DIY Solar Panels installation guide can include firstly connecting the first panel’s positive terminal to the next’s negative terminal.
Table Of Content
- What are the pros and cons of DIY solar panels?
- Installation guide: 6 steps for DIY solar panels
- DIY or not, solar power is highly rewarding
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People choose to switch to solar power for a variety of different reasons. Some people are interested in making the transition to clean and renewable energy. Some people are excited about the prospect of decreasing their dependency on the public electrical grid.
But if you want to know the most important reason to go solar, it’s because you’ll save money. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center on solar energy indicated that the primary motivation for consumers who have already installed solar or want to do so in the future is to reduce the amount of money they spend on their monthly power bills.
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Today, it is entirely possible to experience significant cost reductions by utilising the services of a professional solar firm. This is the approach that the majority of individuals use when they go solar. Do-it-yourself (DIY) installations are an option to think about taking into consideration if you want to minimise the initial expenditures as much as feasible. After all, doing things yourself rather than paying someone person to do them for you will save you money in the long run.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of installing solar panels on your own? And what are the steps involved in accomplishing one of these?
I’ll respond to those issues by first examining each significant advantage and disadvantage of a do-it-yourself installation of solar panels, and then proceeding to break down the process of designing and installing solar panels into six straightforward steps.
Do-it-yourself solar is still a significant and expensive commitment, even though it is less expensive than getting solar with a professional solar firm. Before you get too far into the process, you should figure out whether or not installing solar panels on your own is the best option for you.
To assist you in determining whether or not installing solar panels on your own is worth it for you, the following list of potential benefits and drawbacks is provided:
Pro: Cost savings
Installing solar panels in one’s home oneself can save the homeowner potentially thousands of dollars in initial installation fees.
A competent solar business will install solar panels at a cost of approximately USD 2.95 per watt, which is the typical cost. That comes out to $14,750 for an average solar panel system with a capacity of 5 kW (5,000 watts).
On the other hand, the cost of a do-it-yourself solar panel kit with a 5 kW capacity ranges from $1.00 to $1.50 per watt. The overall cost of a do-it-yourself solar installation with a capacity of 5 kW ranges anywhere from $5,000 to $7,500, presuming that the work is carried out in its entirety by the homeowner without the assistance of any outside professionals.
If you choose to install your solar panels yourself rather than hiring a professional, you might end up saving anywhere from $7,250 to $9,759.
The numbers that have been provided are only the averages. There are a lot of factors that can modify these numbers for you, such as the size of your system and whether or not you are eligible for the solar tax credit, which is equal to 30 per cent of the total cost of your solar energy system.
Pro: DIY satisfaction
If you are the type of person who enjoys taking on significant and difficult Do It Yourself tasks, then a solar installation might be exactly what you have been looking for.
You will need to draw on many various sets of skills, such as the ability to manage municipal systems, financial planning, expertise with power tools, electrical work, and even tax accounting, to complete this project successfully.
In addition, there are numerous steps involved in the process of installing solar panels, including research and planning, followed by shopping, obtaining permits, installation, electric wiring, and monitoring.
This is the kind of project that will keep you occupied for a good amount of time, and if you are successful in doing it on your own, you will unquestionably experience a healthy amount of satisfaction in having achieved such a difficult goal.
Let’s now take a look at the cons.
Con: It requires a lot of time and effort to do.
If you are looking for a serious DIY project, installing solar panels on your own can be lucrative, but only if you are up for the task.
If, on the other hand, the extent of your experience with do-it-yourself projects is restricted to the construction of Scandinavian flatpack furniture, you should probably avoid taking on solar installations. It is not only a very time-consuming job, but it also requires a lot of planning and organisational abilities. On average, it takes between one and four months to complete a do-it-yourself solar installation from the point of conception to the point where it is commissioned.
Con: Risk of roof damage or leaks
When it comes to a do-it-yourself solar installation, this is possibly the most significant cost risk.
Unless you have a completely flat roof, installing solar panels will require you to drill a significant number of holes through your roof. If you drill into the wrong area on the roof, you could end up causing structural damage. If you seal and flash the roof incorrectly, you could end up with roof leaks and/or mould problems.
An additional consideration to keep in mind is that a solar installation performed by yourself is likely to render the guarantee on your roof null and void, which means that you will be responsible for the cost of any necessary repairs.
Con: Physical danger
During a solar installation, do-it-yourselfers put themselves in danger from several hazards, the most significant of which being exposure to heights and high-voltage electricity.
Furthermore, the physical dangers are not confined to the actual process of installation alone. If there are any issues with the panels at any point over their lifespan of 25 years, it will be your responsibility to climb back up on the roof and investigate the situation.
Worse of all, if the wiring isn’t connected correctly, your rooftop system could catch fire!
Con: No support for faults or warranty claims
If there is ever a problem with the apparatus, you are on your own to find a solution.
You can always try to get in touch with the manufacturer directly; however, it may be challenging to provide sufficient evidence to support a warranty claim. In addition, you run the risk of nullifying the guarantee if you carry out an installation that is not done correctly.
Con: Inability to claim some incentives
Going solar is far more affordable in several states because of the availability of financial incentives and rebates.
However, to qualify for certain rebates and tax credits, the solar panel installation must be carried out by a properly licenced business. Be sure to investigate what kinds of tax breaks, rebates, and incentives are offered in your area.
Let’s get started on the six stages that need to be taken to bring your do-it-yourself solar panel project from the drawing board to the finished product.
1. Make a DIY plan and design your system
Especially if you don’t have any past expertise working with energy systems, this step of the DIY process is the most difficult one to do successfully.
- Decide on your goals
What do you hope to accomplish with this system? monetary cost reductions? Backup power? Freedom from reliance on the grid?
What you want to accomplish will decide the type of system that will work best for you, the level of difficulty that the installation will require, and the total cost of the endeavour.
- Choose the right solar system type
Your next choice should be the type of solar power system that is most appropriate for the achievement of your objective.
All of the different types of systems share several components, including the fact that they all make use of solar panels, inverters, mounts, and wiring.
There are, however, some significant distinctions, and these differences can affect the expense and complexity of the project. A concise explanation of each will follow.
Solar panel systems that are connected to the grid make use of the grid itself as a battery through a process known as net metering. Grid-connected solar power systems offer the lowest initial investment costs since they require less equipment than other forms of solar power systems. The absence of a backup power source is one of the drawbacks of using these systems.
A hybrid solar panel system is one that still maintains its connection to the grid even though it also incorporates a battery storage solution. Although hybrid systems cost more than grid-tied ones, they provide additional functionality, such as backup power if the grid fails and time-of-use arbitrage, which makes up for the higher cost.
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Off-grid solar system: Solar power plants that are not connected to the grid are referred to as off-grid installations. Because there is no grid to fall back on, the solar system needs a big number of panels and a substantial battery bank to supply the power requirements of the residence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This includes the winter months and/or extended periods of gloomy weather. This type of technology comes with the highest price tag.
- Check solar rules and regulations
There is a diverse set of regulations that govern the installation of solar panels. They can be very different from one state to the next, and even from one municipal jurisdiction to the next.
It is important to be aware that the installation of a solar power system must be carried out by a licenced professional in some jurisdictions before the system can be linked to the power grid. If this is the situation where you live, it will not be possible for you to install a solar system that is grid-tied or hybrid that you have built yourself.
Before you can begin your installation, you will likely need to obtain both a construction permit and a utility permit, even if do-it-yourself projects are legal in your area. In most cases, this will require the presence of a structural engineer or an electrician with a valid licence at the location in question.
After that, once the installation is finished, there will be another series of inspections that need to be passed for your system to be activated and linked to the grid.
- Design the system
This is one of the more difficult steps in the process of building solar panels on your own. You want to make sure that all of the following considerations are taken into account by your system:
- Your energy needs
- The weather and the average amount of sunshine each month will both have a role.
- Solar panel orientation
- Solar panel angle
- Efficacy reduction caused by nature
- Conversion losses
The capacity of the battery and its charging (for hybrid and off-grid systems)
You can see the entire output of the system broken down by month using our solar panel calculator. It takes all of these considerations into account. In addition to this, it will suggest a suitable system size for your house and will also highlight the area of your roof that should be utilised to achieve the greatest possible exposure to the sun. Enter your zip code in the box below to give it a try.
When adding batteries to a hybrid or off-grid system, you will need to take special care to ensure that the batteries are of the appropriate size.
In addition to that, you’ll need to draw up an electrical schematic. They are a necessary component of the applications you submit for permits, and they will function as a sort of blueprint when you place your panels.
- Do the math
Now that you have a system design prepared, it is time to work the numbers, which include your expected costs and savings over the lifetime of the panels, which is typically 25 years.
Search online for “solar equipment” to get an estimate of the prices involved. Find the pricing of a complete, all-in-one do-it-yourself solar kit that corresponds to the size of the solar power system you want to install. This is the easiest approach to accomplish this task.
Your next step is to calculate the amount of money you will save on your monthly utility bills. The first thing you need to do is figure out how much your system produces annually (see figures by location here). If you take that number and double it by the price of electricity in your area, you may get an estimate of the money you will save on your utility bills.
You are now able to compute the return on your do-it-yourself solar panel project now that you have the cost and savings figures.
The formula can be broken down as follows: Your total financial savings can be calculated as the difference between the avoided utility expenditures (such as lower energy bills) and the cost of the solar equipment.
You are now in a position to evaluate the financial viability of a solar-related do-it-yourself project.
2. Begin the permitting process
You are now prepared to get your hands dirty and install some solar panels. But hold on, don’t forget about those pesky laws and ordinances that we discussed in the first step. Before we can get started on any of the work, we need to go back and look at those.
To start, make a list of all of the permission processes that are necessary by the state, your utility, and your authority having jurisdiction over the matter (AHJ). Before beginning any work, you need probably to submit an application for a building permit as well as permission for the utilities. In most cases, this will call for an inspection to be carried out by either an electrician or a structural engineer, or both.
Be sure to adhere to all of the requirements to guarantee that your installation complies with the code and is legal.
3. Choose a supplier and buy your equipment
The following is a list of all of the components that should be included in your solar installation:
- Solar panels
- Solar inverter
- Mounting and racking apparatus and supplies
- Wiring as well as other electrical components and supplies
- Energy storage device (for hybrid and off-grid systems)
- Charge controller (required for some battery systems)
Locating a do-it-yourself solar panel kit that is comprehensive and contains all of the necessary components is the simplest thing you can do. If this is not the case, you will be faced with the arduous chore of selecting individual components for elimination from consideration and then determining whether components are compatible with one another.
We highly recommend that you examine the product reviews on SolarReviews while you are deciding between different kits. This will ensure that you are purchasing from reliable manufacturers.
When selecting a provider, go for one that provides lengthy warranties and excellent customer service after the transaction. I would put a higher priority on both of these aspects than on the price because you would be interacting with the vendor rather frequently to receive technical help and maybe also receive warranty coverage.
4. Install the solar panel system
You should now have successfully applied for all of the relevant permits and approvals, as well as accepted delivery of your solar equipment at this stage. The panels should be put in place at this point.
The actual particulars of the installation will be determined, in large part, by the type of system and the components that you choose to use.
Direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) power conversion is accomplished with the help of microinverters in the grid-tied system that I will describe in the following paragraphs.
Installation of racking and mounting for solar panels is the first task.
Utilize a measuring tape and a chalk line to pinpoint the precise location on your roof where the rack storage system will be built.
The next step is to inspect the roof for sections that are solid enough to drill into for the insertion of lag bolts. It is highly recommended that you make use of a stud finder that is equipped with AC detection to avoid accidentally drilling through an electrical wire.
Before you screw the lag bolts into place, you will need to waterproof the seal by caulking the holes and installing flashing. After the lag bolts have been prepared, the L-feet can be attached to the rails, and then the rails can be locked onto the L-feet.
This method is for a system that uses roof mounts, and it has been explained here. Consider ground mounts as an alternative to attempting an installation on your roof if it does not meet the requirements.
Task 2: Connect the microinverters
Now we will discuss the microinverters. These are some small boxes that will regulate the output of each panel. You will use the bolts that have been given to attach them to the rails. Each box will have a positive and negative wire extending out of it, and these wires will need to be connected in series to provide a connection for each array.
Attached to a rail are many microinverters. After that, each solar panel will be connected to one before it is put on the roof. Enphase is the original image source.
Task 3: Connect the grounding wire
Grounding can be accomplished by stringing copper wire of the proper gauge between the rails. This is a crucial safety measure that will assist in dissipating any abnormalities that may have been generated by a fault or a lightning strike.
Task 4: Install roof junction box
To install a junction box, you will need to make a hole in the ceiling using a drill. You will need to feed the trunk cable from each solar array into the junction box if you have more than one solar array. Because of this, you will be able to connect the power generated by the solar panels to your home.
Task 5: Install the solar panels
The panels need to be hoisted up onto the roof at this point. Each module measures around 65 inches by 39 inches, which is a size that can be difficult for a single person to carry on their own. If your roof is particularly steep, you might want to think about enlisting the help of another person for this stage of the project. And while you’re in that position, don’t forget to wear a safety harness!
The solar panels must now be fastened to the mounting rail to continue. Before you lay them down flat, you need to make sure the wiring is in order. Clip or zip-tie the negative and positive DC wires that are attached to each solar panel so that they do not touch the roof. After the cables have been tucked away in a tidy manner, connect those wires to the microinverters.
In the following step, you will secure the solar panel by attaching the included mid-clamps to the railing on each side of the panel. Install solar panels with end clamps at the end of the rail; not only do they keep the panel in place, but they are also less apparent from the ground.
Task 6: Home run connection
Now that the solar panels are finished, it is time to connect them to the house so that they can begin producing electricity. To accomplish this, you will need to install the following:
- A conduit
- A box is located outside the building.
- A disconnect box in case of emergency
The wires will be guided via the conduit on their journey from the roof junction box to the external junction box. In turn, a connection is made between the junction box and an emergency disconnect. This is a safety feature that gives you the ability to swiftly turn off your solar panel system, and it is a function that is necessary for a lot of different jurisdictions.
Both the external junction box and the emergency disconnect box should be weatherproof, and they should be situated in an area that is not only easily accessible but also makes it possible to connect quickly to the primary electrical panel of the house.
After exiting the emergency disconnect, the wires enter the primary electrical panel of the house.
Your solar panel system is now complete, but there are a few more hurdles to leap through before you can turn it on and begin collecting energy from the sun.
5. Final inspection and interconnection to the grid
When your installation is finished, you should make arrangements with the local AHJ for it to be inspected. The inspector will determine whether or not the system complies with local legislation, as well as whether or not its design is consistent with what was outlined in your blueprints.
To guarantee that it complies with the applicable building codes, the system will also need to pass an electrical examination.
After demonstrating that you comply with the regulations, you will be able to apply to connect to the grid. Either a second metre or a bi-directional (or net) metre will replace the one you already have if you request this service from your utility company. Your home’s power that is exported to the grid can be recorded by the bi-directional metre, which will allow you to obtain credits on your monthly power bill.
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6. Switch on your system
You are now able to commission your system if it has now satisfied all of the standards imposed by the state, the municipality, and the utility company. Launch the solar monitoring app that came with your inverter (these days, practically all inverters come with one) to determine whether or not your photovoltaic system is producing electricity.
Does the application indicate that the system is operating as anticipated? If the answer is affirmative, then you should be pleased! You put forth a lot of effort, but now everything is finally complete.
Congratulations on reading through this long blog entry! It indicates that you are committed to making the switch to solar energy, which is a journey that I am confident you will find to be immensely gratifying. Installing solar panels will make your energy more independent, lower your electric bills, and minimise the number of carbon emissions you produce.
Going the do-it-yourself (DIY) route is an option worth considering if you have a significant amount of spare time on your hands in addition to the necessary abilities.
However, if the thought of installing solar panels yourself seems like more than you can handle, you shouldn’t worry because numerous solar installers have excellent ratings and can perform the task for you.
Whether or not you plan to install the system yourself, we strongly advise you to check out our solar calculator because it will suggest a system for you that will completely offset the cost of your monthly power bills.
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