Our Simple DIY Home Solar Power System
But we didn’t want to lose the feel of our simple home by bringing in a large generator and the jugs of gas needed to run it, and the prospect of setting up a wind turbine or solar array seemed expensive and a technological eyesore in a natural setting.
Editor’s Note: This article was first posted in 2012. Since then we’ve made a few upgrades to our system that are reflected in this updated version. Basically, we’ve added a couple panels and got a larger capacity charge controller, and added a battery charger to supplement the system during the darkest weeks of winter when solar power is at a minimum.
For many years we managed to get along without the conveniences which electricity can provide, but developing Eartheasy.com using a dialup internet connection on a phone line strung through the woods was challenging, and charging my laptop became a regular necessity. A few years ago, wireless broadband was introduced to our area, and the promise of high-speed internet was the stimulus we needed to build our own reliable, affordable and simple “do-it-yourself” alternative energy system.
…developing Eartheasy.com using a dialup internet connection on a phone line strung through the woods was challenging…
Today, with the help of a local expert on off grid home solar power and alternative energy systems, we have the best of both worlds. Our basic solar powered energy system provides more electricity than we expected, it has been very reliable and maintenance-free, and it is almost entirely hidden from view. A solar panel on the roof with a few wires leading to a small battery bank powers my laptop, and a radio mounted on a tree for receiving the wireless broadband signal. The system also provides enough energy to charge several small power tools, run our home sound system and, amazingly, power a full-size chest refrigerator year round.
The cost of this complete solar system, in today’s pricing for the components, was about 1200.
Our simple home solar power system is comprised of four basic components: the solar panels, a charge controller, two 6-volt golf cart batteries and a small inverter. My son and I were able to install the system in a few hours, and there have been no maintenance issues other than checking the fluid level in the batteries every few months and cleaning the panel surfaces once in a while. Also every year or two I lift up one side of each panel to sweep out any leaves or pine needles that may have collected there.
The cost of this complete solar system, in today’s pricing for the components, was about 1200. It should be noted that I bought the panels ‘used’ for 100 each. Many folks in our community have replaced their 123-watt panels with newer 250-watt ones, which cost about 250 each. So the 123’s were readily available and I was satisfied with the amount of energy they would provide.
The four components are the batteries, charge controller (bottom right), inverter (top right) and battery charger (below inverter).
The basic components of this off grid solar power system are as follows:
We have three solar panels mounted on the roof of our home: 123 watt Sharp Photovoltaic Modules, model 123UJF. The panels are equipped with permanently attached junction boxes for ease of installation of wires and conduit. For each panel, two boards are lag screwed into the roof and the solar panel is bolted to the boards using wing nuts, so it’s easy to lift if maintenance is required. The panel surfaces are about 5” above the roof surface. Two wires run from the solar panels, one is the power line and the other is a ground line. The power line runs down the roof to the charge controller, where there is a fuse. A box on the porch houses the charge controller, inverter and batteries. The ground wire runs beneath the house and is attached to a steel rod that is driven about two feet into the earth.
Panel on roof/panel specs from back of panel
It should be noted that the panel guidelines state that the installation of PV modules requires a “great degree of skill and should only be performed by qualified licensed professionals, including licensed contractors and licensed electricians.” We installed our system ourselves because our supplier, who is a licensed installer, gave us explicit directions and came by to inspect the installation after it was done. We suggest that you follow the recommendation as stated in the module instructions with regard to installation.
The cost of the solar panels in today’s pricing is about 1 per watt.
We use a Morningstar ProStar30 Charge Controller that automatically adjusts the amount of power running into the battery. The controller has a small LED light which indicates the state of charge so it’s easy to see when the batteries are fully charged or if they are becoming depleted. The light flashes green, amber or red, indicating the battery status at any given time. A digital readout shows the battery voltage level and the rate of charge coming from the panels. A quick glance at the charge controller lets us know if we have sufficient power or if we need to cut back a bit on our electricity use until the batteries are topped up again.
The cost of the Morningstar ProStar30 Charge Controller was about 250. You can get it for around 200 today.
Two 6-volt golf cart batteries are wired in series for a 12 volt system. Each battery is rated at 232 amp hours. The batteries are enclosed in a wooden chest with hinged lid, and the top panel of the chest is removed to provide plenty of ventilation. The battery posts and connections are kept clean, and periodically checked to ensure good connections.
The two batteries/closeup of label
The four components are installed in this cedar box with ventilation slot. This box doubles a bench to sit on while removing shoes.
The cost for the two batteries was about 400.
The final piece of the system is a small inverter which converts the 12 volt DC power into 120 volt AC power. This enables us to use standard electric devices without the need for adaptors. Inverters are available in a wide range of wattages for different size systems. Ours is a small inverter made by Nexxtech, rated at 300 watts, with a 500 watt surge capacity. It comes with two cables, red and black, with alligator clip ends for gripping to the battery posts. In choosing which size inverter to buy, we calculated how much power was available to our system and what devices we wanted to run. In calculating power needs, it is important to add the power requirements when two or more devices are running simultaneously.
This is our small Nexxtech inverter.
Our Nexxtech 300 watt inverter cost about 30.
This past year we added a battery charger to the system that serves as supplemental power. Running the battery charger when the batteries get low enables us to have more light and power in the darkest days of winter. The charger is in the same box with the batteries and other components. You may see in the pictures there are two extension cords coming up through the floor – these lead to our woodshed where we have a small Honda 2000 generator. To run the charger, we start the generator, plug the charger into one of the extension cords, and also plug the inverter power line into the other extension cord. The generator only needs to run for about 30 minutes to bring the batteries back up to 12.8 or higher. Then the generator is shut off, the battery charger unplugged, and the inverter power line plugged back in. This process takes only a minute or two, and the restored batteries have sufficient power till the rooftop panels start to get light the next day.
left: Battery charger is on floor beneath inverter. right. Close-up of battery charger.
What this system provides:
An alternative energy system can be used to provide electric power to any number of electric devices, such as appliances, tools and computers. The bigger the system, obviously, the more power it will provide. To give you an idea of the capacity of a small system like ours, here is what we use our solar energy system to power:
Refrigeration: This is a DC powered refrigerator, the same size as a conventional chest freezer (4’ wide). The refrigerator draws 40 watts of power and can be converted to a freezer by replacing the thermostat. Since the refrigerator is a DC model, it is wired directly to the battery, bypassing the inverter. So the refrigerator keeps running even if the inverter is turned off. Our refrigerator has been running continuously for over 8 years without any problems. Even during the dark days of winter, the solar panels provide adequate power to keep it running.
Music: Our home has a Vers sound system which lets us use an iPod or direct cable from an iPhone or computer to deliver a rich sound while drawing relatively little power. We can run this sound system about 3 hours a day in winter, and as much as we want in summer.
Light: The big change for our home is electric lights. We have replaced our kerosene lights with a few of these LED lights, which are only 7 watts each.
Internet: Our solar system also provides adequate power to run a laptop computer, a tablet and to recharge cell phones. It also powers a router from so that multiple computers can be operated ‘Wi-Fi’ at the same time. In addition to the router, a small radio is installed on a tree about 300’ from our house which receives the wireless broadband and transmits the signal to the house.
Small tools and appliances: The system also recharges small tools, such as a battery-powered driver-drill. Our system recharges the battery for this tool in about 30 minutes.
These are the principle applications we use which are provided by the solar power system described above. However, you can use a wide variety of electric devices as needed. Today, we enjoy the benefits of our system without feeling a technological intrusion into our off-grid homestead and lifestyle. The refrigerator especially has made a big improvement in our day to day living, since storing food is so much easier. And we don’t miss the kerosene lamps.
Bringing electricity to rural locations is something of a balancing act since we don’t want our simple lifestyle changed by too many electrical gadgets. It does require some restraint to keep things simple, but the few electric amenities we now have are most appreciated!
About the Author
Greg SeamanOriginally from Long Island, NY, Greg Seaman founded Eartheasy in 2000 out of concern for the environment and a desire to help others live more sustainably. As Editor, Greg combines his upbringing in the cities of New York, Boston and San Francisco with the contrast of 31 years of living ‘off-grid’ to give us a balanced perspective on sustainable living. Greg spends his free time gardening, working on his home and building a wooden sailboat with hand tools.
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DIY SOLAR PANELS | UK GUIDE
We are happy that Renogy’s DIY community continues to grow with more and more members choosing to trust our products as their go-to choice. This article is dedicated to all you DIY-ers, cutting costs and saving the planet with each solar system you install.
Now, if you are thinking of setting up a DIY home solar system, this article will help you make the best DIY solar decisions and avoid making common mistakes.
Here, we will answer most of your burning questions about DIY solar panels. including:
Please note that the DIY solar panels in this article are manufacturer-made panels suitable for DIY installations. Not solar panels built from scratch by individuals.
Can you install solar panels yourself?
The cost of designing, buying, and installing solar for the average household in the UK is around £6000. Of that £6000, approximately 10% goes to the cost of hiring a pro-installer. In other words, hiring a professional installer costs at least £600, which is concerning if you’re on a budget.
As a result, you end up wondering if you can install solar panels yourself.
And the answer is YES. You can DIY (do-it-yourself) install your own solar panels.All you need to do is invest your time, energy, and a little bit of elbow grease.
This lowers your cost of going solar by approximately 10% or more. For most homeowners, this is a worthwhile incentive to invest their time and efforts.
However, before going the DIY solar panels’ route, here’s what you need to know:
If you’re not as agile or handy as you used to be, we highly recommend hiring an installer, as rooftop solar installations can be dangerous if you are not careful. No amount of money saved is worth risking your well-being.
Do not buy substandard components because they’re cheap. Instead, buy premium parts that are priced reasonably. Doing so ensures you get the best value for your money. Without question, we recommend buying renogy solar parts directly from our
For large solar installations, it’s highly recommended to hire a professional installer.
In areas with strict PV regulations, a professional installer can help you process permits and other necessary paperwork. Some utilities need a certified electrician’s signature as proof your system can be connected to the grid safely. Besides, when you apply for a Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) from your energy provider, they might need an MCS certification and a DNO (district network operator) approval.
How much does it cost to install solar panels?
The cost of installing solar panels will vary depending on:
The size of your system
Type of your installation
The installer you choose
On average, the cost of hiring a professional installer can range anywhere from £600 to a few thousand pounds. According to the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, the average cost of labour when installing a solar system is approximately 10% of the cost of all your components. If you wanner know how much solar panels are in the UK. click the link.
So if your components cost around £6000, then the cost of installation will be around £600. Please note that this figure is an estimate and may vary, so it’s best to cross-check with an installer near you.
DIY solar panel installation process
There are a few stages you need to take care of before you start your DIY solar panel installation process.
One of the stages is quite obvious, which is buying the equipment you want to install. However, other lesser-known but important stages are:
Energy Usage Calculation (load or amount of electricity you use each day)
Solar Panel System Sizing
How to install a DIY solar panel system at home?
The installation process for a DIY solar panel system can be broken down into 6 basic steps:
Step 1: Calculate Your Daily Energy Usage
If you’re connected to the grid, and want to find out how much you use daily, you need to look at your utility bills. On your utility bill, you will find the amount of Wh (Watt-hours) or kWh (kiloWatt-hours) used that month. For even better results, use the bills for the last 3 months to work out an average monthly usage. Once you have your monthly usage, divide that figure by the number of days in a month to find your daily usage.
Alternatively, you can sum up each of your device’s wattage and the number of hours used to find out the total energy you use daily.Our online solar panel calculator can help you here.
Step 2: Design Your System
You need to decide if you are going to substitute all or part of your daily energy usage with solar power. You can choose to build a completely offgrid solar system that will power all your devices without any help from the grid.
Or, you can choose to build an on-grid solar system, also known as a grid-tied system, that only substitutes a fraction of your daily usage with solar power.
If you are building an off-grid system, you definitely need a solar lithium battery. On the other hand, an ongrid system can do without a battery bank due to the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). The only drawback of an on-grid solar installation without solar battery storage is that you won’t have any backup power during emergencies.
Step 3: Size Your Solar Panels
Once you know how much power you want to generate with solar, you can calculate how many solar panels you need to produce that much power. We will explain how to size your solar panels later in this article.
Step 4: Purchase Quality Solar Components
After determining your daily usage and optimal panel output, you can start buying all the parts you will need for your installation, including:
Step 5: Install Your Railings, Mounts, and Components.
Once you’ve gathered all your components, you can start preparing the areas where you will install your components. This usually involves:
Mounting the railing for your panels on the roof
Creating or clearing a suitable space for your inverter and battery bank,
After preparing the installation zones, install the components. This involves:
Lifting solar panels onto the roof and bolting them to the railings;
Screwing your inverter onto the wall;
Finding a safe space for your batteries. The area shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight nor extreme temperatures (hot/cold);
Installing the joining cables and connectors.
Step 6: Connect your solar to your home’s distribution box
Once you know which circuits you want to power with solar power, you can choose to join or replace the wires with the power supply of your choice. For example, you can choose to power only your lights and a few sockets, or you can choose to power all your circuits.
How to size solar panels for your home?
To size solar panels for your home, you need to know two things:
Your daily energy usage
Number of peak sun hours in your area.
Once you have these figures, you can calculate two things:
The total power output required from your panels each peak hour. How? Dividing your daily usage by the number of peak sun hours. The answer you get is the amount of power your panels should generate during each peak sun hour.
The number of panels at each wattage you need to buy to meet the demand. How? Divide the above figure (hourly power needed) by your chosen panel’s wattage. For example, if hourly power is 3000Wh and you choose a 300W panel, you will need 10 (ten) 300W solar panels to meet the 3000W hourly demand.
What are DIY solar panel kits?
Solar parts come in different sizes (capacities, wattages, etc.) and they can only work well when matched with other parts of a matching size. Think of it this way, when you’re shopping for clothes in a store with different clothing sizes, you need to pick a t-shirt, jeans, and shoes suited for your size and with each other.
This is also the case when you are shopping for solar parts that come in different sizes. Therefore, you need to pick solar panels, inverters, batteries, and other parts that are compatible with each other and suitable for your needs.
That’s where DIY solar panel kits come in.
A DIY solar panel kit is a set of compatible solar parts that are already hand-picked for you, taking the hassle out of searching for the right parts.
Buying the right solar kit will save you money and reduce the time it takes you to set up a working solar installation. It also helps you avoid rookie mistakes or costly trial-and-error purchases.
Renogy has many sizes and types of DIY solar kits;examples include:
Each of these kits is carefully configured to fit a variety of situations. We also have flexible solar kits suitable for RV or Marine use.
If you think DIY solar kits are just what you need, check out this link to all of Renogy’s solar kits.
The Pros and Cons of DIY solar panels
As with most things, there are two things involved when setting up your DIY home solar panels.- the pros and cons.
It’s up to you to decide if the advantages of DIY solar panels more than offset their disadvantages.
Pros of DIY solar panels
Reduces your dependence on the grid supply and gives you more control over your energy.
Lowers your energy costs as solar is now a cheaper energy source than the grid.
You get an intimate knowledge of your system during the installation and can troubleshoot most problems.
Saves money that would otherwise be spent on hiring an installer. You can re-invest this money elsewhere, e.g., buying more components to build an even better system.
Suitable for most applications, including homes, businesses, RVs, boats, etc.
Provides an emergency or independent power supply that’s usable even when there’s no grid power.
Cons of DIY solar panels
It might reduce your equipment warranties depending on the terms and conditions of your manufacturer.
Requires investing your time and effort to learn about how to work with electricity and solar equipment.
DIY installation might be impossible in some regions due to prohibitive local laws.
It’s more challenging for homeowners outfitting large solar systems. In that case, we recommend hiring a professional installer.
DIY solar panel building regulations for home
Regardless if you hire an installer or you carry out a DIY home solar systeminstallation, your solar panel installation needs to follow the standard UK building regulations for your area.
These regulations typically are:
Ensure that your roof is strong enough to support your panels
Mitigating the risk of fire your solar panels pose.
How to install your solar components correctly to give them improved ventilation.
Ensuring the entry points of your cables don’t allow moisture into the structure.
Improving the electrical safety of your installation.
How to mount your panels and other components securely.
For more information on the Building regulations for your area, visit the links below:
Do I need permission for solar panels?
Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t. Let me explain why.
Most of the time, if your panels meet certain criteria and standards, you don’t need to obtain planning permission to install solar panels on your property.
However in some special cases, which will be listed below, you need to obtain planning permission before installing your panels:
If your property is a listed building.
If you live in an area designated as a conservation area.
If you are going to carry out any major modifications on the building. For example, an increase in size.
If your solar panels protrude more than 0.2 metres or 20 centimetres from your roof. For example, an installation on a flat roof is typically more than 0,2 metres due to the angled stands.
If you are carrying out a ground installation with stand-alone panels that is/are:
c. Located within the grounds of a listed building
d. Each panel has an area of more than 9m^2
If any of the above cases apply to you, do not worry. You can still apply for a special planning permission from your local authority.
To summarize, if the DIY installation of your solar panel system doesn’t involve any major changes to the building – such as changing its size, shape, exterior appearance or other aspects, you likely won’t need special permission from your local authority.
However, if you want to make some big changes, you might need to get planning permission from your local authority before installation. We highly recommend checking in with your local authority to see if there are any other regulations to follow regarding independent energy generation.
Monitoring and Maintenance for DIY solar
A DIY solar system needs regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure that it keeps performing safely and at the highest levels. Fortunately, the level of maintenance your solar system needs is on the low-side. So it won’t take much of your time or effort.
Examples of monitoring and maintenance activities for DIY solar are:
Dusting and washing your solar panels when they’re dirty.
Checking the tightness of all screws, bolts, and connections and tightening any loose items. This should be done regularly.
Dusting and cleaning the environment of your inverter(s), batteries, etc. at least twice a month.
Frequently check if the cables and components are operating at their optimal temperatures.
Failure to follow all maintenance guidelines might damage your solar system, pose health risks to you, or void your warranty.
We highly recommend you bring any faulty Renogy equipment to us or a licensed professional for repairs. Attempting any DIY repairs is often a recipe for disaster, voiding warranties, or causing further damage.
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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 Power Installation
Updated June 22, 2022 Solar
Solar installation has become easier over the years. With the steady advancement of solar technology, installing solar panels and photovoltaic system equipment will surely get even more simplified in the future.
However, that does not mean that solar installation is an easy 5 step process or that everybody should try it.
Solar Installation: What You Should Know Before You Start
Since solar installation involves working with panels and equipment that produce several hundred volts of electricity in the sunlight, some very serious safety issues must be understood before you consider installing solar panels or PV system components onto your home.
Often, the work involved in solar installation needs to be done by a professional, permits need to be applied for and specific electrical standards (which often differ from one area to the next) have to be met.
It is for this reason that there is also often a lot of improvisation involved when installing a solar power system.
Although we do not in any way encourage you to disobey the standards, rules, requirements, and guidelines set forth by your municipality in regards to how to install solar panels or a solar energy system, we do show you some ways of working around some of the harder aspects of solar installation at the end of this web page. To be sure, check with your local building and safety department for specific requirements.
Let’s take a look at the basic procedure for installing a grid-tied solar power system in your house.
Installing Solar Panels Solar Energy Systems
First you must make sure that your roof or wherever you’re going to be mounting your solar panels is strong enough for solar panel installation and to support the weight. There’s no point in installing solar panels on a roof that is going to cave in and ultimately cost you more money to repair.
Unless you’re using solar roof tiles, the next thing you must do in the process of solar panel installation is measure the dimensions of your roof and ensure that your solar panels (the entire solar array) can fit in the available space.
When installing solar panels, you may also want to consider using an area where there is considerable space for the addition of more panels in the future. For proper solar panel installation, ideally, solar panels should go on a rooftop that faces the direction that the sun comes up from.
So, if in your area the sun rises in the east, your panels should face east for maximum exposure. Just make sure the roof has no shade on it from other homes, buildings, trees, etc.
One important thing you must know about solar panel installation is that having just one solar panel in the shade can stop your whole solar array from working properly. Also, when you are installing solar panels, make sure that shade won’t come with the changing of the seasons or with the future development in your neighborhood. Install solar panels no closer than 12 from the edge of the roof and 16 from the eaves.
Before you install solar panels, you must install brackets on sloped roofs or mount rails on flat roofs. Solar panel mounts can be bought in home improvement or solar stores. Standoffs for the brackets or rails must be secured to the home’s rafters or trusses, not just the sheathing.
Solar installation brackets are used on roofs that are sloped, but the slope must be positioned in a way that gives the panel good direct exposure to the sun. A mount rail system is used in solar installation to allow you to position the panel at any angle you want. You must keep all the solar panels at the same angle and height (even when the roof slope changes) to keep the voltage production the same.
Make sure you use roof sealant where you drill the screws into the roof when attaching the brackets or mount rails. so no rainwater can leak through the holes in your roof. Follow the instructions that come with the brackets or rail system you use to ensure that your solar panel installation is done according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
Then attach your solar panels by hoisting them up to your roof, laying them out onto the brackets or mount rail system, and fastening them onto the bracket or rail system. When installing solar panels make sure they don’t accidentally slide off of very sloped roofs before you get a chance to secure them.
When solar panel installation is complete and your panels are secure you must connect them according to how you want them to produce power. Make sure all your wires are properly insulated and waterproof (wrapped with black electrical tape). To prevent shock, always connect a ground wire from the mounting hardware to the earth when performing a solar installation.
Once the panels have been connected and aligned in place, the conduit must be run underneath the panels, to a junction box, down the side of the house, and the first photovoltaic component in your system. usually the DC disconnect.
For solar power installation, you must use wiring consisting of three wires: negative, positive, and ground wire. None of the wiring should be touching the actual roof.
Installing conduit over all wires coming out of your panels is essential to protect them from exposure to rain, sunlight, and other elements.
Now set up all of your photovoltaic components according to the manufacturer’s instructions (but don’t connect them yet). Install your inverter and the other photovoltaic components in a garage or an outbuilding. Make sure that the area is dry, well ventilated, and that the space is not subject to extreme hot or cold temperatures. This is especially important when it comes to your battery bank.
If there’s going to be any cold weather at all, you should use a battery box around your entire battery bank to protect it from changing environments. A battery box is also necessary to protect children and pets from accidental electrical shock.
The next step in a typical PV installation would involve running the power from your inverter into your home’s AC breaker panel and other system components. To do this, first, turn off the main breaker and de-energize all AC and DC sources of power.
Then, connect your inverter to your AC breaker panel. Connect the PV wires to the DC disconnect switch and the other photovoltaic system components up until the main DC disconnect. Then connect the main DC disconnect to the inverter.
After you do this, (and ensure that your system is safe by getting a professional electrician to test and verify that everything is working properly), you can turn on your breakers and DC/AC disconnect switches and electricity will be distributed from the AC breaker panel to any electrical loads in your home.
When wiring through walls, use conduit to protect against shock and short circuits. For outdoor wiring, use PV conduit over the wires, with waterproof fittings or duct seal to keep out water.
Also anytime, you’re going to be sharing solar power with power from your electric company, it’s a good idea to install a second smaller panel box beside your main one for the solar feed, along with a convenient shut-off switch to make cutting the power from the solar panel easy if necessary. A very common and usually required safety procedure in solar installation.
The breaker that is used for the solar feed must not exceed 20% of the AC breaker panel’s service size. So if your home’s electrical service is 100 amps, this limits your breaker size to 20 amps. If you install solar panels and a PV system that has more amps than that, you may need to increase your home’s electrical service to 200 amp or higher.
Solar Installation Shortcuts
Here we list a few alternative ways you can save even more money (and work) by simply working around some of the more expensive and legally complicated aspects of solar energy installation.
Roof or Yard?
If solar panel installation is a little too labor-intensive for you and you don’t want to go through all the trouble of mounting and installing solar panels on your roof, you can always place them in your backyard or on your balcony. This will require your panels to have some kind of a stand or adjustable support behind them.
However, different areas have different rules for this as well. Some areas require that any solar panels not mounted to the roof must be protected from the general public via the use of fencing or a pole mount 8 feet or higher. Do your homework and find out what’s required in your area before proceeding.
Panel or Plugs?
If you don’t want to connect directly to your home’s AC breaker panel, you can plug appliances directly into the inverter. Just set up a system where you plug appliances, TVs, toasters, lights, etc, into a convenient box of direct access power outlets (plugs).
This can be as easy as attaching an extension cord from the power inverter, passing it into the house, and adding a power bar with multiple easy access outlets. Many people choose to implement little solar installation shortcuts like these to work around’ some tough spots.
With these options to work around some of the more expensive (and complicated) aspects of solar power installation, it gets even easier for you to create a system that can recover more of your initial costs within just months instead of taking years.