Here in our Solar Blog, you'll find relevant articles for homeowners, businesses, and enthusiasts looking to learn more about solar. Want to know if solar is practical? Want to know how big a solar array is needed to power your home? Wondering whether to make a ground mount or a roof mount? Find it all here!
Many people find the price point of $2 per Watt for a home solar kit to be an affordable price, but are hindered from going solar by the cost of installation. Many wonder, "how hard can it be? Can I install my own solar panels?"
Luckily, for most people the answer is "yes!" Hundreds of people across the nation are breaking themselves free from grid dependence. (Here is the blog of one of our customers in Hawaii who did just that!) Whether you can do so depends mostly on the complexity of the system, the installation environment, and the knowledge of the homeowner. There are a number of mistakes that homeowners could make while installing a system that would lead to broken equipment, a leaky roof, or serious injury. That said, many of our generally handy customers have successfully installed their own solar arrays with the help from a qualified electrician for permitting and hookup.
Aside from the challenges of the electrical components of a solar array, most of the components of a residential solar system can be self-installed. Roof trusses must be identified and at appropriate distances (48 inches for solar systems we install.) Then, L-feet must be bolted into those holes (over top of a flashing for shingle roofs) and sealed with silicone. Rails are then attached to these L-feet using standard nuts, washers, and bolts. Lastly, panels are fastened to the rail with intuitive clamps that are bolt-tightented. All of these components are included in our home solar kits!
The above is, of course, a simplified version of installation events. But they do illustrate the required skills for a homeowner to apply when installing a DIY solar system. A note on the difficulties of these processes is that many cannot be done alone. Many steps, particularly holding the 40 lb. solar panels onto rails while fastening them, require 2-3 helpers. Additionally, it is important that anyone who attempts a DIY solar installation understand the safety procedures involved with working on a roof and be comfortable with moving about on one. Working with heavy equipment on a steep incline can quickly cause accidents to take a fatal turn.
By far, the most hazardous aspect of a solar installation is working with high-voltage cables. In a traditional solar system with a single inverter, solar panels have to be carefully wired together in appropriately-sized strings to meet the input requirements of the inverter. This is a job suitable only for industry professionals. Failure to correctly size strings of panels could result in an inverter with such low voltage that it doesn't turn on or in voltage so high that it destroys the inverter. We never recommend that someone without advanced electrical knowledge attempt to wire their own solar system.
A safer, easier alternative to these single-inverter systems is to use one of our home solar kits! Our kits utilize micro iverters, where the DC to AC conversion is made with a device attached to each panel individually. These inverters' output cable easily click into a specially-designed trunk cable, reducing exposure to electrical wires. Now the only jobs an electrician is required for are installing disconnects, the final trunk cable connection to the home's power supply, and permitting.
One last logistical item for determining whether you should embark on a DIY solar installation is to ask how you will move equipment from the ground onto the roof. Carrying a solar panel or a 20-foot aluminum rail up a ladder is not a feasible strategy. Mechanized equipment is essential, and a plan should be developed for equipment transport before the project is begun.
Hopefully this guide gives you a better sense of whether you can attempt your own home solar installation. If you think that your own installation would be feasible, send us an email to discuss more about whether you can confidently perform the installation before purchasing equipment. We hope to eventually have enough articles here to guide our customers through each of these stages, but we are always here to help!