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Green Living Made Easy

How to Install an Exterior Solar Panel

Use these step-by-step instructions to wire and fully install a 1-kilowatt stand-alone system.

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Step 1: Bury Conduit and Build a Platform

Bury conduit from the house or building that will receive the power to the area where the solar panel array will be located.

With the conduit in place, build a platform consisting of concrete pillars and 4x4s that will support the solar array.

Step 2: Mount the Panels

Once the platform is finished, the experts are ready to get started. For the solar array, the team uses eight 24-volt 110-watt PV panels that have been pre-fastened to create the array. For the upstairs loft, four 12-volt, 255-amp sealed batteries will store power collected by the panels. And finally, a 5500-watt power inverter and 40-amp charge controller will be installed in the garage near the standard electrical box. This expandable system should produce 35,000 watt hours per month -- enough to power a deep well water pump, interior lights and a few appliances.

Moving on, the team mounts the panels to the platform. Angle brackets are used at the mounting points, and the front feet are mounted first. The feet are squared and centered before being secured into place.

panels are mounted to platform using angle bracket

Step 3: Secure the Rear Legs

Use meteorological data to determine the proper angle for the array, then elevate and secure the rear legs.

meteorological data used to determine angle

Step 4: Wire the Solar Modules

Wire the solar modules together and join them at a junction connector or fuse combiner box. The modules should be stripped and wired in pairs before being connected to the fuse box mounted at the platform and connected to underground conduit output cables.

Note: When performing any electrical work, remember to take all safety precautions. Because of the danger involved, intricate electrical work is often best left to professionals.

In the terminal box, the stripped wires must be connected properly. In this instance, the red wires are connected to the positive terminal, and the black wires to the negative terminal. Once connected, the wires are fed up through the bottom of the junction box and connected to the corresponding positive and negative terminal blocks.

stripped wires must connect properly

Step 5: Understand the Wire Connections

With the solar array assembled, correctly angled and wired, it's time to connect the exterior wiring to the interior control panels. The solar breaker will first be connected to a circuit breaker disconnect. The energy will flow from the disconnect to a charge controller and then to a battery bank to be stored. When needed, energy flows from the batteries back to the circuit breaker disconnect and from the disconnect to a power inverter (this will change the power from DC to AC). Finally, this converted power will flow into an electric panel -- where it will provide electrical power for the home.

In this instance, a back-up gas generator and well pump are also connected to the solar system. To handle all this, the solar installer recommends the installation of two 240-volt power converters to the right of the main breakers. All of the components -- including the new converters -- must be connected to the home's main electrical system to function.

Step 6: Connect the Cables to the Control Panels

Run the electrical cable from the solar array into the house through the underground conduit. Connect the cables to nylon rope for easy threading, then pull through the conduit to inverter panels.

Connect the cables at the fuse combiner box located at the base of the solar array. The green cables are first connected to the grounding strip. The red cables are connected to the PV out positive terminal block; and the black cables are connected to the PV out negative terminal block.

connect cables at the fuse combiner box

Step 7: Ground the System

To finish the exterior work, tap a grounding rod into the earth near the array. Leave the long rod extending above the ground about 6".

Run copper grounding wire from the rod to the fuse box and from the solar panels to the fuse box.

leave long rod extending above ground

Step 8: Make the Electrical Connections Inside

After the grounding wire is run, make the proper electrical connections inside. Run the cables from the array to the inverter panel disconnect. Again the red wire is connected to the positive terminal; the green grounding wire is connected to the grounding terminal; and the black wire is connected to the negative terminal.

The team installs the battery bank in the loft area above the new control panels. First, run conduit through the ceiling into the inverter panel. Next, feed two heavy-duty battery cables into the panel disconnect. The other ends of the cables will be connected to the battery pack.

The battery system must be installed in a series -- alternating positive and negatives -- and secured into place.

Complete final tests and attach the component covers.

make proper electrical connections




  • Integra-Mount photovoltaic panel installation guide (model: Solar Panel SX-110) from BP Solar MST
  • Solar inverter, converters and charge controllers (SW Series solar installation guides, battery specs for model 2580NC and PV series) from Xantrex
  • Solar system design and installation from Chesapeake Wind & Solar
  • Solar power products, packages and installation from Atlantic Solar Products