DIY Solar Panels – Everything You Need to Know
Solar energy provides important benefits for both the end user and the environment. And more and more people are switching to this source of alternative energy.
Although today, going solar is more accessible than ever. Thanks to the increasing number of companies dedicated to this activity, many people prefer the DIY option.
The main reason behind this is to save money.
However, installing a DIY solar system on your own involves a lot of work, including planning, sourcing the materials, etc.
The good news is that the cost of solar panels is getting lower, with the average annual price ranging from $16,000 to $21,000 per 6-kilowatt-hour (KWh).
In this way, if you want to further reduce your initial installation costs and you meet certain requirements, you can opt for a DIY solar system without major complications.
If you are seriously considering the DIY option, in this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know, including the pros, cons, and steps you need to take.
Can you install solar panels on your own?
The DIY option is indeed very tempting for any owner who wants to save money and have full control of the project. But installing a solar panel system can be complicated and dangerous. And that’s why there are companies specializing in this field.
The most critical factor when carrying out an installation of this type is safety. The installation of solar panels must be done correctly to avoid possible failures and accidents in the future.
For this, you should have certain technical knowledge, especially regarding electrical installations.
On the other hand, if you have this type of knowledge, research is always important because if you have never done this type of installation before, there is always the risk of making mistakes.
However, undertaking such a DIY project pays off in the long run. Especially as solar panels typically have a lifespan of 25–35 years. This is a period during which the panels will be constantly providing power, and you will be saving a significant sum of money.
Let’s talk in more detail about the advantages and disadvantages of a DIY solar panel installation.
DIY solar panel installation – Pros
As we already mentioned, saving money is the main goal of a DIY solar system project. Carrying out this type of work on your own can help you save a good amount of money on professional labor.
To be more precise, the DIY option can save you around 10% of the total average cost already mentioned above. This implies design work and labor since you would also have to buy the materials and tools if you don’t already have them in your home.
You have full control of the project
A DIY solar panel installation is perfect if you want full freedom to modify the project to your liking.
This involves several aspects, including the design, the selection of the components, and manual labor. In addition, you can also decide where to get the work done and set your time limits.
This also has the advantage that you can start with a small test project and scale the system according to your specific needs and available time.
If you love to do things on your own, at your own pace, there is nothing better than a DIY project at home.
While it is true that these types of projects involve a lot of work, like having to deal with various necessary aspects such as legal permissions, managing a budget, research, buying materials, and perhaps some tools, the satisfaction that you’ll get if you manage to finish the project successfully is priceless.
DIY solar panel installation – Cons
Time and effort
You’ll need to make sure you have enough time and the necessary skills to be able to carry out this type of project.
Keep in mind that if it’s a large project for your entire home, you’ll need to apply for some permits from the local government.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a friend or family member who can help you complete the project, things could get complicated.
While many solar panel kits for DIYers come pre-packaged with everything you need to make things easier, a minimum level of technical knowledge is always required to get the job properly done.
On the other hand, depending on the city where you live, it’s likely that you’ll need legal authorization to do this type of work in your home, which is usually done by professionals.
Risk of roof damage or leaks
A DIY solar installation carries the risk of causing structural damage to your home. Depending on the place where you want to install your panels, you could end up breaking a part of the structure, which could end up causing some type of long-term damage — like leaks, for example.
In addition, there is also the risk of exposing yourself to high-voltage electricity — and the consequent risk of electric shocks and fires — and other dangers such as falls or injuries when using certain tools.
Although solar panels have a useful life of around 25 to 35 years, there is always the risk of failures occurring during that time, especially when there are some poor-quality components in the installation.
If you don’t have a manufacturer’s fault warranty, you’ll have to do the repairs yourself, which means an additional investment of money, time, and effort.
How to DIY solar panels
If in any way, you are determined to go solar with a DIY project, in this section we’ll present the steps you should follow. But before getting into the matter, first, take note of the following factors:
Type of solar panels
First, do your research on which is the most appropriate type of solar panel for you according to your specific needs.
There are several types of solar panels, and in general, we can classify them by their size, efficiency, and cost.
The first thing you should do is calculate what your specific energy consumption needs are. This will help you determine the size of your solar panel installation.
The next thing is to determine what budget you have, and based on this, decide on one or another brand of panel. Keep in mind that more expensive doesn’t always mean better.
The efficiency (percentage of solar energy captured by a panel) can be determined by the type of solar panel: crystalline or thin-film solar panels. Usually, crystalline panels are more efficient than thin-film panels and have a longer lifespan — around 40 years.
Where to install
The location and size of the installation area are also determining factors when planning a solar panel installation in your home.
Although most of these installations are usually carried out on the roofs of houses, in some cases, there may be obstacles that prevent this type of installation, such as trees, buildings, or even mountains. The other option is your patio.
In any case, you should research and calculate very well which is the best place to install your set of panels to maximize the amount of sunlight that they will receive, since any minimum element that casts a shadow on any part of your installation will reduce its efficiency.
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Number of panels you’ll need
The average number of solar panels needed for a typical home is around 20 panels to cover all of a home’s energy needs. Of course, this number will vary depending on your location, the characteristics of your panels (especially efficiency), nominal power, and your consumption habits. You can use this free online tool to help you calculate this.
4 Steps to installing DIY solar panels
Plan your installation
Determine how your installation should be and which materials are necessarily based on your needs.
Do you need power for a few small devices or a complete installation for your home?
Choose the right place for installation and the type of solar panel that suits you best.
Get all the necessary permits and purchase all the materials and tools you need to get the job done.
Remember that if your solar installation is on-grid, you’ll need these three elements: inverters, a distribution board, and a bidirectional meter. You’ll also need racks and mounting brackets.
As for tools, you’ll need a drill, a socket wrench, batteries, mounting adhesive, and gutters.
Install the racking and the panels in their places
When you have all the materials at hand, you can start the installation process. If the installation is on the roof of your home, you will need to attach the racks using self-drilling screws.
These materials will give your panels firmness and prevent them from moving out of place by accident. For its installation, you can use the screwdriver drill and the socket wrench.
After that, place the fastening plates next to the panels. Here you can use an Allen key to tighten the plate so that you ensure the panels won’t move if there is a lot of wind.
Connect the wires to the solar panels
The next step is to connect the cables to the panels and run them into your home.
At this point, you must be very careful with the connections, as they must correctly match the positive and negative poles.
Lay the gutters over the wires to protect them and use the jigsaw and a blade to cut through the plastic.
You can also use mounting tape on the bottom of the gutters to make sure they will stay securely in place.
Once you have finished the work on the outside of your home, you’ll need to go inside and make the electrical connections to allow the operation of your solar panels.
At this point, connect the dimmer to the junction box — the same place where you’ll be connecting the wires coming from your panels.
It’s time to install the power inverter. The function of the inverter is to transform direct current into alternating current so that household appliances and other devices can use it safely.
Now, you will have to fix cables to the edges of the battery and then to the electrical outlet of the house to generate the necessary energy for your home.
Finally, contact the corresponding authorities and request authorization to activate the installation. Wait for the approval and verify that your solar installation works correctly.
Having a solar system for your home is one of the best ways to contribute to caring for the environment, as well as being another step towards a more sustainable, less expensive, and independent lifestyle.
You have two paths, DIY or hire the services of professionals.
The path you decide to follow will depend on several factors. But in general, if you have the tools, time, and knowledge, you can carry out a DIY solar panel installation to enjoy all the benefits of solar energy for you and your family.
Can I DIY solar panels?
Yes, as long as you have the time and necessary knowledge, you can try this project on your own. However, keep in mind that there are several obstacles that you will have to overcome, such as legal authorization, risk of damage to the structure, and possible injuries, just to name a few.
What’s the main benefit of DIY solar panels?
The main benefit that DIYers look for in any DIY project, including solar panel installations, is cost savings. These savings are around 10% of the average cost of a solar panel installation by professionals. Of course, there are other benefits too, like full control of the project design and DIY satisfaction.
How many panels do I need for a typical DIY solar panel installation?
Usually, this number is around 20 panels to cover all the electric energy needs of an average home. This number will vary depending on several factors, like the installation place, the characteristics of your panels, nominal power, and your consumption habits.