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Solar Panel Guide: Switching to Solar Power

May 25, 2022

You reap several benefits as a home or business owner by going solar. Some of these benefits ensure that you have your energy source, and you won't have to worry about paying utility bills. You will also enjoy great Return on Investment (ROI) and protect the environment simultaneously. Solar power installation is a long-lasting investment with minimal repair and maintenance costs.

California offers tax rebates when you go solar. This, therefore, calls for careful considerations when you decide to switch to solar power. To ensure that you understand the process, you will be interested in knowing the process. The entire process and transaction should profit you more than the manufacturer or installers as the property owner.

Switching to solar power is simple, but you will need an expert’s guide to avoid blunders. Therefore, you will need to engage the services of reputable solar installers. Even with experts on board, you need to understand the process. The main goal is to make the switch to solar power quickly, which will ensure you start gaining from your investment.

At Sun Solar Electric, we believe that you deserve a good ROI. So our team of qualified engineers and designers will walk with you and ensure you understand the importance of every step of the way. This article will help you understand the process of switching to solar power, the duration, and what to expect. Steps to take when switching to solar power, include:

Consultation

After hiring a solar power installation company, the first step is to consult with them on what you want to do at your property. The contractors will look at your consumption needs and advise installing the best solar panels. You will need to consider the following steps before powering your property with solar power:

Look into Your Property’s Energy Efficiency

Before you start powering your property using solar power, the next step is to consider your energy consumption levels and any efficiency upgrades required. You will need to be aware of your total consumption and consider implementing and improving efficiency measures before switching to solar power. Your contractors will advise and assist you to do the following to minimize your electrical usage:

  • Perform an energy audit on your property. This is to assist you in understanding where the energy consumption is lost in your property and show you the necessary steps to apply to increase the energy efficiency level on your property.

  • Ensure you switch to efficient lighting like having LED bulbs on your property.

  • You will need to consider the cooling and heating of your property as it will affect the number of solar panels to install.

  • Consider investing in high-efficiency appliances as they will also affect the power efficiency of the solar panels.

Determine Your Property Solar Energy Potential

Even before the contractors can advise you on the most efficient way to apply solar power at your property, they will help you determine the potential power generated at your place. First, you will realize that California has ample sunlight, which solar panels convert into electricity. This simply means that the solar power generated at a specific place will depend on the amount of sunlight reaching the solar system.

Your contractors will use mapping tools and equipment to determine your property’s solar power potential. They will then advise you on the accurate cost, size, and savings when installing the solar system. A contractor will also offer detailed and accurate estimates, recommend what equipment to use, and offer their expertise.

Advice on Available Financing Options

When you consult with your solar installation company, ensure that they advise you on the best financing option available to you. A solar installation makes you eligible for tax rebates; let the contractors advise accordingly. You will also be advised on the best financiers who can partner with you as you install solar systems on your property.

Site Assessment

After consulting with the solar installation company, a contractor will visit your property to assess if it is safe and ready for a solar system installation. When the contractor visits your property, they will consider the following to come up with the best solar system design for you:

  • A contractor will consider the shades provided by any trees on your property or those from your neighbors. In addition, they will be able to check on the growing trees, which could affect your solar system later.

  • The contractor will check if your roof can support the solar system or advise you if an upgrade is needed.

  • Existing solar panels, if any.

  • Vent locations and the roof dimensions.

The goal of the assessment is to ascertain whether your roof can support the solar panel weight and if your existing main panel can handle the new levels of energy that the solar panel will produce. Therefore, it is essential to have the Homeowners Association (HOA) documents with you when the site assessor comes for a site visit. Apart from collecting the HOA documents, the assessor will consider the condition of your roof and advise you on any upgrades or repairs required before installing the solar system.

Design

Using the assessment data collected, your solar installation company engineers will design a solar system that suits your needs and meets local government requirements. An installation company has design engineers who will verify the solar system plans before being taken to the local authorities for permitting. When hiring an installation company, go for a team specializing in designs and engineering for residential and business properties. This will minimize the time it takes to approve your designs by the city council, as the engineers and designers are well acquainted with the permit process.

Most cities have different procedures, rules, and regulations when it comes to designs, and you will need the services of a qualified engineer or designer to come up with a design that will meet all the requirements set by your city. You should hire an installation company that has a designer who will design a system that will meet your city’s regulations and, at the same time, maximize your ROI. The engineers should ensure that your design meets your expectations and, at the same time, matches the city’s expectations. This will ensure that any corrections on the design are minimal, which will go a long way in ensuring you secure the permits quickly.

Application of Solar Permit

Before installing a solar system on your property, you will need relevant permits from the local government Building and Safety department. With the relevant permits, you can then go for solar power billing. Obtaining your city’s permit to install a solar system will take a lot of time, and this calls for the services of qualified personnel who have a clear understanding of the entire process.

The local government or municipality will let you know the type of permit to apply for to install a solar power system on your property. You will primarily be required to have an electrical and a solar PV Permit before installing a solar system.

Solar System Installation

The installers will give you a date to install the solar panels after the building and Safety Department issues the relevant permits. The installers will arrive at your premises with all the required equipment, cables, wires, solar inverter, solar panels, and racking. They will first work on your electrical wiring, then install the solar panels. The process of installation will involve the following steps:

  • The contractor will ensure that your roof, tiles, or shingles are fit for installation.

  • The next step is installing the electrical wiring, connecting the electrical panel and the mains power system.

  • After putting in the electrical wiring, the next step is mounting the racking, which supports the solar system panels on your roof.

  • Once the contractors are sure that the racking is attached correctly to your roof, they will place the solar panels.

  • The last step is to connect the inverter to the mounted solar panels. The inverter helps convert the direct current(DC) energy produced by the panels into alternating current(AC) energy that you will use in your home or store in the electric grid.

Sometimes, the installation can take several days if you have a complicated roofing system or require several solar panels. This process can occur in your presence, but you will need to be present to grant the installers access to some part of your property.

City Building Inspection and Approval

After completing the installation, your installation company will contact the local Building and Safety Department to inspect. The department will then send a building inspector to ensure that the solar system is correctly installed and follows the city’s building code. The objective of this visit is to ensure that your installation is done correctly, matches the engineering plans, and is safe.

The installation company will send a technician to show the site inspector around during the inspection. If the inspector points out any corrections, the technician can address them immediately. Sometimes this stage may take a while due to the city's Building and Safety department’s backlog and the year’s season. The inspection and approval stage may go up to one week if the inspector comes quickly and makes corrections.

Approval For Solar Billing by Your Utility Company

After receiving your city Building and Safety Department permits, you will have one more hurdle to overcome. You will have to apply for permission to operate from your utility company, where they will help you to switch to solar billing. This application should be accompanied by the city’s inspection approval job card. Once the utility company approves your application, they will let you and your installation company know.

Solar billing is a method that allows you, as the solar system owner, to store the excess solar power in the electric grid. This will happen if your solar system produces more power than you can use. The utility company will exchange this electric energy with credits. You should note that even when your solar system produces energy and does not have permission to operate, you will not receive any credits for any energy stored in the electric grid. It is, therefore, crucial to ensure your utility company gives your permission to operate.

How Long Does it Take to Switch to Solar Power?

Making the switch to solar energy is a process that can take three weeks to complete, but it can also drag for several months, depending on some factors. Some of the factors which will delay your project include:

Roof Repair

Sometimes, solar installation contractors may advise you to repair your roof before installing a solar system. For instance, a solar system has 25 years, and if your roof has a shorter lifespan, the contractors will advise you to repair the roof first before installing the solar system. Unfortunately, the process of repairing your roof may take some time, especially if it will require permits, which will end up dragging your project.

Panel Upgrade

When it comes to solar installations, you will have to upgrade your main service panel from 125A to 200A main electrical panel. You will have to do this because the process will take longer with the main service panel as you will require an additional electric permit. In addition, the main upgrade will require a maximum of three inspections from the city's Building and Safety Department.

Homeowners Association Approval

Suppose your property is in a place where the Home Owners Association(HOA) requires to be notified of any significant change done on your property. In that case, your project will take longer as you will require the HOA permits to install the solar system.

Contact A Solar Installation Company Near Me

If you are looking to invest in renewable energy, going solar is one way of achieving your goal. Solar energy does not drain your wallet or pollute the environment. If you want to switch to solar power and are looking for a solar installation company in Northern California or Bay Area, look no further than Sun Solar Electric. We will install the solar system and advise you accordingly. Kindly contact us at 707-658-2157 for a free consultation.

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