Why DIY Solar Isn’t a Great Idea
Many homeowners and tinkerers enjoy a good do-it-yourself project around the house. DIY works well for small scale projects: many owners enjoy optimizing elements of their homes and “doing it yourself” makes those projects economically feasible. Usually, this is a safe and rewarding venture.
Some people consider installing their own solar panels for a home, business, or agricultural use. However, working with a large and complex electrical system requires substantial background knowledge, experience, and ability to inspect for problems. There are a few major reasons why choosing to install your own solar array doesn’t make for a great DIY project and may even be dangerous or illegal to operate.
Correct Equipment and Matching Components
To install a small solar module on a shed with a small light requires very little in terms of customized components, which makes such a choice more appropriate for a DIY solar project. In fact, there are many kits readily available on Amazon just for this purpose. However, when installing a roof-sized array on a building or home, there are special requirements in equipment selection, wiring, and permitting/utility interconnection.
While DIY component vendors often have functional products, the actual quality varies depending on a variety of factors. When in the market for solar kits, you may unwittingly choose a vendor who has a lower quality standard than the vendors that solar professionals tend to work with. It’s possible that your array will not produce as much electricity because of this choice, or not last as long, which over time reduces any benefit you gained by choosing a less expensive product. In fact, the leading solar modules installed by professionals are expected to last well over 25 years, and are warrantied as such.
Doing quick research on the Internet and buying the components yourself may result in mismatched components that don’t work together well or at all, causing delays and creating extra expense. Even if you do some research yourself to educate yourself about solar, you’ll save time and money by getting it right the first time with a professional solar installation company, who sources these materials frequently and has the experience to choose the right equipment for your project’s needs.
Installation of solar panels is not like plugging in a new appliance in the house. The solar power system is permanently wired to a breaker in the electric panel itself or at least to a battery storage system. These wires carry substantial amounts of power and can be dangerous if handled or sized incorrectly. Getting electrocuted or burning down the house isn’t worth the savings of going DIY.
Installations occurring on the rooftop are also of great concern. Falling from a roof can send you to the ER or worse, and preparing yourself adequately to maintain your balance even on shallow slopes takes time and experience. Don’t risk your life and unbroken bones by trying to do a complex installation process while also accustoming yourself to being on top of a roof.
Solar professionals employ licensed electricians, both to advise during the process of installation so that the workers stay safe, but also so that electrical components are unlikely to injure anyone in the future. Their experience with proper grounding and high-current wires helps them avoid risky moves that might seem harmless to even an experienced DIYer.
Electrical wiring is frequently the cause of house and building fires, be it from long-term wear and tear on the system or faulty installation. While small DIY projects only risk small and hopefully contained malfunctions, roof-sized arrays can generate large amounts of power that if traveling through undersized wires or loose connections, can cause high intensity fire on the roof or in the attic. No one wants to see both their prized DIY project and their home going up in flames. The NABCEP certified solar energy practitioner is trained to double and triple check the connections within a solar system that could arc-flash and protect you and your home from those dangers.
Costly Repair if Incorrectly Installed
Even if you install the system unscathed, it is possible that it simply… doesn’t work. Somewhere in the process a circuit was not completed, positive and negative got mixed up, a breaker was undersized, or any number of other errors were made. Diagnosing the problem and performing the repair oneself is unlikely to go well, because the source of the error is usually the installer themselves. Thus, calling a repair person, as well as getting customized maintenance solutions, cost more money.
Sometimes the repairs won’t even be to the system itself; if you damage your roof or attic in the process of installation, you may discover that repairing a leaky roof or water damage in the attic also sets you back a lot of money.
Beyond the costs of repair, some mistakes may result in melted or decayed components, requiring replacement rather than simple reconnection. All of these expenditures add up, showing why getting a solar energy professional to install your custom solar power array is actually a value-added proposition. DIY projects are great for learning and for solving smaller problems, but they can also be easily abandoned. If you have spent thousands of dollars on materials to get a functional solar array, you want to get your return as quickly and as completely as possible.
Professional Installation Saves You Money
While some renewable energy tax credits are well-publicized, solar professionals make it their business to know the area where they work well and keep an eye on the news for any new incentive programs. Getting all the potential savings from tax benefits possible is one way to make sure your solar array pays you back extremely quickly and generates long-term gains for your company or family. The solar income tax credit, for instance, is often a huge chunk of any labor costs associated with professional installation.
Requirements For Grid Connection
Last, perhaps the largest reason not to DIY solar is that to legally connect it to the grid, you must file for permission to interconnect and receive a net-meter. A licensed electrician is required to sign-off on the installed grid connect installation, certifying that it has been inspected and the installation is found ‘to adhere to electrical code and is deemed safe’. See article here to learn more about why licensed electricians are important when installing solar power. Without that licensed electrician’s OK, the utility will not issue “permission to operate”. If you operate anyway, most modern digital meters will count your production against you, and if a house fire occurs, your homeowner’s insurance has an easy way out.
Mountain View Solar adds value to the solar installation process by employing licensed electricians and NABCEP-certified solar installation professionals. These workers know how to ensure that they are kept safe, your home is kept safe, and your solar array operates at maximum performance. To learn more about getting your own high-quality solar system professionally installed, contact us.