how to become a certified solar installer

How to Become A Certified Solar Installer: The Complete Guide

Do you want to become a certified solar installer but don’t know which steps to take?

In today’s uncertain economy, it’s hard to know what fields are the best to step into and what career path will keep you successfully employed for years to come.

The solar industry is one of the fastest-growing industries today.

Solar installers and technicians are in high demand in marketplaces and many parts of the country.

The solar industry is growing at a high rate, and being a solar installer is one of the best journeys to get started with a good career at this age.

This time is the perfect time to enter the field and be a part of the future of the solar and renewable energy world.

As solar technology has become more efficient and less expensive, solar installations are incredibly increasing.

What Are the Key Solar Energy Concepts that Everyone Should Know?

Solar PV (photovoltaic) systems are cells that are made of two semiconductor layers.

When photovoltaic cells are exposed to sunlight, and photons are absorbed by the negative layer of the cell, this will cause electrons to be freed

These freed electrons migrate naturally to the positive layer creating a voltage differential.

Each solar energy cell produces only 1- 2 Watts of energy.

So to increase the output power, cells are combined in a weather-tight package called a solar module, commonly called a solar panel.

The inverter is known as the brain of a solar system.

It converts the electricity from your solar panels to generate DC or Direct Current into power that can be used by domestic appliances, which use AC or Alternating Current.

Sunlight is considered an environmentally friendly resource of energy.

With the help of photovoltaic panels, sunlight is transformed into electrical energy.

Recent advanced technologies have sufficiently reduced the cost of solar panels to make them a viable source of power for businesses and homeowners alike.

A solar installer puts these systems in place.

A solar panel installer performs two essential tasks – installing PV systems & maintaining solar systems that are already in place.

Installing PV Systems

To install a new solar system, the solar panel technician must assess a client’s location and home.

A PV solar installer will design and prepare the system layout based on specific site characteristics.

They will obtain permits, measure, cut, assemble bolting structural framing, and solar modules.

Besides, PV installers will safely attach panels to roofs or ground mounts, wire, and connect the system to an inverter.

Moreover, they will also check the installed equipment, structures, or materials to determine code and safety compliance.

Finally, solar installers will commission the system, ensuring that it meets basic performance estimates.

From this initial evaluation, the technician can determine how much sunlight the different types of panels will benefit from at a specific location.

They will also determine the ideal positioning and angle calculation of the panel, and whether a solar system is a correct choice for this household.

Also, they will assess the electricity needs of the client and determine the exact size of the solar array be installed at a location.

Maintenance Tasks

When a solar power installer is not putting up new solar systems, they’re most likely performing maintenance tasks for solar arrays that are already in place.

In general, these technicians can work alone for smaller projects or in teams for extensive installations.

Solar PV installers are required to plan, assemble, install, implement, and maintain arrays of solar panels.

They do this for industrial, commercial, and residential sites around the country.

Often solar installers work overhead on the rooftops of homes, buildings, and other areas.

They’re responsible for safely erecting the frames, holding panel arrays, and then wiring in the panel output to building systems or the primary electrical grid.

This now will convert UV rays from the sun into electrical energy on the rooftops of homes and other buildings.

These installers are also responsible for grounding any necessary equipment and ensuring safety standards while operating at extreme heights and using sharp electrical tools.

Other than installation jobs, solar installers may also need to be responsible for performing maintenance and system check-up at various locations and areas.

Sometimes, a PV installer can work alone or as part of a team for larger projects.

PV installers need to be very skilled enough with their hands.

They should have the right balance and pay close attention to detail.

Solar PV installers do most of their work outdoors, on land, and often on rooftops.

This means that Solar PV installers are at risk of falling from ladders height and roofs.

Installers need to take care of themselves to avoid electrical shocks and burns from hot equipment.

The solar installer must also have sufficient knowledge of safety concerns, installation practices, best techniques, and current equipment and products available.

The Solar Installer must meet all their state requirements for certification.

What Are the Duties of Solar Installers?

  • Estimate to Plan PV system configurations based on consumer needs and site conditions
  • Measurement, cutting, and assembling the support structure for solar PV panels
  • Ensure that the solar modules, panels, and support structures to be installed are following building codes and standards
  • Connect PV panels to the electrical grid
  • Performs weather sealing of the equipment is being installed
  • To verify performance, activate, and test PV systems
  • Performs a routine PV system maintenance

What Do Solar Installers Do?

Solar Photovoltaic panels convert sunlight to electricity.

A solar installer puts these systems in place.

There are multiple ways to become a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, often called PV installers or solar installers.

They use a variety of hand and power tools to install photovoltaic panels.

They often use tools like drills, wrenches, saws, and screwdrivers to connect panels to frames, wires, and support structures.

Most new solar installers begin by performing basic simple tasks such as installing support structures and placing PV panels on top of them.

Once the panels are in place, technicians or more-experienced solar installers usually perform more-complex duties, such as connecting electrical components and equipment.

Depending on the job and prerequisite state laws, PV installers may connect the solar panels to the electric system, although electricians sometimes perform this duty.

Once the panel is installed in place, installers check the electrical systems for proper wiring, polarity, and grounding.

They also perform routine maintenance as needed.

You may be required at least a high school diploma or equivalent to gain an entry-level position as a solar installer.

From there, you will learn how to install and maintain solar panel systems on the job for over a year.

What You Should Know if You Want to Become a Solar Installer (Photovoltaic (PV) Installer?

A solar installer puts solar systems at residential and commercial locations so that businesses and homes can convert to solar power.

Certified energy practitioners (Solar Photovoltaic installers) will set themselves apart from the competition as the certification will provide their career a boost and significant advantage.

Certified energy practitioners have both experience in installing solar panels and education related to solar energy systems.

Across the country, there are many trade schools and community colleges that offer certificate programs to specialize in these fields and the skills needed to become a solar technician.

No matter where you register, you can expect to learn about the basics of electricity and the concepts of how solar energy works.

Training to make an entry to these fields may last from a few days to a few months.

These training are available at community colleges and trade schools.

Electrician or construction experienced candidates are often considered to be qualified to enter this career with only on-the-job training.

Education

Many certified energy practitioners prefer to take their courses at a local community college or trade schools to learn about solar panel installation.

Trade schools are a potential option for gathering knowledge about solar installation in your respective state, which is also known as a vocational school.

Trade schools provide you with state regulations, licensing requirements, etc.

It’s a better place to learn solar installation.

The course length varies by state and locality.

It ranges from basic safety and PV knowledge to design systems.

Most courses usually take a few days to a year.

Candidates may also enter the field by taking online training courses.

The option is particularly useful for candidates with prior experience in their respective fields.

What is The Importance of a Solar Installer Certification?

The solar industry itself is so new that there is no requirement of a certification program to be a solar installer.

Although certification isn’t mandatory to work as a solar installer, certified energy practitioners have a significant advantage.

Certification programs provide a measure of protection to the public by giving them a credential for judging the competency.

A certification stands as proof that lets employers know that the job candidate completed additional work for his or her field.

Also, certification can help workers by giving them more mobility to move between states and move to where the jobs are.

Certification also lets consumers know that solar professionals have achieved a certain standard of training.

This is not only for workers but, also for employers and consumers.

Certification can be beneficial for everyone.

It offers potential employees a way to get recognized and stand out from the crowd.

Certification provides the public with a high degree of protection to voluntarily meet standards and qualifications and pass an exam.

A Certificate Program study is not a certification, but rather it’s a course of study.

This is similar or equivalent to a diploma available to people wishing to step into the solar industry.

Some states have particular licensing requirements, such as participating in a solar apprenticeship program.

So you should start by checking out the requirement in your country.

It’s possible to get into the industry by merely working with an established or experienced solar energy installer.

However, you can make your application more attractive to potential employers by learning primary education in solar energy.

What Are the Requirements for a Solar Installer Certification?

  • To become a certified solar PV installer, an individual must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Individuals may need at least a high school diploma or equivalent to enter an entry-level position as a solar installer.
  • From there, a student would learn how to assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems on-the-job over a year.
  • If you don’t get hired to learn on the job, you might want to look for a community college or vocational school that offers courses or even look for an apprenticeship program.
  • Students must pass the NABCEP entry-level written exam, which is not the same as a certification, but it opens a way for them to demonstrate that they have obtained basic PV systems.
  • Candidates also need to pass an exam and show documentation of having led three to five PV installation projects, depending on prior experience.
  • Registration for an exam can accomplish through an entry-level course or a testing center.

What Are Some of the Recognized Certification Programs for Solar Installers?

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, in short NABCEP is a nationally recognized, independent, voluntary certification program.

It has been developed and designed carefully following professional credential guidelines for photovoltaic (PV) and solar system installers.

They have to demonstrate specific skills or knowledge.

NABCEP certification is widely recognized in the solar industry.

This certification will identify you as a professional.

The Standards, developed by experts in these fields have been set.

The eligibility credentials to become certified are based on substantial input from installers and members of the solar industry.

Installers must have a certain amount of work experience to become NABCEP-certified.

Candidates must complete a minimum of 58 hours of advanced photovoltaic training available through an accredited school or organization.

You will need 10 hours of construction safety through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA.

All training and installations must be documented.

Installers must also pass a strict exam, sign a code of ethics, and take continuing education courses for recertification every three years.

The Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA) program, also offers numerous photovoltaic installer certifications.

Education and training must be taken from ETA-approved schools only.

The ETA association also provides three levels of certification for renewable energy integrators, who are capable of including residential renewable energy systems with home management systems.

Also, the Certified Solar Roofing Professional (CSRP) is the national standard credential offered by Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) Inc.

To qualify, candidates need to show that they have at least 40 hours of education or training related to essential competencies.

Additionally, candidates need to have three years of roofing or PV installation experience.

They must also have completed a minimum of five PV installations.

They must also pass a test.

Apprenticeship

As the solar installer starts his career by gaining an education through a certification or associate’s degree program available at a community college or Trade school.

They should also be gaining relevant work experience through an apprenticeship that involves performing solar panel work under supervision.

Like any other type of electrician or technician, this requires a license.

Candidates are to be hired as an apprentice.

They will work under the supervision of more experienced solar electricians for a minimum number of years.

Typically, after two to four years as an apprentice, candidates can test themselves to become qualified apprenticeship, at which point they would be allowed to work without direct supervision.

After working as an apprenticeship for another 2-3 years, these electricians would be eligible to test for a master electrician license.

Training

The best and easiest way to get trained is to find solar panel installation training centers near you.

There will be several options near you that will provide you with general training in solar installation, but that depends highly on state requirements.

There are so many PV installers who work with other experienced installers to learn their trade.

During job training, you will get to learn about safety, tool use, and PV system installation techniques, which would last between 1 month and one year.

Sometimes solar PV system manufacturers might also provide training on a specific product.

This includes system overview and installation techniques.

Gradually you would be examined by construction contractors for you to prove your abilities to qualify as the best.

There are several states which do not require licensing.

So in this case, the company will provide the proper training to desired PV installers.

These companies typically state “training provided” in their respective job descriptions.

The training provided by the company would meet its standards.

For those with no “requirements states,” it’s an excellent opportunity to get the training and experience.

In most countries, an electrician is considered fully qualified to connect photovoltaic systems to the electric grids.

They’re also responsible for connecting panels to inverters and batteries.

Training Online

Online education has become apparent or prominent as a popular higher-education alternative.

Taking courses online allows the students to continue with their current jobs and responsibilities while gaining new credentials for their resumes.

Virtual training courses are always less expensive than traditional university courses.

They can be completed at home at the student’s convenience and comfort with a more flexible schedule.

Online training also can render new computer-based skills, such as creating and sharing documents and using audio and visual materials in assignments.

Online courses in solar perspectives are available from the basics.

Nowadays, there are several PV installer courses available online.

These PV installer courses typically cover the elements and applications for photovoltaic systems, array configurations, as well as site analysis, and other aspects of grid-direct PV systems.

Search for courses that include both Online as well as hands-on training, both theory and practical applications with labs, eligibility to take the NABCEP exam.

If possible, have exam fees included in the cost of the course.

Also, if you’re taking a technical course online, make sure you have the requisite background in engineering, construction, or roofing.

Which Are the Essential Qualities for Solar Installers?

Customer-Service Skills

PV installers always need to communicate effectively with clients and other workers to ensure customer satisfaction.

They also ensure that proper safety and installation procedures are followed.

As a result, workers must maintain professionalism during duties and perform the work on time.

Detail-Oriented

During installation, PV installers must carefully follow all the necessary instructions.

If they fail to do the same, the system may not work correctly.

Mechanical Skills

PV installers work with sophisticated electrical equipment and mechanical tools.

Candidates must be able to build support structures for solar panels and to connect the panels to the electrical system.

Physical Stamina

PV installers are often in need of carrying panels and other heavy equipment on their foot.

When installing panels on the rooftop, workers may need to climb ladders many times throughout the day.

Physical Strength

PV installers often lift heavy tools and equipment.

Workers should be strong enough to lift materials that weigh up to 50 pounds.

Recertification

Although it’s not mandatory to enter the solar sector, the exam and application process is a great way to learn the trade and earn a certificate that proves you’re a competent solar panel Installer.

However, the NABCEP certification is only valid for three years from your exam.

To remain certified once this period has passed, you must enlist for a recertification exam based on the same content.

This content, however, has a slightly different entry requirement to reflect your development as a professional PV installer.

Final Thoughts

Completing all requirements for a solar installer will make you a highly desirable candidate and very promising to solar providers willing to hire top talent.

There is still a lack of a unified, standard certification system.

It’s just a great way to increase your chances of getting your solar dream job.

Since the industry itself is still new, it’s relatively easy to become a solar power installer in 2021.

Employers often do not require higher education diplomas, although a background in construction, electricity and good knowledge of solar systems and mechanics will give you an advantage.

Something to consider if you want to stand out from the competition is certification by the NABCEP.

To earn such a distinction, you’ll be required to complete projects, attend specific classes, and undergo advanced training.

All of which will ultimately guide you through the process of how to become a certified solar installer.