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What to Expect When You're Getting Solar Panels

Having solar panels installed isn't as simple as placing them on the roof and plugging them in. The process can take months.

Chi Odogwu Contributor
Chi Odogwu is a consultant and freelance writer who creates content for fintech, real estate, cryptocurrency, and blockchain companies and their senior executives. He has written and published articles on decentralized finance, business, and personal finance for Forbes, Entrepreneur, and several prominent publications. In addition, Chi serves as a part-time college professor and runs a financial education platform where he teaches teens and adults about digital financial literacy, web3, cryptocurrencies, and online entrepreneurship. When he is not writing and teaching, he is an avid podcaster who has hosted the Bulletproof Entrepreneur Podcast for many years.
Chi Odogwu
4 min read
Person walking on a roof with a solar panel on their shoulder.

A solar installer puts panels on a roof.

Bloomberg/Getty Images

Many homeowners who decide to go solar do so for the sense of energy independence. But should that independence extend to the point of installing your own solar panels? Probably not.

While some homeowners with engineering chops have tried to DIY their solar panels, MacGyvering a system may not be the best idea. Especially if your solar panels are going to be connected to the grid, you'll need a professional electrician or certified installer. And installing solar panels yourself might affect the all-important warranty on your panels.

Whether you do the wiring yourself or hire professionals, there are a lot more steps than the actual connecting of electrical components. Here's what to expect.

How to install solar panels

Although homeowners can technically handle the installation of a solar panel system themselves, they'll need to adhere to laws and municipal ordinances that govern access to the municipal power grid, according to Brandon Boudreaux, the owner of Avvio Solar, an Arizona solar installation company. Failure to follow these regulations could result in potential risks of electrocution and safety concerns that could jeopardize the homeowner's life and their neighbors' safety. 

Due to these risks, many local governments have limited the ability of unlicensed individuals to make significant modifications to their properties' electrical systems. Boudreaux recommends that homeowners interested in installing a solar panel system take the following steps.

  • Step 1 - Expression of Interest: You decide you want solar panels. Express interest to solar installers and schedule a consultation.
  • Step 2 - Consultation: Meet with the solar installer to discuss the project details.
  • Step 3 - Signing of Agreement: Once you select a solar installer, you need to sign an agreement that includes an installation contract outlining the work to be done, an interconnection agreement with the utility company if the system is to be connected to grid, and a financing agreement if you're financing the panels.
  • Step 4 - Site Survey: The installer must conduct a professional site survey to measure the roof, inspect the attic, check the main panels and ensure everything is up to code.
  • Step 5 - Ordering of Plan Set: A plan set is ordered after the site survey. This document outlines the construction of the solar system. It is submitted to the city and utility company for approval.
  • Step 6 - Permit Application: The solar installer applies for a permit from the city or state.
  • Step 7 - Equipment Collection: Once the permit is approved, the installer collects the necessary equipment from the warehouse.
  • Step 8 - Installation: The installer sets an appointment to install the solar system. The actual installation typically takes one to two days.
  • Step 9 - Post-Installation Work: More work might be needed after installation. For instance, an electrician might have to enhance the electrical system to ensure the house meets the necessary codes. A series of inspections might be required both before and after the installation.
  • Step 10 - Final Approval: The solar system can be officially turned on once all inspections are passed and all necessary upgrades are made.

The installation process can take three to six months to complete. While it may be possible to complete it sooner, it's better to set realistic expectations to avoid frustration. 

What to consider before installing solar panels

Here are some factors to consider before installing solar panels.

Your home's solar potential

Not all homes are suitable for solar installations. The direction your roof is facing, the amount of sunlight your home receives, the size of your roof, and any obstructions, such as trees or buildings, can all impact your home's solar potential.

Local regulations and permits

Different areas have different safety regulations regarding solar installations. You'll need to check with your local authorities to determine what permits are required and if you can install the panels yourself.


Solar installations can be expensive. Can you afford to pay up front for the entire installation, or do you have to finance it over time?

Keeping up with maintenance and repairs

Solar panels require regular maintenance and may occasionally need repairs. You should consider whether you can carry out this maintenance yourself or need to hire a professional.

Connecting to the grid

If you plan to connect your solar system to the grid, check with your utility company to find out what's involved. This can be a complex process that requires specific knowledge and skills.

Type of solar system 

The type of solar system you choose can impact the flexibility of your installation. A DIY solar system can offer more flexibility, as you have control over the design and placement of the panels. However, this flexibility requires a thorough understanding of solar systems and their installation.

Do I need a professional solar installer? 

If you're exploring a solar panel system for your primary residence, you need a professional installer to help you with your solar installation. Professionals have the necessary technical skills, understanding of local building codes and regulations, and the workforce to dedicate to the project. 

"A DIY installation might be a fun, hands-on project if you have a vacation cabin somewhere off the grid. But when you factor in connecting to the municipal electricity grid, you should not risk your safety and that of your loved ones," Boudreaux said. "Additionally, many manufacturers' warranties require professional installation. Therefore, hiring a professional is often recommended for most homeowners."

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