DIY or Pro?: Page 5 of 5

Practical Advice for Homeowners
Intermediate

Inside this Article

DIY Homeowner and Solar Professional
Batteryless grid-tied PV system.
Batteryless grid-tied PV systems may be the simplest conceptually, but they still require good design, mechanical and electrical skills, adherence to codes, and safety. Are you adequately prepared?
Solar Site Assessment Tools
The Solar Pathfinder (left) and the Solmetric SunEye (right) are professional-quality solar site assessment tools that provide valuable information for your system’s design.
Specialty PV Installation Tools
While many of the necessary tools are common to the well-equipped homeowner, some specialty PV installation tools are either necessary or a great convenience. The cost of tooling up can negate the savings of doing the work yourself.
High-Voltage DC Hazard
Electrocution from high-voltage DC electricity and falls from roofs are two of the hazards of PV system installation. For DIYers and professionals alike, safety must come first.
Rooftop Working Hazard
Electrocution from high-voltage DC electricity and falls from roofs are two of the hazards of PV system installation. For DIYers and professionals alike, safety must come first.
DIY Homeowner and Solar Professional
Batteryless grid-tied PV system.
Solar Site Assessment Tools
Specialty PV Installation Tools
High-Voltage DC Hazard
Rooftop Working Hazard

To DIY or Not to DIY 

Over the last 20 years, PV installations have shifted from primarily owner-installed systems to professionally installed ones (see From the Crew in this issue). Should you install your own solar-electric system? To recap, the answer depends on the scale and type of system that will meet your needs; your understanding of system sizing and component selection; your skill level; and the range of construction and safety tools and equipment you have. A primary driver in the decision is also the potential impact that self-installation may have on any available financial incentives. If you decide to design and install your own system, be sure that you properly assess your abilities and have realistic expectations of the benefits and potential pitfalls of doing so.

PV systems typically require a significant financial investment and you’ll want your system to function not only reliably, but also optimally over its more than 20-year service life. In many cases, the amount of savings you’ll reap by installing your own system will be minor. If you consider the value of time you’ll spend on the project, including up-front research and system design, as well as time spent wrenching, you may very well end up spending more time than you can afford. 

So why would someone install their own system? What’s the bottom line? The answer is probably similar to reasons for tackling any major home improvement project—for the fun of doing it and the sense of accomplishment. And those are two powerful reasons in and of themselves.

Access

Justine Sanchez is technical editor at Home Power, a Solar Energy International instructor, a NABCEP-certified PV installer, and is certified by ISPQ as a PV Affiliated Master Trainer.

Joe Schwartz is the editor of Home Power and SolarPro magazines. He began his career in RE as a PV, wind, and microhydro system installer in 1997.

Ian Woofenden bought his first solar-electric module in 1984. Early projects were DIY, with more recent ones implemented by professionals—all effectively turning solar energy into electricity.

Comments (2)

Jim and Elaine Stack's picture

The pros get good prices and do all the paperwork and form and you get the best incentives. It helps employ local companies so always go with a pro. If they are NABCEP certified it's the best of the best.

I's also only go with Sunpower panels. They have the highest efficiency, run coolest and have the longest warranty.

Disclaimer- I don't sell or work in the solar industry, I just live the solar dream every Sunny day.

Mike Swift's picture

“While you can still take the 30% federal tax credit, in some cases, you may not qualify for state, local, or utility rebates if you install the system yourself.” Contractor associations, and labor unions have spent many millions of dollars lobbying legislators to get these “incentives” into law, and they hate with a passion for scabs and home owners stealing their just rewards. The mandate that “qualified”, or “approved” installers do the work is placed in the legislation by lobbyists, “for the safety of the children”, and to guarantee the lobbyists employers lots of work of course. In many cases all of the homeowners “incentives” are eaten up by the mandated labor practices.

Show or Hide All Comments

Advertisement

X
You may login with either your assigned username or your e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.
Loading