As a consumer, investing in solar power can seem overwhelming. Where do I start? What am I looking for? How do I know if it makes sense? There are usually more questions than answers and that can be overwhelming.
We hear from customers all the time that they don’t know where to start or what to expect, so we want to help breakdown the process to help you navigate your road to a successful solar project.
Where to start?
First, decide if your property is a good location for a solar installation. A good place to determine your property’s solar potential is Project Sunroof (google.com). You can type in your address and energy costs and determine the solar potential of your roof. Project sunroof gives you the best potential placement for the solar panels and the number of solar hours available to your location. This gives you an idea of how useful solar could be for you.
Other factors that help decide if your roof is a good solar candidate are:
- Who owns your roof? The owner of the roof is ultimately who has the decision-making power for a solar installation. In apartments, condos, and other rentals, the resident often cannot make the decision about going solar or not.
- Is there a governing body that limits changes you can make to your property? A homeowner’s association, or historical district won’t make going solar impossible, but there may be some additional documentation and permissions necessary.
Fun Fact: According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) 18.3 million homes enjoy the benefits of generating their own electricity from solar panels. In 2020 18,000 MW of solar was installed in the US more than double the capacity installed just five years before.
So now you have decided that your home is a good candidate for solar.
You are going to need a qualified and licensed solar installer. The most important part in deciding on an installer is verifying that the company is qualified, licensed, and insured. Watch our Youtube video for more information on how to choose the right solar installer.
FUN FACT: The U.S. Bureau of labor statistics has found solar to be the fastest growing job creation industry in the nation adding more jobs than coal and natural gas combined.
So now you have an installer in mind and it’s time to schedule a site visit. A representative will meet with you to help determine your needs and what system and equipment they can offer you. They will be able to provide you with a proposal including cost, financing options, and the process should you decide to move forward.
After speaking with a representative and weighing the cost and potential savings, you’ll need to decide on how to finance the project.
There are many options out there, PACE funding, installer provided financing, and local bank loans are all valid options. While all these options should save you money from your current utility cost, you should speak with your financial advisor to determine which option is best for you. The option that yields the highest savings will always be to self-fund, and the lowest saving option would be to lease rather than purchase the equipment.
Having decided on and been approved for a financing option, you are now ready to sign a contract.
Once you have signed a contract you should expect a visit from the engineering representative.They will be there to photograph your roof and ensure your home is structurally ready for a solar installation. They are the one to design your system and decide where to best place your panels.
Use this opportunity to ask any technical questions you may still have as this individual will be a wealth of knowledge about the equipment and roof attachments.
If your installer does not provide this service, you may want to consider a different installer. This step is the foundation of the installation. Engineering drawings are what dictates how the installation is performed. They must be reviewed and approved by the local municipality before the project can even begin.
After a site visit, the engineer will create plans for your project.
The installer is responsible for securing the materials needed for your project and delivering the plans along with the permitting documents to the local municipality to secure local building permits. They will review the plans and decide if your installer can move forward with a project.
Once your building permits have been approved the installation company should call you to schedule the installation. Depending on the size of your project the installation should take several days even a week allowing the local building official to visit the job site to perform several inspections on mounting hardware, rough, and final electrical, and structural inspections as required by code.
Beware of an installer performing their own inspections or hiring their own third-party inspection provider. Third party inspection providers are usually not on the job site and rely on pictures and letters from the installers that do not equal a building officials’ physical inspection.
Your installation is physically completed after all inspections are finalized, and the permitting is closed and paid for by your installer.
The next step is connecting the system to the local utility company. In Florida, this is usually done with net metering.
You will need to fill out an application with your local electric provider, and they will have you sign an agreement for interconnection.
In South Florida, the net metering process involves physically changing the meter on the property to a bidirectional meter to record and credit excess solar production going into the electrical grid.
Your solar installer should be familiar with the interconnection and net metering process and be able to assist you in filling out any documentation or applications.
After approval, the electrical provider will send a tech to perform a meter change if necessary and give official permission to operate a renewable energy system on the property.
Running on Sunshine!
Once you have been given permission to operate you are ready to turn on your system and enjoy the savings of generating your own electricity. At this time, your solar provider should schedule another meeting with you to go over system components, monitoring options, warranty paperwork, and any final invoicing.
You should ask your installer for copies of documentation for your records, and releases from any manufacturer that may have provided materials. Your installation is completed, and your solar system will require little to no maintenance for years to come.
I hope you find this information helpful and if you have any questions you can contact us at www.cbsolar.miami
Till the next time let the sun power your lifestyle!