Solar Installation Process
Most installations consist of the following steps:
- Measurement and Layout
Per design, the installation area is measured and the layout of the panels and roof mounts are marked on the roof.
- Remove Tiles (if tile roof)
If the panels are to be installed on a tile roof, tiles where the roof mounts are to be located are removed.
- Locate Rafters
The rafters into which the roof mounts are to be installed are located using a variety of method (including audibly, electronically, or physically).
- Install Roof Mounts
Roof mounts, that will secure the panels onto the roof, are fastened into the rafters per code and best practices to ensure proper installation and water seal. Enough roof mounts are required to reduce load and stress on each rafter, while preventing too many to minimize roof penetrations.
- Install Rails
Rails are attached to the roof mounts (upon which the solar panels will be mounted) to facilitate positioning, spreading the solar panel load and stress among the roof mounts, and elevate the solar panels above the roof to allow air circulation for cooling (solar panel performance degrades at higher temperatures).
- Install Ground Wire
To ensure the same electrical reference point and safety, continuous copper ground wire is connected to all rail segments and junction boxes.
- Install Microinverters or Power Optimizers
Each microinverter converts DC output from one (sometimes two) solar panel to AC. Each power optimizer conditions the DC output from one solar panel to optimized DC to be fed into a central string inverter. These devices are mounted to the railing.
- Install Junction Boxes and Wiring (over roof or attic run/wall run options may be available)
Microinverter or power optimizer wiring, including ground wiring are consolidated into electrical junction boxes on the roof. Wiring is then run from the junction boxes to the ground level, via conduits, either over the roof or through the attic (for better aesthetics) and down or through the wall (for better aesthetics).
- Install Panels
Solar panels are now laid down on the rails, positioned, and fastened.
- Finish Rails and Install Skirts
After all solar panels are installed, the end of the rails are cut to size and end caps are installed. Optionally, “skirts” are installed on the bottom edge of the lowermost row of panels for an aesthetically pleasing look.
- Install Cutoff Switches / String String Inverter / Monitoring Devices
Wiring from the roof is then connected to an AC cut-off switch (from micoinvertes), or to a DC cut-off switch, then to a string inverter, and then to a AC cut-off switch (from power optimizers). The AC wiring from the AC cut-off switch is then connected to a energy production monitoring and communications device. The cut-off switches provide a quick, accessible means to disconnect the solar system in case of emergency or servicing. The string inverter serves the same function as a microinverter but is a single device that centrally converters the AC from the many power conditioners.
- Prep or Upgrade Electric Main Panel
In order to connect the solar system wiring from the AC disconnect switches to the electric main panel, the panel needs to be able to carry the additional electrical load and have the physical capability for additional breakers. To accomplish this, the existing panel may need to be reconfigured or may need to be upgraded.
- Install Breakers for Solar
For ease of disconnection and safety in case of overload condition or short circuits, the wiring from the AC disconnect switches is connected to the electric mail panel via breakers. The electric mail panel then distributes electricity to the home or to the electric utility grid.
- City Installation Inspection
At this point, the City or the Agency Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) inspects the installation from electrical, solar, roofing, and general construction viewpoints and approves the installation.
- Install Net Meter
Customer who Go Solar, will now have two means of sourcing electricity: from the solar panels or from the grid. Additionally, any electricity that is generated by Solar, but not consumed by the homeowner (at time of generation) will be sent to the grid. Therefore, a new type meter, a Net Meter, in installed, either by LA Solar Group or by the Utility, that lets the Utility know of the “net” amount of electricity that the utility provided (i.e. Total Consumed minus Total Provide by Solar).
- Utility Inspection and PTO
As the final step in the installation process, the Utility company inspects the installation from solar, electrical, and grid connectivity viewpoints and provides their “Permission to Operate” – “PTO”. It is only after the PTO is granted that the system can be “Turned ON” an put into operation.