MAIL: DIY PV System

Beginner
A DIY-installed grid-tied array in Hawaii.
A DIY-installed grid-tied array in Hawaii.

Living in Hawaii means great year-round weather, but one of the downsides is that I like my air-conditioning, and the cost I pay to keep my house at a comfortable 80°F is high. With a good solar insolation rate here on Oahu, and specifically in Ewa Beach, I started pricing solar-electric systems so I could save on my electricity bill. Prices ranged from $30,000 to $60,000, installed. Leases tied me to a contract for 20 years. Frustrated, I asked the question that many DIYers ask—is there a cheaper way to do it, and are there others who have tackled this themselves?

After some Internet research, I found Home Power magazine (which I promptly subscribed to) and links to solar suppliers. My research began in February 2013, and my system started producing energy on July 27, 2013. I have 26, 250-watt polycrystalline modules with Enphase M-215 microinverters. The system cost—including shipping from California to Hawaii—was about $15,000. Additional costs (drawings, electrician, permit, parts) amounted to $2,500. After my tax credits, the total cost should be around $6,000. That’s a big difference from the low-end $30,000 quote I got for a turnkey installed system.

Using my average electricity bill for the past 12 months, my system will be paid for in about 1.5 years. My first month of production was a touch over 1 MWh. When I tell people I installed the system myself, the response is always: “Really?” Yes, really. This was not that difficult. It did take some planning and learning. There are tons of free online videos to help with the learning curve. My equipment supplier had answers to any question I asked. I tell people, “If you can hang a picture and insert a plug into an outlet, you should be able to do this. The only difference is that you’re doing it on a roof.”

Thanks Home Power magazine for your great articles that encourage DIYers to take on projects such as this. My next project is to convert an early Mustang to full electric—a perfect island solution to our high gasoline prices. Thanks again.

Joe Marshall • Ewa Beach, Hawaii

Comments (2)

Ibrahim Cem Girit's picture

Could you share your experience: your design, suppliers, cost analysis, technical knowhow etc. please?

Jesse Kraft's picture

Awesome I'm going to do it. Thanks

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