3 Key Issues for a DIY Solar Project

Being able to rebuild your kitchen, paint your home, or tile your bathroom brings with it a great sense of pride. But should a very complex solar panel installation project be on your DIY list? Or should solar installation be left to certified professionals? Three areas of expertise are essential for any solar panel installation:

  • Mounting and orienting solar panels
  • Performing the electrical work
  • Applying for the correct permits and incentives
Without the right knowledge and experience, any potential savings from a DIY solar project can quickly be replaced by a lot of additional costs.

DIY Solar:  Properly Mounting and Orienting Solar Panels

Solar Essentials 1: Properly Mounting and Orienting Solar Panels

You bought your solar panels, and now you want to put them on your roof. You will need to know how to work on a rooftop and be proficient in installing mounting and racking systems for solar panels without damaging your roof.

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DIY Solar:  Properly Mounting and Orienting Solar Panels

Solar Essentials 1: Properly Mounting and Orienting Solar Panels

The DIY Solar Option. You bought your solar panels, and now you want to put them on your roof. You will need to know how to work on a rooftop, which is the primary location for most residential solar panels. You'll generally need to be proficient in installing mounting and racking systems for the solar panels without damaging your roof. You'll also need to know how to angle your panels to receive the most sunlight year-round and maximize electrical generation. If you don't place your solar panels at the optimum tilt, you'll get less electricity. That means you're losing money on your investment every day.

The Certified Solar Installer Solution. Certified solar installers have years of experience mounting, orienting, and securing solar panels. They know at what angle and orientation to place your solar panels to maximize electrical production, ensuring that you earn the highest possible return on investment. Solar installers also know how to install the solar panels without damaging the integrity of the roof that could lead to costly leaks. Even if they do cause damage, reputable solar installers have warrantees for the installation so that you can be sure that any problems that arise will be fixed with no cost to you.

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DIY Solar: Correctly Peforming Electrical Work

Solar Essentials 2: Correctly Performing the Electrical Work

The second important part of a DIY solar project is being knowledgeable in residential electrical wiring and local grid interconnection. Generally speaking, you should have electrical training to work with live 400- or 600- volt wiring. Ideally, you have professional certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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DIY Solar: Correctly Peforming Electrical Work

Solar Essentials 2: Correctly Performing the Electrical Work

The DIY Solar Option. The second important part of a DIY solar project is being knowledgeable in residential electrical wiring and local grid interconnection. Generally speaking, you should have electrical training to work with live 400- or 600- volt wiring. Ideally, you have professional certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Graduates from this program can properly size an inverter to convert DC power from your solar panels into AC power. Bad wiring can reduce the amount of usable electricity, and with so much current flowing from a solar system, poor electrical work is extremely hazardous.

Tying in the panels to the local grid requires a lot of specialized knowledge and technical equipment. The U.S. Department of Energy states that you need to "purchase conditioning equipment that can match the voltage, phase, frequency, and sine wave profile of the electricity produced by your system to that flowing through the grid." The equipment needed for a solar panel installation includes:

  • Power conditioning equipment
  • Safety equipment
  • Meters and instrumentation
You also need to be able to meet regulations such as:
  • Your power provider's connection requirements
  • State codes and requirements
  • Local codes and requirements
The Certified Solar Installer Solution. The professional solar installer already knows how to work with residential electrical wiring. The solar panel installer ensures that your system meets local codes and correctly ties in to the grid. In the case of net metering, certified solar installers get you set up with the utility so that you can watch the electrical meter spin backwards as your solar panels make you money. Once again, having your solar panels professionally installed means that you'll have a warranty for electrical issues that may arise.

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DIY Solar: Applying for Permits, Agreements, Incentives

Solar Essentials 3: Applying for the Right Permits, Agreements, & Incentives

You may have the electrical knowledge and roofing experience for installing solar panels, but do you have the time and patience for paperwork? Installing solar panels requires permitting and a variety of agreements to get them running and approved. Plus, there are also rebates and tax incentives that can significantly reduce your overall expenses.

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DIY Solar: Applying for Permits, Agreements, Incentives

Solar Essentials 3: Applying for the Right Permits, Agreements, & Incentives

The DIY Solar Option. You may have the electrical knowledge and roofing experience for installing solar panels, but do you have the time and patience for paperwork? Installing solar panels requires permitting and a variety of agreements to get them running and approved. Plus, there are also rebates and tax incentives that can significantly reduce your overall expenses. Not understanding how to manage all these agreements is another area where potential cost savings from a DIY solar project can vanish.

The Certified Solar Installer Solution. An experienced solar professional can help you find your way through all the red-tape. Solar panel installers regularly work with building inspectors and utility officials. They also know what rebates and tax incentives will make the most sense for you. With available incentives like the federal 30% Investment Tax Credit, there is quite a bit of money involved. All of these things are ways that a certified solar installer helps to reduce your costs and maximize your return on investment.

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Trusting Trained Solar Panel Installers image

Trusting Trained Solar Panel Installers

There are many great DIY projects to turn your home into your castle, but when you're already making a really big investment in solar power, it makes a lot of sense to have it installed by a solar professional.

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Trusting Trained Solar Panel Installers image

Trusting Trained Solar Panel Installers

There are many great DIY projects to turn your home into your castle, but when you're already making a really big investment in solar power, it makes a lot of sense to have it installed by a solar professional. A certified solar installer has the equipment and knowledge to work quickly and efficiently to get your solar panels up and running while offering warranties to protect your investment for the long-term. Plus, with many of the new solar financing options, having a certified solar installer do the work can also be very affordable.

Unless you really are knowledgeable in all three areas, a solar project is best left to solar power professionals so that you can get the best return on your solar investment.

Learn more about SunPower professional solar installers.

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