Below are the main parts of a residential solar installation.  I’m not an electrician or solar installer, but I paid attention as best I could during the installation process because it’s always good to know what you’re paying to have bolted to your house.


Solar Panels: These are the stars of the show.  They are usually mounted on the parts of your roof that receive the most sun.  In some cases, they can be mounted to free standing structures somewhere on your property.  Panels can have different outputs, warranties and quality, so it is best to ask a lot of questions of your installer.  It is in your best interest to get the best quality panels you can.


Solar Power Inverter: The solar power inverter converts the DC power generated by your solar panels to AC power.  You may require one or more of these depending on the size of your solar installation.  Generally, the inverter is warrantied for 8 to 10 years, but you should expect to replace this unit at some point during the lifetime of your solar installation.  This should be explained to you by the company from which you purchase your system.  Power inverters are typically installed by your electrical meter outside, or by your breaker box inside.



Electrical conduit and boots: The power cable that runs from your solar array to your inverter will be housed in electrical conduit.  Rather than wrap conduit around soffiits and gutters, many installers will choose to drill the conduit through the roof and out the soffit, using a boot with flashing to protect your home.


Solar rack system: The racks for your solar panels are bolted to your attic joists.  The panels are then attached to the racks.  This ensures a solid foundation for the panels and leaves a space for air and water to flow between the panels and the roof.  This space between the panels and the roof is prime nesting territory for birds and other woodland creatures, so the racks are often surrounded in a thick black metal mesh (below) commonly called a squirrel guard.