How to Install Solar Panels

Built yourself a nice solar panel but don’t know what to do with it next? Don’t worry! I’ve got tons of information here to confuse you even further! Before we get into that, though, have you come to this page directly from another site?

If so, I’d like to invite you to visit my home and about pages, where you can get to know me a little bit (it’s always nice to know who you’re talking to).

Also, my next project for this site is to build an area where I can showcase the work of the wonderful people who hang out here–that means you! So, if you’ve got pictures or videos of you working on renewable energy projects, please send me an e-mail and let me know. The world would love to see your work!

Okay, let’s dive in! The question I hear asked most by people learning how to install solar panels is, “Do the panels have to go on the roof?” The answer to that question is, “No, they don’t have to go on the roof, but that is the best place to put them.”

Warning! Before I ramble on any further, let me give you a warning. When I was first learning  how to install solar panels, I came across an important piece of information.

Are you familiar with UL certification? This is a US government certification given to solar panels that have passed rigorous manufacturing quality and safety tests. Solar panels made with DIY solar panel plans, and even some professionally made ones, are not UL certified. Why am I telling you this?

Because your insurance company may be reluctant to cover damage caused by a Non-UL certified solar panel. Is it likely that your solar panel is going to cause an electrical fire? No, but any time we are dealing with electricity, we should take precautions.

Got UL certification? Great! Put your panels on your roof!

So, take a few minutes and read your insurance policy, or call your agent. It’s better to be safe than sorry! If your policy doesn’t cover non-UL certified panels, and you have homemade panels, then I recommend installing them on a freestanding frame (like in the picture below) on your property, not on your roof.

Okay, back to roof installations. Your roof really is the best place to install you solar panels. Why? because when you install your solar panels, you want them to be at about a 30 degree angle, and most roofs provide a great mount at a good angle. Remember, also, that you’ll want your panels to be facing a southerly direction, unless, of course, you’re reading this from Australia, a place where everything is backwards, in relation to solar panel installation, I mean. :)

No UL certification? I'd put the panels on a freestanding stand, not on my roof!

If you have decided to mount your panels on your roof, there are different types of mounts you can use. The type you will use really depends on your roof. If you’ve got a nice flat roof, and your panel is not too big, you can use simple flush mounts.

These are cheap and easy to install, but they offer no flexibility when it comes to positioning your solar panel. To use these, your roof must provide the perfect angle and direction for your panel.

If you use a flush mount, make sure there is at least a few of inches between your panel and your roof, which will keep your panel from overheating. Warning: Your mounts MUST be bolted into the studs of your rafters. Do not just drill and bolt into any old place on your roof. It’s not hard, just use a stud finder to locate your rafter beams. And make sure you drill a pilot hole, so you don’t split your rafter beams!

Check out the Govenator! Also, check out those solar panels! As you can see, if your roof is flat, there's no need to worry! Just buy or build mounts that tilt them up!

If your roof isn’t tilted, or if it’s tilted in the wrong direction, you may have to get creative. If you are good at building sturdy frames, you can build one that will allow you to place your panel facing any direction you like.

If you want professional quality mounts, I suggest going with “FastJack” or “Tile Trac.” You can, of course, just make your own using parts from your local hardware store.

If you do, and if you come up with a good design, email me pictures, and I’ll put them into this post. Or, even better, if you’ve got a video showing how to install solar panels using your design, people would love to see it. Rather than send me a video, which is really hard to get into my email program, please just upload it to YouTube and then send me the URL to your video.

Okay, enough about rooftop installations. As most of you have homemade solar panels, without UL certification, you are, or should be, considering freestanding solar installation.

For starters, check out this guy’s cool freestanding installation–he knows much more about how to install solar panels than I do!

Click here to get a professional step-by-step guide that shows you how to install solar panels.

When talking about freestanding solar installations, the sky really is the limit. If you watched the video, you’ve seen a pole mounted panel, a panel mounted on the side of the house with brackets, and you’ve even see the simplest of all mounts, just set the thing on the ground!

Because everyone is in different situations, I can’t really say the best way to mount your panel. I can offer a few tips, though.

  • Consider mobility. Many like to move their panels around during the day, even bringing them inside at night. If this sounds attractive to you, just mount your solar panel to a simple freestanding frame, one that you can just pick up and move around.
  • Think about safety. I mean the safety of your panels! If your kids have hopes of making it to the major leagues (and they practice at home) be sure your solar panels are out of the line of fire.
  • Watch out for shade. I know, that’s pretty obvious, but take a stroll around the Internet, and you’ll see that many people just weren’t thinking when they mounted their panels.
  • Batten down the hatches! If the wind is coming strongly, and from behind your panel, there is going to be some pretty strong uplift. Commercial pole mounts have a metal attachment that has nearly the same surface area as a solar panel–it’s not just attached at the top of that skinny little pole.
  • Don’t set up trip wires. If your battery bank is in the shed out back, you’ll probably want to mount your panels somewhere back there too.

This is one of my favorite solar panel pictures! What are those things bolted to, grass? And don't those rooftops look a bit flammable to be holding an electricity producing device?

I could go on and on, but you know what they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” …so check out some of these installation ideas.

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Thanks for stopping by!

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