Solar panels offer homeowners the opportunity to get their electricity off of the grid and possibly even sell some back. With power outages happening frequently, solar panels also provide a reliable source of backup electricity. Knowing how long it takes to install solar panels helps a homeowner make better decisions about when to add them and whether the project fits into their timeline.
What's In This Article
Finding & Hiring a Solar Company
The first step in installing solar panels is deciding what company will do it for you. Different companies offer unique products that might not be right for your home or yard. The panels might not be readily available, which could delay your installation timeline.
Before you choose a solar company, you’ll need to ask the right questions to learn about their products and how they install them. A representative from the company will need to visit your home to see how much shade you have and what type of panels will be best for your square footage and electrical needs.
Each visit can take a couple days to weeks. First, you have to decide if the company has what you need. Then, you have to schedule an appointment, which needs to fit into your schedule and the rep’s schedule. Afterward, the sales rep needs to write an estimate, then deliver it to you. Finding and hiring a solar company can be a test of patience.
If the solar company has what you want, and their price fits your budget, you might be able to decide right away. Otherwise, you could spend weeks or months trying to find the best company and product for your budget.
After you’ve decided on an installation company, they will need to perform a site survey to determine exactly where to put the solar panels. This process involves finding a spot with the least amount of shade and the maximum amount of sunshine.
The site survey could be slowed if you need to work with the electric company. Surveyors can be busy, which could also slow down the process. Usually, a surveyor needs a few hours at your home to get accurate measurements. But that’s not all the surveyor does.
The surveyor needs to write a report so the solar company can install the panels, and the surveyor might spend days or weeks writing the actual report before delivering it to the solar installers. Overall, most site surveys take one to two weeks to complete.
Designing Your System
Once the site survey has been delivered to the installation company, the next step is to design the system. Since every property has unique characteristics, designing your system could take a few days or a few weeks. If your home is ready for a roof solar panel system without needing any upgrades, then the system is easy to design in a few hours.
Homes that need new roofs, upgraded electrical systems, or excavation work will require a longer design time. As soon as additional contractors become involved in the solar installation process, you can add weeks or months to the process. Re-roofing requires roofing contractors to visit your home, order supplies, and find time to do their work.
Some contractors can work simultaneously with the solar installation company, but any extra work will add time to the final panel installation process.
Because solar panel installation companies are busy, this step is usually the longest part. Remember that designers are often engineers, and most solar companies only have one or two, as they tend to be the highest-paid people on the payroll. If the solar company is busy, the designers could be backed up, which might slow the process by a few days or weeks.
Ordering, Shipping & Delivery
Once the company designs the solar panel system, the next step is to order the system and wait for shipping and delivery. Some companies build their own solar panels, but most rely on a fully functioning supply chain that involves parts from all over the world. If the supply chain runs as it should, then the shipping and delivery shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks.
However, if the supply chain isn’t functioning properly, then you could wait several months for your company to receive the panels or the parts to build your system.
As soon as the designers finish working on your system plan, the installation company can start to pull permits. The time it takes to pull a permit depends on the community that awards them. Most contractors expect to wait one day up to ten working days to receive the permits. They can take longer if the system is overwhelmed and understaffed.
Different parts of the project require different permits, so a complex installation could be slowed by one aspect of the project. If the utility company needs to get involved, the permit process could take longer, too. Homeowners can expect a minimum of two weeks in some communities or up to eight weeks in others.
After the installation company has gathered the local permits and everything else they need, the installation process usually only takes a few days. Of the entire process, installing the panels is the fastest – especially if you are having a typical residential system installed. Large commercial systems can take several weeks simply because of the size and scope.
The fastest system to install is a roof-top because most of the necessary structural elements already exist. A ground-mounted system can take longer because the installation company will need to excavate to build the foundation and run wires.
Weather conditions could slow the project if it does not cooperate. The process could also slow if your solar system is far from your electric meter.
While the actual solar panel installation process only requires a few days of work, there are several reasons that it could take longer. Some solar panel companies struggle to find installation technicians, while others are so busy that they are booked out for months.
If your area of the country has cold, snowy winters, you might have to wait longer as technicians have less time to complete projects. You might have to wait longer if your community has a limited number of solar panel companies, too.
The inspection process should be another speedy part of your solar panel installation steps. However, if the inspectors have too many projects on their dockets, they could be delayed. Usually, inspectors need a couple of days from the time of the request. During the busy seasons, inspectors might need up to five days before they can inspect the installation.
If the inspectors find anything wrong with the installation, then the solar panel company will need to make corrections and request another inspection. The more steps the process has, the longer it will take to complete.
Generally, homeowners can plan on two to five days before an inspector arrives, and the inspection should take a few hours at the most. Another step that could delay the inspection is if you have to coordinate your schedule with the inspector.
Connecting to the Grid (Net Metering)
Another factor that speeds up or slows down the installation process is where you play to store your solar energy. The panels collect the energy during the day, and most homeowners need to use the energy in the evening after the sunsets. You have two options: working with your electric company through net metering or installing your own solar battery storage system.
If you choose to connect to your local utility company, you will have to account for the time it takes to connect to the grid. This step involves getting permits from the utility company to connect your new solar system to their grid. You could wait weeks for them to visit your home, inspect your system, and pull permits.
Before the utility company does any work on your solar panel system, the installation company has to deliver the correct documentation requesting a net-metering account. You might have to wait up to two weeks for the paperwork to arrive and be processed.
Then, you’ll need to wait up to a month for the utility company to install a bi-directional meter so you can take advantage of net metering. Dealing with utility companies can be painstakingly slow, so be patient.
Overall, working with the utility company can add up to six months to the process of installing your solar panels. When the utility company installs the meter and connects it, you should start receiving solar energy from your panels.
When looking at the time it takes to complete a solar panel installation project; it is difficult to give an accurate timeline. With so many uncertainties regarding supply chains, government and utility bureaucracy, and worker shortages, the start-to-finish time could be six months or more.
If all goes well, the project could take only a few weeks to complete. However, homeowners are excited about adding solar panels to their homes, so most companies are overwhelmed with installations. The agencies that process permits and do inspections also have full schedules. When bottlenecks arrive, they slow the next step.