How Long Does Solar Panel Installation Take? Everything You Need to Know About

The US's demand for solar panel installation has reached a record high in the past few years. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar systems currently account for 46% of all electricity-generating capacity added to the grid in 2021. Furthermore, approximately 4% of the country's electricity came from solar power in the past year.

These figures are expected to continue rising in the coming years, with solar power installations forecasted to increase threefold in the next ten years. And with solar power becoming increasingly more affordable and accessible, more and more homeowners and businesses are considering installing solar systems.

In California, solar panel installation is becoming increasingly common, with around 1.5 million households and businesses powered by solar, according to SEIA reports. This is partly due to the state's commendable solar incentives, which make going solar more affordable. The federal solar tax credit is 26% of the system's cost. 

solar panels next to the house

Additionally, California has some of the best sunshine in the country, making it an ideal location for solar panel installation. The cost of solar panel installation in California has fallen by 53% over the last ten years, making it more affordable than ever. Given that California has a higher traditional energy bill than other states going solar can result in significant savings for homeowners and businesses.

The average cost for solar panel installation in the US is around $12,000, but this can vary depending on the size and type of system installed. Installation costs also differ from state to state, with California generally being on the higher end due to its high living costs.

Average Timeframe for Solar Panel Installation

So, how long does it take to install solar panels? Depending on the solar installation company you choose, installing solar panel systems, especially a home solar panel installation, is typically quick and takes about 4 to 6 hours. This time frame can vary depending on the size of your system and the number of panels installed. In the case of commercial solar panel installation or installation in more extensive areas, the process may take up to a few days or even longer.

The approval process takes the longest in the entire time frame of transitioning to solar power. In California, it takes around 45 days to secure complete approval to operate after submitting a signed contract. The good news is that some solar energy companies offer end-to-end services that cover everything from consultation to securing permits, designing the system, and installing the solar system.

solar panel installation process

The timeline for going solar will differ depending on where you live, the solar panel installation company you choose, the type of solar panels you install, and whether or not you're also installing a new service panel or battery backup. However, it's also worth noting that in most cases, delays are caused by permit processing procedures and waiting for the utility company to complete your solar billing application.

Below are the steps involved in a typical installation process:

Scheduling a Site Assessment and Contract Signing (1 week)

Before a solar panel installation company can begin working on your site, they will need to assess it first to determine if it is safe and ready for installing solar panels. A professional site examiner will visit your property to inspect the roof and other aspects. During a site assessment, your examiner will pay close attention to the following three areas:

  • The condition of the roof and its dimensions 
  • Paperwork associated with the top (e.g., warranty information) 
  • Roof vents' locations and roof shading
  • Your current service panel

A site inspection aims to ensure your roof and electrical panel can support the weight of the solar panels and the amount of energy you wish to generate. Your provider should also ensure that your solar panels are getting maximum exposure to sunshine and that they can install the number of proposed solar panels.

During your assessment, your examiner will collect any HOA (Homeowners Association) paperwork and note any required repairs or improvements to accommodate your solar system. If everything is in place, you can sign a contract within a few days to a week after your assessment.

Designing and Engineering Your Solar System (2 to 4 weeks)

After your site assessment, a team of engineers will design a solar system that meets your energy needs and local code requirements. Once the design is complete, the engineering team will submit permit applications to your local building department. The design and engineering process usually takes around two weeks for simple residential solar systems and up to four weeks for a more complex commercial solar panel installation.

Solar Permit Application (4 weeks and up)

The entire permit application process usually takes around four weeks. As mentioned, this part usually takes the longest because it is subject to the approval of your local building department.

And since you'll have to apply for solar billing, you must first secure a permit from your city's Building and Safety Department.

In most cities, you'll need various permits to install solar on your property. Most of the time, you'll need a Solar PV Permit and an Electrical Permit. While it typically takes around four weeks, it may sometimes take as long as four months or more.

Solar Panel Installation (1-5 days)

After your solar system is designed and all the permits are in place, your solar panel installation company will schedule a time to install your panels. The process usually takes one day for most residential systems. Larger commercial installations can take up to five days.

The solar panel installation process is relatively quick and easy, with some solar panel installations for home projects taking just a few hours to complete. You won't usually need to monitor the installation, except if access is required to install equipment in certain areas, such as your garage.

Inspection and City Approval (1 week and above)

After installing your solar panels, a building inspector must check the work to ensure it meets all safety requirements. Once the inspection is complete and everything is approved, you'll receive a certificate of occupancy from your city. This entire process, from start to finish, usually takes around one week, but it can vary depending on the local city inspector's schedule.

Solar Billing Activation (1 week to 1 month)

Once your solar system is installed and approved, you'll need to activate your solar billing. The utility company will notify you of their approval to grant you Permission-to-Operate after receiving the solar billing application with the signed-off job card from the city inspector. Depending on your energy company, this step might take anywhere between a week to a month.

people installing solar panels

Go Solar With Ameco Today

We understand that going solar entails a significant investment, and we want to ensure you get the most out of your solar panels. At Ameco, we offer all-in-one solar roofing solutions to ensure your solar panel installation goes smoothly and efficiently. We assign a dedicated project manager to every customer.

If you're interested in learning more about solar panel installation or if you have any questions, contact us today. You can also Get an Estimate or use our 3D Home Visualizer App to see what your home would look like with solar panels.