Category: Installation

How Hiring a Local Solar Contractor Can Save You Money on Your Solar Project

How Hiring a Local Solar Contractor Can Save You Money on Your Solar Project

How To Save on Your Solar Project

By sourcing equipment from a distributor and hiring a local solar contractor to install your system, you can potentially save thousands on your solar project. This article explains how much you can expect to save by managing your own solar project and outlines the steps you need to take to get it done.

There’s no doubt that going solar is less expensive than buying power from the utility over the long run. But the upfront costs for solar equipment and labor is a hurdle that gives many Americans pause as they consider whether to make the switch to solar. 

National turnkey solar installers bid the cost of installation based on the total number of kilowatts the solar electric system will generate. A recent industry report estimates national installers charge right around $3/watt on average for a full-service solar installation.

That works out to a $20,700 bid for a 6.9 kW (6900-watt) system, which would be enough to cover the energy usage of the average American household.

Though many studies prove solar pays for itself, shelling out 20 grand up-front is still a tough decision to make. So naturally, people ask: “is there a way to get this done for less money?”

The simple answer is that you can save a significant chunk of money if you are willing to manage part or all of the project yourself. Hiring a local solar contractor to install your system can save around 20% compared to the average quote from a turnkey provider. If you’re comfortable installing the system yourself, it’s possible to go solar for half of what you’d spend with a large turnkey provider. 

In this article, we’re going to explain how you can save money on your solar project by sourcing the equipment directly from a supplier and present two approaches to installing your system: doing it yourself or hiring a local solar contractor to install it for you. 

In each case, we’ll outline a step-by-step overview of the project timeline and do the math to show you exactly how much money you stand to save by managing your project yourself.

Note: Before we go any further, we should point out that we are a solar equipment supplier. So naturally we’re not free from bias on this topic. We have made every attempt to present this information in a neutral way, providing sources where possible to back up the data presented in this article so you can make an informed decision.

How much can I save by hiring a local solar contractor?

It depends on your household energy usage, as well as how much effort and involvement you want to put into on your project. 

If you are willing to act as the project manager for your installation, including sourcing the equipment and soliciting bids from local contractors, you could stand to save thousands of dollars on a typical installation.

(For a detailed account of this process, check out our customer’s Reddit post about their experience working with us – complete with pictures, cost breakdowns and insider advice.) 

Here is a cost breakdown for three different approaches to going solar:

  1. Full-service installation from national installer (Turnkey): $3 per watt (source)
  2. Source equipment and manage the project yourself (Hire a Contractor): $2.10 to $2.65 per watt
  3. Source equipment and install the system yourself (DIY): $1.35 to $1.65 per watt (source)

Here’s how that would break out for an average-sized system:

  1. Turnkey: $20,700
  2. Hire a Contractor: $16,387
  3. DIY: $11,224

Don’t want to do any solar installation labor yourself?  No problem, you can still save some serious cash.

For the average American home, you can save more than $4,000 on your solar project if you are willing to source your own equipment and hire a local solar contractor.

Don’t forget the Federal Tax Credit and your state and Local rebates for additional savings.

Interested? Here’s the work you’ll have to take into your own hands if you want to take this approach.

What steps do I need to take to manage my own solar project?

Here’s a step-by-step list of project milestones you will need to complete to go solar. These tasks would typically be managed by a full-service solar provider, but you can easily take them into your own hands with a bit of research and planning.

1. Estimate your energy needs.

Use Wholesale Solar’s cost calculator to see what size system you need to offset your energy usage. The size will depend on unique factors like your energy consumption and sun exposure, so it’s important to get a recommendation that is tailored to your needs.

2. Work with Wholesale Solar to select the right system components for your unique needs.

Do you want American or imported panels? Ground or roof mount racking? String inverters or micro-inverters?

Spend some time looking through our buying guides and resources (like the video above) to pick out the products you like. We’ve put together pre-assembled grid-tied packages to take the guesswork out of sizing and compatibility. 

We recommend checking out our Crash Course to get acquainted with the basics, or take a deep dive into our extensive DIY Solar Workshop for a more extensive step-by-step guide to installing your own system.

Manage My Project

I want to manage the project myself by sourcing the best equipment and hiring a local contractor to install it. Take me to the 1-hour Crash Course.

  • Learn what questions to ask to ensure you get a great deal.
  • Watch videos on basic solar concepts and read our free Buying Guides to pick the best components.
  • Ideal for people who want to learn the fundamentals before hiring a local solar contractor.
Join Crash Course

DIY Install

I want to save even more by going the DIY route and installing my own system. Take me to the DIY Solar Workshop and teach me everything there is to know about going solar.

  • 10x more videos than the introductory Crash Course.
  • All the reading material needed to get your DIY project off the ground.
  • Ideal for people who want to install their own Grid-Tie or Off-Grid System.
Join Workshop

3. Contact a designer to finalize your plans.

Before you buy, it’s best to speak with a professional solar designer to check for compatibility issues and sizing errors. System sizing is a complex process, and the final design is based on a number of factors including:

  • Energy use
  • Local sun exposure
  • Site factors (shading, temperature, etc.)
  • Inefficiency factors (the system won’t always produce at peak output)
  • Future plans for expansion and backup

Enlist a solar professional to double-check your plans to make sure your design is sound. In our case, you can request a free design consultation with our solar techs, and every plan is checked for accuracy by our tech department before being cleared for shipment. We also provide a line-item quote that gives you the information you need to begin the permitting process.

4. Shop around for a solar installer.

Once you have a quote, seek out solar installers in your area to bid on the installation. 

As a benchmark, local solar installers typically charge 75 cents to $1 per watt for installation labor.

Depending on local regulations, your installer may not necessarily need to be someone who specializes in solar. Roofers, electricians, HVAC companies and general contractors should be capable enough to install your system. As you search Yelp or Google for the right installer, you don’t necessarily need to limit your search to a contractor with “solar” in their business name. 

We strongly recommend contacting multiple installers to shop for the best bid. For more direction on this step, read our article on how to find a solar installer you can trust.

5. File for a permit.

With an itemized quote in hand, you have enough information to fill out your permit applications. You will need two permits: one from your city planning department to approve new construction, and one from your utility company to connect to the grid.

The permit applications will ask for model numbers and technical information about the products you plan to use, which can be found on the specification sheets for the products that have been quoted. They will also ask for a line diagram showing how the system will be wired, a service which is included in the cost of Wholesale Solar’s packages.

If you need assistance sorting through the technical information in this step, services like Solar Permit Services and Gemini Solar Design offer full-service permitting plan sets for a modest fee.

Looking for a more in-depth overview of the permitting process? Check out our free solar permitting guide.

6. Place your order.

With approved permits in hand, you’re clear to order your system! Equipment delivery typically takes 1-2 weeks by freight.

7. Schedule your installation.

Contact your installer once your delivery date is solidified and schedule the installation. Most solar installers work in teams of 2-3, and it takes a few days to complete a standard installation. More complicated installations may take a bit more time. For example, if you go with a ground mount, you’ll need time to dig trenches, pour a concrete foundation, and let it set before completing the rest of the install.

What’s Next?

Fortunately, there’s no wrong way to go solar. Grid-tie customers stand to save money on their power bills no matter which approach they take—it’s a matter of deciding how much you want to save on the initial installation.

If you opt for a turnkey, full-service solar provider, you will have a quick and hassle-free project, but should expect to pay more for the convenience.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more time directly involved with the project, you can save a good chunk of money by becoming your own project manager and following the steps outlined above.

Ready to take the next step and save on your solar investment?  Choose the option that best suits you to get started.

Manage My Project

I want to manage the project myself by sourcing the best equipment and hiring a local contractor to install it. Take me to the 1-hour Crash Course.

  • Learn what questions to ask to ensure you get a great deal.
  • Watch videos on basic solar concepts and read our free Buying Guides to pick the best components.
  • Ideal for people who want to learn the fundamentals before hiring a local solar contractor.
Join Crash Course

DIY Install

I want to save even more by going the DIY route and installing my own system. Take me to the DIY Solar Workshop and teach me everything there is to know about going solar.

  • 10x more videos than the introductory Crash Course.
  • All the reading material needed to get your DIY project off the ground.
  • Ideal for people who want to install their own Grid-Tie or Off-Grid System.
Join Workshop
What is Voltage Drop? Wiring Your Solar System to Maximize Efficiency

What is Voltage Drop? Wiring Your Solar System to Maximize Efficiency

What is Voltage Drop?

When current moves through an electrical circuit, a small amount of voltage is lost due to resistance in the wires. This concept, known as voltage drop, leads to a slight production loss from your solar array.

Voltage drop is more pronounced over longer distances. A longer wiring run introduces more resistance to the circuit, which leads to greater voltage drop.

When you go solar, one of the goals is to design a system with minimal voltage drop so that your array can perform close to its peak rated output.

It is generally considered best practice to keep voltage drop at 3% or less, though many systems come in well under that mark. These recommendations are outlined in the National Electric Code (2017 NEC 210.19).

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Why Voltage Drop Matters

It’s pretty simple. Voltage drop has a direct impact on system production. If your wiring run is too long, your panels may not provide enough voltage to the inverter. The efficiency of the entire system will suffer and your real-world production won’t live up to the nameplate rating of the components.

With that in mind, let’s look at ways you can reduce voltage drop as you design your system.

How to Prevent Voltage Drop

There are four main approaches to counteracting voltage drop:

  1. Minimize the length of the wiring run.
  2. Consider your inverter placement carefully.
  3. Use a bigger wire size. Larger wire = less resistance.
  4. Design your system with higher voltage to overcome resistance.

This is designed to be a beginner-friendly article, so we’ll just run through a quick overview of the concept of voltage drop. If you work with a solar designer, they should take this into account as part of the design process. For example, our tech team checks every system for voltage drop concerns when we provide our electrical wiring diagrams as part of the permitting process.

How to Reduce Voltage Drop

1. Minimize the length of the wiring run.

Since longer wiring runs lead to more voltage drop, the simplest solution is to make the wiring run as short as possible.

As you design your system, plan for a layout that keeps system components close to each other.

If your wiring run is less than 100’, your system may already have less than the allowable voltage drop of 3% without any further design changes. 

2. Consider your inverter placement carefully.

AC wiring (from your inverter to your service panel) can be more prone to voltage drop than high voltage DC wiring (the wires running from the panels to the inverter or controller), though sometimes the reverse is true. It all depends on the voltage of the circuit: different equipment operates at different voltage ratings.

The side of the circuit that is operating at a higher voltage is going to push a stronger current through the wires, which reduces the impact of voltage drop. 

As a result, the inverter should be placed close to the lower-voltage end of the circuit, to minimize the effects of voltage drop in that wiring run.

If the DC voltage from the solar array is higher than the utility service panel, install the inverter closer to your utility service panel.

If the DC voltage from the solar array is lower than the utility service panel, install the inverter closer to your solar array.

Please note that this is just a general rule of thumb, and that the guidelines change depending on what products you use. For example, off-grid systems typically have a lower DC voltage, but there are high-voltage charge controllers to overcome that.

To evaluate your own project, use our voltage drop calculator to input the specs for the products you are considering and calculate voltage drop over the length of your run. You can tweak the wire length, size and other variables to find the sweet spot for your system.

(Of course, if you work with us to design your system, we take care of these calculations for you.)

3. Use a bigger wire size.

Some people need to go with a longer wiring run purely for logistical reasons. For example, you might need to run wires from your home to a barn, which may be several hundred feet apart.

In these cases, upgrade to a larger size wire. This is just like using a bigger hose. The wires have greater capacity, which means less resistance, ultimately making the system more efficient.

Large wires cost more, but they make your system more efficient. The extra output retained over the life of the system more than makes up for slightly higher wiring cost up front.

4. Design a system with higher voltage to overcome resistance.

Instead of (or in addition to) using a larger wire to reduce resistance, you can overcome that resistance by using higher-voltage products.

In some cases, you might prefer specific brands and products that are designed to operate at higher voltages.

For example, SolarEdge-based systems operate at 380V / 400V depending on the inverter model. The power optimizers regulate the panel strings to a fixed voltage, which allows you to design a system that consistently pushes the maximum power voltage through the circuit.

In contrast, string inverters like the SMA Sunny Boy don’t have power optimizers, so the voltage changes based on the number of panels in the string, as shown below. 

To overcome voltage drop, consider designing your system to operate at a higher overall voltage.

The Sunny Boy’s ideal operating range is 195V-480V, so you can end up on either side of the 240V service panel depending on how many solar panels are in a single string. In these situations, favoring larger strings can help overcome voltage drop.

Learn more about why string sizing matters in our string sizing guide.

And off-grid systems have entirely different considerations. If you are off the grid, it’s mandatory to install the inverter inside so it’s protected from the elements. That means you rarely have the luxury of placing the inverter next to the solar array. 

To counteract this limitation, off-grid systems use high-voltage charge controllers (up to 600V) to minimize voltage drop over long wiring runs. Of course, these changes need to be accounted for during the design process.

Voltage Rise: The Opposite of Voltage Drop

For grid-tied systems, voltage rise matters as well. Voltage rise is an equal-but-opposite effect that happens at the start of the circuit (the inverter). The calculations are the same, but the effects happen on opposite ends of the circuit.

Voltage drop is a loss of voltage (and subsequent loss of production) as the current is pushed from the inverter to the service panel. Voltage drop is measured at the end of the circuit, where voltage rise is measured at the start. If a grid-tied inverter is sending power into the grid, you would see voltage rise at the inverter terminals and voltage drop at the end of the wiring run, at the service panel.

Because the voltage is lower at the end of the circuit (the service panel), it follows that voltage should be higher at the start of the circuit (the inverter). That’s voltage rise – an increase in voltage at the start of the circuit.

To continue the hose analogy, picture what happens when you turn a hose on. Right at the spout, the pressure is highest because all of the current is being forced through a small tube. By the time it comes out, the pressure is lower because it had to push its way through the hose. 

So a hose that operates at a pressure of 50 PSI might be 55 PSI at the spout and 45 PSI when it comes out of the end of the hose.

The same goes for solar design. Due to voltage rise, voltage is at its highest where the current originates from the inverter. If that voltage exceeds the upper limit of the inverter’s AC voltage limit, it will cause a high voltage fault, causing your system to shut down.

As a result, systems need to be designed to account for voltage rise as well to ensure the extra voltage doesn’t push the inverter past its max AC voltage. Some grid-tie inverter manufacturers, like SolarEdge, recommend maintaining <1% voltage drop/rise to prevent issues.

Wrapping Up

This is a lot to take in, so let’s boil it down to what really matters.

Voltage drop matters because it causes you to lose wattage from your panels. More voltage drop = less production = less value from your investment into solar.

When designing a system, it helps to take a holistic approach. You should figure out where you plan to place your components, then pick equipment with those considerations in mind. 

If you have a long wiring run that can’t be avoided, it may be smarter to invest an extra $500 in high-voltage equipment to save yourself $2000 on a larger wire. Take a high-level view of the project and consider the most efficient design options given the constraints.

If you’d like guidance on the design process, reach out to us to request a free design consultation. We’re happy to help you design a system that is tailored to your needs.

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How to Find a Solar Installer You Can Trust

How to Find a Solar Installer You Can Trust

It can be a real pain to find a good solar installer.

Most local solar installers offer an all-in-one solution to source equipment and install your solar system. But these turnkey providers often charge prohibitively steep prices to get the job done.

That’s because turnkey providers are large companies with a lot of overhead (equipment, office/warehouse space, insurance, wages, etc.). They need to bill far more than independent contractors to cover their costs.

In fact, it’s common for turnkey providers to charge 100-200% of the cost of equipment to install a system.

A $10,000 system can quickly balloon up to as much as $30,000 installed after they tack on the installation charge. For a project that takes just 2-3 days, a lot of people wonder where the money goes.

There is another way, though: research and buy the equipment directly, then hire a local contractor to manage parts of the installation.

If you’re willing to research and buy the system yourself, you can likely find a solar installer in your area with a much more competitive price than the big turnkey companies.

It requires a bit of extra research and legwork, but the savings are well worth it:

Find a solar installer that works for your budget.

To save money on installation, you can buy direct from wholesale distributors (like us). But we don’t have in-house installers. Instead, we ask our customers to go the DIY route and build it themselves, or hire a local solar installer or contractor to put the system together.

Of course, we want to see every project succeed. For us, that means connecting people with the best solar installer we can find in their area to see the project through to completion.

When people ask us how to find a solar installer, this is the process we walk them through.

Step 1: Ask if we know someone.

We’ve been selling solar equipment for 15+ years, and naturally we’ve built relationships with installers around the country in that time. Ask your designer if they can connect you to a trusted installer in your area.

We’ve sold over 10,000 systems in the United States since 2002. Chances are good we’ve worked with someone in your area.

Step 2: Ask friends if they know someone.

If we can’t set you up with somebody, ask your local friends and family whether they’ve worked with any contractors they recommend.

Finding a solar installer is a bit like finding a mechanic. For the average person who doesn’t have technical experience in the field, we fear we won’t understand what they’re charging us for.

If a friend or family member you trust can vouch for a contractor’s honesty, that referral is worth its weight in gold.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a solar specialist. It can be the contractor who re-roofed your parents’ house or the electrician that wired your friend’s new A/C.

Any competent contractor with enough experience is worth working with. The most important thing is that they do honest, efficient work.

Step 3: Find Reviews and Compare Quotes

If you can’t find a direct referral, it’s time to move on to recommendations from strangers.

The best generic review site for a project like this is Angie’s List, which is a directory of contractors, suppliers and other businesses in the home improvement space.

Since most contractors are capable of installing solar (even if that isn’t their specialty), the ones with a good reputation on Angie’s List are a good place to start.

The next tier of directory sites would be Yelp and Google business reviews. These sites are bigger than Angie’s List and have a larger body of reviews to work with. But they are not specific to the home improvement industry, and they have fewer tools in place to gauge the quality of a contractor’s work.

Our last recommendation is a classic standby: the Yellow Pages. Although online directories have taken over as the primary way to find local businesses, the Yellow Pages have one key advantage.

The types of companies that still advertise in the Yellow Pages tend to have a more established track record and history of service. You want to find an installer who will stay in business and honor their warranty should you run into any problems. If a company is advertising in the Yellow Pages, it’s much more likely they’re in it for the long haul.

Do I Need a “Certified Solar Installer?”

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is a non-profit organization that certifies solar installers.

Solar certification is nice to have, but not necessary to perform a solar installation. A track record of quality work is far more important than a certification as a “solar installer.”

A solar certification means that your installer was interested in learning about solar. They took a course and passed the exit test at the end. In some cases, they may have also pursued NABCEP’s continuing education credits.

Think of it like interviewing candidates for a new position at your work. A college degree is a positive indication that the candidate is interested in learning and growing. But simply having a degree doesn’t mean they’re good at what they do – the best indicator is real-world experience in their field.

NABCEP certification is the same way. It’s a positive sign, but it’s not a substitute for hands-on experience in the real world. Ideally, you’d find someone who has both.

Aside from NABCEP, some areas have additional certifications that are mandatory to comply with local building codes. For example, in Oregon, all contractors must have a license from the Oregon Construction Contractors Board for solar installations to be up to code.

Check your local jurisdiction to be sure you clear the bar for a code-compliant installation.

What Do the Best Solar Installers Have to Offer?

License

Installers should hold at least a C-10 license, which is a general electrical contractor’s license. Most people hire an electrician to hook up their system at the end of the project. You want to be sure they’re licensed to handle the wiring and electrical components of your system.

Insurance

Insurance not only protects your contractor, it protects your property from damages in case something goes wrong during the project.

If they damage your property and don’t have insurance, they’re still liable to cover it, but it may require a protracted legal battle to recover the money to make repairs.

No legitimate contractor works without insurance. If they aren’t insured, run for the hills.

Workmanship Warranty

The best solar installers stand behind their work. A workmanship warranty covers any problems that arise as a result of faulty installation. If a panel comes loose because it wasn’t screwed down properly, the workmanship warranty would cover the repairs.

Contractors offer a broad range on these warranties, anywhere between 1 and 10 years of coverage.

Be wary of new companies offering long warranties. They may promise a 10-year warranty to close a sale, but there’s no guarantee they’ll stick around long enough to follow through on it.

If a company offers an extended warranty, make sure they have a verifiable history of doing business in the solar industry. You want to be sure they’ll still be around 10 years from now to honor that warranty.

Reputation & Longevity

This is a continuation of a few of the points above. Solar is an industry with a long sales cycle and an even longer product lifespan. Some people spend more than a year planning out their system, and panels are warrantied for 25 years.

For this reason, it’s a huge advantage to find an installer with a long and steady work history. You want to be sure they won’t flake on your project before it’s finished.

You also hope they’ll stay in business long enough to honor their workmanship warranty, and perform any additional repairs or maintenance in the future (like replacing the inverter halfway through the life of the system).

Make sure your installer has a long-standing reputation.

Competitive Quotes

Solar is still in a bit of a Wild West phase. There’s not a lot of visibility into pricing, and different contractors charge drastically different rates for solar installations. Some are more competitive than others.

Independent contractors bill around $1 per watt to install a solar system (equipment cost not included). That price can vary based on availability and project complexity.

We’ve seen every billing structure imaginable, but the most common (and fairest) approach is cost-per-watt. Your installer should bill you a flat rate based on the size of your system.

$1 per watt is a good target price for installation (not including equipment costs). For example, you’d pay about $10,000 for a 7kW system, and an independent contractor might charge you another $7000 to install it.

But that can fluctuate based on project scope and the level of local competition. In less populated areas, there tend to be just a few competent installers are booked several weeks out. Because the demand is high, you could pay a premium to land a slot on their schedule.

To mitigate this, contact as many installers as possible and gather quotes to make sure the rate you get is competitive. You might be surprised at the disparity between bids. This extra bit of legwork could legitimately save you a few thousand dollars on your install.

How Long Should Solar Installation Take?

Standard solar installations take just a few days. A professional crew of 3 people can install a solar system in a day if there are no delays.

The paperwork is in and permits have cleared. It’s time to buckle down and build the system.

Expect a standard installation to take 1-4 days of physical build time, depending on the experience and size of the crew. Most installation crews work in teams of 2-3 people.

Certain factors can lengthen the installation process. For example, the crew might come out a few days early to pour footings and let the concrete set for a ground-mount system. Or you might need to upgrade an old electrical service panel. The extra prep work may add a few days to the total build time.

Of course, you might run into larger problems. If they start drilling and hit bedrock, they might need to bring in different footings or specialty equipment to lay the foundation. That will add to the cost and timeframe of the project significantly.

Roof mounts can experience delays as well. Sometimes people discover their roof isn’t structurally sound, either due to age or damage from the elements. In these cases, your solar installation project grows into a full roof upgrade or replacement.

This is obviously a much larger undertaking, and you should budget time accordingly. Your installer should be able to provide a clear quote outlining the scope of the project and give an estimated timeframe for each part of the work.

New to solar? Check out our guide to Getting Started With Solar to learn the basics.

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[Videos] Become a Ground Mount Installing Pro: Beginner and Advanced IronRidge Videos

[Videos] Become a Ground Mount Installing Pro: Beginner and Advanced IronRidge Videos

Finally gain the confidence you’ve been looking for! Our Friends at IronRidge want you to be a Ground Mount expert. In these 2 detailed videos you will learn the basic and advanced approaches to installing your Ground Mount solar foundation.

Intro to Ground-based & IronRidge Design Assistant

Ground Mounted solar arrays often appear very simple, but their foundations can vary in depth, width, and spacing, making them one of the trickiest variables to handle. In this presentation, we review the forces affecting ground mount foundations and show you how to use Design Assistant to quickly reduce foundation size and cost.

Advanced Ground-based & IronRidge Design Assistant

As you know, no two Ground Mount Systems installations are the same. In this presentation, we explore the wide array of site conditions installers encounter and review best practices around topics like dealing with groundwater, building on sloped land, and planning for cold climates. In addition, we’ll share a field-tested and proven method of saving time on large-scale installations. We’ll also show you how to use the new visual interface in Ground-based Design Assistant to plan your project and generate a bill of materials.

More IronRidge Racking Resources: 

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Five Quick Tips For Solar Installation Safety

Five Quick Tips For Solar Installation Safety

Afraid of heights? Well, you’re not alone, and we understand working on your roof, DIY-installing a solar system, can be a daunting prospect. Nobody wants to be injured while working on the roof, so being careful on your rooftop is essential. Luckily, we have a few valuable tips and tools so you can stay safe while working on your install!

1. Check Your Footing

roof ready boots for solar installation

Keeping your footing at a steep angle is a difficult proposition, and doing so while also lifting and setting racking, heavy solar panels, and managing wiring is going to require some extra steps to ensure your safety. However, there are several methods and tools you can use to make certain you stay sure-footed every step of the way.

Footwear

A good pair of roof-ready boots with flat soles that can get a grip on roof shingles, tiles, or metal can make all the difference when you need to stay on your toes above the ground.

  • Pros: low cost, easy to use (just wear them!), lifetime usage.
  • Cons: help with safety, but no guarantee – boots are only as safe as the feet that wear them.

Rooftop Walkways

Rooftop Walkways are also a unique solution you can look into to save yourself from a spill.  Watch Rooftop Walkways Video

  • Pros: Clear pathway where you need it on your roof, nonslip surface for all-weather accessibility.
  • Cons: Cost varies from affordable rubber padding to expensive specially-constructed rigging.

Man-Lift

Renting a man-lift is also a viable option, allowing you to lift heavy loads up to roof height, and have a way to get yourself up to the roof and down to the ground quickly and easily. Our August Install-of-the-Month feature customer used a man-lift, which proved extremely helpful.

  • Pros: Affordable temporary rental – no need to install any extra equipment or spend time maintaining/repairing the machinery.
  • Cons: Temporary solution, you’ll need to rent one again if you need to reach your roof after the install is done. Man-lifts also require some level of operating experience to use safely.

Scaffolding

You can also rent scaffolding for easy roof-access, a good safe option that is available from many hardware stores such as Lowes or Home Depot. You can read on the comparisons between a Solar Platform and Scaffolding here.

  • Pros: Scaffolding provides a safe, steady access to your roof
  • Cons: Setup time

2. Fall Prevention

roof-install

Even if you’ve got the right footwear, you can still be worried about a fall. Secure yourself with a Roof Anchor tool, a handy accessory that can keep you safe if you lose your footing – you can install them on your roof for the duration of your solar project, then uninstall them when you’re done. Alternatively, you can install a permanent roof anchor if you expect to be doing a lot of roof work in the future. A Roof Safety Harness is also an essential piece of equipment when working on a sloped roof, and together with a roof anchor forms a complete PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) system for fall-prevention.  Watch Roof Anchor Video

3. Electrical Safety

safety-gloves

It may sound shocking, but solar panel wiring can give you quite the jolt if you’re not careful! First and foremost, adhere to all local codes, regulations, recommendations and manufacturer’s guidelines when installing your solar system.

Insulated tools and rubber gloves are a must – and you should also be sure to remove any conductive items such as metal jewelry, watches, etc. Electrical safety is one of the most daunting parts of the installation process.

Generally, when you install your solar system and wire it, you’ll leave it disconnected from the power grid before final inspection by an electrician can be completed – this is to ensure everything is copacetic before you flip the switch.

4. Check For Damage

damaged-panels

The last thing you want is damaged solar components – not just because you spent money on them, but because damaged wiring and components can spark fires, and damaged or cracked batteries can leak hazardous fumes and battery acid. Upon receiving your freight shipment, the first thing you should do is check for damage.

Most freight shipments are packed as securely as possible, but accidents do happen, and most shipments are insured or otherwise protected to replace or compensate you for deliveries with the broken product.

5. Don’t Go It Alone

help-from-friends
Photo: Wholesale Solar customer Matt M. installing his 11.16 kW Grid-Tied System

“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” is something we’ve all heard before, but it’s also something you should keep in mind when you’re working on a project at home.

Larger installation projects can be done with the help of friends and family helping you cut down on install time and taking care of some of the heavy lifting. If you’re installing alone, however, it’s important to make sure that neighbors or friends know you’ll be working on your roof – checking in periodically or expecting to hear from you.

If you fall from your roof or have an accident with heavy equipment, there’s a chance you won’t be able to call 911 yourself, so having a backup plan in case of an emergency is important!

These five quick safety tips will ensure you stay safe while installing on a rooftop, so don’t skip over them! Making sure you’ve got the right tools and preparation is essential to a successful installation before you ever set foot on the roof.

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