By Scott Laskey
Are you a homeowner who wants to save money and reduce your dependency on local power companies? Would you be interested in improving the value of your home along with taking advantage of tax credits? If so, you may want to consider home solar panels. They are an increasingly popular way to save money on energy.
When it comes to having solar panels installed in your home, you can either do it yourself or have a professional solar company handle it for you. DIY solar panels can save you some money, but they could cost you more than having a professional install them in the long run.
To help you understand not just why solar panels may be a great idea but the best way to install solar panels, we’ve compiled some basic information as well as a list of pros and cons for DIY solar panel installation.
If you’re considering installing solar panels, you’re probably well aware of the negative effects that coal as an energy source has on the environment. However, there’s another good reason to consider solar panels that has nothing to do with being eco-friendly and everything to do with your wallet.
Solar energy can cut your energy costs and make you eligible for tax breaks. Per the NC Clean Energy Technology Center, solar users in the largest 50 cities in the US are able to save up to $187 per month on average. Further, a number of studies have shown that if you have solar panels on your home, it can significantly raise its resale value.
One of the biggest potential benefits of handling your own solar panel installations is that you can save money. According to research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, installation labor accounts for about 10 percent of the cost of installing solar panels.
Another reason you may want to install your own solar panels is that you have total control over your setup and can design your own system. Further, installing your own solar panels can help you get a better understanding of how these systems work and allow you to troubleshoot issues, should any arise, on your own.
DIY solar panel installations are also an option if you want to power a small building on your property. If you have a barn, a tool shed or an RV that you’d like to get power to, DIY solar panel installation can be an affordable alternative. However, you should be aware that you will not be able to connect these buildings to the electrical grid if you handle the installation on your own.
There’s a reason that many of the pros related with DIY solar power installations refer to small buildings and not home solar panels. It is because there are a number of significant issues that you’ll run into if you try to install your own solar panels.
Installing your own panels will limit the solar panels available to you, keep you from being able to connect to the electricity company’s grid and potentially lead to issues with warranties and tax credits. Furthermore, installing panels can be complicated, and making mistakes can lead to potentially dangerous problems.
Most solar panel installation companies are able to purchase panels from a supplier that makes high-quality solar panels. However, most of these companies do not sell to individuals, so if you install your own panels, you’re going to be very limited in the panels available to you.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you’ll need a permit to install the panels. To apply for a permit, you will be required to provide electrical line drawings and performance output schematics, which in most cases, will need to be outsourced. Additionally, you will require an inspection once your system is installed. In order to take advantage of connecting to the local utility grid, you’ll need a site inspection and interconnection approval. In almost all cases, only an electrician is allowed to connect a home to the grid.
Many cities require a licensed contractor in order to obtain a permit. Connecting to PG&E is not possible without a permit, and the permit is, unfortunately, not available to homeowners. For example, in Santa Cruz, you cannot have your home connected to the power grid unless your solar installation was completed by a licensed contractor.
Getting permits and passing inspections can be very difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re not able to connect your home to the utility grid, you’re liable to lose power to your home when your panels aren’t producing enough energy.
While the permit and inspection process may be time-consuming and require some research, it’s nothing compared to the process of installing solar panels on your own. You’ll need to take into account things like size of your system, space constraints, shade management and if your roof can handle the weight of the panels. Furthermore, you should be aware that not installing panels in a particular way can void your warranty, and improper installation can also lead to roof leaks.
Additionally, you’ll need to figure out where panels need to be installed and how they should be tilted in order to optimize the performance of your system. If panels aren’t installed both correctly and optimally, you’ll be reducing their ability to generate power.
The process for installing your own solar panels is a complex one, and taking it on will only save you about 10 percent of the total cost of installing solar panels. Saving a few thousand dollars may cost you an enormous amount of time, effort and trouble.
While there are situations where installing home solar panels yourself may be a good idea, in general, it is best to have an experienced solar company handle the installation. Letting professionals handle your solar panels will enable you to have better quality panels installed and ensure that your system is set up properly.
Sandbar Solar has been operating in California for more than a decade, and we provide solar installations in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties as well as select regions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Free estimates, custom design and installation by professionals are just a few of the benefits of taking advantage of our services. Contact us today to learn more.
Scott is the founder of Sandbar Solar. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UC San Diego, Scott has an NABCEP certification, and has lectured on and taught many high-tech construction practices and solar PV technical concepts to education institutions, including Stanford University and state-recognized electrician apprenticeship programs. Scott enjoys sharing his knowledge of the evolving renewable energy space and making a difference in his community.
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