Solar Panels: To DIY or Not to DIY

The benefits of solar thermal energy motivate many homeowners to install solar panels. This energy is both a sustainable and renewable source since it's derived from a pure never-ending source, the sun. The basic premise is that the sun's energy is used to heat the water in your tanks for free rather than using expensive grid electricity. Before you can heat your home with this clean energy, you must decide whether to install solar panels yourself or hire professionals.


While solar energy can reduce your electricity bill, the cost of installing the system can discourage many from going solar. However, there are DIY installation kits available in the market that can help you install solar panels and save money in your home improvement project. An alternative is to use the sun's energy to supply electricity directly to your home. This way you can choose to supply all or part of your household electricity, and depending on the area you live in, you may be able to entirely eliminate your electricity bill. Choosing either system will require forethought and planning. The following is a solar panel DIY guide that you can use to assist in your decision to go solar and whether to do it yourself or hire a professional.

Choose the Right Solar Panels

Advancements in solar panel technology are not only increasing the efficiency and lowering production costs but are also making it possible for homeowners to install solar power systems on their own, safely and in a cost-effective way. One of the notable advanced solar power systems recommended for DIY projects is the photovoltaic (PV) panels using grid-tied micro-inverter technology.

Why use the Grid-Tie solar system?

The grid tie solar system means that you will stay connected to the utility company and each PV has its own Grid-tied converter mounted to the panel.

Parts of the Grid tie system

A complete solar panel kit for installing Grid tie system comes with the following parts:

  • PV panels "" for a more cost effective way of generating renewable energy from the sun
  • Power inverter- for turning DC to AC
  • PV disconnect- for disconnecting power and to avoid accidents when installing solar panels
  • Beaker box- for connecting solar energy to your home
  • Net meter- connects you to the grid, measures how much power you use from the grid and how much your solar system gives to the grid

The Grid tie system has the following benefits:

  • It's easy to install
  • No noise made by the PV panels when converting sunlight to electricity
  • The system is less sensitive to partial shading
  • Accommodates small budgets; you can start small and expand the system in the future
  • By staying on the grid, you benefit from net metering. In some jurisdictions, the excess power can be sold back to the utility company at a premium reducing your cost even further
  • No batteries needed
  • Backup during power failure
  • Maintenance cost is minimal

Planing the Solar Panel System Size & Placement

The first step is to make a plan for your solar system. Know how much power you need to help you decide on how many solar panels you will buy, size, the efficiency of the panels, and space you need to install the panels. A load calculator can help match the right solar panels with your power needs.

This is how the calculator works:

  1. Check your utility bill to see how much power you consume. Most homes use around 900kWh per month. But this can be more in cold months when you need solar heating.
  2. Find the peak sun hours from the local Renewable Energy Lab/authority. The number will vary depending on your region.
  3. Do the math: For a house owner using 900 kWh each month, the daily usage is 30 KWh. If the peak sun hours are 5 hours every day, the house owner will need a solar system that can generate 6kW to meet his needs.

Planning is a critical stage when you decide to install solar panels on your own. If you get it wrong at this stage, you will not generate the optimal amount of solar power to make your project viable. If you don't have the understanding of how solar panels work, you should consider hiring a commercial agency and avoid costly damages and frustrations.

Choosing the Right Solar Panels

There are two main types of solar panels available in the market, Thin Film and Crystalline. Choosing the right type of solar panels will make your system more efficient and save on cost. While crystalline panels are efficient and durable, with a lifespan of 40 years, they are not easy to install as they require an elaborate rack system. The total panels needed for installing 6kWh system is 25 panels generating 240w each. The total cost of installing a 6kw system with crystalline panels would be around $12,000. On the other hand, Thin Film panels are easy to install and ideal for DIY project. Although they are cheaper than crystalline panels, the total panels needed for installing 6kWh system is 44 panels generating 240w each. The total cost will be more than the cost of installing a 6kw system with crystalline panels. The lifespan of Thin Film panels is only 25years compared to 40 years of crystalline panels. You can hire a professional solar installer like Solarni and reap full benefits that come with crystalline panels. 

Location & Racking Considerations 

As noted in the previous step, crystalline panels require elaborate racking to hold the panels in place. But if you find crystalline panels too much work to handle, consider Thin Film panels which only need to be placed on a smooth surface. The location of your panel is the key to tapping as much solar energy as possible. Ground installation is the easiest when doing it yourself while roof mounting is great but a challenge to many. Whether you go for ground or roof installation, your aim should be to expose the panels to as much sunlight as possible by avoiding shade.

Before installing your panel ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where should you position the panels?
  • Is your roof strong enough to bear the weight of the panels?
  • Does the roof have enough space for the panels at the right angle?
  • What solar technology and panels are right for the climate in your area?

If you find these questions technique, you might consider engaging a qualified and experienced professional to help you with your project. 

Solar Panel Installation & Wiring 

Check with your local authority for the permits you will need and the regulations governing solar panel installation. Check and apply for any incentive programs. However, some states require the system to be installed by a qualified solar panel installer to qualify for incentives. Read all the instructions given and install the system on a strong mounting system. It's recommended to have the system inspected for safety reasons after you have installed. Be extra careful with wiring as you are dealing with high voltage and mistakes can lead to costly damages and accidents. Follow all the safety precautions and instructions given. It will be a good idea to team up with a local installer or electrician at this stage to ensure the installation and wiring are done in the right way, as to avoid some of the risks of bad installation and wiring. 

Bottom Line 

The time to install a solar system is now. Technological advancements are making renewable clean energy more efficient and cost-effective, and government financial incentives are available when you install solar panels. Install a solar system and help combat pollution! 

By: Luis Leonzo |