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How to Pass a Solar Inspection

DIY Solar, Solar 101/
How to Pass a Solar Inspection

If you are going to install your own solar, you are going to have to deal with the city or county inspector. This can be easy or it can create a lot of extra work after you thought you were done with your installation. Some of it depends on the inspector, but most of it depends on you. Let’s talk about the things you can do to make the solar inspection a breeze.

First, do your installation correctly. You would think this goes without saying, but it often happens that corners are cut during the installation or substitutions are made for equipment that you don’t have on hand.

Also, there are times when you may not know what “correct” is. One of the more confusing parts of installing solar is grounding. To make this aspect even more difficult, different cities and counties often have different rules. You should read our previous article that gives an overview of grounding for solar but just to cover some basics, make sure your solar racking is grounded per the racking manufacturer’s instructions and make any splices in your grounding conductor with permanent crimps instead of using wire nuts.

You will also want to know ahead of time what the city or county is expecting for your existing house grounding. The rules have changed over time and the older your home is, the more likely it is that you will have to upgrade or modify the existing grounding system. For example, you may have to add a second grounding rod that wasn’t required when your house was built, but now the inspector wants to see it. Your best bet is to ask questions about this at your local building department before you schedule your inspection so that you can have any necessary modifications completed before the inspector arrives.

The other thing you should do before the inspection is document any “as built” changes to your installation. For example, the plans that were approved by the building department show the solar panel layout but you had to make a change to the layout when installing because there was a roof vent in the way. Sometimes inspectors can approve these “as built” changes on the fly, but more often than not, the inspector will want these changes submitted to the building department and approved so that the system they are inspecting matches the approved plans exactly.

On the day of inspection, make sure you are there to walk through the system with the inspector. Before the inspection appointment, take the covers off all the equipment so the inspector can see the wiring inside. Set up a ladder and make sure it is secured in place to provide safe access to the solar panels on the roof. Make sure you have the stamped copy of the permit plans ready for them to look at.

Do not be late for an inspection appointment. Many building departments give you a four hour window of time when the inspector might show up or just tell you that you are the tenth inspection that day. It is best if you plan to have the whole day to wait for the inspector because if you aren’t there when they show up, you will automatically fail and the inspector will be annoyed with you when he shows up at the re-scheduled appointment.

This brings up another point. Never do anything that might annoy an inspector. Generally, they are nice people, but just like any human being, they are much easier to deal with when they are in a good mood. Be ready when they arrive. Don’t complain if they are late. If it’s hot out, offer them a cold drink. You get the idea. Being nice can’t hurt your inspection results. Also remember, if they give you corrections, take them with a smile because it will probably be the same inspector that comes out to re-inspect after you have made the corrections and they will remember you if you go a on tirade about having to make changes to your installation.

Once you have passed inspection, feel free to do the victory dance after the inspector leaves because now all you have left to do is save lots of money on your electric bill. For more information on how to install your own solar power system contact the experts at GoGreenSolar.com.

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