Our Solar Installation: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
I’m not usually that good at discerning the meaning of lyrics, but in this case I’m pretty sure Tom was singing of his anticipation about the installation of a new home solar energy system.
Last week, I shared my thoughts on our decision to go solar.
The process took several months from start to finish, and the waiting was definitely one of the hardest parts!
Our saga began with a phone call to the solar company, after reading about an incentive they were offering employees of my company.
Then our friendly solar sales rep visited our home to take some initial readings to determine whether a home solar energy system might work well for us. After that, he met with us to discuss our options and answer our initial questions.
We were good candidates for solar, as the back slope of our roof faces almost due south. If we took out one very tall tree in the middle of our backyard, our roof would get significantly less shade, improving the potential efficiency of the system.
After that, I conducted a lot of independent research and ran the numbers to determine whether solar was a good choice for our family in our pursuit of financial independence and early retirement.
And then we signed our contract.
Following that, there were a few phone calls and emails back and forth, and a fair amount of waiting. While we were waiting for our installation to work its way through the queue at the solar company, I had the tall tree removed to improve the potential efficiency of our system.
Next, the solar company came back to our home to take some additional readings and measurements. They also evaluated our site more thoroughly, looking at the roof, attic, electrical panels, Wi-Fi, and electric meter to make sure everything would work properly and run smoothly.
The solar company then passed all of that information on to their design team, who put a plan together with all the necessary specifications for a successful residential solar energy system.
Then, and only then, was it FINALLY time for installation!
After weeks of anticipation, the home solar installation process was surprisingly quick and easy (granted, I was not the one hauling 22 solar panels up onto a two-story roof in humid 90 degree weather)!
It took less than 32 hours from start to finish to get the system installed and up and running.
The first day was spent on the most visible part of the installation: installing the racking and solar panels on the roof, and punching into the attic. Two solar installers got to work before 8:00 a.m. and were done for the day before 4:00 p.m.
The work on the second day was much less obvious to the outside world. The team spent a little time on the roof first thing in the morning, and then moved into the attic, running cable from the top of the roof, through the attic, to the west side of the house. They popped out there, and then ran cable in a conduit all the way down the side of the house, connecting the solar panels on the roof to a solar inverter they installed on the outside of our house.
The solar inverter is where the real magic happens. The inverter converts the direct current generated by the photovoltaic panels on our roof into the alternating current that can be fed into the electrical grid and used to power our home.
The inverter was then connected to a production meter, to measure how much electricity our system was creating, which was connected to our good old electric meter. These systems were also connected to the main electrical panel in our basement. After that, Wi-Fi units were placed near the electrical panel and near our router to insure that updated information on the performance of our system was always available.
The installation team then walked me through all the work they had done, explained how to interpret the readings on the inverter and production meter, and helped me log onto the web portal that would provide real-time feedback on how our solar energy system was performing.
They also pointed out to me that our old school electric meter was spinning backwards, meaning our electric bill was shrinking as the sun’s rays powered the panels on our roof!
By 3:00 p.m. on the second day, the installation team had cleaned up, packed up, and were on their way home for well-deserved cold beverages!
I’d like to say the waiting was the hardest part of going solar as a customer, but that’s not entirely accurate.
It was the second hardest part, behind writing a large check to pay for the system!
The hope is that investment turns into one that pays hundreds of little dividends, in the form of significantly smaller electric bills for many years to come, plus a larger dividend whenever we sell our home.
Next time around, I’ll share my initial thoughts on the performance of our home solar energy system.