Going Solar: What’s The Process?

The other day one of my neighbors stopped by to ask me about the solar panels on my roof.  Being an accountant he was curious about the financial aspects of installing a solar system.  I explained to him the gross and net costs, tax incentives, loan payments, ROI, and breakeven points on my system.

He was impressed.  Hopefully he’ll join the growing number of Utahns choosing to harness the sun to power their homes.

But our discussion got me thinking…

There’s probably plenty of people who think the solar installation process is too confusing and time intensive to even get started.  As a result, they put off making one of the best investments they can make.

If you fall into that camp, here’s a firsthand explanation of the residential rooftop solar installation process to clear up any confusion and uncertainties you may have.

  1. For me, the first step was actually the hardest.  I wanted to get bids from numerous solar companies in order to find the best deal.  This step involves having solar sales people over to your house to give you their pitch.  Kind of annoying, but necessary.  I eventually came across Synergy Power, who offered me (and by a rather large margin) the best deal on a professional rooftop solar installation.  Remember, the total gross cost is very important because it determines the ROI and investment recovery length of your home’s unique system.  Without question, the less expensive the better these financial metrics become.  But to be clear, your solar system must be properly installed and use industry leading technology.  So hiring a cheap fly by night company to slap second rate panels on your roof isn’t a great idea either.  Let me make this annoying first step easy for you- contact me at utahsolartalk@gmail.com and I will put you in touch with our preferred provider: Synergy Power.  A friendly Synergy consultant will come to your home and give you a complete financial breakdown.  All you’ll need for this meeting is your home’s usage history from Rocky Mountain Power.  Your usage data allows Synergy to design a unique system that reflects the exact energy usage for your home.
  2. This step may or may not apply to you. If your roof is over 20 years old you may need to have it examined to see if it’s in good enough condition for a solar system.  If your roof is under 20 years old you’re likely fine.
  3. Next step, sign on the dotted line with your chosen solar installer. Once you have your down payment in, the engineering and permitting process can begin.  Keep in mind, all of the permitting paperwork will be taken care of by your installer. You literally have to do nothing during this step, except be patient.  From the time you sign on the dotted line to the time the panels go on your roof is typically about 2-3 months.  Sometimes it’s a little quicker, sometimes a little longer.
  4. Once all the permits are in place and the proper paperwork is filed your installer will contact you to schedule an appointment for the system install.  The system install consists of many different parts including the racking, wiring, and panels. Here a few pictures of the installation process on my home.
  5. A few days later (or possibly on the day of the panel install ) an electrician will show up to wire your new solar system into your home’s electrical system.  This usually takes a few hours depending on the size and complexity of your system.
  6. Once the solar system is completely installed an inspector will show up to make sure everything is up to snuff.  Once the inspector signs off on your project, your installer will submit the final paperwork to the proper authorities.
  7. Almost done!  Once the final paperwork is filed, Rocky Mountain Power will stop by to swap out your old meter with a new net meter.  The net meter keeps track of the energy your panels produce and the energy your home is using at the same time.  Your installer will explain this nifty piece of technology to you in more detail if need be.
  8. This is the best part! Once your net meter is installed your panels will start harnessing the energy of the sun!  Your power bill will drop next to nothing (there is still a $9 connection fee to pay every month to Rocky Mountain) and you’ll feel great knowing your helping the environment and your pocketbook over the long run!

So there you have it…

As I mentioned earlier, the first step is probably the most challenging due to the time it takes to have multiple solar consultants over to your home to give you bids.  You can avoid the headaches of the this step by contacting me at Utahsolartalk@gmail.com.  I’ll put you in touch with the same solar professional who consulted me on my system.  Doing so will likely save you thousands in the total cost of your system!

Whichever company you decide to go with, be sure to check Solarreviews.com to see if your chosen installer has solid reviews and a good installation history.

To a clean energy future,

Justin

 

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