So you want to take advantage of all the gorgeous sunshine San Diego receives throughout the year to lower your energy bills and shrink your environmental footprint. Awesome! It’s time to start thinking about solar panels for your home, but what exactly does solar installation entail? You definitely don’t want to feel like you’re fumbling in the dark as you start this solar journey, so we’ve created this handy checklist to light your way. Our solar checklist lays out each step in the process, so you know exactly what to expect from start to finish.
Step 1 – Make Sure Your Roof Will Hold Up
Before you can put solar panels on your roof, you need to make sure your roof can handle the extra load.
Some roof materials are not conducive to solar panels, including slate and wooden roofs. Fortunately, here in San Diego, a majority of roofs are made with clay and Spanish tile, which are great for solar installation.
If you live in a condo or townhome, your roof is probably owned by your homeowners’ association (HOA), and your CC&Rs likely do not allow you to make any modifications. In this situation, you can always lobby your HOA to invest in solar panels on behalf of all homeowners.
A small roof offers less area for solar panel placement. This may require you to invest in more efficient solar panels, which are smaller but also more expensive.
Ideally, solar panels should face true south to receive the most direct sunlight. However, solar panels can still operate well (though less efficiently) on east- and west-facing roofs.
Most solar panel systems can last an estimated 25 – 40 years. If your roof is on its last legs, it’s probably smarter to deal with that issue first! (Did you know we also repair and replace roofs in San Diego?)
The amount of shade your roof receives during the day can affect the efficiency of solar panels. If a big tree looms over your house or a taller neighboring house casts shade, your panels won’t work as well.
Even if your roof isn’t ideal for solar panels, all is not lost. Old roofs can be replaced, or you can consider a ground mounted solar panel system.
Step 2 – Determine How Much Energy You Use
If order for a San Diego solar installation company to provide you with an estimate on your solar system, you need to determine the size of the system you want. To do this, you’ll need to work backwards and figure out the average amount of energy you need the system to generate each month.
This may seem tricky, but it’s actually simple. You should be able to log onto the website of your electrical provider and download your statements for the last year. Each statement will list how much energy you used that month in kilowatt hours (kWh). Add up your energy usage from the last 12 months and divide by 12. This will give you your average monthly usage. You’ll want your solar system to generate this amount of energy for you each month so your solar panels can cover all your energy needs.
Note: If you plan on increasing your energy usage in the future, such as by purchasing an electric car, make sure to take this into consideration when determining the size of your solar system.
Step 3 – Select Your Financing
Do you want to own solar panels for your home, or does ownership not matter as long as you don’t have to write a big check? You have a variety of financing options. You can purchase your panels outright, either with cash or through a loan. Most solar companies also offer solar leases and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
With solar leases and PPAs, the solar company owns the panels and charges you a set fee for your energy usage that is usually less than what you would pay the utility company. The upside of this arrangement is that you don’t have to pay a dime for your panels!
Step 4 – Choose Your Solar Installation Vendor
San Diegans have a lot of choice when it comes to solar installation companies. That’s a good thing! The best place to start your search is to ask your family, neighbors, and friends who have already invested in solar panels about the company they used.
Another smart move is to check a company’s reviews on the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and Yelp, so you can read what past clients experienced with them.
Finally, we encourage you to work with a local company. Hiring local keeps your money in the community and supports local jobs and local families. Plus, local companies are invested in the community. They live and work here, so it’s in their best interest to do a great job for their neighbors.
You should always get at least a few different quotes so you can compare and make the best decision for your project goals and budget. Price will, of course, be a factor in your decision, but don’t just choose the lowest-priced vendor. Make sure the company you pick has great reviews and a history of service in your community.
Step 5 – Choose Your Solar Panels
Your chosen solar vendor will probably have a few preferred solar panel brands that they recommend to you. Listen carefully to their recommendations, but know that you can choose a different brand. Premium brand solar panels tend to offer higher efficiency, better design, and a longer warranty, but you’ll also pay a premium price. Solar Reviews is a great resource for learning more about the dozens of available solar panel brands. They also host reviews from homeowners.
Step 6 – Sit Back and Relax
Once you’ve chosen your San Diego solar panel installation company, your financing plan, and your solar panel brand, it’s time for you to step back and let the solar company take the baton. Now it’s their job to:
- Order the panels and other equipment
- Pull all the necessary permits
- Install the mounting, panels, and inverter
- Receive permission to hook your panels into the local electrical grid
- Check the system and turn everything on
A good solar company will walk you through each of these steps so that you understand exactly what’s happening and when. After the installation is complete and your solar panels are online, you’ll be able to check your meter to follow your energy usage. Most solar companies also offer monitoring software that lets you see how much energy your panels produced each day, so you can watch them work!
We hope this solar installation checklist was helpful. If you live in California and have additional questions about solar panels for your home, let us know! We’d be happy to perform an onsite evaluation to determine if your home would be a good candidate for solar panels. We are proud to live and work here in San Diego and to employ veterans and San Diego residents.