Solar Site Survey Checklist: What Installers Need to Know
Performing A Solar Site Survey: Everything Installers Should Know
If you are a solar installer, you know that performing a solar site survey is a crucial step in the installation process. A solar site survey is an assessment of the suitability of a location for a solar system, taking into account factors such as roof orientation, shading, structural integrity, electrical wiring, and local codes and regulations. A solar site survey can help you determine the optimal system size, design, and placement for your client's needs and expectations.
But how do you perform a solar site survey effectively and efficiently? What tools and techniques do you need to use? And what are the best practices and tips to ensure a successful outcome? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more, covering everything you need to know about performing a solar site survey as a human.
What You Need to Perform a Solar Site Survey
Before you head out to the site, you need to prepare some equipment and materials that will help you conduct the survey. Here are some of the essential items you need to bring:
How to Perform a Solar Site Survey
Once you have gathered all the necessary equipment and materials, you are ready to perform the solar site survey. Here are the main steps you need to follow:
1. Inspect the roof. The first step is to inspect the roof and determine its suitability for a solar system. You need to check the following aspects:
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- – Roof type. Is the roof made of asphalt shingles, metal, tile, slate, or something else? Different roof types have different installation methods and requirements. For example, some roof types may require additional flashing or mounting hardware to prevent leaks and damage.
- – Roof condition. Is the roof in good shape or does it need repairs or replacement? A solar system can last for 25 years or more, so you want to make sure that the roof can support it for that long. If the roof is old or damaged, you may need to advise your client to fix it before installing a solar system.
- – Roof size. How big is the roof and how much space is available for a solar system? You need to measure the length and width of the roof and calculate its area. You also need to account for any obstacles or features that may reduce the usable space, such as chimneys, vents, skylights, dormers, etc..
- – Roof orientation. Which direction does the roof face? The orientation of the roof affects how much sunlight it receives throughout the day and year. Ideally, you want to install a solar system on a south-facing roof (in the northern hemisphere) or a north-facing roof (in the southern hemisphere) for maximum sun exposure. However, east-west facing roofs can also work well if they have enough tilt angle and minimal shading.
- – Roof tilt. What is the angle of the roof slope? The tilt of the roof affects how much sunlight it receives at different times of the day and year. Ideally, you want to install a solar system on a roof that has a tilt angle close to your latitude for optimal performance. However, you can also adjust the tilt angle of the solar panels using racking systems or ballasted mounts if needed.
2. Assess the shading. The second step is to assess the shading and sun exposure of the site throughout the year. You need to check the following aspects:
- – Shading sources. What are the sources of shading on the site? Shading can come from trees, buildings, mountains, clouds, or anything else that blocks or reduces sunlight. Shading can have a significant impact on the performance and output of a solar system, especially if it affects multiple panels or occurs during peak hours.
- Choosing a different panel location or orientation that has less shading or more sun exposure.
– Trimming or removing trees or other obstacles that cause shading.
– Using microinverters or power optimizers that allow each panel to operate independently and reduce the impact of shading on the whole system.
– Using bifacial panels that can capture sunlight from both sides and increase the output of the system.
3. Evaluate the electrical wiring. The third step is to evaluate the electrical wiring and grounding of the site and determine how to connect the solar system to the grid. You need to check the following aspects:
- – Service panel. Where is the service panel located and what is its capacity and condition? The service panel is the main electrical panel that distributes power to the circuits in the house. You need to locate the service panel and inspect its size, rating, age, and wiring. You also need to check if there is enough space and amperage for a new breaker or subpanel for the solar system. If the service panel is too small, old, or damaged, you may need to upgrade it before installing a solar system.
- – Meter. Where is the meter located and what is its type and configuration? The meter is the device that measures and records the electricity usage and generation of the site. You need to locate the meter and check its model, features, and settings. You also need to check if the meter is compatible with net metering, which is a policy that allows you to sell excess solar power back to the grid and reduce your electricity bill. If the meter is not compatible with net metering, you may need to replace it with a smart meter or a bidirectional meter before installing a solar system.
- Wiring. How is the wiring run from the roof to the service panel and meter? The wiring is the conduit that carries the electricity from the solar panels to the inverter, service panel, meter, and grid. You need to check how the wiring is routed and secured on the roof and inside the walls or attic. You also need to check if there are any obstacles or hazards that may interfere with or damage the wiring. You also need to check if there are any code or safety requirements for wiring in your area, such as conduit size, color, labeling, grounding, etc.
How to Document and Report a Solar Site Survey
The final step of performing a solar site survey is to document and report your findings and recommendations to your client and/or employer. You need to do the following: