"The best thing you can do is to understand that there IS a process,” says Danny Addy, owner of Addy Electric, a family-run California solar panel installation company.
“From obtaining a building permit, to installing the system, to turning in the required paperwork to the utility company and obtaining permission to operate, it can take anywhere from 5 weeks to 3 months, depending on what type of system you choose.”
Finding a qualified contractor to take care of these crucial details is key. But if you take care of some of the low-hanging fruit, your solar panel installation should be a snap.
Finding a qualified contractor for your solar panel installation is key. | @iStockphoto.com / Elenathewise
Decide what you want. Do you want to make money, save money or go completely off the grid? Read up on solar leasing, solar tax credits, feed-in tariffs and the various solar panel systems you can have installed.
Obtain a home energy audit to see how much energy you are using, and how to reduce demand. Be sure to have the auditors determine your sun exposure.
Check the state of your roof. Can it handle the weight of the panels? Does it need to be replaced? Photovoltaic systems can last a long time, even 30 - 50 years or more. It will be much more costly to remove your roof after panels have been installed.
Contact at least three qualified contractors for a quote. Come up with a clear list of questions beforehand:
- What are your qualifications and experience?
- Will the solar panel installation need a permit?
- What sort of rebates are available in my area?
- How long will the solar panel installation take?
- And most importantly, what will my electric bill look like after the solar panel installation is complete?
“Many homeowners are under the impression that they will not have to pay an electric bill for years,” says Addy. “This is realistic with the right sized system, but there usually is a meter charge which can range from $5 - $15 per month.”
Your contractor will lead you through the solar panel installation process and the bureaucracy, from applying for rebates, to meeting with the inspector to handing in the necessary paperwork to the utility company. Take your time to research contractors in your area, and ensure they can answer all your questions.