Installing Solar Panels By Yourself Or Solar Installer - Pros And Cons - Solar Tech Advisers

Installing Solar Panels by Yourself or Solar Installer – Pros and Cons

Installing Solar Panels
Installing Solar Panels

A solar energy system[1] allows homeowners to produce electricity while reducing their dependence on fossil fuel generating technologies and have significant savings / reductions on their utility bills. 

Now, this brings us to the critical question: whether you can do the solar installation of the solar energy system on your own or not, and this is precisely the discussion point of this article.

Those who want to save money on both solar installations done by a company can save the installation costs by doing it on their own, but there is a way to go about it. 

Let’s find out more details about whether you should be a solar installer or hire a solar installation company [2]. 

Can You Buy Solar Panels and Install Them Yourself?

Installing Solar Panels
Solar Panel Installation – Tightening the Mid Clamps

Electricity costs are not very straightforward to understand especially when you have plenty of devices to use at your disposal and so for that, many solar equipment sellers will ask you to provide you them with an electric bill to understand your typical electricity consumption. And based on that they’re able to generate the required amount of solar electricity needs for your house.

Now, coming back to the question, can you buy a solar energy system from suppliers and install them yourself to save your installation costs? The answer is yes. To do that, there are a few essential things that you will have to consider. This article helps to explain the dos and don’ts of solar panel installation; we will help you understand what needs to be done to get renewable energy.

But, before sharing the necessary details about how to install solar panels on your own to start using renewable energy, let’s check out some reasons why you should and shouldn’t install a residential solar system on your own.

Pros

Cost Savings 

Since you will be doing a solar installation on your own, it means that you will save money on labor costs. 

If you contact a professional, they will typically charge you $2.85 per watt. However, the price may vary from company to company. 

So, if the solar panels you have are 5kW, which is 5000 watts, you will spend $14,000. To compare it with the DIY solar panel kit, you will only be paying $1.00-$1.50 per watt. 

If you do the installation on your own, you will spend between $5000 to $7500 in total for the 5kW solar panels, plus your time and few accessories you would need to get your solar up and running

As you can see, you save almost $6500-$9000 when you go the DIY way. Although, these are in general average costs for self installers, but these  may change based on permits and other requirements by the state. Hence, yes, a professional solar installation will cost you more than DIY. 

Mental Satisfaction 

Those who like to do things on their own will gain immense satisfaction after installing the solar energy system on their own. 

You will be responsible for a lot of things, for example, finding out the solar tax credits for an average home, learning about solar technology and how it works, doing financial planning and understanding your budget, negotiating municipal permits and processes,working through red tape and finally taking care of any electrical work that may come as a surprise.

When it comes to purchasing solar energy systems, there are many that things go into the buying process which includes , such as researching solar panels, planning to buy them, shopping for them, electrical wiring, etc. 

The entire project will keep you busy for a reasonable amount of time. And once you are done with the whole process, you will certainly feel good about it and possibly brag to your friends and neighbours that you were able to install your own solar panels

Cons 

Consumes Time 

If you have never done solar panel installation before, be ready to spend a lot of time. Before the process, you will have to spend time thinking about where to install the panels. 

Everything will be on you- from the number of residential solar panels required to buying the right solar energy system size. 

There are many things that you will have to figure out, and that will take a bulk of your time. For example, you may think about solar leases or buying the complete system, figuring out the number of panels you need, what kind of inverters you need to choose from, any additional digging / trenching work and a lot more

Net metering is also another thing you would need to figure out with utilities,  and whether the cost of installation is worth it or not 

Risks 

To install solar panels, you will need a flat or a pitched roof. One mistake while drilling and you will cause structural damage to your property.  If you have never done this before, our suggestion would be not to go for it because wrong penetrations  can lead to roof leakage and will void of any roof warranty, unless your warranty explicitly allows solar panel installations as part of the T and Cs

Physical Danger – To do solar panel installation, you will deal with high voltage electricity and heights—two things that can lead to physical dangers. 

You can’t take any risk while taking care of the wiring setup. Also, if you are scared of heights, imagine being on the rooftop and trying to do solar panel installation. 

Warranty Claim Issue 

Since you will do the setup process on your own, you may have a hard time defending yourself when any of the parts of the solar panel is at fault. 

After educating yourself  of  all the pros and cons,  and if  you are willing to take the risk of installing the solar panel on your own, go ahead and follow next steps.

Is It Difficult to Install Solar Panels Yourself?

Installing Solar Panels
Installer lining up the panels to complete the installation

Yes, installing solar panels is a difficult job to do. However, there are a few caveats that you will have to keep in mind. For example, you will need to have basic understanding  about solar technology, You need to have basic knowledge about how to do electrical work.   and finally you need to realize that solar installation will take time. It can take days to weeks, depending on your skills and knowledge. 

Think About Your Goals 

First things first, how much kilowatt hour does your house need? If you want to use it for running your air conditioner or heat the pool, you will need to increase your kwh usage and thereby  more to your energy costs. 

So, think of your goals appropriately. For example, do you want to install solar panels for only power backup, or do you want to save money on local utility or power bills?.

Consider the total cost you will have to pay for the whole system, for example, the number of solar panels and whether you need a battery bank or not for storage. 

Select the Solar System Type 

While searching for solar energy systems , you will come across multiple system types. Few features will remain constant in each type, such as solar panels, wiring, mounting, and inverter. 

Grid-Tie Solar Panel System: This type will use the grid via net metering. It will ask for less equipments (Solar panels, Inverters, Racks, wiring systems and other components), which means the upfront cost will be less. However, they don’t allow backup power. There are options to add battery systems to the grid

Off-Grid Solar System: Then, you have an off-grid system. They work independently, which is why the name. But because there’s no electric grid / utility, your system will require a battery bank to store all the solar energy and hence the system cost will be purely solar panels, inverters, racks and the battery banks.

Solar Regulations and Rules – you need to check for solar regulations that are applicable to  your city / state requirements. Please note that solar rules and regulations will vary from one state to another. 

If your state doesn’t allow you to connect the grid on your own and only lets you do it through a licensed solar contractor / electrical contractor then  DIY is out of the picture. It maybe possible only in unincorporated or counties that DIY maybe allowed. But your best source is to check with authorities in your area and see what may or may not be available.

However, if allowed in your state and locality, you need to look for building permits. Take care of this before buying the rooftop system. 

Figure out the local building permits and be done with an onsite inspection. 

Start with the Permitting Process 

Once you are clear about the solar regulations and rules, you need to apply for a building permit. Once it is done, then only you can begin the installation part. 

Follow the requirements and also make sure everything is in place. Meaning that the installation process is legal and code-compliant. 

Buy the Solar Panel and Equipment 

For a solar panel setup, you will need solar panels, a solar inverter, general electrical supplies, such as wiring, racking and mounting equipment, a battery system, and a charge controller (optional depending on the battery system). The best option for you is to purchase a complete DIY solar panel kit, which will include everything you need. If not, you will have to figure out everything on your own for the solar electric panel and other equipment.

Before buying a DIY solar rooftop system, ensure to check the seller’s authenticity. Remember, not every solar panel is created equally. Look at reviews and research. Also, you will have to connect with your local utility company to hook up the electrical grid.

If you are buying it from a supplier, better to go with one who provides extended warranties. It’s always better to consider this factor rather than the cost of the solar panel system.

The Process for Installing Solar Panels 

Installers checking for alignment of the Solar Panels

The installation process of the solar panel will depend on the type of solar panel you have. However, most DIY solar panel kits will come with instructions that will help you install the system. 

Step 1: Mark the Spots

Take chalk and mark the necessary spots where you will install the system on the roof. Use an AC detector to ensure that you are not drilling into the power line. Mark the spots on structurally sound spots.

When the lag bolts are ready, go on and install the L-feet, and Caulk the holes with a waterproof seal, don’t forget to lock the rails. The process that we explained here is for self-roof mounting.

Step 2: Attach the Microinverters 

Use the bolts that have come along with the kit and connect the microinverter[3] to the rails. Look at the negative and positive wires and connect them carefully to create a solar panel connection.

Step 3: Work on the Grounding Wire

Take the copper wire and start connecting it all across the rails. This will ensure that the solar panel or system will remain safe in case of any anomalies caused by a fault or lightning strike. 

Step 4: Install the Roof Junction Box

The junction box will go to the roof. Drill a hole and install it. If you need more than one array, you will have to use a trunk cable and add it to the junction box. 

Step 5: Add the Solar Panels 

Ask someone for help while installing the solar panels. The solar panels can be anywhere between 39 to 69 inches. First, you need to install the solar panels onto the mounting rail. Then, make sure the wiring is in place. 

Zip-tie or clip the positive and negative DC wire making sure they don’t touch the roof. Now, go to the microinverter and connect the wires. Use the mid-clamps so that the solar panel remains in its place. 

Step 6: Finish the Rest of the Connection 

You will need a conduit, an emergency disconnect box, and an external junction box for the rest of the connection. 

Both the emergency disconnect box and external junction box should be waterproof. Install them in an area so that you can easily access them. Ensure the emergency disconnect box and external junction box are close to the main electrical panel of your home. 

Do A Final Inspection of the Solar Energy System 

Now that the process is complete, call a local Authority having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Inspection has to be done by a Licensed professional Inspector who will be a City/County official. The expert will check if everything is as per the local ordinances. Also, they will do an electrical inspection.

The solar system has to pass the code-compliant of an electrical inspection. Once everything is ready, you can go on and switch on the system. 

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Solar Panel Setup?

Depending on where you live, the installation costs of a solar panel setup will vary. However, after the federal tax credit is done, you can expect to pay roughly $12,000. 

If the solar panel is low cost, after the tax credit and incentive is decided, you may pay up to $5000. However, for Tier 1 system, be ready to pay almost $25000or more. You will have to find out about solar tax credits.

Apart from tax credit and the main cost, there will be other costs involved as well. Most of the expenses that an installation company will charge will mainly be for the panels. There will be operational costs, labor costs, and more. 

Do You Need to Be an Electrician to Install Solar Panels?

Essentially, you need to have an electrical license to do the installation work for solar panel installation. If not, you should do it under the supervision of a licensed electrician or solar installer.

The reason why an electrician or a solar installer should do the installation process is that it shows they are competent to take care of the work and understands the local solar regulations and laws. 

Since an electrician will do the work, it means that in case anything happens during the installation process, the electrician will take responsibility for the damage. 

Moreover, experience matters for the installation process of solar energy systems. The installation process is a high-risk job, which is why one needs to be careful. 

Wrapping Up 

Although you can save some money by going for a DIY solar kit and installing the system on your own, do remember the cons that we have highlighted above. 

Installing solar panel should be done in the right way, If not, while installing, you may end up damaging the roof or physically hurting yourself if you don’t have the proper safety precautions or damaging the solar equipment itself . Indeed, there will be upfront solar panels cost, but you will be sure that the job has been done by a professional, which means the installation process will be done correctly.

And this is the main reason why you should go to a professional to do the installation process for the residential solar power system. So, go on and contact the right installation company to do the actual solar panel installation and save on your electricity bills. 

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