If you love do-it-yourself projects, you may be interested in installing (or even building) your own solar panels. However, unless you’re a very skilled DIYer with ample experience in construction and electrical work, hire a professional installer to set up the solar panel array you choose. In any case, being knowledgeable about the pros and cons of rooftop and ground-based solar arrays, and having a general awareness of the proper way to install panels, will serve you well as you make the switch to solar power.

Method 1
Method 1 of 3:

Checking if Your Roof is Right for Panels

  1. Don’t risk having to tear down your newly-installed solar panels because they run afoul of local municipal, building, or homeowner’s codes. Before grabbing your drill, do your homework on where you can and cannot install solar panels.[1]
    • If you have a homeowner’s association or live in a historic district, for instance, there may be restrictions on placing rooftop solar panels.
    • Ground-mounted panels may need to be out of public view, or a certain distance from your property line.
    • Installing solar panels may require a building permit where you live.
  2. The ideal roof for a residential solar system has 500 sq ft (46 m2) of unobstructed, south-facing, unshaded space, sloped at a 30-degree pitch. Your roof likely doesn’t meet this ideal, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsuitable for solar.[2]
    • East- or west-facing roof areas are okay, so long as they’re not shaded by trees or other buildings.[3]
    • Roof pitches between 15 and 40 degrees are manageable. If you have a flat roof, hire a professional installer to angle the support structure as needed.
    • 100 sq ft (9.3 m2) of solar panel coverage produces around 1 kilowatt (kW) of energy on average, and the typical home requires around 5 kW. If necessary, you can install panels in multiple locations to achieve this amount.
    • Sometimes you can get around trees obstructing areas of the roof. However, it may be hard to install solar panels if your house is surrounded by trees.[4]
  3. Properly-installed solar panels are typically expected to last 20-25 years, so make sure the roofing material below the panel structure is ready to last that long. If you have asphalt shingles, for example, you should replace them before or along with your solar installation.[5]
    • Installed solar panels typically weigh around 2–4 lb (0.91–1.81 kg) per 1 sq ft (930 cm2), which—if the panels are installed properly so the load is evenly distributed—is typically manageable for a roof in good condition. Consult a structural engineer if you have any concerns about your roof’s capability to support solar panels.[6]
  4. While rooftop placements are often the most convenient and least obtrusive option, ground placements often generate more electricity. If you have a lot of open, sunny space on your property, for example, you may be able to build a solar array that’s as big as your budget allows.[7]
    • While you don't have to worry about climbing on the roof, ground-based panel installs still involve complicated anchoring and wiring tasks that require at least moderate DIY skills.
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Method 2
Method 2 of 3:

Installing Panels on a Suitable Roof

  1. Follow the installation guide for your solar panels to determine the correct spacing for the stanchions. Use a measuring tape and marking chalk to identify the position for each stanchion.[8]
    • It’s vital that each stanchion is located directly above a roof rafter—rafters are the wood “ribs” that provide the shape and structural support for the roof.
    • With some experience, you can locate roof rafters beneath the shingles, flashing, and sheathing by tapping a hammer and listening for the difference in sound. Otherwise, you can measure from protruding objects like chimneys or exhaust pipes, or drive several pilot nails through the roof and use their location to guide your measurements.
    • No part of this job is suitable for a novice. If you’re not fully confident about working on a roof and installing the solar panels correctly, hire a professional installer!
  2. Mark the locations for your pilot holes, then drill through the roof and into the rafters. Use the screws that come with the solar panel kit to secure the stanchions in place.[9]
    • Before securing them with screws, slide each stanchion under the edge of the row of shingles above it. That way, water will shed over top of the stanchions instead of getting underneath them.
  3. Many solar panel models use 3 parallel rows of aluminum rails to serve as the framework for the panels. Follow your model’s instructions for attaching these rails to the stanchions. This often involves using an impact driver to secure the rails with stainless steel bolts.[10]
    • After installing the rails and before installing the panels, check that the framework is “square” (even on all sides). Measure diagonally from corner to corner, both ways—if the measurements aren’t the same, you’ll need to adjust the framework.
  4. This is a job best left to a professional electrician, unless you are very experienced with electrical work. The tubular conduit, made of plastic or metal, protects the electrical wiring inside it from the elements.[11]
    • This wiring will need to run to both a new electric meter (to track the electricity you draw from or produce for the electrical grid) and a new electrical sub-panel. Depending on where you live, a government building code enforcement officer may be required to inspect and approve the work.
  5. Each panel in your solar array should have its own micro-inverter. This essentially creates a parallel rather than series circuit, meaning the whole system won’t break down if one panel stops functioning. Follow your solar setup's instructions (or hire an electrician) to hook up an inverter to the framework beneath where each solar panel will go.[12]
    • Make sure that, along with the electrical wiring, each micro-inverter is connected to a 6-gauge, bare copper ground wire. Without proper grounding, the panels will be a fire hazard if struck by lightning.
  6. One at a time, carefully lower each solar panel onto the stanchions in its intended spot. Snap the wiring plug from the micro-inverter into the underside of the panel. Then, screw the retaining clips that are attached to the edges of the panel to the aluminum rails.[13]
    • Once the final wiring connections are made, your solar panels will be ready to start producing electricity!
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Method 3
Method 3 of 3:

Evaluating Ground-Mounted Options

  1. With a standard ground mount, a series of metal rods are driven into the ground to secure the panel structure in place. Concrete footings typically aren’t required, which helps to reduce the cost and installation time.[14]
    • If you’re interested in doing the job yourself, contact solar retailers to see if they sell DIY installation packages.
    • Instead of using metal rods, another advanced DIY approach involves pouring concrete footings and attaching a framework of 4 in × 4 in (10 cm × 10 cm) dimensional lumber. Then, angle brackets are used to attach the panel supports and solar panels.[15]
  2. With this installation, a single metal pole is secured into the ground with a concrete footing. A pivot point at the top of the pole allows the solar panel array to move and track the positioning of the sun throughout the day.[16]
    • Tracking the sun’s position in the sky maximizes electricity production.
    • Most tracking systems use sensors and the power generated by the panels to operate automatically.
    • This type of installation is best left to professionals or skilled DIYers with experience helping with solar installs.
  3. Dual-access tracking enables the solar panel array to follow the sun across the sky during the day, as well as to adjust its angle to suit the sun’s position at different times of the year. In a sunny location, this basically maxes out the amount of solar energy you can produce per panel.[17]
    • This installation is another step up in complexity from a single-axis pole-mount, so it’s best left to the professionals.
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Expert Q&A

  • Question
    How do I know if my roof is suitable for solar panels?
    Guy Gabay
    Guy Gabay
    Solar Energy Contractor
    Guy Gabay is a Solar Energy Contractor and the CEO of AmeriGreen Builders, a full-service solar energy, roofing, HVAC and window installation company based in the greater Los Angeles, California region. With over eight years of experience in the construction industry, Guy leads the AmeriGreen team focusing on bringing an educational approach to energy efficient home upgrades. Guy holds a B.S. in Marketing from California State University - Northridge.
    Guy Gabay
    Solar Energy Contractor
    Expert Answer
    Your roof has to have good sun exposure, so it can't be surrounded by trees. You'll also want to check the condition of your existing roof. If your roof needs to be replaced, the area where the solar panels will be placed may be eligible for a federal tax credit.


  • Improperly installed rooftop solar panels may allow water infiltration or compromise the structural integrity of your roof. Poorly wired solar panels, whether on the roof or on the ground, can be a fire hazard.

Things You’ll Need

Installing Panels on a Suitable Roof

  • Solar panel array installation package with detailed instructions
  • Power drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Impact driver
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk

About This Article

Guy Gabay
Co-authored by:
Solar Energy Contractor
This article was co-authored by Guy Gabay and by wikiHow staff writer, Christopher M. Osborne, PhD. Guy Gabay is a Solar Energy Contractor and the CEO of AmeriGreen Builders, a full-service solar energy, roofing, HVAC and window installation company based in the greater Los Angeles, California region. With over eight years of experience in the construction industry, Guy leads the AmeriGreen team focusing on bringing an educational approach to energy efficient home upgrades. Guy holds a B.S. in Marketing from California State University - Northridge. This article has been viewed 35,395 times.
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Co-authors: 24
Updated: December 26, 2023
Views: 35,395