What is the Timeline for Installing New Residential Solar?
With any type of construction project, good planning and communication help set expectations and avoid surprises. This starts during the initial meetings and ensures the client (e.g., homeowner) understands the overall process and what to expect at each step.
This article helps explain the major steps of the solar installation timeline based on a typical solar project, but keep in mind that every job is different based on its size, complexity, and jurisdiction (i.e. permit requirements and process).
- Good communication with your solar contractor is critical to a smooth project
- The length of the permitting process varies by location or jurisdiction
- The project size and complexity can add time to your project’s timeline
Steps requiring the local jurisdiction and/or utility can add time to the project
1. Project Scope and Proposal (5-30 days)
Projects always start with an in-home solar consultation to understand your needs and define the scope of your project. This stage includes a number of steps before any type of installation timeline can be established.
- On-site visit for power, electrical, and overall site assessment
- Preliminary project design and equipment requirements
- Project proposal with costs for either cash or financing
- Instant pre-qualification for credit approval (if applicable)
- Proposal review, questions, and clarifications
- Sign contracts (installation contract, California Consumer Solar Guide document, and financing contract if applicable)
- 10% deposit for cash purchase
2. Pre-Installation Site Analysis (1-5 days)
A representative will contact you to schedule an on-site visit to take measurements and photos of your roof for accurate placement of the system. They will also take photos of your main electrical panel and any other pertinent equipment or surroundings that might impact the project. It is not typically necessary for you to be home unless certain equipment or roof trusses are not accessible without you being present to provide access.
3. Design & Permitting (20-90 days)
Once the PSA (Pre-Site Analysis) has been completed, it will be turned over to the design department which will create a customized design and provide all equipment specifications necessary for permitting with the local jurisdiction (city/county). The time frame for the permitting process with each building department varies and can take anywhere from same-day approval (e.g., over-the-counter) to 4-12 weeks. Ground mounts may take up to 3 months, but again it depends on the local jurisdiction.
4. Installation (1-5 days)
As soon as we have the permit, a representative should contact you to schedule the installation. Depending on the size of your system, seasonal weather conditions, or unexpected delays, the installation should take approximately 1-3 days for a rooftop system or 4-5 days for a ground mount system.
5. Inspection (5-10 days)
Once the installation is complete, we will schedule a final inspection with the City or County building inspector. This can occur 1-2 weeks after installation, but again it depends on the jurisdiction. Typically, you do not need to be present for the inspection, but in most cases, you’ll need to sign a smoke and carbon monoxide detector form. We will keep you informed as best we can as the installation and inspection process evolves.
6. Main Panel Upgrade (1-2 days, if required)
If your system requires a Main Panel Upgrade (MPU), our staff will need to coordinate a temporary service disconnect and reconnect with PG&E. This means that your power will be shut off temporarily for several hours. If necessary, please make sure that accommodations are made in advance for you and your family during this temporary outage. You do not have to leave home for this process, but we just want you to be aware of the situation. The service/power should be turned back on by the end of the day.
7. Utility Interconnection (10-30 business days)
Prior to the installation or shortly thereafter, our staff will prepare the interconnection documents and pay the application fees on your behalf. If your utility is PG&E, the process is completed online. You will receive an email from PG&E requesting that you electronically sign an Authorization form via DocuSign. Please be sure to check your email and sign the authorization form as soon as possible so that we can request Permission to Operate (PTO) after the Final Inspection is completed with the local jurisdiction. You will always get the same email from PG&E that our office gets regarding the application process.
Occasionally, more information is requested or a correction is required. Don’t worry, we will respond to those requests immediately. You won’t be required to handle it. Once approved, you’ll be notified by email that you have PTO. This entire process can take up to 30 Business days. For any information regarding the annual PG&E “True-Up” bill, you’ll have to contact PG&E directly. Please be aware that once PTO is granted by PG&E, it can take an additional 4-6 weeks before you see it reflect on your utility bill.
8. System Monitoring (1-2 days following PTO)
Our staff will input all of the system information into the SolarEdge or Enphase monitoring portal and provide them with your email address. Once your system has PTO from the utility, the monitoring company will send you an email instructing you to click on the link they provide so that you can select your password to log in and monitor your production online.
Once registered, you will need to install an APP on your smartphone or desktop. This will allow you to compare your utility usage with the production offset of your system. Please be sure to carefully follow the instructions provided by the monitoring service. If you have any questions, there is a customer support number you can call. Our staff will be happy to try and answer your questions, but you may need to speak with their monitoring representative.
Going Solar Should Be Easy
Our goal is to clearly communicate the various installation steps upfront and keep you informed throughout the entire process. Should you have any additional questions about how the overall solar installation process works, please contact us.