Going solar is a brilliant way to make your home more sustainable and save money on your electricity bill.
For those wondering how long it takes to install solar panels, you can expect to spend no more than five days. But while the installation process is efficient, other bureaucratic steps can take months.
The average time it takes to complete the entire process of switching to solar is three months.
This article will break down the entire process, from signing the contract to turning on your new solar system. Consider this your complete timeline for ditching traditional electricity and officially switching to solar.
Complete Timeline for Solar Installation
We have created a detailed timeline of the solar installation process from contract to operation. Keep in mind that the exact timeline varies depending on several factors.
Choosing and Signing a Contract (1-10 days)
Some people get a knock on their door or a phone call from a solar company and sign the contract that day. Others may spend some time researching the various solar companies and contracts. The time it takes to choose and sign a contract heavily depends on how long you mull over your decision.
On average, the homeowner signs a contract within three days after getting in touch with the solar company.
Site Assessment (1 day)
A site assessment is done when a designer or engineer from the solar company visits your home to develop the solar panel design.
They will also check out your rooftop and any unpermitted work to see if anything else must be done before the solar panel installation.
A site assessment usually only takes four to six hours.
Design and Engineering (3-45 days)
After the site assessor approves your home for solar panel installation, the design and engineering process begins. The solar company will design and submit the solar panel plan for your approval.
This step can go very quickly if the design time is efficient and the homeowner approves it immediately.
On the other hand, some design teams can take weeks to complete a plan, and the homeowner may ask for several changes to the project. In these situations, the design and engineering process can take as long as 45 days.
Obtain Permits and Materials (2-45 days)
Once you approve the designs and plans for the solar panels, the solar company will submit the plans to the local permit office for approval.
The speed of this step usually depends on the complexity of your solar design and the efficiency of your local building permit entities.
Some permits may get immediate approval, while others can take up to a month.
While everyone awaits permit approval, the solar company usually orders the solar materials needed for your home.
The materials can arrive anywhere from a few days to a month.
Solar Panel Installation (1-5 days)
As mentioned, once all your paperwork is in order and your property is ready, it usually only takes the team a few days to get the panels physically installed.
Depending on the size of your property, it may only take one day to complete the installation. On average, it takes three days.
Inspections (1 day)
After installing the solar panels, an inspector from the solar company will visit your home. They will survey the installation and ensure everything is safe and properly installed.
Like the site assessment, this typically takes a few hours but no more than one day to complete.
Grant Permissions (1 to 45 days)
After your panel installation passes inspection, you or the solar company will reach out to your utility company.
Someone from the utility company will perform a brief inspection, switch your electrical panel, and give permission to operate the solar system.
While the inspection and permissions only take a few hours, getting an appointment with the utility company can take a few days or weeks.
In summary, installing solar panels can take anywhere between 10 days and 6 months. Many factors that contribute to the process duration are out of your control. Many are also out of the solar company’s control.
When you start the journey toward solar energy, expect to wait at least 3 months before your solar panels are operational.
In the grand scheme of things, solar panels are worth the wait. The alternative is paying up to twice the energy price for years.
Factors That Impact Timeline
If you live in a community with a homeowner’s association, they typically require you get approval before you install solar panels.
The duration of this process depends on your particular HOA, how they feel about solar panels and how efficient their decision-making process is.
Main Panel Upgrade
Many homes, especially older ones, have a 125A service panel which must be switched out for a 200A electrical panel before you can move forward with the solar panel installation.
Switching out this panel requires several city inspections and additional permits, delaying the process.
A common delay in solar panel installation is a damaged or old roof. A solar system may last for two decades or more.
If your roof doesn't have a long life expectancy, you may want to replace or repair the roof before installing solar panels.
Some solar companies will install the panels, but you’ll need to have the panels removed and then reinstalled when it's time to fix the roof.
If your home has unpermitted structures, work, or service panels, you will not receive approval until you remove the unpermitted work.
Another option is to have the work redone with the proper permits, which often takes longer than removing the unpermitted work.
Permit Office Efficiency
As mentioned, the speed of your permit approval will depend heavily on how busy and efficient your local building permit office is.
If you live in an area where many people are going solar, you may need to wait longer for approval.
Solar Equipment Availability
Sometimes solar panel manufacturers are slammed with orders, so you have to wait for panels to be made. In addition, there are likely many people in front of you in line.
Aside from the panels, there may be a lack of availability on the installation contractors’ part. Solar is quickly gaining popularity as energy prices rise and people turn toward more environmentally conscientious practices.
If there’s a boom of solar panel installations in your area, you may have to make your installation appointment further out than you would like or expect.
Like the permit offices, your timeline will vary depending on the efficiency of your utility company.
Once all your permits get approved and you pass the company inspection, it’s time to call the utility company to perform their inspection, switch your electrical meter, and sign off on all operating permissions.
Your utility may have an inspection appointment the next day or next month.
Once again, it likely depends on how many are switching to solar in your area. In the rare instances that the property is an off-grid system, this step can be skipped. But most properties are on the grid, requiring the utility company’s green light.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Do you have more inquiries about solar panel installation? Refer to some of our most frequently asked questions below!
Is Solar Installation Difficult?
While solar panel installation isn’t necessarily difficult, it is definitely complex.
We would not recommend installing solar panels without the assistance of a professional. Leave the complicated electrical wiring and installation components to your chosen solar installer.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
The average photovoltaic solar panel is made to last over 25 years. However, some solar panels from the 1980s are still in operation 40 years later with few to no issues.
Solar batteries can also last over a decade of consistent use.
Do Solar Panels Increase Value to Your House?
Whether or not solar panels add value to your home often depends on the state you live in. But generally, installing solar panels in your home will increase its value.
In many areas, homebuyers are looking for homes that already have solar panels to save on energy without installing them themselves.