Many municipal zoning boards and neighborhood associations have established restrictions on residential solar installations. There may be rules that prevent you from using rack-mounted solar panels or limit installations to the rear of the house. In most cases, these policies were established many years ago and the governing organizations may be willing to change the rules to keep up with modern times. If not, you may be limited to a thin-film system that mounts flush to your roof shingles.
Photovoltaic solar panels may add significant stress to your roof. That’s especially true when dealing with some of the heavier rack-mounted systems, which represent added weight and increased pull during stormy conditions due to wind uplift. Most communities require that you have a certified professional — a structural engineer, an architect or a trained solar installer — check out your roof trusses and deck boards to confirm that they can handle the additional stress.
Examine your roof throughout the day to see if any of the trees on your property cast a shadow on the portion selected for your solar panels. Before installation, trim off any branches that may prevent your solar array from receiving the maximum level of sunlight. Take additional care to remove any branches that show any potential of breaking off during strong winds to damage your PV panels.
The inverter converts the DC power from the panels to standard household AC power. Smaller wall-mounted units are roughly the same dimensions as your breaker panel. High-performance grid-tied models can be as large as a household refrigerator. The most deluxe versions are designed to store power for use during night time hours and to send surplus electricity to the utility company — which will pay you for it. In most cases, locate the inverter close to your existing breaker panel.
Move any vents, antennas or other roof fittings currently positioned in the area planned for your solar array. In many communities, only a certified plumber is legally authorized to reposition a roof vent. Follow up by patching the roof deck and shingles for optimum water-resistant integrity. At the same time, thoroughly inspect the existing shingles and make any necessary repairs. Finish by sweeping any leaves or other debris off the roof for your final preparation.