Should I Install Solar Panels Myself?

Whether you’re attempting to recreate the latest Pinterest-worthy home décor craft or changing out hardware on your kitchen cabinets for the first time, do-it-yourself (DIY) projects can be a cost-effective way to improve your home. So it’s not surprising that solar panel installation kits have found their own little DIY market.

And while we applaud those creative and courageous DIY-ers, it’s important to note that the allure and ease of solar energy “kits” can be deceiving. Below, we break down the hidden (and not so hidden) factors that consumers need to know about DIY solar power before deciding to navigate this complex process alone!

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

Most low-cost solar panels travel thousands of miles from China to reach your front door as part of a DIY kit. Those same panels may have waited for months – or even years — in a warehouse while advances in photovoltaic technology and productivity were made right here in the U.S. So be sure you are getting high-quality, top-output panels as part of your kit as well as professional-grade system components.

If the panels are not in perfect condition when they arrive (and they may not be), and/or components are missing – be sure your kit provider has a pain-free process for returns or supplemental parts. Remember that installation and labor costs only contribute about ten percent of the total bill for the average solar system project — which means “cheap” kits can turn out to be quite expensive in the long-run.

ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL.

In just about every case, panels from a kit designed for DIY installation won’t be as effective as a custom-designed system based on your property’s specific energy needs. A few things to consider:

  • What size solar panel system is best suited for your electricity usage, today and tomorrow?
  • Does your roof have sufficient space at the correct angle?
  • Where should panels be positioned, and what is the optimal tilt for the panels?
  • Can your roof bear the load of solar panels?

These technical questions (and many more!) can easily be answered by a solar installer that has experience with all types of roofs and situations. If you don’t place solar panels correctly, you won’t be able to get the optimal amount of power – which in turn may not save you as much money on your electric bill. Over time, that difference can easily eclipse any initial savings from doing the installation yourself.

INSTALLATION KNOW-HOW IS KEY.

Even the most experienced DIY warrior may have reservations about drilling holes into their own $10,000+ roof. And what if your roof is approaching its 20th birthday? You’ll definitely want to make certain that your roof is in good condition before drilling in a solar panel racking system. Of course, even a roof in its prime can leak as the result of an errant drill hole – so take extreme care. Solar installers have experience that no amount of online research, YouTube tutorials or DIY guides can replicate. They should also have the qualifications and licenses mandated by your state to install solar, and the insurance necessary to confidently perform work on your most valuable asset.

DON’T FORGET THE PAPERWORK.

If you’re lone-wolfing your solar power installation, you’ll still need to find a good, local, licensed electrician. This is particularly important because your utility won’t let you connect your solar system to their grid without sign-off from a certified electrician (and more paperwork). Utilities can also be slow to respond to interconnection requests from even known providers – so be prepared for delays.

Long before system go-live however, you’ll also need to work with an electrician to complete and file the permits and applications needed to get your solar energy system wired and running. And if you’re planning to pursue the local, state, and federal rebates which help increase your solar savings — do your homework! These programs often require that a licensed installer perform the work in order to qualify. So not only will a full-service solar installer make your system eligible for these programs, they’ll also know which incentives will work for you, and can help you apply!

SOLAR INSTALLERS STAND BEHIND YOU.

High quality solar panels typically come with 20-year manufacturer’s warranty – sometimes longer. However, many manufacturers only back their products if they’re installed by licensed professionals. If you install the panels yourself, you may actually void the warranty—much like how opening an iPhone automatically cancels Apple’s coverage. In the event your DIY installation breaks down, you’ll have to pay for all repairs out-of-pocket. When you go the professional route, those repairs can be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, installer’s guarantee, or both. Plus, when you choose a reputable installer, you’ll also receive real-time monitoring that allows you to track your system’s performance.

Still thinking about diving into a DIY solar project?

Before you pick up that toolkit, call a few full-service solar providers to compare your “savings.” At Crius Solar for example, we can offer solar power options with as little as no money down and a worry-free installation experience. Our experts manage everything from proposal, to scheduling, delivery and installation – making sure that your solar project not only works, but is one to be proud of. So, while we commend you daring DIY-ers for taking the time to consider a renewable energy source that has the power to help save on electric bills, and do something good for the planet – consider a better solar experience before you go DIY solar!

6 Comments

  1. Evan Jones-Reply
    April 2, 2017 at 8:38 am

    How do you know if your roof is structurally sound enough to add the weight of solar panels and racks?

    • Joe Hupp-Reply
      April 3, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      Evan, that’s a great question. The way our process works is that we first do an over the phone consultation which is followed up by what we call a “site survey”. During the site survey our experts will check your roof structure to ensure it will hold the added weight of your solar system.

  2. Marie Watson-Reply
    April 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks for explaining why it might be a good idea to let a solar power electrician install your solar panels rather than trying to do it yourself. Although it might be more expensive to let a professional install the panels, I would think the rewards of having a correctly installed system definitely outweigh the cost. Like you mention, there are a lot of things that go into installing solar panels, like your electricity usage, your roof’s stability, and much more. I, for one, am definitely going to look into hiring a professional to help me with my solar panels.

    • Joe Hupp-Reply
      April 18, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      Marie, thanks for the comment. Agreed that having a professional manage your install also often provides a workmanship warranty so if you have problems you can go back to the installer.

  3. Omar alghali-Reply
    May 16, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Definitely recommend installing solar panels to a professional. Wattage conversion must be done correctly and not to mention how dangerous it is to be on the roof without the proper shoes and anchoring equipment. Besides, do you really want to be in all that sun and the heat? Great information here thanks.

    • Joe Hupp-Reply
      May 16, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      Omar, we agree 100%. Thanks for your insight as electrical work can be dangerous if not done correctly.

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