In the world of DIY it’s no surprise that more and more homeowners are considering adding solar panel installation to their repertoire. If you can find a How-To on YouTube then anyone can do it, right?
Though in most cases, as with any major home improvement project, leaving it to the professionals is probably the best route to go; it is not impossible for someone to DIY a rooftop solar system installation. As with any home improvement project, installing solar does not come without safety risks, so this article will focus on building awareness and providing tips on how to best prepare for the endeavor.
#1 LADDER SAFETY
Installing solar on a roof is going to require quite a few trips up and down a ladder. So ensuring your ladder is properly prepared to handle the job is the most important place to start. An extension ladder is the proper ladder to use for this project, thus all safety precautions provided below will be based on the assumption this is the style of ladder you are using.
- Position the ladder at an appropriate angle to avoid it from slipping out or tipping backward. Use the 4-to-1 rule as a guide to determine the proper angle. ( For every four feet you climb, the ladder should be moved 1 foot away from the wall.)
- Ensure the ground is firm and can provide a level surface. If you are struggling to create a level surface, here is a great ladder safety tool that can assist you.
- Extend your ladder long enough to reach at least three feet above the roof line. This provides enough clearance for one to dismount and mount the ladder safely while on the roof.
- Tie off the top of your ladder to guarantee it will not tip backward. You may already have a stabilizing accessory for your ladder which typically is a wing-style piece attached to the top of your ladder. These work well in most applications. For the most security, one should use a device that can ensure your ladder will not move. Two great, easy-to-use tools for this are the Gutter Clamp and the Soffit Clamp.
#2 ROOFTOP SAFETY
Rooftops are not created equal. They can be built with a variety of different materials and can have a wide range of pitches. Weather conditions can also have a big impact on the safety of a roof. Falls from a roof understandably can have very dangerous consequences, so preparing yourself before you climb should be a top priority.
- Suit up with good quality fall protection equipment. Your life is in your hands, so don’t skimp on the cheap stuff. Fall protection should include at minimum a well-fitting harness and a quality lifeline.
- Additional accessories that will amp up the safety of your harness and rope include a back-up fall arrester, a shock pack, and a y-lanyard.
- Beyond the fall protection, you’re going to need an anchor point on the peak of the roof to tie into. If you like the idea of having an anchor point before you leave the ladder, then the Ridgepro is the tool for you. Or if you just need extra assistance to get to the top to create your anchor point then consider using this steep roof assist system.
#3 CARRYING SOLAR PANELS
Solar panels are no small object. Weighing in at over 40 lbs each and expanding over an area of 15 feet per panel, having a second pair of hands is never a bad idea. The size of the job you’ve committed yourself to may help determine how involved you want to get with tools to help get the job done. No matter the case, carrying solar panels up onto the roof is tricky work, especially when faced with less-than-ideal conditions. Here are some options to consider:
- If your roof is low enough, hand panels from the ground up to a second (and maybe third) individual on the roof.
- A large % of solar installers carry solar panels up the ladder onto the roof. Though this isn’t the safest method of delivery, it is the most feasible for many. Carrying a solar panel and maintaining proper ladder contact is not possible. If this is the method you choose to use, consider using a tool like the Solar Panel Caddy to make the job much safer and easier.
- If you’re thinking about turning your little solar project into a full-time gig, then maybe you’ll be game for the investment of a panel hoist to completely remove the process of a human getting the panels to the roof altogether.
This is the one area that is strongly recommended to be completed by a licensed electrician. There are many safety standards and codes that apply specifically to solar panel installations and the risk of damaging your system, your home, or yourself is not worth saving a few dollars in this area. Depending on where you live, it is possible, your solar installation may not pass inspection to be operable with the local utility company if this portion is not completed by a professional.
Installing a rooftop solar system might not seem like rocket science, but it is considered a dangerous job. Following proper safety standards can minimize the risk of yourself or your investment getting hurt during the process. In addition to the safety suggestions above, it is always recommended to follow the manufacturer's installation instructions for further precautions.
Want tips and tricks on the tools you need to get the job done right?
Stay tuned FREE infographic coming soon:
Top Tools Every Solar Installer Should Have in Their Toolbox