2018 is the year where solar power is expected to become even more trendy. Homeowners all over the world are considering it now, and thousands have already made the switch.
But there has been a significant shift in how people see solar panels. They are moving away from the done-for-you packages, whereby they either purchase panel installation or rent them from a supplier. Instead, they are interested in DIY home solar energy.
People want to not only save energy at home, but also want to save money on their installation costs. This is understandable, but you should consider that creating your own solar power setup can be somewhat challenging. You need to know what you’re doing. Not just that, there is more to solar panels than simply getting cheap energy, so you do also have to investigate the pros and cons.
The two big benefits that attract people to the use of solar energy are: 1) it is a sustainable, green technology that won’t damage the earth and; 2) it can save you serious money. Having cheap solar power means that your monthly energy costs will be significantly reduced. Furthermore, a solar installation can also increase your home’s value. Then there are the federal tax credits! This means that the net cost for installing these systems can be reduced by as much as 30%.
Nevertheless, even with those incentives, purchasing a full set can be expensive. So it’s no surprise that people are searching for cheap solar panel kits. After all, since the Great Recession we are all focused on saving money and we have learned that it is more economical to do things ourselves, including using solar kits. Again, you need a more in-depth understanding of the various pros and cons of doing this before you decide to take the plunge and start building.
DIY Solar Power: The Basics
If you want to save energy at home, there is hardly anything to stop you from doing so. Not just that, the price of the various pieces of equipment – including done for you kits – has been decreasing significantly. Hence, your starting point should be to determine just how much money you will save by buying the different parts of the kit yourself instead of simply buying a full installation.
5 steps to follow if you want to set up your own solar kit:
- Determine your energy needs and design your system based on that.
- Purchase the different pieces of equipment, which include your racking, inverters, and solar panels.
- Start your solar setup by installing the mounts or racking for your panels.
- Connect the panels to the racking or mounts.
- Install the inverter.
In a recent report created by EnergySage Solar Marketplace, the cost of switching to solar power in the average American home is $18,840, without applying any rebates or incentives. Around 10% of that bill is for the design and installation of the setup and the cost of labor. What this means is that by opting for cheap solar panel kits, you will be able to save 10% of the total cost. Still, that would be nearly $2,000. Not just that, but by opting for a solar energy DIY kit, you are in control of your setup and you can take pride in the fact that you did it all yourself.
Something to look into as well is that you should build a setup that lasts at least 20 to 30 years, as that is the lifespan of the fully purchased sets as well. What this also means in practical terms is that soon you won’t just be saving energy at home, you will actually be earning from it. Indeed, solar installations provide a return on investment within just a few years. However, if you purchase cheap solar panel kits, the quality of the panels is much lower and they won’t last as long and they will generate far less electricity over their lifespan. In other words, your return on investment will be much lower if any.
Usually the parts used by professional solar installers come from manufacturers and distributors that the general public cannot purchase from. Plus, the installation companies purchase these in bulk, which means they get a discount.
What do home solar panels cost? Anywhere from a hundred to several thousand dollars. However, there are some easy and inexpensive ways to make DIY solar energy for your home. The figures above are related to the average household and you may not be completely standard. Let’s review, therefore, a number of more specific pros and cons.
Advantages of Off-Grid Solar Power Systems?
A lot of cheap DIY solar panels can be used as off-grid solar power systems. This means that they don’t connect to your main power lines at all. Going entirely off the grid is not something that the average home owner would want to do, because it means no longer being able to access any other type of electric power. In most parts of the country, it is not yet possible to go 100% solar, even with professionally installed kits.
However, if your interest is not in powering all of your home, but you have one of those fashionable “tiny houses”, an RV, or a boat for instance, then these kits may be perfect. That is because these constructions are mobile and therefore off the grid. Hence, a small solar setup could be perfect for powering certain things, avoiding the usage of diesel or petrol.
Of course, if you live in a huge mansion, there is nothing to stop you from also opting for DIY solar panel kits. You can still save energy at home, for instance, by using the solar setup for your outdoor lights, your tool shed, your barn, or any other outlying part of your property. Here, you will have much lower demands for electricity, which means that the small cheap solar panel kits will be more than sufficient.
Limitations of Off-Grid Solar System?
If you have decided create renewable energy at home by using cheap solar power packs, then you do also have to understand that you get what you pay for. While it is certainly true that your out of pocket cost will be lower, the reality is that the cost of installation, as previously stated, is only 10% of the total price and, for that, you get professional work and usually a guarantee. That is really good value for money as well.
Professional installers, as their name suggests, are professionals. They have been in the business for many years and have experience that you simply cannot gain by reading online articles or watching YouTube videos. All professional installers are qualified and licensed, which is a requirement in all states. They have certifications such as those from the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners), who offer the Solar PV Installation Professional Certification. This means that their knowledge is current and up-to-date and that it meets industry standards. They understand the ins and outs of the entire process and will deliver good work.
Not just that, professional installers will ensure that all your applications and permits are in order, which is often required before you can have such a system on your property. Unless you have this in place, your utility line won’t agree to connect the system to the grid. They will require, at the very least, a certified electrician to sign the setup off, which will also cost money.
Not only do the professionals come with skills and experience, they also know which incentives are available to you. This means that they can make sure that you not just save energy at home, but that you save a lot of money as well. While it is true that you should be able to find all the relevant incentives in your area with a bit of research, it is all too easy to miss one.
Finally, all solar panel kits come with a warranty. However, if you purchase cheap solar panel kits yourself, the warranty will usually be honored only if it was professionally installed. Naturally, if you go straight to a professional, you will receive a full warranty, usually not just on the equipment but also on the quality of work.
Should You Opt for Solar Energy DIY Kits?
Deciding to switch to solar, or add solar to your electric power source, is a big decision to make. This means that you need to put all figures, pros and cons, and time spent on paper and find out which option will benefit you the most. There are also some tips that you should follow that may make going for a professional installer cheaper than opting for DIY kits:
- If you get multiple quotes, you could save as much as 10% on the most expensive one.
- You need to make sure that you review all the different options. Look at who the professionals are and how they have been reviewed, and consider also how others have experienced the DIY kits. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at the U.S. Department of Energy recently reported that it is vital to make proper comparisons as you may otherwise end up paying a hugely inflated price. Indeed, the largest, national installers often charge far more than local installers.
- Finding small, local contractors is a fantastic way to save money, but you need to make sure that they are linked to a good network and that they have been vetted to ensure that they have the right qualifications, licenses, certifications, and insurance. That will take a significant amount of time to research, time you wouldn’t have to spend if you were to opt for DIY kits.
- Remember that the best price is not usually given by bigger installers. The government recently reported that large installers tend to charge between $2,000 and $5,000 more than small companies. Hence, if one of those big companies has contacted you with an ‘offer’, make sure that you take this to local companies to see if they can beat the price.
- Compare all the options available to you in terms of equipment. You will find that the prices with large installers are higher and that, on top of that, they give you far less options in terms of your equipment. You need to look not just at the different contractors and their prices, therefore, but also at the different arrays and what they can bring to you. This is particularly important if you opt for a solar energy DIY kit.
- Considering your options means looking at all the different variables. There are hundreds of solar PV manufacturers out there and they should all state the efficiency rating of their panels. The most expensive panel is not necessarily the most efficient one. Rather, you need to calculate which one will give you the fastest return on investment
If, from the above, you feel that a solar energy DIY kit is the way forward for you, then you need to start comparing your options. There are many different cheap solar panel kits on the market and they have not all been created equally. You should consider the watts or system size, how much it costs, and how much that translates to in terms of dollars per watt. It is up to you to decide what is the most beneficial – cost per watt, total cost, or quality.