In recent years, thousands of homeowners have equipped their homes with solar panel systems. Between the potential for a reduced monthly utility bill and substantial tax benefits, you may be able to save thousands of dollars by installing solar panels.
Some homeowners have even opted for DIY solar panels in their homes. While this is a great alternative for some people, it may not be for everyone. To help you decide whether DIY solar panels are right for you, we have created this comprehensive guide. In it, we will discuss the pros and cons of DIY solar panels and cover the basics of installation.
The DIY Solar Panels Installation Process
Many homeowners that are exploring the benefits of a solar system have questions about DIY solar panels. When they are approached in the right way, DIY solar panels installation can save you money by eliminating labor costs.
However, it is important to carefully plan out your install before you make any purchases. This will keep you from over-purchasing items or having to make multiple orders down the road.
As a part of your planning process, you should calculate how much power you need to generate. Some homeowners may only want to power a few electrical outlets and lights, while others want to be able to run their entire home from their solar panels.
Regardless of your individual goals, the process for DIY solar panels installation should involve the following four steps.
Design the System
Perhaps the most important part of DIY solar panels installation is the design process. This involves customizing your solar panel kits to include the desired amount of equipment. Doing so will require a basic understanding of your average power consumption and how much energy that you want to produce through your solar system.
First, decide which kinds of appliances you’d like to power through your solar system. Are you looking for a power source that will allow you to charge your mobiles in the event of an emergency or do you want to power all of your appliances in the event of an outage?
Consider how many hours of usage you want to get from your devices. If you’re simply using your system as a backup to traditional on-grid power, this number may be low.
Lastly, determine how many hours of direct sunlight you’ll be able to get on your property.
This may all seem a little bit complex. Fortunately, this helpful solar panel calculator can help you to determine what kinds of equipment that you need. Simply input the requested information and you will be well on your way to the perfect setup for DIY solar panels for your home.
Purchase the System
Next comes the easy part: Buying your DIY solar panels. In addition to panels, home solar panel kits should include inverters and mounting equipment. Batteries may or may not be included, depending on the package that you choose, but they will be a necessary part of your photovoltaic system as a whole. Make sure that all of the items that you need are included in your purchase.
Once your equipment arrives, it will be time to install your DIY solar panels. As you might expect, the first step in this process involves setting up your mounts. These mounts can either be placed in your yard or on the roof, depending on the type that you purchase.
Ground mounts are much safer to install, but they are also more labour intensive. This is because you will have to build the entire frame that will support the panels. Roof mounts are risky to install because the work is done from a greater height. However, the installation process itself is relatively simple.
Connect the Panels to the Mount
After you have your mounting structure assembled, you can connect your panels to the mount. The exact process will vary slightly depending on the style of mounts that you purchase. However, your kit should include brackets and equipment to secure the panels in place.
Once the panels are securely fitted to the brackets, you can install the solar inverter and battery. You will need to connect the inverter to your electrical panel. Depending on your local regulations, you may have to request permission to connect your system to the grid.
How Much Does It Cost to Install Solar Panels in General?
Solar panels have become significantly cheaper in recent years. With that being said, there are many factors that contribute to the cost of solar panels. This includes the style (roof or ground mount), the number of panels, and battery size. Additional equipment such as a solar monitoring system will also add to the cost.
For example, small solar panel kits that are used for RVs or tiny homes can be purchased for a relatively affordable price. On the other hand, a solar system that is designed to power an entire home will cost much more.
In addition to the overall size, the style of the solar system that you choose will also influence your total cost. There are three primary solar system types. The first is known as a grid-tie system. This type of system allows you to access the utility grid while simultaneously saving money on monthly utility bills.
The next type is grid-tie with energy storage. This style of system functions much like the first, but also includes batteries to store unused power. This has a higher initial cost but results in more long-term savings.
The third type is an off-grid solar system. These systems are the most costly but are necessary if you will need electricity in a place in which grid-based power is not accessible.
DIY solar panels can save you money and reduce the overall cost of your project.
Benefits to DIY Solar Panels
There are two primary benefits to DIY solar panels.
They Are More Affordable than Professional Installation
The most prominent benefit of DIY installation is cost. Depending on the size of your system, installation can cost thousands of dollars. You can mitigate these costs by spending time on the design and installation of your own system.
It is important that you do your research before making any purchases. Shop around to ensure that you are getting a great deal. Also, remember that cheaper is not always better. Attempting to cut costs too much can leave you with a subpar solar system that does not last.
Small Off-Grid Projects Are Easier to Install by Yourself
Another major benefit of DIY solar panels is that they are great for off-grid projects. Whether you need tiny home solar or are looking to power a small camper, these small off-grid kits are quite easy to install. DIY solar is also great for marine applications, like powering appliances on a houseboat.
However, going completely off the grid may not be ideal for the average homeowner. Having access to the primary utility grid is the safest way to ensure that you have a stable power supply at all times.
Drawbacks to DIY Solar
While DIY solar panels have their share of benefits, this approach is not without risks. Above, we mentioned that the design process will be the most important part of your solar project. Taking time to conduct thorough research is essential if you want to successfully complete your DIY installation.
Here are some of the things you’ll need to keep in mind for DIY solar panels installation:
Even though solar systems are a way to produce renewable energy, they are still subject to various regulations. When you opt to use DIY solar panels, you will need to navigate these regulations without the help of an experienced professional.
Virtually any utility company will require that your installation be completed by a licensed installer when you want to connect to the grid. The goal of this restriction is to prevent incidental damage to essential electrical equipment.
With a DIY installation, you will not be able to earn passive income by selling excess power back to the utility company. While you will still be able to save money on your electric bills, the net benefit of your solar system will not be as significant as it might be with professional installation.
Before you purchase your DIY solar panels, research your local guidelines. This will allow you to gauge the complexity of the paperwork involved and decide whether it is something that you are comfortable to do on your own.
Lack of Warranties
Another major concern with DIY installation is the lack of warranties. While small DIY solar panels will only cost you a few hundred dollars, attempting to power your entire home can be very expensive. You should decide if you are willing to gamble with your equipment by doing a DIY solar panels installation.
The reason that manufacturers do not offer a warranty for DIY installations is that the panels could be damaged by the homeowner. If your panels do need repair in the future, the warranty can quickly offset the cost of a professional installation.
Complexity of the Project
Solar systems include very few moving parts. This leads many homeowners to believe that they are not complicated. However, nothing could be further from the truth. A DIY solar panels installation is quite complex. It requires a certain level of expertise. Unless you are comfortable and confident in your ability to work with complex electrical systems, it may be best to work with a professional.
A professional solar panel installation technician is likely to have extensive experience with a variety of solar solutions. Homeowners that choose to have professional installation also have the added protection of a warranty. On the off chance that an installer makes a mistake, they will correct the issue free of charge.
By weighing the pros and cons of DIY solar panels installation, you can make an informed decision and ensure the success of your project.
DIY Solar Tips
With a thorough plan in place, you can find the perfect solar solutions for your home, tiny house, or RV. Remember that proper planning is the most important part of your solar project.
Get Multiple Quotes from Different Installers
What is the best way to compare costs? Like any major purchase, when you plan out your solar project, you should seek out multiple quotes from a variety of sources. This will allow you to directly compare the costs of DIY solar panels installation against a professional installation.
The primary reason that most homeowners opt for DIY installs is cost savings. With that being said, you may be shocked at the relatively low cost of a professional installation. In fact, most homeowners only save about 10% by opting for DIY solar panels.
Consider the Costs of Repair
While a warranty from the manufacturer of your solar panel system will require a professional installation, there is another factor that you should keep in mind when you’re considering the benefits of a DIY installation. When a professional technician is the one to install your system, they are likely to warranty the labor they perform. Together with the manufacturer’s warranty, this can be a significant source of protection for your investment.
When you compare the potential cost savings of a DIY solar panels installation against just a single major repair, you will find that professional installation is cheaper in the long run. For this reason, many homeowners prefer to use a professional installer, which can protect their investment with a long-term warranty.
The complexity and cost of your project should be the primary factors that determine your final decision.
If you would like to learn more about DIY solar panels or obtain pricing, Renogy can help! We offer a wide variety of solar panel solutions, including small DIY kits and more complex residential solutions.
We also have several tools to help you design your project and calculate the overall costs for your system. At Renogy, we stand behind our products and our workmanship. Partner with us today to take advantage of the many benefits of solar power systems!