Is DIY solar right for your home?
Home solar panel installations have exploded in popularity across the country. In fact, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) says residential solar has increased by 32 percent in the last 10 years.
Why? For many homeowners, the primary motivation is financial. When the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out, many consumers remained at home, which led to an increase in energy consumption. The weather also plays a part in energy bills. During the winter, consumers rely more on heating, while air conditioners often run on full blast in the hot summer months.
All of these factors have consumers wondering whether solar panels could be a way to cut rising energy costs. According to the Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans are interested in saving on their utility bills by installing solar panels.
Powering your home with solar energy can substantially lower your electricity costs each month, increase your home’s value, and even allow you to sell extra power back to the grid through net metering programs.
The EIA estimates that small-scale solar energy capacity will grow by 44 percent over the next two years. With the growth of solar energy and the decreasing cost of solar panels, there is a rising interest in DIY solar installation.
DIY solar panels vs. professional installation
On average, solar panel systems cost between $15,000 and $25,000 and installation costs account for 10% of that. This is why DIY solar panels are so enticing for many consumers. However, this is one DIY project that isn’t as simple as most.
If you’re thinking about attempting a DIY solar system project, there’s a lot that you should consider before beginning. There’s always a risk of structural damage and the possibility of the panels coming down if they are not installed properly. And if you DIY home solar panels, you will need to connect them to your roof and the power grid. If installed incorrectly, this could cause major electrical damage to your home and the panels.
According to the DOE, “Right now, the best way to install solar is through a qualified professional who holds a certification to do so and works with high-quality solar panels.” However, DIY solar systems might be a greater possibility as solar technology advances. The DOE says, “In the future…, you will likely be able to install solar yourself. SETO awardee Fraunhofer CSE is developing a plug-and-play solar array that enables consumers to easily attach the panels to their roofs using an adhesive roof mounting system and connect it to the grid in under 12 hours.”
However, the DOE adds, “This is still in development – until it is available at your local home improvement store, you should work with a certified solar installer.”
If you’re not completely confident in your ability to navigate the solar DIY project solo, it may be best left to the pros. There’s a reason why a very small percentage of American households have chosen DIY solar projects.
Here are a few other things to consider before investing in solar power for your home:
Is your home suitable for DIY solar panels?
Not all rooftops are created equal when it comes to being a good candidate for solar panels. Solar panel systems can work in most climates. However, if your roof is completely shaded or you live in an area that doesn’t receive enough sunlight, your panels won’t generate as much power as a roof that gets full sun.
“If there are trees near your home that create excessive shade on your roof, rooftop panels may not be the most ideal option,” the Department of Energy says, adding that the size, shape and slope of a household’s roof are all vital factors. South-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees are best for solar panels.
If your home isn’t right for solar panels, consider looking into community solar projects in your area. Not only is community solar – also called shared solar – a less expensive option, it also allows consumers whose homes are not right for solar to still benefit from solar power.
What are your energy goals?
Before you sign the dotted line for a solar system, you should first decide how much energy you want to save and if you want to invest in a solar battery to backup energy storage. Do you want to go fully off the grid? Or is some traditional energy dependence acceptable for your household? Narrowing these factors down will help you make a quicker decision when you’re presented with a plethora of options.
Picking a solar system
Now that you’ve ironed out the details of what you’re looking to accomplish with solar power, it’s time to pick a system – and there are many options to choose from. The three main solar system options include:
Grid-tied solar panel systems
These systems are typically smaller than others, have the lowest upfront cost, and come with simpler installation plans. As its name gives away, grid-tied solar panel systems are connected to a power grid. This allows you to still use electricity from the grid during times when your panels aren’t generating power and lets you benefit from net metering programs. Most consumers who buy solar panels have a grid-tied system.
Off-grid solar panel systems
Off-grid systems are completely energy self-sufficient. Because they are off the grid, they are usually larger in size and require additional panels, making them a more expensive option. Why? It takes a lot more solar power to fully support a household’s electric needs every day and night.
Hybrid solar panel systems (with battery capacity)
The distinct feature of hybrid systems is the solar battery storage capacity that they have. Like grid-tied solar panel systems, these systems connect to the grid, offering the perk of backup power during grid outages. The saying that you get what you pay for rings true with these systems, though. The added battery component does result in higher costs.
Other things to consider
In recent years, the overall energy consumption of our country has increased, yet we have the most diverse energy sources to draw from in our history. Coal, natural gas, nuclear power, solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric, and geothermal power all play a role in the nationwide electricity mix.
Whether you elect to pursue the DIY solar route, or you choose to hire a solar installation company, the need for supplementation of home energy will likely continue to increase.
The EIA projects that solar and wind power will be the fastest growing sources of electrical generation in the United States over the next two years. In 2021, renewables account for the majority of generating capacity in the country, with solar power leading the way. As this trend continues, the demand for easy and affordable home solar panels will likely increase as well.