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Why get solar panels?

  • Generate free, green electricity
  • Reduce your electricity bill by up to 64%
  • Get paid for what you don't use

How Are Solar Panels Installed?

Setting up solar panels can be done in seven simple steps

Solar panel installations typically take about two days to complete

Get a certified solar panel installer to carry out the job


If you’re at the stage of researching how much solar panel costs for your home, you'll want to know what the installation process will look like.

Here's all the information you need about how your solar panel system will get from the ground to fully wired into your electricity supply.

Want to get ahead of the game and invest in a set of solar panels? Speed up the process and find the best deal by using our easy-to-navigate tool. All you have to do is provide a few quick details, and our expert installers will be in touch with free quotes for you to compare.

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How are solar panels installed on a roof?

Despite being intricate bits of kit that can generate electricity from the sun, solar panels are pretty straightforward for a professional to set up.

Before an installer is able to crack on with the actual installation, a professional surveyor will need to go into your loft and check the integrity of both the roof and the rafters. This is a key part of the process, as they will assess whether it’s safe for you to have solar panels on your roof.

It's important that this is carried out by an MCS-certified surveyor – otherwise it could be done poorly, leading to damages that can increase the your costs over time.

After the survey, professionals will be able to start the process. If you want to choose a top engineer for the job, check out our guide to the best solar panel installers.

We’ve outlined the seven simple steps (plus an optional one) that a solar installer will take below.

You might also like: How to Choose a Solar Panel Installer

Step one: The scaffolding is set up

If you’re getting solar panels installed onto the roof of your house, the installers will need to construct scaffolding around the building before they can crack on with the process.

This will take the most time out of all the steps – usually about a day – but will mean the installers can have safe and secure access to the roof.

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Step two: Roof anchors are attached

Ever wondered how solar panels stay put? It all comes down to the roof anchor points.

The installer will have to lift some of the roof tiles to fix the anchors to the rafters in the loft. This will give the solar panel mounts a stable foundation, and will make sure they don’t get damaged in stormy weather.

Step three: Solar panel mounts are secured

Once the roof anchors have been fixed to the property, the installer will attach the solar panel mounting system to them. The framework will run both vertically and horizontally across the roof, and will support the base of the solar panels.

The mounting system makes sure the panels stay in place, while also helping to position the panels at an optimal angle on the roof, which will lead to more sunlight exposure.

The panels themselves can be installed vertically or horizontally.

Step four: The solar panels are installed

Once the mounting system is set up, it’s time for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: getting the solar panels onto the roof.

Your installer will start by placing the solar panels onto the mounting system, without fully securing them just yet. Once they’re happy with the angle of the panels, the installer will tighten all the bolts and nuts across the system to secure them in place.

Step five: An inverter is wired to the solar panels

Most panels come pre-wired from the manufacturer, which means they just need to be connected to the inverter.

It’s worth bearing in mind that smaller solar panel systems connect a single series of wires to the inverter, while larger systems connect several parallel wires.

An inverter is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a solar energy system, as it converts the direct current (DC) electricity, which the solar panel generates, into alternating current (AC) electricity that you can use in your home.

The inverter is usually installed near the breaker panel, which is the main distribution point for electrical circuits in your home, and could be placed either indoors or outdoors.

Overall, installing the inverter should take 4-6 hours, depending on the size of the system.

Although this step sounds easy, it’s the part that, if not done correctly by a professional, is most likely to cause a failure of the system.

We strongly advise against carrying this out yourself, unless you're a certified solar installer. Doing it incorrectly could cause a fire and invalidate your home insurance.

Step six: The inverter is connected to the consumer unit

The inverter is then connected to a circuit-breaker in your consumer unit (you might know it as your fuse board) to allow the electricity to power your home.

The installer will also usually connect a generation meter to the system at this point, which will monitor the amount of electricity your solar panels produce. Some inverters have this function built in, and allow you to check your solar system’s performance from a computer or smartphone.

Optional step: The inverter is connected to the solar battery

Some people also decide to pair their solar panels with a solar battery, which will store excess solar energy to be used on cloudy days or during the night time.

If you have a solar battery in your system, the battery also needs to be connected to the inverter at this point.

Find out more about how solar batteries are installed on our page.

Step seven: The solar panel system is tested

Once the installer has finished all these steps, the last thing they'll do is make sure the system is working properly.

This is just a case of switching the power back on and monitoring each part of the system to make sure things are ticking along correctly.

Someone installing solar panels

How are solar panels connected to the house?

Solar panels are connected to your house in two ways: an electrical connection and a mechanical connection.

Here's how both of these work, and what it means for your house.

Electrical connection

Your installer will connect the solar panels to the inverter through a series of wires that will travel through your roof.

The inverter will usually be placed in your loft, near the breaker panel, where it will take the DC power that the panels supply and convert it into useable AC electricity.

A cable will then take the electricity to your fuse board. Your installer will set up an additional circuit breaker on it so you can control the flow of solar electricity.

Mechanical connection

Your installer will mechanically connect the solar panels to your home with steel or aluminium hooks that poke through under the roof tiles and are secured to the rafters in your loft.

If your roof tiles are made of clay, this should be simple.

If they're made of slate, it's completely manageable, but your installer will need to take special care. You may want to supervise them during this part of the process, to ensure they don't cause any damage.

How do installers check if your roof is strong enough for solar panels?

The installer (or a dedicated surveyor) should always make sure the roof is strong enough before proceeding with a solar panel installation.

How they'll do this depends on the type of roof, but it usually leads to a positive conclusion. Most modern roofs can hold much heavier objects than solar panels – such as people – because they come with trussed rafters.

If the installer has any doubts, they'll consult a qualified structural engineer.

How long does a solar panel installation take?

Solar panel installations typically take about two days to complete.

Most of this time is taken up by constructing the scaffolding, which means if you’re not installing your panels onto your property’s roof, it’ll take much less time. For example, solar panels can also be mounted on a wall.

Once the scaffolding is up, the panels are usually installed in less than a day.

The total time it takes can be affected by the type of property, the size and complexity of the solar panel system, as well as any unexpected, dangerous weather conditions.

Can you install solar panels on your own?

Technically, yes, you can install solar panels on your own – but we would strongly discourage you from doing so unless you're a certified installer.

If you go ahead and install your solar panels, you might not do it at the standard you’d ideally want – not to mention you could fall and hurt yourself or, worse, cause a house fire.

Your local electricity network operator could also disconnect you if the correct certifications and notifications aren't in place, and you won't be able to sell your excess energy through the Smart Export Guarantee.

For the average three-bedroom household, this would mean missing out on £159 per year – around £4,000 over the solar panels' lifespan – for no good reason.

Next steps

Hopefully you feel more confident about the process of installing solar panels.

With 69% of people telling our National Home Energy Survey that they're likely to buy or rent a home with solar panels, now is a great time to go solar.

And if you're ready to get solar panels on your roof, it’s never been simpler to compare prices with our easy-to-navigate tool. All you have to do is provide a few quick details, and our expert installers will be in touch with free quotes for you to compare.

FAQs

You'll need 10 solar panels to run the average three-bedroom household.

A household with one or two bedrooms will typically need six solar panels, while a larger household with four or five bedrooms should usually opt for 14 panels.

In any case though, you'll still need to supplement this with electricity from the grid, since the sun doesn't shine at night and solar batteries have limited capacity.

It is legal to install your own solar panels – but it's not a good idea, unless you're a certified solar installer.

You'll need expertise in roofing and electrical work, as well as specialist equipment and – in most cases – scaffolding.

If you make a mistake at any point, it could damage your roof, render the panels useless, or start a fire – and even if you do everything perfectly, you won't be able to sell your excess solar energy to the grid.

It costs £7,860 on average to install solar panels on a typical three-bedroom house.

45% of this total – around £3,500, on average – pays for the materials, including the brackets, inverter, and the solar panels themselves.

The remaining 55% – roughly £4,300, typically – goes towards business costs like regulatory approvals, scaffolding, and vehicles and their fuel, as well as paying for the actual labour.

Installing solar panels yourself will typically cost £3,000 more than hiring a professional, so put your trust in one of our recommended installers.

Written by:
Beth has been writing about green tech, the environment, and climate change for over three years now – with her work being featured in publications such as The BBC, Forbes, The Express, Greenpeace, and in multiple academic journals. Whether you're after a new set of solar panels, energy-saving tips, or advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint, she's got you covered.
Reviewed by:
Charlie has been researching and writing about the home energy market for over five years, and he has been the editor of The Eco Experts since 2021. Charlie's thoughts on solar panels have seen him featured in various publications, including The Times, Ideal Home, and Grand Designs Magazine. Ever since he can remember, Charlie has worried about the planet, and he one day dreams of owning a solar power farm.
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