Installing Solar Panels Is Not For the Novice DIYer

Solar panel installation is one of the biggest home improvement projects that can add significant value to a property, yet many beginners attempt this DIY task on their own. But be warned: installing solar panels …

installing solar panels

Solar panel installation is one of the biggest home improvement projects that can add significant value to a property, yet many beginners attempt this DIY task on their own. But be warned: installing solar panels requires experienced hands.

Hiring a professional installer will be necessary; when choosing one, ensure they have an outstanding track record and ensure your roof can support solar energy efficiently. They should also set up your solar energy system so it works optimally.


Most solar panel installations involve mounting them directly on your home roof, with ideal conditions being south-facing (plus or minus 10 degrees true south), with no shade and at least 30-degree pitches. If this isn’t possible, your solar contractor will work with you to find an alternative solution – perhaps using ground-mounted systems which track the sun for maximum power generation, or remain stationary if your roof is too steep or shaded.

Installing solar panels requires first laying down electrical wiring that connects your panels and equipment together. Depending on your installer and system size, this may take anywhere from two to six weeks – which makes winter the ideal time to begin this process as most solar companies tend not to be as busy.

Once the electrical wiring is complete, your installer will set up a racking system to hold solar panels and equipment. It is imperative that both your panels and racking are grounded accordingly to comply with local electrical codes; as a result, always opt for UL listed grounding clips and lugs when grounding anything involving electricity.

Before selecting a solar company, make sure to conduct thorough research just like when purchasing any large item. Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage recommends “searching for contractors with customer reviews, certifications, Better Business Bureau profiles and other pertinent details about their business,” while you can use tools like their SolarReviews calculator to estimate how much energy a system will produce based on household energy consumption. Once quotes have been gathered compare them and select one with an affordable plan suited for you situation.

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Flashing during solar panel installation is key in protecting both your roof and shingles from potential damage, and keeping its surface free of corrosion caused by constant contact between sunlight and water – this prolongs their lives both for you and the panels themselves.

Solar installers use various flashings to secure the racking system on your roof, such as galvanized aluminum, copper, and stainless steel flashings. Each type has its own distinct set of pros and cons; copper flashing can be durable but over time may develop a green patina due to corrosion. Aluminum flashings are easy to work with but may corrode under certain conditions while stainless steel offers greater corrosion protection but is more challenging to work with.

Once flashings have been installed, it’s time to install your racking rails. Your racking report should detail the size and spacing requirements for your system; make sure it’s close at hand during this process. Racking rails will be secured to flashing using L-feet bolted either directly to roof rafters or an attached wooden brace.

Once the racks are in place, the next step should be running the wiring from your solar source to a junction box and into conduit run – to inverter (grid-tie systems) or charge controller (battery-based systems). Be wary when digging to ensure you avoid hitting underground gas or electrical lines as well as install lockable safety disconnects on all back feed breaker installations for grid-tie systems.


Solar panel installation can be an intricate undertaking, and it is vital that your installers are experienced. A professional installation will ensure all safety measures are implemented effectively while using only approved equipment and measures. They should also be licensed, and insured and have undergone background checks to meet licensing and insurance requirements as well as be knowledgeable of state/federal incentives available to them, which can reduce upfront costs considerably while increasing energy savings over time.

As part of your decision process when purchasing a system, it’s essential to take into account how much sunlight your house receives daily and the electricity you consume – this will allow you to determine an ideal size PV array. Furthermore, there are multiple financing options available including cash purchases, loans, and Power Purchase Agreements; your choice will have an impactful influence on overall costs.

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The wattage of solar panel arrays should also be taken into account. Higher-wattage panels produce more electricity, yet are typically more costly; finding an appropriate balance between wattage and cost when comparing different manufacturers’ offerings is often best.

Other considerations when purchasing panels include frame color and whether or not a black back sheet is included. Some companies also offer “all-black” panels, which have black frames and cell sheets for an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Consider also how long manufacturers offer warranties on their panels. Most manufacturers provide both workmanship warranties and production guarantees to cover degradation in performance over time. It is crucial that when comparing solar panel prices, you know how long the product is covered under warranty by its maker.


If you are planning a grid-tie system with battery backup (or hybrid solar PV+ storage hybrid), a power inverter is essential to its successful implementation. It converts the direct current generated from solar panels into alternating current, used to power household appliances; furthermore, an inverter monitors how much energy your solar panel system consumes or sends back into the grid.

Your installer should handle all the paperwork associated with completing your solar installation, including federal and state tax incentives and rebates, PACE financing options, and local building permits and restrictions. They’ll also help assess whether solar is suitable for your home as well as explore available incentives in your area.

Before beginning any electrical work on your solar panel installation, a municipal inspector must visit and give approval. They will check all wiring is properly done as well as meet standards for roof setbacks and other regulations.

Installing a solar battery system also requires installing dedicated circuit breakers and back feed breakers that require special knowledge and skills; to do this successfully it’s essential that you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for doing this work.

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Make sure that you plan and organize your wiring run ahead of time, making it accessible. If possible, run wires underneath attic flooring to reduce visibility and protect them from heavy winds. Secure factory wire leads from solar panels, micro-inverters or power optimizers using wire clips, making sure no exposed wiring comes into contact with roof tiles as this would violate National Electric Code standards.


PV modules and an inverter must be connected together in an electrical circuit for electricity to pass freely, either to use in your home or feed back into the grid. This process of wiring is known as “stringing,” with each series of panels joined to each other being known as a string.

Proper wiring management is key to any successful solar installation, as PV panels produce DC power that must be converted to AC electricity (for use in your home or the grid) before returning back into your panels again. This conversion occurs through an inverter which also serves as a battery charger in battery-based systems.

As solar installations involve working with voltages that may reach 600V and beyond, it is vital to wear appropriate safety gear such as gloves, electrical safety shoes and harnesses when performing PV installations. Negligent handling could result in serious injury or even death from direct current from panels being connected together if handled incorrectly.

Each solar panel comes equipped with a junction box at its base that serves many functions, including bypass diodes that ensure power flows only in one direction and prevent it from feeding back into shaded panels. Furthermore, it will include a metering terminal for attaching a voltmeter.

Solar racking must be secured using a UL listed grounding lug; your racking provider, such as IronRidge, can supply details regarding this aspect. Furthermore, integrated heat sinks will reduce heat generated by PV panels and enhance efficiency.