January 22, 2021

Is DIY Solar Installation A Sound Alternative?

Solar Energy

In the United States, we have built a country on innovation and self-sufficiency. We love being able to skip the middleman, save money and have the satisfaction of being able to achieve our goals through our own efforts without relying on anyone else.

To be sure, there are many projects in our homes and otherwise that we can tackle on our own. But, when it comes to installing a solar panel system on your home, the job is more complex than most people realize. There are several necessary steps that are required before you can activate your system. Let’s take a look at the installation process and see if it is something you might be able to do on your own.

Assessment

If you’re going to install a solar panel system on your home, you need to do three things: determine how many solar panels you will need to install based on your electric demand, determine if your roof is capable of supporting the full weight of the required solar panel system, and where the sunlight hits your roof the most. These three things will dictate the size and location of your system. It’s best if you hire a professional engineer to assess your roof and provide you with the information necessary to make an informed decision.  

Permitting

After you have determined the proper size and amount of panels required for your needs, you’ll have to file the proper paperwork. At the very least, this will mean obtaining the approval of your electric utility, since most home solar systems are grid tied.

This is important for safety reasons. You can’t just install a solar system onto your home that feeds into the electric grid without the necessary precautions. Doing so would put linemen at risk during a power outage because they would be unaware of the independent power flow into the lines. That is why all utilities require a breaker switch that automatically shuts off the power from your solar system to the grid in the event of an outage, and that requires paperwork and electrical engineering approval before you can install your system.

Not only will you have to obtain the approval of your electric utility, you’ll also have to obtain the approval of the city and/or any homeowner’s association that may have jurisdiction over your home. Again, these approvals require professional engineering plans and safety protocols for acceptance. If you’re doing this alone, it can take a long time to sort out.

DIY Solar Panel Installation

Electrical Engineering And Installation

It’s important to remember that solar panel systems are electric devices. They produce direct current (DC) power. This is different from the type of electricity used in our homes, which is alternating current (AC) power. That means the DC power must be converted to AC power for you to be able to use it in your home. This involves properly installing what’s called an “inverter” to convert the DC power to AC power. If you’re not a licensed electrician, this can be confusing. Moreover, properly installing the wiring goes way beyond replacing an electrical outlet in your home. This is important, because if the wiring is installed improperly, it can be a fire hazard. So, it’s best if you hire a licensed electrician to do this for you. Moreover, a licensed electrician’s approval and certification of the project is required by most utilities and city governments for approval.

You’ll also need a professional electrician to properly install the wiring and net metering device on your home. If you are a professional electrician, you’ll need to follow the guidelines mentioned above to properly install your system. Being a licensed electrician is important but doesn’t guarantee the proper installation of a rooftop solar panel system.

Finally, you’ll need to figure out how to mount the racking on your roof in the right place without causing water leaks. Simple caulking isn’t going to be enough. You will have to properly seal and flash any penetrations to guarantee a watertight fit. Anything less will cause a leak in your roof.

Safety

Once you have completed the proper assessments, you need to have a plan on how to install your solar panel system safely. Working on a pitched roof, as most homeowners have, requires a safety harness and line secured to a solid point to prevent falling in case of a misstep. It’s also advisable to rent a lift so that you won’t have to carry each panel up a ladder. Panels can weigh from 30-50 lbs. and lugging up 20-30 panels on a ladder can be exhausting, not to mention unsafe.

Warranties

When you install a home solar panel system on your own, this often means you forfeit manufacturer’s warranties. Not only that, but you pay a higher price for the solar panels you purchase because you can’t buy them in bulk like professional installers. Sure, some home improvement retailers offer DIY solar kits, but you get what you pay for. These are often not the best quality and are meant to provide only minimal output.

Most reputable solar panel manufacturers require their panels to be professionally installed for their warranties to be valid. That means if you DIY, you’re out of luck. That also goes for the other parts of your system such as the inverters, racking, meters and wiring. If it’s not professionally installed by a licensed and certified solar panel installer, the manufacturer will most likely void their warranty.

So…..

Given these requirements, is it really a good idea to install a solar panel system yourself? Sure, we are professional solar panel installers and we know how to do it best. But, does that mean you can’t do it on your own? No. But, you should understand that it will most likely cost more for a certified electrician, engineer and a lift rental that’s required to properly and safely install your own solar panel system. And, you need be willing to spend the extra time to complete all the permitting and paperwork involved.

When you consider the actual time and expense of doing it on your own and what is required, you’ll probably be out more money going this route than hiring a qualified installer like Shine. The choice is yours.

Is solar a good fit for your home?

Find out now!

If you are considering going solar, the first step is to get a solar savings report to determine if solar is right for you and your home. Click the button below to get your solar savings report now!

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Nick Gorden

Nick Gorden is the Co-founder and CEO of Shine Solar. Nick’s energy, enthusiasm, and leadership is contagious and has contributed to attracting a talented and successful executive team. His time is focused on strategic growth, maintaining profitability and creating the optimal customer experience. Nick has started, managed and sold companies within the communications, mortgage lending, insurance and real estate industries resulting in tens of millions of dollars of market value to investors.

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