DIY Home Solar
You’ve heard it on the news and you’ve read the latest reports. Solar power is projected to become cheaper than coal in about 10 years. Just consider the significant drops in the cost of going solar – since 2009, solar have dropped 62%! What was once a far-reaching solution to lowering your home energy bill has now become a reality in the life of many homeowners. In fact, DIY residential solar kits are appearing on the shelves of big box stores. As a homeowner, you’re ready to get in on the action! And with a DIY kit, how hard could it be to start saving money on your monthly electric bill? In this article, we’ll cover what you’ll do to install a home solar energy system and the pros and cons of the DIY method versus hiring the professionals.
Residential Solar Energy Systems: The Basics
The majority of residential solar energy systems are still connected to the grid. This allows you to still have power when the sun is not shining (cloudy/rainy days and at night) and you’ve run out of solar energy generated by your own system. Besides always having power available, when you’re still connected to the grid, you’re eligible for net metering. Net metering is when any unused energy generated by the solar panels installed in your house is fed back into the grid. The utility company then credits you back for the solar energy you are feeding into the grid. Essentially, if your credit is the same or more than what you use from the grid, your bill from the electric company can be 0. In addition to net metering, when you install a residential solar power system, you are also eligible for federal and local tax incentives and rebates that can result in major savings off the top.
Equipment Needed for DIY Residential Solar System Installation
Solar panels: these are responsible for collecting energy from the sun and transforming it into direct current (DC). Solar Inverter: very important piece of equipment that converts DC current into alternating current (AC) – which the current needed to run household appliances. PV Disconnect: This piece of equipment allows you to power off your system for maintenance and repairs. Electrical Panel: Your breaker box – how the solar energy you gather connects to your establishment. Net Meter: Device that connects your home to the grid to monitor the amount of power in and out of your house.
You Know the Basics, But How Do You Know How Much and What Types to Buy?
There are multiple types of solar panels, some more efficient, some better for smaller spaces, some better for people with more land, crystalline, thin-film, cheaper, expensive. The options are vast. So, where do you start?
You start by monitoring your energy consumption. You need to have a good idea of how much energy you consume on the average day to determine how big of a solar energy system you’ll need. On top of that, you’ll also need to know how much money you have to spend – keeping in mind that the most expensive solar panels might not be the most cost effective for your needs.
Crystalline solar panels (both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are more efficient than thin-film solar panels. But, they’re also more costly because they are more pure. Monocrystalline solar panels have been found to capture about 18-21% of the sun’s rays, where thin-film solar panels average around 15%. All panels have an average life span of 25 years; crystalline silicon solar panels have lifespans up to 40 years. Intuitively, the more efficient the panels, the less you’ll need to buy.
Where Do You Install the System?
Depending on the size and type of residential solar system to decide to purchase, the location of installation can vary. In most cases, homeowners choose to install solar panels on the roof of their home. It’s a great space saver, if you don’t have a lot of land, and can receive great contact with the sun’s rays. But, what if you the majority of your roof is under shade from large trees? Maybe it’s better to mount your solar panels in the yard instead. This is also a good option when you need a larger amount of solar panels, that your roof might not be able to accommodate.
Keep in the mind the costs associated with mounting your solar energy systems. You’ll need racking equipment to attach the solar panels to your roof and you’ll need the correct mounting system for your yard as well. And also keep in mind you need to really research the best positioning of the system to maximize the amount of sunlight you capture, taking into account the location of the sun during peak sunlight hours in addition to the location of any shade inhibiting objects (e.g., trees, buildings). Even one panel that is blocked from the sun due to a shade tree can inhibit the efficiency of the entire solar energy system.
This is a substantial piece of equipment for the entire residential solar energy system. Why? This is how you get to use the solar energy you capture in the solar panels to power your home energy needs. As stated above, the solar inverter is what converts DC power to AC power – the type of power of your home appliances, computers, and other residential power runs off of. Make sure you match up the capacity of your solar inverter with the size and type of your system (based on number of kW and grid or off-grid systems).
Net Metering and Batteries
If you’re connected to the grid, the net meter you need for your solar energy system is a big component to your energy savings. It monitors how much unused solar power you’re feeding into the grid and how much grid energy you are using to power your home. Regardless of the number, the installation of solar panels will drastically decrease the amount of energy you’re drawing from the grid overall; and hopefully, with careful planning, your utility bills will hover near 0 based on the credit you’ll receive back from contributing to the grid.
The last piece of equipment you’ll need to consider when considering a DIY solar energy kit is whether you intend to have battery backup or not. Your system does not have to have a battery, but, if you do, you can use the battery to store unused energy (instead of feeding it back into the grid). That way, you’re even less dependent on the grid for energy, for even when the sun is not shining or during blackouts, you can draw on your stored energy in the battery to continue to power your home.
The Final Hoops
Now that you know the pieces of the DIY solar power kit that you’ll need, don’t forget about the installation, permits, and regulations involved in residential solar energy systems. Even though you’re doing it yourself, you need backup from the professionals – electricians, roofers, engineers, and others to determine if the system you’re installing is functional, appropriate, and safe and whether your home is suitable for the installation of the solar system.
Once all is checked out, it’s time to install your system. Some estimates suggest you can save up to 40% from buying a kit and doing it yourself. Seems too good to be true? It just might be.
Pros and Cons of DIY Home Solar Energy Kits
Pros Overall, the main reason people choose DIY solar panel installation is the potential cost savings. There are two ways to save costs – buy the solar power kit and install it yourself or buy the kit and get a professional to install it. The cost savings are pretty substantial when you think of it – you might be able to reduce your purchase price of the solar panels from 4 per watt to 2 per watt. For a common 5 kW solar energy system, that could mean a cost savings of 10,000 right off the bat. That’s a 50% discount and seems pretty good, right? Well.maybe.
Most homeowners are going to need to hire licensed solar installers to install even DIY kits. Not only are they the professionals, they know the ins and outs of these systems, and are specifically trained in their installation. Let’s face it, how comfortable are you with playing around with your home’s electricity? What’s the drawback of this? Most of cost you’re going to pay an installer is going to significantly decrease the actual amount of savings you will accrue from going the DIY route. Most licensed electricians will charge you 3,000 to 5,000 on average to install your home solar panels. But, wait – there’s more. Let’s assume after installation, you’re saving about 5,000 from buying a DIY kit. But, this is before applying the 30% federal tax credit, reducing your savings to about 10% overall (you’re going to save about 2100, on average, to purchase a DIY kit. Doesn’t seem like much considering all the steps involved in DIY systems.
Cons It will take a lot of your time researching the components of residential solar energy systems, equipment needed, what the equipment does, calling roofers to see if your roof can handle the weight of solar panels, calling engineers to determine the best positioning of your solar panels, calling an electrician to install the system, calling the utility company to assess the safety of connecting your solar system to the grid, and the list goes on. With a cost savings of about 10% – and that’s just monetary savings.what about your valuable time – hiring professionals might be more logical.
You’re installing everything and then you hit a snag. Or something doesn’t work. Or something goes wrong. Guess what? The fault’s on you. On the contrary, if you went with a licensed installer, if something goes wrong, the fault’s on them. Let’s be realistic. We’re talking about electricity. Are you comfortable doing simple electrical work at your house? Most people are not. If you aren’t trained in this type of work, it can be extremely dangerous to work with.
Lastly, you might not be eligible for all the rebates and incentives a residential solar energy system provides if you are installing it yourself. Many of the rebates and incentives are only valid if your system has been installed by a professional. You can essentially lose out on thousands of dollars in savings by going the DIY route.
DIY: Yay or Nay?
Because residential solar energy systems are a big investment, you’ll want the system installed correctly and to full functionality. With this type of investment, it seems more effective to rely on the professionals who do these types of installations daily. Most residential solar systems can be installed in about two days. And solar consultants will monitor your energy usage and recommend the best system for your needs and the best placement to optimize solar energy conversion. Overall, is saving 2,000 worth it to go through the headache of DIY installation? Perhaps you enjoy the challenge of a good home improvement project and have the time to devote to the scale of this project. Then DIY residential solar energy installation might be for you. For the most of us though, it’s easier and it’ll give you better peace of mind if you turn to the professionals.
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DIY Solar Panels: Understanding the Pros and Cons
It’s easy to think that a do-it-yourself (DIY) solar installation is a simple job that just involves bolting a bunch of solar panels to your roof. Some companies even sell DIY solar kits, with the sales pitch that you’ll start enjoying clean energy as soon as you finish the project.
It’s true that for certain types of installations, you can enjoy some cost savings by installing solar panels yourself. DIY solar panels also allow you to create smaller off-grid systems for buildings that don’t have full-scale electricity needs.
However, the details of a DIY solar installation can get complicated if you’re not a professional. You could jeopardize your safety, or spend more money in the long run. Before you begin your project, you should understand the pros and cons of DIY solar panels.
What are the Pros of DIY Solar Panels?
Choosing the DIY route for your solar power project offers you benefits such as lower costs, increased control, and convenience. If you’re already a home improvement expert who regularly completes large, complex projects on your own, you understand the appeal of DIY kits for homes.
DIY Solar Can Save You Money
Installing a solar power system yourself saves you the cost of hiring a third-party solar installer’s services. If you can design a solar panel system that takes care of your home’s electricity demands, you can lower your upfront installation expenses.
According to a 2021 Study by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, labor accounts for about 10% of the total price tag for installing solar panels. These potential savings vary depending on local variables like the solar system size and your qualification for the solar tax credit. It also assumes that the DIY installers do everything themselves and don’t have to hire any additional outside assistance.
Solar panel options span a wide range of cost, output, and efficiency. However, most solar companies work with a limited number of equipment manufacturers and solar panel options to keep costs down. By going the DIY route, you can buy the panels that match your budget and electricity needs.
DIY Solar Can Give You Control
If you have substantial DIY experience and you want to take complete control of your home improvement projects, a DIY solar power installation might be perfect for you.
- Choose any component: You can purchase the panels and equipment you want since you aren’t tied to what a third-party company offers.
- Tailor your project: You can tailor various stages of your solar installation to meet your specific needs, desires, or timeline. Want to build your own ground mount? Go for it! Just be sure you’re comfortable negotiating with municipal officers, financial planners, electricians, and tax accountants.
DIY Solar Can Be Convenient
Do you have the perfect design in mind? Installing solar panels as a DIY project allows you to design a unique setup for your panels. Furthermore, you aren’t stuck waiting for the work schedules of a third-party installer.
Do you need a little power in a toolshed or old barn? Thinking of buying a solar-powered toilet, trailer, cabin, or tiny home for a secluded getaway spot? A DIY solar installation is also convenient when installing power in smaller off-grid structures that just need a starter kit.
What are the Cons of DIY Solar Panels?
Even if you’re an experienced DIY’er, you can run into serious issues with installing your own solar panels:
DIY Solar Requires Specific Knowledge
A DIY solar system installation requires more knowledge and skills than your average weekend home improvement project. It isn’t something you can easily do by yourself, such as putting up some shelves or digging up a tree stump.
Installing solar power requires a lot of organization and planning. DIY solar projects are also time-intensive.
From design and installation to permitting and final connection to the grid, you could easily spend two months or more doing your own work. Depending upon permitting requirements in your area, which can be tricky for solar installations, the process could take even longer.
You will need a team of people you can depend upon to do a thorough job of the actual installation. This applies to basic work such as lifting the panels onto the roof and complicated tasks such as connecting the solar arrays to your home’s electrical system.
To install rooftop solar panels, you’ll obviously have to climb onto and work on the roof of your home. That means you’ll need to understand and follow enhanced safety protocols to avoid hazards like falling off the roof.
For most installations, you’ll have to drill into it your roof. Drilling into the wrong place can lead to structural damage, while incorrect flashing and sealing can lead to roof leakage and mold issues.
No two homes are ever the same, and every roof’s layout relative to the available sunlight rays may vary. Calculating the proper angles and orientation for your rooftop solar panels makes all the difference in maximizing their efficiency.
You must navigate various government and utility company offices to get permits and approval for your project. This is stressful work that requires persistence and patience.
Professional solar installers have people on staff who specifically handle this permitting work, and have established relationships with the people who review and approve those permits.
DIY Solar Involves Advanced Electrical Work
A DIY solar project isn’t like changing a light switch in a bathroom. It’s a heavy-duty task that literally involves powering your entire home. Not only do you need to install the solar panels, but you need to take care of inverters, meters, electrical panel connections, batteries, and other technical components.
You must be very aware of the intricate details of wiring your DIY solar energy system safely and correctly. Even with in-depth tutorials, the jumble of technical components and wiring can easily confuse you. Mistakes such as loose connections, crossed wires, and exposure to elements can lead to electrocution or destructive fire. Yes, it’s that serious.
While you can have your dream panel design through DIY solar kits, reinventing the wheel can be dangerous or impractical sometimes. A trustworthy contractor can plan out a tailored strategy that fits your home’s electricity needs.
If something goes amiss in your DIY solar installation, it’s possible that you can void the warranty on your solar equipment.
While you can still reach out to your manufacturer directly, proving a warranty claim can be challenging. You must ensure that your DIY solar panel installation was done according to their requirements, and was connected correctly to the utility grid.
If an issue is not covered by the warranty, you may have to pay for the repairs, which will eat into your total savings.
DIY Solar Requires Specific Equipment
Completing a DIY installation of a solar panel system requires experience, tools, and materials to install racking, solar panels, electrical boxes, inverters, wires, meters, and other equipment correctly.
For grid-tied solar systems, you’ll first need to assemble the right components, including:
- Solar panels: To capture the sun’s rays and convert them into DC energy
- Mounting system: To mount and secure the solar panel arrays.
- Inverter: To convert DC energy from your panels into AC electricity for home use, and channel additional AC back to the utility grid
- Power or DC optimizer: To maximize the power from your PV panels
- DC disconnect: To shut off your system for maintenance
- Grid disconnect: To automatically switch off your system when a grid outage occurs.
- Combiner box: To organize all components
When it comes to off-grid DIY solar panel kits, you might also need some additional components:
- Charge controller: To channel DC energy from your panels to your storage battery backup, and then stop sending energy to avoid overcharging.
- Backup power battery bank: To power and supply your building when sunshine isn’t enough.
- Balance of system (BoS): This includes all of the other equipment like a breaker box, wires, fuses, etc.
Don’t forget the safety gear! You don’t want to get injured when installing a roof-mount solar kit for your home. To stay safe, it’s important to invest in the proper safety equipment when working on your roof.
Before you can install your solar components, you’ll need to buy the necessary equipment and materials. Unlike professional installers, you’re not buying in bulk, meaning you won’t benefit from the economy of scale. These costs can quickly eat up a massive chunk of the DIY solar installation savings we discussed earlier.
If you don’t have enough experience to know the difference, you can easily fall for low-grade items and cheap solar cells that have flooded the market recently. Yes, the complete DIY solar panel kits that come with all required components and instructions may seem like a great deal, but you shouldn’t assume they’re using high-quality equipment.
If you do end up using less expensive equipment, you may have to contend with a shorter lifespan, reduced power efficiency, or a more complicated installation in the long run. On the other hand, professional installers know where to source high-quality materials and how to get the job done right the first time.
DIY Solar Limits Your Options
If you’re powering devices like televisions, washing machines, and refrigerators, your energy needs can be high. In this case, a simple electrical system from a DIY solar kit may not match your needs.
A professional installer can help you design the right sized system for your needs, complete with solar battery storage if that’s the right solution for the power needs of your home.
While many states and utilities provide rebates and incentives that significantly lower the cost of switching to solar, some of them are only available if a certified solar company installs your system.
You also don’t have as many finance options with DIY solar system kits, which limits your ability to split the cost across monthly payments that align with your solar savings. When buying your solar panels, you may have to buy the system outright when going the do-it-yourself route, vs financing through a third party.
Can I Install DIY Solar Panels Myself?
Having looked at some of the pros and cons that come with a DIY solar project, it’s time to decide if DIY solar panels are right for you:
Short Answer: Probably.
A DIY home solar kit can serve your needs, especially if your required energy demands are minimal. These out-of-the-box systems are typically not as complex as multi-panel systems that power a large house and connect to the utility grid.
If you’re still prepared to take this route for a complex solar project, we recommend you first research your local zoning regulations. Some states and countries prohibit the installation of a DIY solar system without professional certification because of the challenges we listed above.
Long Answer: Probably not.
Unless your current day job and prior DIY experience include electrical work, engineering acumen, roofing, and government permitting, you should probably leave the heavy lifting to the solar professionals. This is especially true for larger homes with significant electricity needs that require an elaborate solar power plan.
A residential solar power installation is a significant investment that should serve you for more than 25 years. Setting up everything properly from the very beginning ensures your system functions at its maximum capacity, and helps prevent headaches down the road.
Our recommendation is to rely on certified experts who install solar systems every day. Before you run out and buy your solar panels, let a solar professional investigate your energy needs and recommend the most suitable option for your home. They can also pinpoint the optimum solar panel placement to maximize your system’s output.
Overall, are potential DIY home solar savings really worth the risks and headaches of the elaborate process we’ve described? If you derive satisfaction from improving your home on your own and have time to do everything from beginning to end, then a DIY solar panel system might be right for you.
For most people though, turning to professionals gives them peace of mind. Yes, the upfront costs might be a little higher, but the long-term benefits are worth the expense.
Palmetto, Your Go-To Solar Installation Experts
Are you looking to reduce your electricity bill by switching to solar? By working with Palmetto, you can start enjoying the benefits of this green energy source without any of the DIY hassles.
At Palmetto, we simplify your migration to clean energy. It’s our business to take the risk and guesswork out of clean energy savings and provide end-to-end solutions that save you money and time. We also specialize in financing through solar loans if needed, with a variety of options to match your budget.
To learn how our professionals can work with you to design and install the perfect solar power system for your home, get started with a Free Solar Design. From there, we can pair you with a solar expert who’s trained to help you get the solar panel system you need, and help you save money by going solar.
DIY solar panels years back was understood as assembling actual solar panel itself soldering solar cells and mounting it with glass and frame. Today when the price of solar panels is much more affordable, you can assemble your own solar system from available components.
You will need some basic mechanical skills and imagination to mount solar panels somewhere so they do not fly off with the wind. If you know what tile and rafter is, then you are halfway to getting the system installed on your roof (assuming you are not afraid of heights). There are plenty different types of solar hooks:
But without getting much into detail (check YT for “PV mounting system”) you need to slide tile up, fasten hook to the rafter and slide tile back to its original position. Fitting hooks is often hardest part of the installation. When PV hooks are in place (not wider then meter apart to keep strong structure), and keeping in mind that it is good to have hooks at the ends of planned solar array (strong wind exposure), all is left is to do is to fasten mounting rail to them. Solar panels are mounted to rail using middle and end solar clamps.
If you have metal sheeting instead of tile, then you will not avoid penetration of it. Most common is sinusoidal shape sheeting or sheeting which looks similar to tile. For this type of roof system based on hanger bolt is used. It is special 2 threaded bolt where bottom thread is designed for wood and top is machinery thread ready to fasten rail to it. There is also seal to secure penetration hole so there is no leaking.
There is also a metal sheeting where you assemble your panels directly to it without getting deep to the rafter.
Other option is to install solar panels on ground using metal or even wooden frame.
Direct Current cabling is important part of your system and extreme care should be taken when doing it as arcing from DC current is very dangerous in terms of fire. Double isolated cables are used to transfer energy, and special waterproof plugs called MC4 are there for connecting solar panels together. If it’s possible, keep your inverter close to solar panels and that way you will avoid long DC cabling.
Inverter heart of the system
Power from your solar panels can be used directly to heat water, or produce hydrogen, but most of the time we need the same type of energy that has been supplied since years from public grid (thanks to Nicola Tesla it is alternating current). Device which is changing direct current to alternating is called inverter. Inverter has DC terminals where you connect your photovoltaic panels and AC terminals where you connect your devices which are consuming energy. There are 2 types of inverters: those which work with the public grid and are synchronizing with it called grid tie inverters, and independent inverters called off grid inverters.
The Pros and Cons of DIY Solar Panels: Should You Install Them Yourself or Pay Someone Else?
Decide whether do-it-yourself solar panels are worth the extra effort.
If you’re a homeowner, it’s not hard to see the appeal of solar panels. Whether you are conscious of your carbon emissions or your budget (or both!), installing DIY solar panels can shrink your impact on the planet and lower the monthly energy bill.
But while the DIY solar panels can be an elegant and eco-friendly option in some situations, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone’s energy-related issues. Below, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of undergoing the DIY project of installing your own solar panels. And we’ll help you decide if you want to take on the task or pursue another option like a solar power purchase agreement or having solar panels installed professionally.
One of the primary appeals of any DIY project, other than the satisfaction of a job well done, is saving money. When you choose to install solar panels on your property yourself, it means that you won’t have to pay for anyone else’s expertise or labor, which typically adds a considerable amount of cost to the project.
Can solar panels save you money?
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According to research conducted by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, labor typically accounts for about 10% of the total price tag for installing solar panels. Given the average cost for installing solar panels is 18,500, that means a savings of nearly 2,000. That’s a significant amount of money to keep in your bank account.
However, there is a trade-off. If you aren’t paying someone else to do the work of installation, it means you are doing it yourself. That means a significant amount of manual labor and time spent to set up the system, which you’ll be doing on your own. You also may not be able to claim certain incentives offered to homeowners who install solar panels. Some of the tax rebates that states offer for going green require a certified company to do the installation for you. To make sure you’re actually saving money, it’s worth checking into these incentives and how much they will save you.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
It is possible to do the process of installing solar panels on your own. There are solar systems designed specifically for DIYers that, while sometimes time-consuming, should be more than doable.
It’s worth noting, though, that many DIY solar panels are not designed to hook up to the traditional energy grid. They are designed more for off-grid purposes, like powering RVs or other spaces that are not typically served by a standard utility. If you are only looking to supplement your traditional energy source, DIY solar panels can get the job done. If you are looking to power your entire home with solar power, it might be better to trust an expert.
Installing a full solar energy system requires at least some knowledge of electrician work so you can properly handle the wiring and other technical aspects. You will likely have to work in relatively dangerous settings, including doing work on your roof and working with buried wires. The stakes are high for a mishap; crossed wires can result in malfunction and even electrical fires. It also may be illegal for you to do this work without a professional’s help, depending on your municipality’s zoning laws.
As always, consult a qualified professional if you have any questions about your home install project.
As mentioned, most DIY solar panel projects are not meant to replace traditional energy sources. They offer the ability to supplement power from the grid or power smaller spaces like an RV or a tiny home. But for a full-size home, a professionally installed solar system is likely best.
There are some settings that are ideal for a DIY solar project. If you have a garage or shed that requires electricity, you can go off the grid and keep it powered with solar panels. DIY solar panels often offer a bit more flexibility in size and placement, so they can be set up in an alignment that works best for you in these settings. DIY solar panels are also useful as a backup option if you were to lose power for the electrical grid, as long as you have a functional solar battery to store the generated power.
Solar panels typically last about 25 years, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be issues along the way. DIY solar panels in particular can be subject to requiring maintenance because the quality is not guaranteed.
Perhaps you tried to save in your up-front costs and purchased cheaper panels that are more susceptible to wear and tear. Unfortunately, you can end up being on your own in replacing them. Unless a failure falls under the warranty of the manufacturer, you may have to replace the panel on your own. It’s much easier to accidentally void the warranty if you’re installing the panels yourself, as well.
Oftentimes, professionally installed panels come with some sort of warranty from the company that does the installation. They will be able to service any issue that you may be experiencing, and may even cover the cost.
Decide what is best for your home
DIY solar panels can make for a fun project and a functional feature for your home, offering additional electricity from a renewable energy source. However, these panels are better served for smaller spaces like sheds or tiny homes. If you are looking to ditch the grid entirely and power your whole home with solar energy, consider a professional installation. It may cost more upfront, but the additional benefits of an expert installation, support in case of future failure, and access to full tax incentives may end up paying for itself over time.
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