How long does it take to install solar panels?

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If you’re considering installing solar panels, one of your top questions may be how long it will take after signing a contract to finish your solar project. There are a number of factors that determine this timeline - in this article, we’ll discuss those factors, as well as the average estimated timeframes for a solar panel installation from start to finish.

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You won't have solar panels on your property the day after signing a contract. The time it takes before you're up and running with solar power largely depends on five factors:

  1. Your solar installation company

  2. Local permitting and inspection processes

  3. Size and type of solar panel system

  4. Property characteristics

  5. Utility company and interconnection

Given these various factors, a solar panel system can be up and running in as soon as a few weeks and as long as half a year. The average time period most people can expect from signing a contract to running on solar power is approximately three months.

Solar installation company

How soon a solar company can schedule your installation after receiving a signed contract varies from company to company; some solar companies have more crews and install much higher volumes than others. However, even companies with several installation crews may have a busy calendar. If you're in a time crunch and need to be installed as soon as possible because of expiring incentives or tax credits, this could be a very important factor in determining who to give your business to.

Local permitting and inspection

Before you install solar panels, your solar company will need to file for a permit with your local government to let them know what work they'll be doing on your property. The permits required for installing solar vary by location but typically include a photovoltaic (PV) specific permit, a general electrical permit, and/or a construction permit. Depending on your town, the number of permits required, and how busy the permitting office is, this process may take anywhere from a week to more than a month.

Post-installation, your local government will also need to send someone out to inspect your system and confirm it meets the necessary standards. Similar to permitting, how soon you can expect an inspection will be dependent on your location and how busy the local government offices are. Typically, you can expect the inspection to occur within a week from the date of the request.

Size and type of solar panel system

Once permits have been approved and your installation is scheduled, the actual installation of the solar equipment itself is perhaps the quickest part of the process.

Most solar companies can install a rooftop residential solar panel installation in one to three days, depending on how many panels you're installing and how complicated the installation is. If you're installing a large commercial solar panel system, expect the installation to take anywhere from a week to a couple of months.

The process of installing a ground-mounted solar panel installation can take more time because of the additional work required; your installer will need to trench your land to run the wiring from your solar panel system to your building. If the location of your solar panel system is far from your electric meter, this can add on quite a bit of time.

Property characteristics and necessary upgrades

Every property is unique when it comes to roofing and electrical systems. Many homes are ready for a solar panel system as-is; however, occasionally, there are upgrades you need to make to your home prior to installing solar. The more common upgrades include re-roofing, upgrading your electric panel, or reinforcing your roof to ensure it can withstand the additional weight of solar equipment. If upgrades are necessary prior to installation, it can mean further delaying a solar panel installation. Fortunately, many of these upgrades can occur simultaneously with other steps of the going solar process.

Utility company and interconnection

If you're installing a grid-tied solar panel system, your installer will need to file an application with your utility company to connect your solar panel system to the grid. For residential solar panel systems, this process will take approximately two to three weeks to complete; however, this may occur sooner or later, depending on your utility company.

Finally, after your solar panel system is installed, a representative from your utility company will need to come to visit your property to inspect the system and approve it for interconnection to the grid. This often involves installing a new meter that will allow you to take advantage of net metering. Similar to the approval process, the amount of time it will take for a utility company to approve a solar panel system interconnection will vary by utility. A study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that it typically takes one to two weeks after the installation dates to officially receive permission to operate (PTO).

The best way to make sure you'll finish your solar panel installation as soon as possible is to work with a competent, reputable solar installer. Installation companies with good customer service and capable project managers will work to keep you informed throughout each step of the installation process and notify you of any progress or delays as they occur. By signing up on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can receive up to seven custom quotes from local solar installers to compare side-by-side. All installation companies that quote through the Marketplace have been pre-screened and vetted to ensure that you'll only receive offers from top-notch, experienced solar companies.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2024
Please enter a five-digit zip code.
  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Access the lowest prices from installers near you
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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