How long does it take to get solar installed?

by | Sep 18, 2020 | Installation | 0 comments

You just bought solar, and you are excited to start reaping the benefits. You wonder, “How long will it take?”

It is not uncommon for many solar companies to promise quick installations to try to get a customer to choose their company. When delays come up, people get frustrated all too often. Here at Smart Wave Solar, we have two major priorities when it comes to your install:

1. We are all about properly managing expectations. Our goal is to under-promise and over-deliver as much as possible.

2. We are all about getting your installation done as fast as possible. We want you to be happy, and we’re generally floating costs financially until the install is done, so we are highly motivated to get the project done as well!

The best way to get an accurate estimate on timing is to look at information from unbiased third parties, such as EnergySage, a company that has done a lot of industry research. On their website, they say: “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.” This estimate is consistent with what we’ve found from other unbiased industry reports and our own experience. Below is an outline of the entire process:

Site Survey and Design (typically 1 – 3 weeks).  The first step is a site survey. We take photos of your home and submit them to our CAD design team. They create the blueprints. Your project manager will send a copy to you to review and approve. The photos and designs are also submitted to a third-party structural engineering company for review. The timeline for this stage depends on the complexity of your design, how much back and forth we have with you in the creation of your design, and whether the engineering firm has extra questions or requirements.

Building Permit and Power Company (typically 2 – 6 weeks).  Next, we submit applications to your city’s building department and your power company. We cover all fees associated with these applications. We follow up with the city and power company throughout this process. Every city is different. Some have amazingly quick turnaround times and some have notoriously long turnaround times. Most are somewhere in between. The timeline for this stage also depends on how much back and forth we have with the city if they request revisions.

Installation (typically 2 – 4 weeks). Once we have approval, we schedule your installation. The demand for solar varies with the time of year, and that determines how far out our schedule is booked. A standard timeframe is 2-4 weeks. It typically takes our team 1-2 days to install the solar panels, but it can require up to one week based on your system size.

Depending on the type of electrical work required, it may be completed at the time of installation or by one of our electricians afterward. Once the designs are created and approved by the city, your project manager can let you know which category you are in. If your electrical work is simple and completed the day of the solar installation, your power will not need to be off at any time. If an electrician will be returning to do your electrical work, your power will need to be off for about 1-2 hours.

City Inspection (typically 1-3 weeks). We schedule a city inspector to come do an inspection and give approval. Sometimes this is very quick and sometimes it takes longer. Every city is different, every inspector is different, and the rules change from time to time, so occasionally we will have to change something and do a re-inspection. Also, if something about the design changed during installation, we may have to submit a revision to the city for approval before scheduling the inspection.

Net Meter Installation (typically 1-2 weeks).  As soon as the city inspector has signed off on the installation, we notify your power company and they will install a new meter. You will need a new meter that is compatible with solar before your system can be turned on.

Other Potential Factors (timing varies).  Occasionally other factors may require extra time. Below are some examples.

It can be a big delay if your main electrical panel needs to be upgraded. This requires coordination with the power company, and sometimes they have a wait time of 3-6 weeks. Whenever there is an upcoming change to tax credits or net metering, there is often a surge of people buying solar, which can make things take longer as permitting departments, inspectors, and power companies get backed up. Other factors that could cause delays include the weather, a backup battery installation, Covid-19, coordinating with HOAs, equipment supply shortages, troubleshooting, etc.

Solar installations are a complex construction project requiring collaboration between multiple parties, and every home is different, which means every installation is different. However, there is no need to worry. We are experts in this field and we will be there every step of the way!

Completion!  As soon as your power company has installed your new meter, your solar system can be turned on and you will begin generating power! We will finish up any last details for you as needed, such as setting up your online monitoring so you can track your production.

As you can see, there are many factors that can affect how quickly your solar is up and running, and most steps cannot be done until the previous step is completed. Close coordination with outside entities (your city and power company) is required, and they can vary widely in how quickly they work. But this is a general guideline of what to expect. When the ball is in our court, so to speak, we get our part done promptly. When it is in the hands of the city or power company, we do everything we can to keep them moving so we can get your solar power up and running as soon as possible for you.

Every solar project gets a dedicated project manager. Your project manager will be reaching out to you with weekly updates to keep you informed of where we are with your project. Throughout the process, feel free to call, text or email your project manager at any time. You can also reach out to our general customer support team at any time.

We are excited to help you switch to solar power so you can experience all the benefits and cost savings!

– Ryan Stucki, CEO of Smart Wave Solar