Tips for Installing Rooftop Solar Panels
If you're taking your first steps toward going solar, you’re making an important move toward sustainability. Everyone must do their part for renewable energy to reach the ambitious net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050, and by going solar, you're taking a crucial step toward America's greener future.1
To get the most out of your solar panels, it's crucial that they're positioned and installed correctly. Choosing the correct solar panel tilt angle and direction can significantly improve power output, saving you more money in the long term.
Equally important is the contractor you choose to install your panels. A professional solar installer can assess roof suitability, evaluate your energy needs, and orient your solar panels for maximum efficiency.
As one of America's leading providers of first-class solar systems, SunPower is committed to educating and supporting America's homeowners as they transition to renewable energy. In this blog, we've put together 18 of our top tips for choosing, installing, and maintaining rooftop solar panels for peak performance.
Solar panel installation doesn't have to be a chore. With fundamental know-how, careful planning, and a reputable solar installer handling the technical side, you can harness the sun's energy in no time.
Best practices for installing rooftop solar panels
The key to increasing your energy independence is to make smart decisions about your renewable energy systems. To help you make the right choice, we've put together 18 top tips you should consider before installing solar panels at home.
1. Roof suitability
As your solar panels will sit on top of your home, the suitability of your roof is the first thing to assess. Solar panels can add considerable weight to your roof, especially when installing multiple panels at once. It's vital to consider factors like:
Your roof's age
Its weight-bearing capacity
How much roof space you have
Your roof needs to be stable, strong, and secure. Before committing to a solar installation, it's always best to consult an expert. A solar company like SunPower can check your roof for signs of instability and damage. Consulting a professional will also give you a better idea of how many solar panels you can fit on your roof.
2. Energy needs
Consider how much energy you need before you decide how many solar panels to install. To learn how to calculate your solar panel requirements, read our article discussing how many solar panels you need based on your monthly electricity usage. Estimating how many panels you need can be tough, especially when considering weather, season, and location. Consulting a professional for a free solar panel evaluation is the fastest way to get a reliable estimate of your solar panel needs.
Solar systems are a significant investment. It's essential to consider how much you're willing to spend before committing to a full solar installation.
The good news is that residential solar panel installations are eligible for rebates and incentives. The U.S. government offers a range of financial incentives for those who invest in renewable energy, making the adoption of solar more affordable and accessible than ever before. For example, the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) allows qualified homeowners to receive a federal income tax credit for 30% of the cost of their solar system.2
4. Financing options
If budget is a concern, you may qualify for one of the many available solar panel financing options. These can include:
Solar Loans: A solar loan allows you to make regular payments, spreading the cost of your solar system over a fixed term.
Solar Leases and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs): When you opt for a solar lease or PPA, a solar company installs and maintains the panels on your property. The company retains ownership of the system, while you make monthly payments for the power it produces. Leases and PPAs typically have little to no upfront costs.
The best financing option for you will depend on your budget, location, and the number of solar panels you require. Explore different options and find the solution that best meets your needs.
5. The sun's direction
The sun’s angle can directly impact the energy output of your solar panels. Since the U.S. is in the Northern Hemisphere, solar panels that face magnetic south will get the most exposure to direct sunlight.
Optimize your solar panel placement by installing them on a south-facing roof for maximum sunlight throughout the day. Don’t have a south-facing roof? Your solar company will help determine the best placement for your specific situation.
6. The amount of shade
Even optimally angled solar panels will be ineffective if they are regularly blocked by shade. Buildings and trees can block sunlight and significantly lower your solar production rate. Opt for an open location with lots of natural sunlight that receives minimal shade throughout the day.
7. Weather patterns
It's important to consider the weather conditions where you live before you purchase a solar system. Some panels, like high-efficiency monocrystalline panels, can work well in cloudy or wet areas. In contrast, thin film panels require a great deal of direct sunlight to be effective.
If you live in a wet, windy area, we recommend choosing a durable, watertight solar panel, as this can prevent damage from wind and rain.
8. Solar panel efficiency
Your solar panels' efficiency dictates how much energy they can generate and how much you can save by using them. Those that are considered high-efficiency solar panels are better at turning sunlight into electricity. Most solar panels in the market range between 15-20% efficiency, while highly-efficient monocrystalline systems can even reach a record-breaking 22% efficiency.
9. Inverter type
The inverter converts your solar panels' direct current (DC) energy into the alternating current (AC) energy that can be used to power your home. Different inverter types serve different purposes. A string inverter is acceptable as long as all of your solar panels face the same way and your property isn't shaded during the day.
At SunPower, we recommend microinverters, which are built-in or added to each solar panel individually. This means you won't lose power if some of your panels are in the shade or not facing the sun.
10. Local regulations
Always check with your local government to ensure you comply with any regulations related to your solar panel installation. The Solar Energy Industries Association provides policy and legislation information by state via this interactive state-by-state map. If you live in a community governed by a homeowners association (HOA), you’ll want to check for any rules or regulations that may apply to installation of a solar system there as well.
11. Solar panel warranty
When searching for the right provider, you’ll want to look for those offering a comprehensive solar system warranty that covers your equipment and its performance. Watch out for warranties that only cover certain parts of your system, or those that do not offer performance guarantees over time.
12. Solar panel monitoring
Monitoring your solar panels lets you track their performance to be sure your electricity production is as high as possible. Choose a solar company with software that enables you to monitor your solar system virtually. For example, the mySunPower® app lets you track system performance and control SunVault battery settings from your mobile phone.
13. Net metering
Net metering allows you to sell the excess solar energy your system generates back to the grid, reducing your energy bills even further.3 Check state and utility net metering policies in your area to learn how you can save money on the power you produce.
14. Future home plans
It's important to think about any future plans you have for your home before you commit to a solar system. Do you intend to renovate or build an addition? Do you want to stay in your home for a long time? Is your family growing? Are you considering adding a pool or buying an electric vehicle?
These are all important factors when deciding whether to invest in a solar system and determining how large of a system you might need.
15. Check for certifications
Always look for solar panel certifications when choosing your solar provider. UL, Energy Star, and NABCEP certifications indicate that your solar panel installation meets industry standards. If in doubt, ask a solar company whether their panels and installers are certified.
16. Check for reviews
Reviews are one of the easiest ways to get a sense of how trustworthy and reliable a solar provider may be. Check that others speak positively about a solar system or provider before investing.
17. Compare quotes
Don't hesitate to get quotes from multiple solar providers at once. Comparing offers lets you find the best fit for your needs and budget.
18. Use a professional solar installer
We never recommend installing solar panels on your own. To avoid safety hazards and ensure the longevity of your solar panels, choose a recognized, trustworthy provider with proven experience in the solar industry.
Solar power is the future
While we’ve likely given you a lot to think about, it's crucial to take all of these factors into consideration when installing your solar panels. By applying our best practices, you can improve your solar panel performance, save more money, and reduce your carbon footprint.
Whichever route you take to solar energy, know that you are doing your part for the future of America—and the planet—by choosing to go green. Your solar energy investment is one of the best you'll ever make.
If you're looking to get started with solar, SunPower can help. We are the top-rated solar company in the U.S.4 providing all-in-one, high-quality solar systems. Our fully-integrated rooftop solar systems, innovative SunVault® Storage System, and industry-leading 25-year panel warranty, makes the road to solar faster and easier to navigate.
Ready to learn more about how you can power your home with clean, renewable solar energy?
SunPower is changing the way our world is powered by making solar and storage more accessible to everyone. With nearly 40 years of dedicated solar experience, we're the top-rated U.S. solar company with over 15,000 five-star reviews.*Based on public solar providers in the U.S. Includes average of BBB, Yelp, ConsumerAffairs, BestCompany, Google, Solar Reviews and Energy Sage review scores as of 7/1/23. Based on reviews from BBB, Yelp, ConsumerAffairs, BestCompany, Google, Solar Reviews and EnergySage review scores as of 10/22/23. If you're considering installing solar panels, energy storage, or EV charging at your home, make sure you talk to SunPower.
Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with SunPower by calling 1-800-SUNPOWER. Or click the Get Started button and we'll get in touch with you! Our team of Solar Advisors is here to help make your transition to a sustainable lifestyle.
FAQ - Top tips for installing efficient rooftop solar panels
What is the most efficient way to position solar panels in the U.S.?
Whenever possible, you’ll want your solar panels to face true south. South-facing panels receive more direct sunlight in the U.S. because America is in the Northern Hemisphere. East and west-facing solar panels are suitable alternatives if a south-facing panel isn't an option. Avoid north-facing solar panel systems, as the panels will be facing away from the sun at all hours.
How do I know if my roof is strong enough for solar panels?
To assess whether your roof is strong enough for solar panels, consider your roof's age and condition. Older, weathered roofs may struggle to support the weight of your panels. Also, take your roof's material into account. Solar panels are compatible with most roof types, but loose tiles or shingles could make installation more challenging. If in doubt, always ask a professional for advice.
How far off my roof do solar panels sit?
Most solar panels will protrude around two to four inches above your roof.
2 Tax credits subject to change. SunPower does not warrant, guarantee or otherwise advise its customers about specific tax outcomes. Consult your tax advisor regarding the solar tax credit and how it applies to your specific circumstances.
3 The availability of net metering varies by location and is subject to change. Your SunPower Dealer can help you determine if you qualify. You can also visit the dsireusa.org website for detailed solar policy information.
4 Based on public solar providers in the U.S. Includes average of BBB, Yelp, ConsumerAffairs, BestCompany, Google, Solar Reviews and Energy Sage review scores as of 7/1/23.