Solar Panel Installation: How to Install Rooftop Solar Panels New Jersey | How to Install Solar Panels On Other Types of Roofs
Rooftop solar power panels are becoming increasingly popular, so if you’ve thought about getting one, there’s no time like the present! These days, you don’t have to be a scientist or an engineer to put together your own rooftop solar panel system. With today’s affordable and easy-to-use equipment, anyone can do it and save money on their energy bills while they’re at it.
Solar Panel Installation Planning & Safety
A well-planned solar installation should begin with choosing the right system for your needs. This process can take some time, but doing it before you start putting things together will help make the whole process go much more smoothly.
Materials to Purchase
Knowing how to install a rooftop solar system is one thing, but you also need suitable materials. Before starting, make sure you have everything on hand and purchase any additional supplies as necessary.
1. Rooftop Solar Panels & Mounting System – You can go with a solar panel kit or build your own from scratch. Solar panel kits are easier to use, but you have less customization ability.
2. DC Disconnect – This turns off the solar system when maintenance is being performed. It’s essential to turn this off while working on your rooftop solar panels or inverter.
3. AC Disconnect – The AC disconnect should be installed in the breaker box of your home. This is where the inverter will be linked to the grid.
4. Inverter – The inverter converts DC voltage from your solar PV panels into AC for use in your home or on a grid system.
5. System Monitor & Controller – These parts manage all the electricity going into and out of your home solar energy system. Some of the larger systems may use multiple controllers.
6. System Wiring – This is how all of your controller, inverter, and string wiring come together. It is usually made of a thicker, weatherproof cable that can handle high voltage.
7. Solar Panel Cable – There are two basic types of solar PV panel cable: PV wire and MC4 Connector. Typical PV wire has a thinner copper conductor and can handle up to 600 volts. MC4 connectors are more extensive, so they’re better suited for high-voltage systems.
8. Meter & Monitor Mounting Box – This holds your system monitor and other components in place.
9. System Racking – This system provides structural strength and also keeps your panels level.
10. Grounding Lug – Mounts outside the grounding rod that you bury with your grounding clamp.
11. Grounding Rod & Clamp – You need both to safely ground your residential solar installation.
12. System Ground Wire – This is connected to two grounding lugs in your rooftop solar panels. It is designed to keep the negative charge in the system grounded. You need a clean, bare metal that can conduct electricity before you connect this component.
13. System Combiner Box – A combination of DC disconnects and MC4 connectors, combiners make connecting your solar panels much more accessible than if you tied them separately. This also provides an alternative to joining all of your panels in series via the combiner box.
It’s important to keep safety in mind when performing a residential solar panel installation. It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed and try to rush through the process, but this can lead to severe injuries if you’re not careful. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure your work area is clean and dry before beginning any installation.
- Wear protective equipment, such as sunglasses and work gloves.
- Work on a flat surface out of direct sunlight while performing the installation.
- Cover your floor with a protective tarp or cardboard to avoid scratching it up while moving heavy objects around.
- Make sure that the AC Disconnect is turned off before you begin working.
- Make sure the DC Disconnect is turned off and locked out before you apply power to the system.
- Before climbing on top of your rooftop solar panels, make sure they’re anchored securely in place. You don’t want them to move while you walk or stand on them!
- Be mindful of nearby flammable materials (and your surroundings in general) when working with flammable roofing materials.
- Keep pets and children away from the rooftop solar panels while they’re exposed.
- Be aware of potential water sources, such as rain or sprinklers, so you don’t get electrocuted by them during installation.
Wiring & Electrical
Wiring your system is a critical part when installing solar, and the specifics vary based on the kind of system you’re installing.
This section of our rooftop solar panel installation guide will discuss how to plan your wiring run, ground your system, and install a backfeed breaker to connect to the utility grid if needed.
Now that you’ve set your system up, it’s time to start thinking about wiring management. Wiring is an important yet often overlooked part of any solar installation. Make sure to take the time to plan out how you’ll run your wires before beginning installation!
- Planning your wire routing will help to avoid any unforeseen issues with the installation later on.
- Take a look at your roof and see if there’s a pre-existing hole or channel that’ll be useful for running the wires. It may also be possible to drill a new channel if none exists. Ensure to leave sufficient space for the cables and avoid drilling too close to the edge of your roof, as this can lead to water leakage.
- If pre-existing holes or channels aren’t available, you’ll need to drill through the roof of your house. Before doing so, make sure that there isn’t any risk of puncturing pipes (which may carry flammable chemicals) or electrical wiring.
- When you drill through the roof, run your wires at least 12 inches below the surface so they can’t be easily seen to avoid any aesthetic issues.
- Then, use a wire fish to run your wires through the hole and secure them in place with a wire clip.
- Run the wire along the rails or the frame of your solar panel.
Once you’ve planned and routed your wire run, it’s time to make the actual electrical connection. Wire nut connections are usually adequate for small rooftop solar installations, but if you’re installing a more extensive system, use a crimp connector or compression connector to provide extra support.
In the case of conduit, you’ll need to make sure that your wire nut connections are secure and watertight, so tighten down any loose nuts before you seal them with a bit of silicone.
Check for any leaks after applying the sealant. If water does get in, try tightening down the connection more and reapply some silicon to seal it up.
Keep in mind that all wire nuts are not created equal—some provide better connection than others, so pay attention to the quality of your wire nut while installing! You’ll also want to keep some spares around just in case you need to replace any faulty ones down the road.
Wiring connections will vary based on the specific system you’re installing, so make sure to check your user manual for any special instructions or notes.
Planning Your Electrical Route
If the solar panel is wired directly to your electrical system, that’s the best option for an efficient and cost-effective installation.
However, this isn’t always possible depending on where your system is located (for example, if you’re unable to run wires above a certain height). In such cases, you’ll need to install a backfeed breaker to connect to the utility grid.
A backfeed breaker is a particular type of circuit breaker that allows you to use solar power during daylight hours and connect to the utility grid overnight. This gives you more control over your energy usage, allowing you to maximize the potential of your panels.
If your roof is already overloaded with wires and doesn’t have a spare breaker, you’ll need to install a sub-panel. This splits your electrical panel into two separate entities, which allows you to maintain one panel for utility usage and one for solar output.
Roof Mount Electrical Route
If you’re installing a roof mount system, the electrical route is relatively straightforward. Run your wires along with the frame of your solar panel and connect them at both ends.
Ground Mount Electrical Route
In-ground mount systems, however, things get a bit more complicated since multiple components need to be installed in a specific order for the system to function.
Mounting Your Inverter
Once you’ve done wiring and electrical connection, it’s time to mount your inverter. If your inverter has a built-in roof mount, this step is super simple—set the inverter into place and secure it in place with bolts or screws, then attach its wires to the rest of your system.
However, not all inverters come with roof-mounted brackets, so if yours does not, you’ll need to purchase one separately. These are typically universal and work with almost any type of inverter.
If your inverter is wall-mounted, then you’ll probably need to hire a professional electrician to assist with installation. This will ensure that the electrical connections are secure and reliable, especially if they’re not exposed (like a conduit).
Inverters Mounted on Ground Mount Substructure
Inverters mounted on ground mount substructures, such as our Multi-Mount System, require special brackets that can support the weight of the inverter and prevent it from wobbling.
These brackets typically come with a grounding wire connected to an earth rod (to provide extra security against lightning strikes). If you live in an area with frequent thunderstorms, it is recommended to ground your system for additional protection.
Grounding solar system
Proper grounding is essential for both safety and preventing electrical damage to your system. Without it, you run the risk of electric shock and power surges—both of which can significantly reduce the life span of your components.
Moreover, without proper grounding, a fault in the solar system’s wiring will not trip breakers or warn against other problems resulting in significant damage.
For most solar energy systems, the grounding wire is connected to your electrical panel using a green screw or lug if this connection doesn’t sit at least one inch away from the neutral bar (as required by code), replacing your grounding cable with adequate materials.
EGC and GEC Grounding Connectors
Grounding connectors, such as our EGC and GEC, are used to connect your solar system’s grounding wire to a metal rod or set of rods that have been driven into the ground. If you choose this approach, keep in mind that only one connection should be made per ground rod—two would make the connection too flimsy and unsafe.
If you’re using a wall mount inverter, integrated grounding is also an option. These systems have grounding wires built into the system that connects to a single ground rod or set of rods, in addition to screwing directly into your electrical panel.
Backfeed Breaker Installation
If your inverter is grid-tie only, you’ll need to install a backfeed breaker for your system to be able to feed into the grid.
The backfeed breaker should be installed on the line side of your main breaker box and before any crossover lines that connect the main panel to the subpanel. If you have a subpanel, then your backfeed breaker should be installed before any branch panels attach to the main panel.
However, if there is no subpanel and all of the electrical lines run directly from your main panel into a structure on your property, then you’ll want to make sure there are no open slots in your main panel for the backfeed breaker. If there are, you’ll need to shut off the power to that line before installing the backfeed breaker.
If any of this sounds confusing, don’t hesitate to call an electrician—they’re familiar with how these solar systems work and can assist in installation.
Mounting Your Panels
Once your electrical plan is complete, the system will be ready for solar panel mounts. Whether you install solar panels on the roof or in an open area of your property, the process is relatively similar either way.
Solar panels roof mounting
The first step in roof solar panels mount is to consult with a structural engineer and have them design a suitable structure. The last thing you want to do is mount your panels and then realize they’re not adequately supported and could fall off at any moment!
Solar panels ground mounting
Ground mounting is much easier—all you need to do is dig a hole deep enough to support the weight of your racking system and mount it into place. If you live in an area with high winds, make sure the ground you’re using isn’t constantly soft and muddy (i.e., not suitable for digging).
Solar Battery Installation
Once your panels and inverter are mounted to their respective structures, it’s time to install the batteries. Batteries should be placed on an area of concrete that won’t retain water (for those using flooded batteries) or as high as possible in a dry, shaded spot (for those using AGM or GEL batteries).
You’ll need to run a temperature probe from your batteries into the inverter for it to display battery temperature information. In total, you should have three wires running from an external source off of one side of the inverter: two black and one red wire.
When installing batteries into your system, you should keep some safety tips in mind. You want to install them with the right polarity and make sure they’re not too close to a source of ignition. There’s a lot that goes into making a battery bank. You’ll need to run line-voltage cables between each battery bank if there is more than one on your system. Make sure those cables are labeled so you can connect them to the inverter properly. Electrical currents can be very dangerous, make sure you double-check everything before connecting it all together.
Battery Room Designs
It is essential to design a room that has high airflow and is shaded by the sun at all times. This will help them stay cool throughout their lifespan.
When using flooded lead-acid batteries, you’ll want to use galvanized steel for flooring rather than plywood or concrete—the acid will seep up through porous surfaces and erode the floor.
When designing your battery room, keep in mind that flooded batteries release explosive gas when charging. Never charge them near flammable materials or inside vented buildings, like garages or sheds.
Battery Bank Installation
It’s time to begin wiring up the batteries after your battery room is built. The first stage in installation is to ‘sub-divide each string of batteries you’ll be using—that is, wire them in parallel. When connecting your batteries in series, keep in mind that they should all have the same voltage rating. This is because you’re building a “battery bank” with one single cell count. If done incorrectly, your battery will short out and all your hard work will quickly go up in smoke!
To properly connect your battery’s circuitry in a balanced way, you’ll need to first install the appropriate battery terminals on your battery. To do so, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer of your inverter and battery bank. The last thing you want is for one battery bank to have different voltage levels than the others; this will disrupt your entire system
Before installing your batteries, use a protective coating on the terminals to prevent corrosion.
Braided stainless steel lugs are ideal for all of your wiring needs because they’ll resist corrosion the longest over time, ensuring that your rectifier doesn’t fail due to rusting connections.
How to prevent roof leaks after solar panel installed?
Always consider the installation location of your solar panels before going any further. When you want to install it on a rooftop, find out whether or not there is enough space for both the panel and racking system.
Ensure that all wires are correctly placed, so they do not interfere with the sun’s rays. It would be easier for you if you had to put up all panels simultaneously, but don’t worry if it’s not possible. You do not have to install panel by panel. Just make sure to avoid wiring conflicts when doing so.
If you are thinking of installing your panels on a metal roof, consider the weight of the panel. Metal roofs are flimsy, so they will not support heavy components. You have to consult your solar panel dealer if that’s possible for them to install without worrying about damaging the roof or causing leaks.
How to Mount Solar Panels On Other Types of Roofs
Tile roofs are very durable but are usually pretty steep. Because of this, you need to use special mounting equipment that is available through your local hardware store or solar company. You will also need someone who is experienced in installing solar panels to properly mount the panels on a tile roof.
Standing seam metal roofs
Standing seam metal roofs are very popular in coastal areas. Metal is a poor conductor, so installing solar panels on the roof requires special equipment and can be pretty expensive. It’s usually best to have a professional install your solar panels on a standing seam metal roof.
Flat concrete and clay tile roofs
Concrete or clay tile roofs aren’t good for much other than mounting solar panels. You can either use a railing system that swings into place when the panel is moved or you can bolt the panel to the roof with lag screws.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible for me to install solar panels on the roof?
If you want to DIY a solar panel installation, be sure that you have all the tools and equipment needed for it. It would also be best if you had prior knowledge on how to do it safely. When putting up your roof rack, make sure that it is strong enough so as not to sag or slip during high winds.
It is also essential to use the right kind of screw and drill bit for your solar panels. If you want to do it yourself, make sure to read the manual well and follow their instructions carefully.
Which angle should you install solar panels?
The direction where the sun’s rays will hit during peak hours is what determines the angle of your solar panels. This means that you have to pay attention to when you plan to use solar energy and for what purpose. If they are primarily used to power appliances at home, their direction should likely face West or South-West.
What if I need a new roof after installing panels?
If you do not have enough space to mount solar panels, there is no need to worry. You can always purchase a new roof and then install your solar panels over it. As long as the new top is strong enough, you can continue using your solar power system without wasting any solar renewable energy at all.
What qualifications do you need when installing solar panels?
People who are interested in the solar photovoltaic installation should have enough knowledge of the system itself. They must consider that it is an electrical process, so you have to do everything safely. You should also be familiar with the kind of weather your area gets, whether sunny or rainy. If you are not sure about any of this, then better leave it to the experts.
If you plan to avoid roof leaks by replacing your roof, there is no need to remove all of the panels. You can continue using them after a few modifications to the system itself.
What you need to do is make sure that they are correctly connected and grounded. It does not matter if you don’t see any visible damage, and the solar panels are installed correctly, you should not worry.