What Is A Solar Energy System Installer?

What is a solar energy system installer?

A solar energy system installer, also referred to as a solar photovoltaic installer or solar technician, is a tradesman who specializes in installing solar panel systems on residential and commercial properties. According to the ISCO classification system, a solar energy system installer “assembles, installs, maintains and repairs solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on roofs or other structures” (Source).

The primary responsibilities of a solar installer are to survey sites, install mounting equipment, connect wiring and components, troubleshoot problems, and perform maintenance on PV systems. They work on both grid-tied and off-grid solar arrays. Solar installers must have knowledge of electricity, solar energy, and construction methods to properly size, place, and connect all components of a solar array.

Typical job duties

Solar energy system installers are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing solar panels and related equipment like inverters, racking, and battery storage systems.1 Their typical duties include:

  • Assessing homes or businesses to determine the best locations for panel installation
  • Installing solar panels, wiring, and related equipment on rooftops or other structures
  • Connecting panels to the electrical system and configuring inverters/batteries
  • Performing routine maintenance and repairs on solar systems
  • Educating customers on how their solar energy systems work
  • Keeping records of work performed and system specifications

Overall, solar installers are responsible for the smooth installation and operation of solar photovoltaic systems that convert sunlight into electricity for homes or businesses.2

Education and Training

Solar energy system installers typically need a high school diploma and complete formal training programs, apprenticeships, or certification programs. Many employers prefer applicants with some hands-on mechanical ability or construction experience.

Formal training programs for solar installers are available from technical schools, community colleges, and some universities. These programs take 6 months to 2 years to complete and lead to a certificate or associate’s degree in solar energy technology, renewable energy technology, or a related field. Coursework usually includes basic electricity, solar system design and installation, and safety practices.

Some solar installers get training through apprenticeship programs sponsored by professional associations or renewable energy companies. These programs combine on-the-job training with technical instruction and can last up to 3 years. Apprenticeships allow installers to earn money while learning job skills.

Several organizations offer voluntary certification programs for solar installers. For example, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) offers a photovoltaic (PV) installer certification. Certification can demonstrate professional competence and lead to better job opportunities.


Skills and knowledge

Solar energy system installers need certain skills and knowledge to perform their job duties effectively. Some key skills and knowledge requirements include:

  • Electrical skills – Installers must have familiarity with electrical systems, wiring, and components to connect solar panels and other equipment properly and safely.
  • Mechanical aptitude – Understanding mechanical systems is important when installing racks, brackets, and other structural components for solar arrays.
  • Physical fitness – The job often requires climbing, lifting, working outdoors, and performing physically demanding tasks. Being physically fit allows installers to work safely and efficiently.
  • Attention to detail – Meticulous attention to detail is crucial. Solar equipment and connections must be assembled and installed precisely according to specifications.
  • solar panels being installed on a roof to convert sunlight into electricity

Having strong electrical know-how, mechanical aptitude, physical stamina, and an eye for detail are vital for solar installers to possess. These skills and knowledge help ensure solar systems are set up correctly and function as intended.

Working Conditions

Solar energy system installers often work both indoors and outdoors at job sites.https://www.myplan.com/careers/solar-photovoltaic-installers/description-47-2231.00.html Much of their work involves outdoor physical labor, including working on rooftops to install solar panels and connecting equipment. They must be able to work safely at heights and in varying weather conditions.https://nccareers.org/occupation-profile/472231/1284 Installers also work inside to finalize electrical connections and check system performance. The job requires travel to installation sites, sometimes over long distances or for multiple days at a time.

Salary and job outlook

According to Mint, the median annual salary for a solar energy system installer in California is around $43,000 https://mint.intuit.com/salary/solar-energy-system-installer/ca. In Illinois, the median annual salary is approximately $33,500 https://mint.intuit.com/salary/solar-energy-system-installer/il. Hourly pay typically ranges from $15 to $35 across the United States, with the average around $22.64 per hour in Illinois according to ZipRecruiter https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Solar-Energy-System-Installer-Salary–in-Illinois.

The job outlook for solar installers is strong. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for these workers is projected to grow 52 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects are expected to be excellent as concern for the environment and desire for energy independence drive demand for solar panel installation.

Advancement opportunities

Solar energy system installers have several advancement opportunities to move into higher-paying roles over time. Some common advancement paths include:

Lead installer – Experienced installers may become lead installers, overseeing a team of installers on job sites. Lead installers help train junior staff and ensure jobs are completed properly. According to ZipRecruiter, lead installers can earn $19-25 per hour.

Supervisor – With additional leadership experience, installers can advance to supervisor roles, managing multiple installation crews and overseeing all operations for installation projects. Supervisors typically earn salaries rather than hourly wages.

Sales – Some installers transition into sales roles, meeting with homeowners and business owners to sell solar energy systems. Sales representatives earn commissions on top of a base salary, with high earnings potential.

Project manager – Installers who pursue further education in engineering or construction management can become project managers, overseeing the design, permitting, and installation of large solar arrays. This role requires strong technical and managerial skills. According to PayScale, solar project managers earn an average of $65,000 – $85,000 per year.

Related Careers

There are several careers related to solar energy system installers that require similar skills and interests:

Electrician: Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems. Their duties are similar to solar installers in working with wiring, fuses, connectors, and other electrical components. Becoming an electrician requires an apprenticeship and licensing.

Construction Worker: Many construction tradespeople, like carpenters, roofers, and sheet metal workers, are involved in solar installations. Their skills in construction, equipment operation, and working outdoors and on rooftops transfer well to solar projects. Most construction jobs require on-the-job training.

Solar Sales Consultant: Solar sales consultants meet with homeowners and businesses to determine their energy needs and propose solar solutions. They must understand the technology, costs, savings, and installation process to sell solar systems. Many have a background in sales, marketing or solar industry experience.

Professional organizations

Some key professional organizations for solar energy system installers include:

  • The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) offers voluntary certification programs that set standards for competency and skills in the solar energy industry. Many employers prefer or require NABCEP certification (Source).
  • The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) offers training programs, hosts conferences, lobbies for the solar industry, and connects installers with potential clients (Source).
  • Regional groups like the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) provide training courses, workshops, and networking opportunities.

These organizations help solar installers stay up-to-date on the latest technologies, best practices, and career opportunities through training programs, conferences, certifications, and online resources.

Getting Started as a Solar Energy System Installer

If you want to become a solar energy system installer, there are a few steps you need to take:


Most solar installers have some post-secondary education in a related field like electrical technology or electronics. Many complete a solar-specific training program or apprenticeship. Useful programs include an associate’s degree or certificate in solar energy technology.

Finding a Job

With the right education, you can search for solar installer jobs on sites like Indeed.com. Some electrical contractors also hire solar technicians. You may start as a helper or apprentice to gain experience.


Licensing requirements vary by state and locality. Many solar installers become licensed electricians. Some states have specific solar contractor licenses. Make sure you meet any licensing regulations in your area before beginning work. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council has more on certification options.

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