The Complete Solar Installation Process: Site Model, Survey, Engineering, HOA and Other Considerations
This article will guide you through the process of installing a solar panel system on your home. It starts from the beginning with your initial solar design, a site survey, engineered solar plans, the working with your homeowners associations (HOA) and other considerations to make sure that your installation is a success.
Steps to complete a solar installation:
- Initial Solar Model Design:
- Site Survey:
- Utility Interconnection:
- Net Metering
Initial Solar Model Design
In our initial meeting we will provide a model design based on the information you provide. ( All we need is an address and your electric consumption. The greater the amount of electrical data the more precise we can tailor the model to meet your needs).
These models are a good way to help you understand how much roof space is available for installing an array, if there are any obstacles or obstructions, your return on investment (ROI) for going solar, and more.
To create our home solar design models we use an advanced modeling software named Aurora which is the gold standard in system design. Aurora Solar software is used by solar designers for designing, engineering and modeling everything for residential to commercial-scale solar projects. The great benefit of using this tool is that it can help with the design process to fast track installation time. Additionally, Aurora makes some pretty cool tools available on the platform for more in depth analysis including LIDAR and can model irradiance down to every minute of every day of the year based on historical data all of which help it be a more accurate predictor of how to right size your system to fit your needs.
Here’s a sample of how the software helps us determine the best placement for your system
After you receive your initial design model it’s time to move to the next phase = your site survey.
A home solar site survey is an evaluation of the available area for a solar installation. This includes a technician getting on the roof to take measurements to make sure there’s no sneaky vents or any possible obstructions the satellites may not have been able to account for. We can also at that time assess the condition of your roof to see if it’s compatible with a system. (On a side note, if you need to repair or replace your roof and want to go solar we can finance both). The solar technician will also take photos of your electrical equipment to better determine the scope of electrical work and for the engineering phase. Additionally, if we are doing attic runs, the solar tech will take photos inside the attic to determine where we can run wires, etc. All and all the whole process takes about 1-1.5 hours to complete.
The Engineering Phase
The next step is taking your initial solar design and the information collected from the site survey and passing it to the design engineer. The engineer takes the information and analyzes the standards set by local, state or national regulations and codes. The engineering work required can be extensive or minimal depending on your needs.
Home Owners Associations (HOA’s)
Homeowners interested in solar may have stipulations placed on the system by their HOA. An HOA might modify a homeowner’s request for panels if they are not in code with community association rules and regulations or neighborhood covenants. This is mainly because of aesthetic reasons since some neighborhoods have strict guidelines on what can be allowed around homes that could include landscaping, exterior colors, roofing materials, and so forth. Have no fear, Texas Direct Solar has worked with many HOA’s, sometimes those considered to be very challenging. We’ll work with your HOA to get your system approved and completed.
Utility Interconnection for Solar & Permitting
So once your system passes the HOA process then we’ll submit your interconnection application with your utility. (Sometimes these processes run in parallel in practice). The process can very slightly depending on the utility but essentially they’ll need a copy of your engineered designs and system information. There’ll be some documents to sign and after the installation is complete they’ll be some form of inspection. (We’ll cover this under the Permission to Operate section). This application is free in most utilities and typically takes anywhere from 2 weeks to a month to complete.
We will also at this time file for any required permits.
It's Install Time!
Great news! It’s time for your solar installation! So what should you expect? First the team will get there in the morning. In the Texas summer that time can start pretty early. The solar installation team will begin chalking up the roof to diagram the placement of the panels and equipment (don’t worry this chalk washes off easily). Once the roof is chalked they’ll start installing the solar racking system. The racking system is what the solar panels are actually affixed to. After racking the installation team will actually start the installation of your solar panels. While this is going on, the electrical team will start working on the electrical equipment and when the the roof crew is finished they’ll bring the connection from the roof to the electrical team The electrical team will then test the system to ensure it’s working and then your system will be placed on stand by until the utility reviews the installation and gives you permission to operate (PTO). An install can take anywhere from 1-2 days to complete depending the complexity, size, and environmental factors.
Permission to Operate (PTO)
After the installation is complete we notify your utility and depending on which one, they’ll be either a physical or virtual inspection. Once the utility is satisfied you’ll be given Permission to Operate (PTO)and be able to turn your system on.
Solar Net Metering
With net metering, the utility or a selected retail provider effectively buys back any excess energy your system generates at an assumed rate and, likewise will sell you power if you produce less than you consume on a given day.This arrangement assures you have access to electricity when you need it not just when the sun is shining. Most of our client’s choose Rhythm Energy for this service.