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How to Install PV Solar Panels in a Day

Posted by AllEarth Renewables on April 29, 2015 in Solar System Installation, Dealers

PV_-_Final_row_RAs an installer of solar systems, it's clearly in your best interest to find a system that works, delivers return on investment to your customer and can be installed quickly and efficiently. While it's typical for photovoltaic-system installations to take around two days, it's now possible to cut installation time in half. A speedy installation will boost customer satisfaction and your bottom line at the same time.

Minimizing PV Solar Panel Installation Time

While the roof of a home isn't the ideal spot to install anything, installing solar-energy systems on the highest point of a customer's property does make sense. On the roof, a solar system may be able to get the southern exposure it needs with minimal shading.

Installing a roof-mount system requires the installer to be more than a solar expert: you are now in the home construction business.  Roofs have their own set of concerns--everything from durability to drainage--that need to be considered when installing a solar system. 

The challenge with roofs is that no two are exactly alike. Each will have its own set of variables—such as pitch, shingles, vents, drains and chimneys—that can complicate the design and installation process. This is compounded by the fact that you really do not know what you will find until you are up on the roof and peel back the shingles.  These unknowns can quickly add up and the amount of time spent designing and installing a rooftop solar system can become a large part of the total project cost.  Roof installations also require a great deal of staging.  Depending on site constraints, you will need to have the materials, time and staff to set up staging to allow for easy access to the roof. 

A great alternative to roof-mount solar is a ground-mount PV system. By eliminating the obstacles that accompany roof installations, ground-mount systems offer much faster installation times. Unlike a roof-mount system, much of the ground-mount system site work can be done in advance.  In addition, a ground system has much easier access and will not entail the staging and logistical challenges of a roof-system.  In general, a roof-mount system has lower site costs (the roof is already there), but has far higher labor and logistical costs as you try to work the solar system into an existing structure. In contrast, a ground mount system requires more upfront investment to prepare the site, but is less complicated for the actual installation process. 

In addition, a ground mount system is generally far more effective at capturing available solar energy.  The orientation and angle of the panels are not constrained by the existing roof structure, so they can be optimized to capture a higher percentage of the sun power.  This efficiency can be further enhanced if the ground-mount system tracks and is not fixed in place.   A well-sited and functioning dual-axis solar tracker will generate up to 45 percent more energy than a fixed system of a similar size. 

In short, when assessing the cost of a solar installation, it is critical to look at all of the factors, not just the direct hard costs.  At first glance, a roof-mount system may appear to be less expensive to install.  But the devil is in the details and it is critical to consider the indirect costs of the actual installation process.  These include staging, labor costs and the unknown variables of what you will find up on the roof. 

Finding a Partner, Not Just a Supplier

Another important factor in reducing installation time is working with a reliable supplier. Finding a partner who is concerned about your bottom line, offers support and delivers as promised will ensure that you deliver what you promise to your customer, in the least amount of time and with the fewest hassles. It also helps to partner with someone whose product differentiates you from competitors and thus boosts your market value.

On a practical level, you need to be clear on what the supplier includes with their product and what you are expected to supply on your own.  From panels to racking, from inverters to hoses, the solar installation requires a great deal of hardware and materials.  These range from standard bolts and screws to very specialized electronics. 

A good partner will include a detailed schematic and parts list with the equipment.  The more that the supplier includes and has specified, the less chance there is for surprises--both in terms of costs to you, and extra time to find and procure the right hardware.  So ask a lot of questions and get a clear idea of what it takes to install the complete system beforehand.

Some suppliers will offer a new-project consultation, in which a sales or installation team provides support as needed—from pitch to installation—on your first solar sale. Others may offer partner-level installation training, which puts experts on-site to ensure your first installation is a success. Some partners may even offer a first-installation review, letting you know where you can shave time and costs on future installations.

So even though installing a PV solar system is something that should not be rushed, it is possible to reduce installation times. This requires flexibility on your part, a willingness to seek out the system that works best for you and your customer and, perhaps more importantly, a supply partner dedicated to helping you achieve success in solar.  The time and energy you spend upfront--finding the right suppliers, knowing the requirements of the equipment you are installing, understanding the specifics of the site and the expectations of the customer--will pay off in the long term with quicker installation time and lower costs.

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