on satellite information and how much energy you need or want to generate. These are usually quite accurate, but in order to create engineering plans, someone has to document the actual physical features of your roof. That’s the site surveyor.
The site surveyor will come to your home, access your roof, and check your electrical panel. They will record measurements, the condition of the roof, and shade patterns. They’ll also note any anomalies or structures that could get in the way of panel placement. Some companies perform site surveys using drones rather than physically climbing on the roof.
You should plan to be home for the site survey because the site surveyor will need access to your electrical panel and may want to access your attic to look at the roof trusses or rafters that will influence how the panels are attached. We also like to get signatures pertaining to permits and interconnection done at the same time for everyone’s convenience.
Step Two: Engineering
Next, the information in the site survey and the initial design will be converted into building plans by an engineer. If the configuration of the solar array needs to change substantially, for example if panels won’t fit on a portion of the roof due to an obstruction or panels need to be rotated from vertical to horizontal, the engineer will re-design the system to work in the real world.
If any significant changes are made to your solar design, you’ll be notified and asked for approval of those changes. The engineering plans themselves are made available to you upon request should you want to take a more in-depth look.
Step Three: Building Permit
Once the plans are complete, a project manager at your solar company will send them to the appropriate building department. Depending on where you live, this part of the process may be quick and easy or it can drag on. Most solar companies are familiar with the building departments in the cities they serve.
The way permits are handled from department to department can be very different, however, and if your building department has a backlog of work or a time-consuming application process, it can take a few weeks to get the permit approved.
If the permit is not approved, the plans go back to engineering so that the necessary changes can be made in order to get the permit approved.
Step Four: Installation is Scheduled
Once the permit is approved, your home is placed on the solar installer’s calendar and you have a date to look forward to! If you have other projects you wish to get done before installation, such as a new roof, insulation upgrade, or other efficiencies, now is the time to finish those projects.
The equipment for your installation may be delivered to your home ahead of time, or the installers may bring it with them on the day of install. If equipment is to be delivered to your home ahead of installation, you’ll be notified.
Step Five: Installation!
Hallelujah! The day has come!
The crew shows up and starts putting the glass on your roof. Most homeowners like to be there for this day, and the crew will need access to your property and electric panel. You may want to take photos or videos. If you have a large installation or if the weather doesn’t cooperate on installation day, it can take more than a day to get the system fully on your roof. Don’t worry! Solar mounting systems are waterproof, so if the crew has to stop for a thunderstorm, there’s no danger of leaks.
Step Six: Inspection
But wait! Just because your system is on the roof doesn’t mean you can use it yet.
It needs to pass inspection. Your solar company will schedule an inspector to come out and sign off on the system. This can happen a few days or weeks after installation, depending on the availability of an inspector. Someone will need to be onsite to grant the inspector access.
The inspection report usually comes within a few days of the completed inspection. If your system passes, congratulations! If it doesn’t, don’t worry. Most failed inspections only require a small adjustment here or there in order to get a passing result the next time.
Step Seven: Interconnect
But wait! Just because your system is on the roof and it passed inspection doesn’t mean you can use it yet. You need to have interconnection set up with your utility.
In Florida, all residential photovoltaic systems are tied to the grid, and we design them to make enough electricity to cover your needs at night as well as during the day through net metering. Net metering lets you overproduce and send excess electricity to the grid during the day and then pull from the grid at night in a sort of give-and-take dance. In order to do this, however, you need a bidirectional meter, which is installed by your utility company.
So far your solar company has handled every step in this process for you, but interconnection is something the homeowner has to request for themselves, per the utility companies. We will email you the interconnect instructions and help you through any issues. You won’t necessarily need to be home when the tech comes to switch out your meter as it’s on the outside of your home.
Step Eight: PTO!
Finally, permission to operate has been achieved! Now is the time to invite your family and friends, buy a cheese tray, and flip that switch! You’ll know you are making power when the arrow on your bidirectional meter starts to go the other way. It’s a glorious moment!
Our customers are able to keep track of their solar panels’ performance with monitoring software included in their install. You will need an internet connection for that, but if you don’t have one, we can help you access an inexpensive workaround.
…Nothing! That’s it! Enjoy your new solar system, track how much electricity you’re making and how much money you’re saving. And don’t forget to leave a review and tell your friends who you went solar with.
At Coronado Solar, we offer a generous referral program for our customers, so you can make even more money by helping others go solar with a trusted company. And if you ever need anything, call us! We’re right here in Central and North Florida. We’re not going anywhere, and we’re happy to help if there are any questions or concerns.