DIY Solar Panels - Pros & Cons
If you've done your solar research, you've undoubtedly come across several blogs or social media pages that promote installing your own solar array. With materials becoming increasingly accessible, many people have successfully created their own renewable power source! As with any project, there are pros and cons to doing it yourself versus hiring a professional. Here are some pros and cons if you're considering DIYing your own array.
The most obvious reason to build your own array is the cost. When hiring a contractor for any job, overhead is built into the proposal. This includes things like the company's marketing spend, salaries and monthly expenses. When building your own array, you only need to consider the cost of materials plus the time you're going to sink into the project. Carefully consider the savings you may have with the material, however, and be sure to balance that with all of the time you will need to invest on planning, designing, paperwork and installation. To some, the personal time commitment may not offset the financial savings on materials.
To some extent, you'll have greater freedom in your design. Of course, you will still need to meet city and utility requirements, so be sure to get familiar with your AHJ's guidelines on solar arrays. If you're working with a good installer, they will be open to your design suggestions.
The top concern with doing a project like this yourself is safety. Without a professional electrician to guide the process, the risk of fire or electrocution grows. In addition to the electrical components, there are other safety factors to consider. If you are planning to do a roof installation, there is a risk of falling or damaging your roof. Self-installation often voids any warranties you may have on your roof or system.
One of the biggest cons to DIY your array is the lack of peace of mind. While you will save on the materials purchased, it's difficult to quantify the value of what an installer can provide. All installers worth their salt will offer some kind of warranty on the work performed. This will come in addition to the manufacturers' warranties on the materials, which are typically 25 years. Installing panels yourself may actually void some of these manufacturers' warranties, so you'll be left with no options should something happen. Some homeowners' insurance agencies will not cover an array if it's installed by the homeowner.
Unless you have some experience working with AHJ's and utility companies, this may become the most frustrating part of the installation. Every utility has different processes for application and installation. There is a good amount of paperwork that goes into the application, including some technical knowledge of the system.
Solar is a huge investment, and there are a lot of factors that go into whether a system is a good fit for you and your home. The benefit of having a professional installer is that they have the tools on hand to find out information that would otherwise take you a tremendous amount of time and effort. Some utilities we have encountered have net metering programs that actually end up costing the homeowner money rather than saving. It's important to take the time to research how net metering works and to understand how your utility will work with your system. With an installer, this is already done for you.
Whether or not to choose a DIY solar project or to hire an installer should heavily depend upon your personal experience and the size of the project. If you are an experienced electrician who feels comfortable with that aspect, then there is a possibility DIY could work out for you! Given the risks of doing it yourself, however, we feel it's imperative to hire a professional who will provide you with peace of mind on your investment.