There are a lot of people out there who like to do house projects on their own. If you're that kind of person, you may have considered installing your own solar energy system. But is DIY Solar Energy System installation the best option for you? There is a lot of information to consider when making the decision to do it yourself. The bottom line for most solar DIY jobs is typically cost. Many homeowners who choose to tackle the job themselves believe that they will be saving money. The other reason you might install your own system might be that your home is in a remote location. Some places are just too far for it to be feasible for a professional installation. Here are a few of the finer points of solar installation for you to consider before you commit to doing it yourself.
Determining your needs
First thing you have to do is determine whether or not solar is the right choice for your home. Do you live in an area where solar power make sense? Is it sunny enough to make it worth your investment? Living in places that are remote can could necessitate the need for a solar energy system. You must also consider whether or not you will want to use batteries to store the energy produced by your panels. If this is the case, you will need to install the correct type of inverter. If you have hopes to connect to the main power grid and sell your excess energy to the power company, you may want to consider professional installation.
Now you need to explore the type of system you want to install. Do you plan to use the system to supplement your energy needs or is your goal to provide for all your energy needs? If you only need a few small panels as a backup source of energy, then DIY could be the right move. But if you are hoping to provide for all of your energy needs or you plan to use solar as your primary source of energy, then professional installation may be your best plan of attack.
There are 3 major steps to consider when making the choice to purchase a solar energy system: design, purchase, and installation. Don't let cost alone be a determining factor. Just buying panels and throwing them on your roof sounds easy enough, but there are a lot of factors that can affect the efficiency of a solar energy system.
The basics of solar designs are simple enough. You need to calculate the amount of power you need to produce. You need to calculate the number of batteries you need if you are planning to store energy for future use. Once you know how many batteries you need, you have to figure out the number of panels needed. To produce enough energy to fulfill the energy needs of a typical home, you can just take a look at your current energy utility statements. You'll just need to take an average of your monthly usage for one year to figure out your needs. It's important to remember that if you are not on the grid, then you'll need to have enough energy to handle even your heaviest usage days or you'll run out.
This is where it starts to get trickier. You need to figure out what type of solar charge controller you need. The solar charge controller allows the solar energy created by your panels to be stored in batteries. It also ensures that your batteries aren't being overcharged. The charge controller also keeps the energy from flowing back into the panels and draining the batteries over night.
There are two major technologies when it comes to solar charge controllers. PWM, or pulse width modulation controller, is most effective when your solar output and battery storage capacity are matched up. This allows the voltage to be drawn directly into the battery and uses more of the solar power as it charges your battery. The other technology in solar charge controllers is the MPPT, maximum power point tracking, this type of controller is best for systems that aren't wired in to match the voltage of the battery and the solar panels.
The little things
You need to figure out what type of inverter you need if you plan to run any AC loads. If you plan to only run DC loads, then you won’t need an inverter. There are also a few other items that you must consider, including what fuses and breakers you'll be using for over current protection, what type of breaker boxes you plan to use, how you'll be mounting your system, and what sizes of wire you'll be needing.
Now that you have a design, you need to purchase the panels and installation materials. Be sure to do your homework and research the solar panels you plan to buy. There are many different brands out there and quality and price are not one and the same. It's also important to consider any rebates, tax credits and solar incentives. There may be a requirement that could alter your decision when it comes to buying your panels. Some rebates and incentives are based on certain brands of solar panels, or require that your panels be from local companies.
Most states offer a tax incentive for installing a solar energy system. There are federal incentives available as well as rebates. Be sure to check for rebates offered by the power company, solar panel manufacturers and the like. There are also financing options available when you purchase your system depending on where you buy your system. Be sure to shop around and get quotes from multiple companies and compare the potential costs before making your decision.
If you are planning to install your panels with your own two hands, it's important to keep safety in mind. Solar panels, racking equipment, power tools and everything else that you need for installation should be ready to go before you start. Solar panels are somewhat delicate, and they can be heavy and cumbersome too,. It would be advisable to have someone there to help you with the installation process.
The racking system is like the skeleton of your solar energy system. The racking system is what holds your panels in place and proper installation is vital to the efficiency and lifespan of your system. You may want to try buying a pre-made racking system. If you are a capable welder, you can try designing your own. If your racking system isn't sufficient, then the whole installation will be ruined.
Is your roof suitable to support a system?
Another major consideration when deciding if you should DIY is the safety and warranty factors. There are typically lifetime warranties attached to your solar energy system, but improper installation or a roof that hasn't been inspected may void that warranty.
Before installation, you should take into consideration the state of your roof. The typical lifespan of a solar energy system is around 20-40 years depending on the system you buy. It's vital that your roof be in good repair or even new before installing a system. If you were to install a solar energy system on an older roof and then need to replace or repair that roof later, it could be a costly mistake. To replace or repair the roof, you'll most likely have to uninstall your solar panels and then reinstall them. Some solar energy systems can weigh quite a lot, so it's important to consider if your roof can bear the load.
Will you really save if you DIY? If you feel that you'll be saving loads of money by doing it yourself, you could be mistaken. Buying and installing your solar panels may seem like you're getting a great deal until you factor in all the additional costs and any incentives that you may or may not qualify for.
Give us a call here at Enlyten and let us help you save money and hassle with a complete done-for-you solution.