Can I Install Or Build My Own Solar Energy System?

With the proper research and possessing basic construction and wiring skills, a knowledgeable do-it-yourself homeowner can build and install a home solar power system.

Bear in mind, however, that your work will have to:

- meet building and wiring codes,

- pass inspection with the local power utility,

- and comply with any homeowner's association restrictions.

Those hoops will likely be more difficult to jump through than the actual construction and wiring of your home solar array.
Get to Know the Online Solar Community
The Internet is an invaluable resource for do-it-yourself homeowners for virtually any project. You will find countless videos and pages that chronicle projects, often providing step-by-step information, product descriptions, and horror stories about DIY home solar projects gone wrong.

Avail yourself of that information, and if possible, join a solar discussion forum and get to know others who have or who are contemplating installing their own home solar array. Experience really is the best teacher and DIY enthusiasts are very good about generously sharing their knowledge
Get Good Reference Materials

In addition to making online contacts, you'll want to find and use solid reference materials. Any of the following books or DVDs would help a DIY homeowner get started with a solar project:

- A Complete Guide to the Installation of Off-Grid PV Solar Power Systems (DVD) by Bob Nagy
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Solar Power for Your Home by Dan Ramsey and David Hughes

- Photovoltaics: Design and Installation Manual by Solar Energy International

- The Renewable Energy Handbook, Revised Edition: The Updated Comprehensive Guide to Renewable Energy and Independent Living by William H. Kemp

- the Solar Electricity Handbook 2009: A Simple, Practical Guide to Using Solar Panels and Designing and Installing Photovoltaic Solar PV Systems by Michael Boxwell

- Solar Power Your Home for Dummies by Rik De Gunther

- Solar Water Heating, Revised and Expanded Edition: A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Water and Space Heating Systems by Bob Ramlow and Benjamin Nusz

Gather the Right Foundation Data

Before you move forward with a DIY solar project, be sure to conduct a home energy audit to find out exactly how much electricity you need. This is critical in planning your system needs and purchasing equipment.

Get a structural assessment of your home's roof to make sure it will support the weight of your solar panels (and obviously you will need a weight estimate of both the panels and their mounting gear.) You may need to consult a professional roofing company or a home contractor to get an accurate picture of your roof's condition and to address or repair any issues that are discovered.

To the best of your ability, conduct a solar site assessment by finding out the slant and direction of your roof and investigating the number of peak sun hours available at your site. You may need to trim back limbs or otherwise ensure that the area of roof you will be using gets clear, unobstructed sun.
Finally, make sure that:

- your project meets all local building and zoning ordinances,

- you have all the necessary permits on hand,

- you have investigated the requirements for interconnection with your local power utility,

- you have the go-ahead to move forward from your homeowner's association (if one is present).

Basically, don't climb up on that roof and start work until you have all your "ducks" in a row.

Experiment with Plug-and-Play Kits First

Many do-it-yourselvers start with some sort of plug-and-play solar kit. While these systems are not sufficient to power an entire home, they will generate enough electricity to take a room off-grid or to provide a remote power source, perhaps for camping or some other recreational purpose. They're also a good introduction to home solar applications.
Typically such kits include a small solar collector paired to an integrated battery / inverter unit with built-in plugs. Normally they can supply 12V DC or 120V AC.

The Xantrex XPower 1500 is an example of this type of portable power pack. Retailing for $400 to $450, the system includes a 12V battery capable of storing 60 amp-hours and an inverter with two standard U.S. outlets and one 12V DC socket. It can be paired with a 40-watt solar panel for a total system cost of approximately $800 or an 80-watt panel for a total cost of $1,000.

This system is capable of powering a:

- 150 watt, 18-cubic foot refrigerator for four hours

- a compact fluorescent light bulb (8 watts) for 75 hours

- a 30 watt portable cooler for 14 hours, or

- a 200 watt computer for 2 hours.

Installing and wiring home solar panels is no more difficult than any other home improvement project, but orienting those panels for maximum solar collection and accurately accessing the potential for solar power collection at your site is more complex.

Consider taking a modular approach, starting small and adding to your home solar array as you gain greater familiarity with solar power and its potential to provide clean, renewable electricity for you and your family.

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3 Responses to “Can I Install Or Build My Own Solar Energy System?”


  1. Maintenance Requirements And Cost For A Residential Solar Power System Says:

    […] Do-it-yourself home solar owners will be faced with pricing individual components in the event of failure or damage, and of hiring a repairman if the required work is beyond their ability or if they cannot accurately diagnose the source of problem. […]


  2. Buy Solar Panels - Solar Installers & Installation - Solar Power Companies Says:

    […] Maintenance Requirements And Cost For A Residential Solar Power System Can I Install Or Build My Own Solar Energy System? […]


  3. dan dutto Says:

    Hi:
    not sure I understand your : system is capable of powering: statments.
    are you talking about the battery?
    the system with sunlite on it?
    the hole thing together?
    having just started looking into this, not even sure of the questions I should be asking:
    is a 40 watt panel putting out 40watts constantly or per hour or day or week or???
    anyway those were the questions from the first read, might get all the info I need on the next read or the next page::
    thanks
    dan

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