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Stylized Text: Front Porch Solar - Site Inspections.

Numerous steps are required in determining that a site is suitable for the installation of a solar system. The inspection procedures and their proper chronology are outlined below. I have attempted to make each individual step and its description as simple as possible. These steps include the following:

  • Solar access inspection
  • Roof inspection
  • Water heater inspection
  • Electrical inspection
  • Plumbing inspection

It is very important that this chronology be maintained since failure of one inspection step could very well signify that the residence is unsuitable for a solar system installation. For instance, of no solar access exists, it is quite futile to continue the inspection process. For thorough inspections. An inspection checklist is provided below.

1. Solar access inspection

The major thing to look for is that there is no major shading on the roof location selected for the installation of the solar collector. Also keep in mind that the sun is lower during the winter months therefore, watch for trees or other obstructions in the horizon that may not create a shading problem in the summer months, but could be a shading problem in the winter months - or during the course of the day.

At some sites, it may be obvious that the site is unsuitable for solar due to extreme shading at all possible solar collector locations. At others, inspection personnel will have to make a more detailed evaluation to determine that sufficient solar radiation exists during a reasonable period of time during the course of the day.

Ideally, the location at which the solar collector is to be mounted should face south, but facing the collector within 30 to 45 degrees either east or west of due south is satisfactory. For this program, solar collectors may also be mounted on west facing roofs. Systems installed under this program will also be installed flush to the roof.

2. Roof Inspection

The primary purpose of the roof inspection is to determine whether the roof is both structurally and materially sound enough for the mounting of a solar collector. Collector weights can range to 450 pounds and over for integral collector storage units.

The primary determinant for acceptability of a roof for a solar collector installation should be the structural soundness of the roof.

In addition, if the condition of the roof shingles are such that they need replacing within a short period of time, it would be unwise to install a solar collector until re roofing has been conducted.

3. Water Heater Inspection

The electric water heater inspection should be conducted to determine the condition of the electric water heating tank. It would be unwise to install the solar system on a water heater that will have to be replaced in the near future. It is best to replace questionable water heaters during solar system installation.

Look for the following in determining if the existing water heater needs to be replaced.

  • If the water heater is over ten years old, it would be wise to replace the unit.
  • If there is a worrisome amount of rust build up at the tanks fittings, this also would be cause for replacing the water heater.

4. Electrical Inspection

The electrical inspection should be conducted to determine whether there are special electrical problems that could affect the installation of a solar water heating system.

5. Plumbing Inspection

The plumbing inspection should be conducted to determine whether there are any special plumbing problems that could adversely affect the installation of a solar water heating system. A thorough inspection of the existing water heating tank, piping, valves, and faucets should be conducted.

6. Inspection Checklist and Report Form

The following is a detailed, step by step inspection checklist that can be used to conduct pre-solar site inspections.

  • Site Inspection Checklist (PDF)
    • Provides detailed procedures on conducting the site inspection
  • Installed System Report Form (PDF)
    • Provides method for reporting site information for those sites participating in this program. The form should be completed both after the site inspection/selection has been conducted and also after the solar system has been installed.