Installing solar panels is a great way to save money on your energy bills and help the environment at the same time.
But one thing that most people are hesitant to discuss is how much time it takes to install solar panels.
In general, it takes about 2 to 6 months to install solar panels on your home, depending on the complexity of your system and the local laws and regulations.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the solar panel installation operations timeline and discuss some of the factors that can affect it.
So if you are interested in installing solar panels on your home, keep reading to learn more about what you can expect.
Solar Panel Installation Process Timeline
1. Choosing A Solar Installer: 1 Week
This is not really a step in the solar panel installation process, but rather a prerequisite to it.
There are 2 reasons why I included this step in the timeline.
First, the solar industry is quite fragmented, with many installers offering very different prices and levels of quality.
And as a consumer, this can make you subject to a lot of misinformation and pressure sales tactics.
Therefore, it is very important to take your time and solicit quotes from a number of different installers before committing to one.
Even if you ultimately decide to work with a single installer, getting multiple quotes can help you understand the average range of prices in your area and ensure that you are getting a fair deal.
Second, city and utility permitting are by far the most time-consuming parts of the solar installation process.
And I hate to say it but some installers are just more experienced and have a lot of “connections” that allow them to get these permits much faster, so it can be worth it to pay a little bit extra for the convenience.
2. Site Assessment: 1-2 Weeks
Ok, so after comparing different quotes and hearing back from some installers, you should have a good idea of who you would like to work with.
At this point, the installer typically comes out to your home to assess the site and make sure it’s suitable for solar panels.
Here are a few things they’ll look at:
- Check the age & condition of your roof and whether it can support the solar panels’ weight for more than 25 years.
- Take measurements of your roof (size, orientation, pitch, and slope).
- Conduct a shading analysis to see if there are any obstructions that will cast shadows on your solar panels and determine the best placement for maximum energy production.
- Evaluate your energy usage and consumption patterns to know how many panels and what type of solar system to run your home.
- Inspect the main service panel and electricity-producing equipment to figure out the necessary upgrades.
- Estimate the cost of installing your solar system and your return on investment (ROI).
Depending on the site assessment, you may need to make some changes or adjustments before proceeding (e.g., moving trees or other obstacles, reinforcing your roof, etc.).
The assessment process itself will only take a few hours but most solar installers have quite busy schedules, so it can sometimes take up to 2 weeks from the time you first request an assessment until your installer comes out.
3. Solar System Design: 2-4 Weeks
The previous step was all about getting a clearer picture of what your home looks like and how it performs.
Now, the solar engineer will use all of this information to design a custom solar system for you.
They’ll take your energy usage into consideration as well as any other constraints or preferences you may have.
Then, they’ll generate a 3D model of your roof, put together the array layout, and determine exactly how many panels will be needed for your system.
For most homeowners, this is when the real “fun” begins.
You will be given a detailed system design that includes specifications, warranties, and schematics for your panels as well as your inverter, mounts, and wiring.
The design process will take anywhere from 2-4 weeks, depending on how complex the system is and your local building codes.
4. City Permits: 2-12 Weeks
Adding solar panels to your home is considered a construction solar project, so you’ll need to get permits from your city before you can begin the solar installation.
For most cities, this requires a full electrical and building permit application that includes system schematics and energy production projections.
The time needed to obtain city permits can vary quite a bit from place to place, as this depends on the workload of your local permit office, the type & size of your solar system, and any extra hoops you may need to jump through.
But in general, it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to 3 months.
If you want a more accurate estimation of how long it will take to get your permits, you can contact your local permit office or check out SolarTRACE by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
While having to wait for at least 2 weeks for the permits is a bummer, fortunately, you’re not the one who will be dealing with all of the paperwork and bureaucracy.
Your contractor or solar installer will take care of this for you as part of their job, so it’s one less thing for you to worry about when going solar.
5. Ordering System Equipment & Schedule Installation Date: 1-4 Weeks
While some solar installers have their own warehouses and order solar equipment directly from manufacturers, most do not.
Instead, they work with a number of vendors to purchase all of the solar equipment they need for your system.
And they usually don’t order these components until the city permits are approved.
So once the permits are in, your installer will place an order with their vendors and schedule a date for when they will start installing your solar panels.
Depending on the size and complexity of your solar system, this process can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks.
6. Day-Of Installation: 1-3 Days
Finally, it’s time for solar installation!
Funny enough, the actual system installation is the shortest step in the whole process.
Most residential solar systems will take about 6 hours to install, but more complex systems and arrays can take up to 3 days.
7. City Inspection: 1-2 Weeks
Now, how would the city know if you installed the panels correctly as proposed in the permit?
The only way they can verify that your system meets all building and electrical codes is to send out a city inspector.
And of course, inspectors have busy schedules, so it can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks for them to inspect your solar system.
If your installer did a good job, the inspector will approve your system and your solar company will then take care of the paperwork with your utility company to connect you to the grid.
8. Utility Permission To Operate (PTO): 2-8 weeks
After your system is installed and the city inspector approves your solar array, you would think that you are ready to go, right?
Since your solar system is connected directly to the utility grid, your local electric company needs to verify that your system meets all of its safety and performance standards before allowing you to generate solar power and send it back to the grid.
Note: This is only required if you have a grid-tied solar system.
Once your utility solar company has reviewed and approved your system, they will issue you a permission to operate (PTO) letter allowing you to start generating power.
This process usually takes 2-8 weeks.
What Affects Solar Panels Installation Time?
As you may have noticed, the solar panel installation process has many moving parts.
And each part can be impacted by a number of factors.
This section will discuss some of these factors that affect how long it takes to install solar panels, in case you want to know more about the process:
1. Your Solar Installer’s Experience
One of the most important factors that will determine how long it takes to install panels is your installer’s experience.
An experienced installer will know exactly how to deal with permit offices, vendors, inspectors, and utility solar companies.
And they are also more likely to have your installation operations streamlined so it goes smoothly and according to schedule.
2. The Solar System’s Size & Complexity
If you are setting up a large ground-mounted array on your property, or if you are building a complex custom solar system on your roof, then the installation operations will take longer.
This is because the installers are likely to encounter more challenges during the installation, which will take longer and require more skilled workers.
Also, there are different regulations for solar systems bigger than 10kW, so bear this in mind if you are considering a large system.
3. Time of Year
Some months are just busier than others for both solar installers and city inspectors.
So try to schedule your solar installation during a slower time of year, if possible.
This should help you avoid delays due to busy schedules and will make the whole process go more quickly.
4. City Regulations & HOA Approval
Depending on where you live, your city may have strict regulations and permitting requirements for installing solar panels.
If this is the case, it could take longer to get approval from the city (and potentially your HOA too).
As such, you should investigate these issues before setting a date for installation so that everything can go smoothly when the time comes.
5. Roof Condition
The condition of your roof will also affect the time it takes to install panels.
If you have a relatively new roof or if you are re-roofing at the same time as installing solar, then the process should be fairly straightforward.
But if your roof is old and in poor condition, then the installation could take longer, as the installers will need to repair or replace damaged areas before installing your solar array.
There are many factors that can affect the time it takes to install solar panels, including your installer’s experience, the size and complexity of your system, the season, and your roof condition.
However, you should expect a typical installation to take anywhere from 2 to 6 months.
We hope this article has cleared up any questions you might have.
If you still have any questions please share them with us.