Making the switch to solar is one of the biggest decisions in a homeowner’s life. Whether you want to save money on your electricity or get completely off the grid, there are options for you.
However, it is not just as simple as installing panels and getting free power. There are many considerations to make before you can put up your panels. In most areas, you will need a permit and many different plans.
In most of the United States, you need a building permit from your local government to put up solar panels. Getting this permit will protect you as the homeowner and ensure that you don’t get any unnecessary fines.
Depending on where you live, there are going to be other fees and permits you may need. In this article, we will cover just some of the steps required in the entire solar panel installation process.
Table of Contents
- What Kind of Permissions Do I Need to Install Solar Panels on My Home?
- Why Install Solar Panels?
- Why Do I Need a Permit?
- Permit Requirements
- Contacting Your Power Company
- Getting The Necessary Inspections
- Buying Your Solar System
- Hiring a Contractor Vs. DIY
- Related Questions
- Final Thoughts
What Kind of Permissions Do I Need to Install Solar Panels on My Home?
Obtaining a permit to add solar panels to your home isn’t just about filling out a form at your City Hall. There are most likely local, state, and federal safety and building requirements that you must adhere to.
Even if you’ve had solar panels installed previously, the rules may have changed, or the requirements may be different in your new location. Therefore, you should always double check that you are complying.
You will also most likely need to have a local electrical inspector come out to verify that you are meeting the applicable electrical codes. Assuming that you already have homeowner’s insurance, your insurer may have specific regulations about additions to your home that you must comply with to avoid invaliding your policy.
Lastly, your power company will typically need to be notified and sign off on your solar panel plans.
Why Install Solar Panels?
There are many reasons to install solar panels on your home. Even though the installation can be quite a bit of work and money, it can end up being worth it. The money saved by not getting power from the grid could eventually pay for the panels’ installation.
If you want to live completely off-the-grid, solar panels are your best option. Depending on your area, you could bank enough power to live for a long time. Solar panels are getting more efficient all the time.
If you are still connected to the grid, you could even stand to make money from having solar power. Any extra power that your panels generate gets pumped back into the system. The power company will then pay you for this power.
Why Do I Need a Permit?
Getting a permit for your solar panels is not only the law, but it is also for your protection. The reasoning and regulations vary from state to state but the basic reasons are the same. The permit allows the local, state, and federal government to regulate solar power in their area.
Building permits also help make sure that your construction isn’t interfering with anything. Ecosystems, other utility grids and more can all be affected by installing your panels. Getting a permit will ensure you are covered.
By getting a building permit for your solar panels, you are also protecting yourself from fines. Many code violations result in hefty fees that can quickly add up. Having your solar system permitted and inspected can help you avoid these penalties.
There are many things you must have in order before you receive your solar panel permit. Depending on your state, you may have to submit complete plans. By having these plans on file, you can avoid any unwanted headaches down the line.
You must submit plans for your roof, construction, elevation, electrical, location, and more. These comprehensive documents will allow your local government’s permitting office to get a good idea of your plans. This will let them make an informed permitting decision.
Once your documentation is submitted, you may have to attend local government meetings. In these meetings, you will present your plans and the board will approve or deny your request.
Be prepared to answer questions and provide any additional information.
Contacting Your Power Company
If you live in an area that has a power grid, you will also have to work with your local utility company. They may come out and do an inspection and work with you to make sure everything is safe. This will be necessary if you plan to take advantage of their power buy-back program.
Many power companies have a separate approval process from the local government. It is a good idea to get in contact with them early in the construction. This will allow time for you to go through their inspections.
By getting your utility company’s approval early, you can get your solar on as soon as possible. Many solar power projects have been held up by problems with the utility company. Their approval can speed everything up
Getting The Necessary Inspections
Your local government will want to inspect your solar panel build at different steps. This allows them to make sure everything is following the agreed-upon plan. This also helps you stay code-compliant throughout construction.
- Initial Inspection – The first inspection will consist of checking things like roof structure and wiring. If you are installing panels on the ground, you may have to do some soil engineering to ensure a solid base. The initial inspection will help with this.
- Final Inspections – When everything is built, your solar panels will go through one last inspection. Here, your local government will sign off with an electrical inspector and make sure you have a meter to measure power.
Buying Your Solar System
There are many different ways to buy a solar power system. In general, you can find a company local to your area that will get you set up. By doing this, you can ensure that you will be compliant with local codes.
The biggest advantage of buying a local system is that the company has knowledge of the laws. They are not going to let you buy anything that will get you a strike on your inspection. For this reason, buying your system locally is highly recommended.
Hiring a Contractor Vs. DIY
When you are starting the process of installing solar panels, you have to think about the work involved. Solar installation is no easy task and requires quite a bit of construction know-how. Because of this, you must choose between hiring someone to do it or doing it yourself.
There are many benefits to hiring a contractor to install your solar system. One is that contractors can take care of all the permitting. If you have enough money to hire them, a contractor will do a lot of the administrative work for you. In fact, the best way to ensure that you are not violating any codes is to hire a professional installer.
Without the necessary experience, you may not obtain all of the required permissions, costing you much more money down the line than it would be to just hire a professional. Aside from this, there are some seriously expensive pitfalls you could encounter when solar panels are installed incorrectly. This includes, but is not limited to, damage to your roof, requiring a very pricey roof repair. Installing them yourself also presents safety issues, as you’ll have to be up on your roof during the install.
Regardless, if you are so inclined, you can also install your solar panels yourself. DIY projects like solar installation or building a roof over a deck can be very rewarding. If done right, you can save quite a bit of money by not hiring a contractor.
How do I calculate how much solar power I need?
To figure out how much power your household will need, you should look at past electric bills. You can then figure out how many solar panels you need by multiplying the hourly energy requirement by sunlight hours. Then, divide that number by one panel’s wattage.
How long does it take to charge a 12v battery with a solar panel?
In general, one solar panel will charge a 12v car battery in 8 hours. With this metric, you can figure out your energy needs.
Can you install solar panels on the ground?
If you have enough open ground, you can install panels there instead of on the roof. The cost of ground-mounted panels is comparable to a roof-mounted installation. Depending on the setup on your home, this may be a good option.
As people try to rely less and less on natural gasses for power, solar is looking like a good option. With solar kits becoming more and more affordable and accessible, there is no reason not to look into it. Should your situation allow, you could save a lot of money.
By getting permitted and starting the process early, you can avoid unnecessary interruptions to your solar power. Being prepared is a money saver and a time saver and staying code compliant is the best preparation.