DIY Solar Panel Installation: Step by Step Guide
Did you know that you can save thousands of dollars in installation costs and cut years off your payback period by installing a solar energy system on your own?
If you’re comfortable with climbing on your roof and capable of wiring a household electrical socket (or willing to learn), then you have what it takes to install your own solar system. With the help of just one other person, you can complete a DIY solar project over the span of 1-3 weekends. Also, you can hire an electrician or installer to help you with part or all of the project.
This DIY solar panel installation guide provides an overview of the requirements and steps necessary to successfully bring your solar project to fruition. From planning and permitting to interconnection and maintenance, we will walk you through every aspect of the installation process. With our expert tips and instructions, you can confidently install your own solar energy system and start enjoying the many benefits of renewable energy.
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What Is a DIY Solar Panel?
- Is It Difficult to Install Solar Panels by Yourself?
- Is It Cheaper to Install Your Own Solar Panels?
- How Long Does It Take to Install Solar by Yourself?
- Pre-Installation Steps
- Determine Your Energy Needs
- Assess Your Property and Choose the Best Location
- Choose the Right DIY Solar Kit for Your Home
- Buy or Lease
- Get the Necessary Permits
- Have the Right Tools Handy
- Buy the Necessary Materials That Don’t Come With the Kit
- Get Safety Equipment
- Installation Process
- Install the Racking System
- Inverter Installation
- Solar Panel Installation Process
- Install the Battery
- Wiring the System
- Post-Install Steps
- Schedule and Pass the Solar Inspection
- Complete the Interconnection
- Set Up Monitoring
- Perform Regular Maintenance
So first, let’s get started by answering the most frequently asked questions about DIY solar.
What Is a DIY Solar Panel?
As the name suggests, DIY solar panels are solar panel kits that you can assemble and install by yourself or with a bit of help. Think of DIY solar panels as the IKEA of solar power technology — they come with comprehensive, easy-to-follow, step-by-step installation instructions and our helpful customer support that leave no room for misinterpretation.
Is It Difficult to Install Solar Panels by Yourself?
While installing solar panels yourself may seem daunting at first, with the right knowledge and tools, it certainly is a manageable project. DIY solar requires some construction skills, knowledge of power tools, and a good understanding of home improvement and electrical safety.
So if you are capable of home renovation work, you should be able to quickly learn the ropes of DIY solar and install it yourself.
You can also do most of the work and only hire a professional for the parts you aren’t sure about. For example, you can install all the panels on the roof and have a professional electrician make the final connections in your main service panel.
Is It Cheaper to Install Your Own Solar Panels?
A DIY solar installation will save you a significant amount of money. Your savings will depend on the size of your system, whether you install it by yourself, and if not, how much the installers in your area typically charge.
To give you a general idea, if you compare the cost of the equipment by itself to the cost of a turn-key installation, it’s about 450.75 per watt. If you are looking at a typical size 6 kW residential system, that equates to a savings of around 10,500.
How Long Does It Take to Install Solar by Yourself?
The time it takes to install solar panels yourself will depend on a variety of factors, including the size of your system and your level of experience. Generally, a DIY solar panel installation can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It really depends on how much time you dedicate to the project.
But a good rule of thumb is to plan for about 2 hours of work per solar panel. So if you install a 16-panel system, it will take about 32 hours of work.
Before you roll on your sleeves and get to work, there are a few steps to go through to make sure you get the right equipment as well as the necessary permits.
Determine Your Energy Needs
Before you start the installation process, it is essential to calculate your energy needs. Consider the number of appliances, lights, and other electrical devices you plan to power with your solar system. Use our step-by-step solar sizing guide to determine how many solar panels you would need.
Assess Your Property and Choose the Best Location
You need to assess your property to determine the best location to install your solar panels. Consider factors such as shading, orientation, and roof or ground space. Look for areas that receive maximum sunlight throughout the day, and ensure that there are no obstructions that may shade your solar panels.
Choose the Right DIY Solar Kit for Your Home
Now that you know your energy needs and found the best location to install the solar panels on your property, it’s time to choose a DIY solar kit that will meet your requirements. If you’re still unsure what’s right for you, connect with a solar expert and they’ll answer all your questions as well as point you in the right direction. Read more: The 7 Best DIY Home Solar Kits
Buy or Lease
There are several financing options available for solar panel installations, including cash purchase, solar loan, and solar lease. Choose an option that works best for your budget and financial situation. Learn more: Buy vs Lease Solar Comparison
Get the Necessary Permits
- Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) — Check if the municipality, county, or city has jurisdiction over your property and learn about their requirements.
- Homeowner’s Association (HOA) — If you live in a HOA community, you need their sign off as well.
- Utility Company — The UC will usually review your electrical wiring diagram and may require an inspection before allowing you to activate the system.
The application should include a site plan, system design schematics, an electrical wiring diagram, spec sheets and certification documents for components used in your system. It can take up to several weeks until your application is reviewed and approved.
If this sounds like too much work, we can do it for you. All our DIY solar kit customers can take advantage of our permitting services for a stress-free experience.
Have the Right Tools Handy
- Hand tools and supplies
- Measuring tools
- Safety equipment
- Fall protection
- A sturdy ladder
- Power drill/driver
- Power saw
- Fully-charged battery or extension cord
- Flat pry bar
- Caulk gun
Buy the Necessary Materials That Don’t Come With the Kit
While we at GoGreenSolar also include the racking and mounting equipment, keep in mind that many sellers don’t.
over, electrical wiring is usually not included in the kits. Wire, conduit, fittings, breakers, AC/DC Disconnects (if required), junction boxes and a sub panel (if required) can be purchased at any electrical supply shop, Home Depot or Lowes.
Once your plans are finalized, we will provide you with a shopping list that includes all the necessary components.
Get Safety Equipment
- Safety glasses: You may need to drill holes or handle glass components that could shatter and cause eye injuries. Safety glasses can help protect your eyes from flying debris.
- Work gloves: They can help protect your hands from cuts, scrapes, and other injuries.
- Hard hat: If you’re working on a roof or other elevated surface, a hard hat can protect your head from falling objects.
- Harness and lanyard: If you’re working on a roof or other elevated surface, a harness and lanyard can prevent falls and keep you safely secured.
- Safety shoes: Once again, when working on a roof or other elevated surfaces, it’s important to wear shoes with slip-resistant soles to prevent slips and falls.
- Ladder: A ladder can help you safely reach and work on elevated surfaces.
- Fire extinguisher: Solar panels and other electrical components can pose a fire risk if they’re not installed or handled properly. Having a fire extinguisher on hand can help you quickly put off any fires that may occur.
Overall, the specific safety equipment you’ll need for your DIY solar installation project will depend on the size and complexity of your system, as well as the specific hazards present in your work environment. Be sure to thoroughly assess the risks and take appropriate safety measures before starting any DIY solar installation project.
Now that you have obtained your permits, have the DIY solar kit and all the necessary tools and safety equipment, it’s time for the heavy lifting.
For roof-mount kits, the first step is to mark the location of your roof rafters. These support beams will act as the foundation for your solar array. If your rafters aren’t visible from the outside, you can buy a stud finder or measure their location from the inside of your attic. Locate your rafters and mark them with a chalk line to visualize the layout for your racking rails.
After measuring everything, bolt the flashings to the rafters at the marked locations. A flashing is a thin sheet of material that prevents leaks and provides an attachment point to mount your racking rails.
Once the flashings are set, bolt the racking rails to the flashings.
Ground mounts are a bit different from roof mounts. Because there are no roof rafters supporting the weight of the solar panels, you’ll need to build a standalone metal foundation to support the array.
Before building the support structure, dig holes at least 18” deep and pour concrete footings to anchor the structure to the ground. Once the base poles have been placed in concrete, wait at least a week to allow it to fully dry and set.
Ground mounts also require your wiring to be buried underground to comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC). It’s wise to rent machinery that can dig trenches and anchor holes to speed up this process.
Once the metal substructure is built, the rest of the process is the same as with roof mounts. You’ll secure your racking rails to the support structure, which provides a foundation for your panels.
If your system uses microinverters, these small units will need to be screwed onto the back frame of your solar panels before installing the panels on your mount. Make sure the units are wired first, as the connection points won’t be accessible once the panels are mounted in place.
String inverters should be wall-mounted in an easily accessible location, like the side of your house, or the back of a ground mount structure. Inverters should be mounted as close to your solar panels as possible for a more efficient and cost-effective wiring run.
Solar Panel Installation Process
Once the racking has been built, installing solar panels is fairly straightforward by comparison.
- Use two end clamps to install the first panel on the rails.
- Then, use grounding mid clamps for each consecutive panel – mid clamps bound the solar panels and rails together, into one continuous system.
- Finally, complete the row with two more end clamps to secure the last panel on the rails.
If you are installing panels on your roof, be sure to hook up the connecting wires before bolting the panel to the racking rail, as the connections will be inaccessible once the panel is installed in place.
Install the Battery
In case you’ve purchased a solar panel kit with battery backup, this is the point to install and set it up. The battery installation process will vary depending on the battery type and manufacturer, but here’s a general overview of how it goes:
- Site preparation: Identify the installation location and ensure it meets the requirements for space, ventilation, and access. Also, prepare the installation surface to support the weight of the battery and install the mounting bracket.
- Electrical installation: Install the AC and DC wiring, and the current transformers (CTs) as per the manual instructions. Ensure that the AC and DC circuits are properly grounded and connect the battery to the gateway for commissioning. over, depending on the type of the system, some batteries can also be connected to the inverter. Check if this applies to you.
- Mechanical installation: Mount the battery onto the prepared surface using the mounting brackets and secure it in place.
- Commissioning: Configure the battery, verify that it is communicating with the monitoring system, and confirm that the system is operating as intended.
We highly recommend to consult the manufacturer’s installation manual and follow all the instructions and safety precautions during the installation process.
Wiring the System
Once the panels have been secured to the mount, the final installation step is to wire the system components together according to your planset. The wires from your inverter(s) will be routed through a junction box and a PV disconnect switch, before finally terminating at your home’s circuit breaker box that connects your system to the grid.
Tools and Materials
- Wire- According to the given electrical wiring diagram and the wiring types of your solar system, you decide to buy the required wires for your modules.
- Junction boxes and slices- Junction boxes and slices are required to complete wiring. Since different solar systems have different circuits, you need to buy junction slices and boxes that can hold the particular amperage and voltage demands. Some of them are used outsides, and some others are for indoors. They should meet separate ratings.
- AC breakers and sub-panels- AC breakers are required to transport the AC power of the solar system, and you need to check for the compatibility of them because there could be different mounting circuits. Sub-panels are required to combine different AC solar panels.
- AC disconnects and fuses- These two tools are needed for safety consideration. Generally, the shipment list will conclude a non-fused manual AC disconnect that allows you to feedback on the grid. And fused manual AC disconnect offers protection for the circuits when the current is over.
- PV meters- PV meters are needed if you want to install a system tied to the grid. Usually, you just need to install meter sockets to evaluate the power from the solar array.
- EMT ENT Conduits- Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) is always a necessary material for mounting. Although ENT conduits are cheaper and easy to use, they are usually banned to use for common building codes.
Learn Some Necessary Technical Terms
- Voltage- Voltage refers to electric potential difference, which means the potential difference between two ends of a circuit in electrical charge. It is represented as ‘V’ in equations, and it is evaluated in volts (V). Voltage can be influenced by several factors, including temperature, sunlight, and so on. So if it is a cold sunny day, the voltage will be very high and the solar panel will generate more energy.
- Power- We know that the generated solar energy will be transferred to the battery. So the transferring rate is called power, and it is represented as ‘P’ in equations. Power is evaluated in watts (W). We work out the value of power by multiplying voltage with current, namely, P = V x I. If you want to know more about the relationship between them, you can check the link Voltage and Current.
Good to know: To optimize the power output, you can change the voltage and the current. Wiring the solar panel will influence the current, then the power output.
Solar Panel Wiring
To activate your solar panel system, you need to create an electrical circuit by wiring the solar panels. Then, the current could flow in the circuit to the inverter which will transform the DC power to AC power for your property.
This creating and connecting process is called wiring, and you have about two common wiring types: Series and Parallel.
Wire solar panels in series
Put it simply, we are all very familiar with traditional batteries. A solar panel is just a comparable model that has two poles too. It has a positive terminal and a negative terminal. Wiring solar panels in series to connect each of them to the other in order. And finally, they form a panel line.
If you have a wiring diagram, you can do it as the diagram shows: you should connect the wire from the positive terminal of one solar panel to the negative terminal of the next solar panel, and repeat. Finally, all of them will be connected in series.
A series connection is created when you finish what the last paragraph explained. Then if you continue to connect more solar panels like that, a PV source circuit will be built. You have a solar PV system circuit.
When the solar panels are stringed together in series, the total voltage increases correspondingly. The voltage of each panel adds together to be a sum voltage. But the current remains unchanged. So the amperes stay at the original value.
Good to know: Wiring solar panels in series allows your panel system to operate continuously even if one of the panels is shaded.
Wire solar panels in parallel
Compared with connecting solar panels in series, stringing solar panels in parallel is a little more complex. Unlike the former circuit, this type needs more skills and provides more circuits.
When wiring solar panels in parallel, instead of connecting the wire from the positive side of one panel to the negative side of another panel, you need to connect all the positive terminals of every solar panel. Meanwhile, the negative terminals of all the solar panels need to be wired together too.
In this wiring way, you need extra connectors and combiner boxes. All the positive poles are wired to one connector in the combiner box, and the negative terminals are stringed to another connector.
When you connect several panels like this, a solar PV circuit forms.
Contrary to the solar panels in series, connecting solar panels in parallel will increase the current (amperes) by adding each panel’s amps together. However, the voltage will still stay the same as the individual panel’s voltage.
Good to know: Connecting panels in parallel gives you a chance to install more solar panels to generate more energy as long as it won’t overtake the operating voltage limits of your inverter.
Solar Panel Wiring – Basics
Solar panel wiring is a fundamental topic that any solar installer should know. It is important to know how wiring and stringing panels will affect the current, voltage across the panels and ultimately the power output of the array so that you can select the inverter with the right power rating and make sure the system operates at its maximum potential.
The two common conductor materials used in residential and commercial solar installations are copper and aluminium. Generally, solar cables are required to have resistance against UV light, extreme temperatures, and weather conditions. Solar cables interconnect solar panels and other electrical components of a photovoltaic system. Specific requirements for material used for wiring a solar panel installation are given in national and local electrical codes which regulate electrical installations in an area. The cable could be solid or stranded, where stranded wires consist of many small wires that allow the wire to be flexible. This type is recommended for larger sizes. The current tends to flow on the outside of the wire, thus stranded wires have slightly better conductivity as there is more wire surface.
Figure 2: Solar Cables with MC4 Female and Male Connector on the Left and a Junction Box on the Right.
Importance of a Junction Box
An important feature in the construction of solar modules is the junction box. Attached to the rear of the solar panel, it serves several important functions. The junction box is often an overlooked piece of the solar panel. Usually, pre-installed on the backside of a solar module, installers pay it little mind until connecting panels. A junction box has bypass diodes that keep power flowing in one direction and prevent it from feeding back to the panels. Every string is protected by a diode. The diode is the gateway that allows an endless stream of power. If part of a solar panel is shaded, that string will want to consume power, reversing the flow of electricity. Diodes inside the junction box prevent that from happening.
With the use of a junction box usually cables like MC4 and MC5 are using to connect to other solar panels of the array. A good junction box prevents or keeps the level of corrosion to a minimum at the leads. While purchasing solar modules it is important to check the IP rating of the junction boxes, as if it is not water-resistant then it could short-circuit and damage the entire series of solar modules attached to it. Modern solar modules tend to use MC4 connectors because they make wiring your solar array much simpler and faster. The connectors come in both male and female types which are designed to snap together. They meet the requirements of the National Electric Code, they’re UL certified, and the preferred connection method of electrical inspectors. Due to the locking mechanism of the MC4 connectors, they will not come unplugged and are well suited for outdoor environments. The connectors can be separated but it requires a special MC4 unlocking tool.
To earth, an electrical system is to connect its non-current-carrying components or the body or enclosure of the system to the earth. Solar panel systems are mostly earthed and not grounded. They are near a lightning conductor system. When a transformer less inverter is being used, they are thus less complex in their designs and thus more prone to surges and shocks.
Most earthing cables are made of copper strips instead of a single bare copper rod. This conductor is used to connect all the metallic parts of the PV system.
Earth Plate. This is the part that is hidden underground. It is linked to the earthing joint. It can be a pipe, plate or metallic rod, or plate, which has extremely low resistance for carrying the fault current to the ground safely
How To Select The Right Solar Panel Wire Size?
Finding the right solar panel wire size is crucial to improve the efficiency of your solar power system. If you are confused about choosing the proper wire size, here are the four steps you need to follow.
The total wattage of your solar panels is the most crucial factor in determining the wire sizes you’ll need for your solar system. Remember, the larger the wattage of solar panels, the thicker the wires should be.
Depending upon the amps produced by the solar panel, you can calculate the maximum amps or current produced by the solar array. If you combine two or more solar panels in parallel, add the amps of each solar panel. However, if you place the solar panels in series, the total max amps produced will equal the amps generated by the single panel.
Now it’s time to divide the total wattage of the solar array by 12 and round it up to the nearest 10. For instance, if you are using 2 200 W solar panels with the power station, the total wattage of the solar array will be 400 W. Dividing it by 12 gives you 33.3 A. Hence, you’ll need to have a 34 A charge controller.
Depending upon the rating of the charge controller, you can choose the size of the wires. The ideal solar wire size will directly correspond to the ampere rating of the solar charge controller. You’ll need to consider the distance between the panels and the inverter. If the distance is large, you’ll need to choose a long, thick wire size.
Check out this simple-to-read table and choose the solar cable size that fits your solar system needs.
One-way distance for a pair of wires ( in feet)
Jackery Solar Panels Wire
Jackery SolarSaga Solar Panels are made with monocrystalline silicon solar cells, making them extra efficient. With a high solar conversion efficiency of 25%, it’s ideally suited for all weather conditions and outdoor activities. Teaming up the solar panels with Jackery Explorer Portable Power Station, you can harness the full power of the sun’s energy into electricity.
The multi-layered technology maximizes the efficiency of Jackery SolarSaga solar panels compared to other conventional panels. The best part about Jackery Solar Generator is that it is portable in nature, making it ideal for unexpected power outages, off-grid living, camping, etc. You can extend Jackery’s portable power station and solar panel distance using 16.4 feet Jackery DC Extension Cable (sold separately).
Here is a quick comparison table with the best Jackery SolarSaga Solar Panels and compatible Explorer Portable Power Stations.
Input Output Ports
Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro and 1000 Pro
With the help of six solar panels, you can charge the Explorer 2000 Pro Portable Power in 2.5 hours.
The three kickstands ensure that you can quickly set up the solar system and charge all your gears with the attached power station.
Practical carrying bags available with panels make transportation easy.
Jackery Explorer 240/500/1000 power station.
The ETFE-laminated case of the solar panels extends its lifespan and makes it extra durable.
The lightweight, IP68 waterproofing abilities and foldable nature make it easier to carry during off-grid adventures.
Multi-layered technology makes solar panels highly efficient.
All the Jackery power stations.
Upgraded and dual-sided panels generate electricity from both sides.
It is TÜV SÜD’s prestigious IEC TS63163 certified and has passed 15 professional tests.
Made of 2.8mm low iron toughened glass, the panels are highly durable.
Solar Panel Wires FAQs
Now that we have discussed solar panel wires in detail, here are a few frequently asked questions by buyers.
How much wattage do solar panel wires need?
The wattage of the solar panel wires will depend on the number of solar panels you plan to attach to the power station and the distance between them. It’s worth noting that wires with higher wattage capacity than required will keep your solar panels running efficiently.
What is the most commonly used solar wire?
The most commonly used solar wire is filmed with PVC material. The wire is designed to withstand harsh conditions and UV exposure and protect the entire solar system from temperature fluctuations.
How to protect your solar panel wires?
To protect your solar panel wires, you can follow these simple steps:
- Use a weather-resistant conduit to protect the wires from outdoor elements, such as snow, rain, and UV radiation.
- Insulate the wires to prevent electrical shorts and protect against potential electrical hazards.
- Fasten to secure the wires and prevent them from shifting or damaging the connections.
- Seal the entry and exit points to prevent water and debris from entering.
How do Jackery solar panel wires work?
Jackery solar panel wires are electrical conductors that connect solar panels to the inverter or other components of the solar power system. They work by transmitting the electrical energy generated by the solar panels to the inverter, which converts DC to AC electricity.
The DC extension cable is compatible with Jackery Solar Generator. It is one of the energy-efficient ways to go off-grid and harness the maximum power of the sun’s energy. It combines Jackery SolarSaga Solar Panels and Explorer Portable Power Stations, so you can use solar energy to charge your appliances.
Many homeowners are investing in solar generation solutions to reduce their carbon footprint and high electricity bills. However, to ensure your solar generator works efficiently and charges indoor or outdoor appliances, it’s vital to pick the right size solar cable.
If you’re still apprehensive about which solar panel wire you should choose, consider Jackery DC Extension Cable for solar panels. It is flame-retardant and durable, making it suitable for all outdoor adventures.
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