Switching to solar can save quite a bit on your cost of energy, especially for Southern California homeowners in and around the sun-soaked Riverside County area. But if you’re planning a DIY solar installation, you should take the time to really think it through. Here are 10 considerations for those wondering, “Can I install solar panels myself?”
1. Are You Licensed, Bonded and Insured?
Many reputable solar panel manufacturers will not sell to a person or company that is not properly licensed or working with someone who is. Without the proper licenses, you may reduce your expected savings by hiring someone to work with you just so you can buy the system.
There’s also a considerable amount of risk when undertaking this project if you’re not properly bonded and insured. What happens if you drop a solar panel, fry your home’s wiring or damage your roof? These are eventualities covered by a good solar installer, but if you go it alone, you will likely have a hard time collecting home insurance settlements if you’ve damaged your roof.
2. Are You an Electrician?
It can take a team of trained professionals several days to install a solar panel system, all while working with panel wires that can shock the installer if they’re touched together like jumpstarting a car. If it’s your first experience with solar installations, you may lose sight of the fact that this is not an ordinary electronic that is only dangerous when plugged into an outlet—panels are actively generating electricity from the sun.
The greater danger comes when working with your home’s main service panel. There’s a lot of current running through this hub, meaning plenty of opportunities for inexperienced installers to damage their home or themselves, perhaps seriously.
3. Are You a Roofer?
For starters, you’ll need to determine whether your roof is suitable for a solar installation. Some tile types are susceptible to breakage while others may have a tendency to wear and tear with age, creating a threat of leakage. These problems would need to be spotted in advance so you can make necessary preparations before beginning your installation. Of course, re-roofing is a DIY project with its own challenges.
4. Is a Warranty for Roof Damage Important to You?
There’s a very real possibility that you’re going to damage your roof during the installation, and repairs may be required. With most solar companies you can expect a fair warranty, though if you’re installing your own panels you will bear the burden and expense of any damage incurred.
5. Did You Size Your System Correctly?
The goal when switching to solar is almost always to offset 100 percent of one’s energy usage, thereby cutting free of the energy utility company. But do you know how to determine your annual energy usage and properly calculate the number of panels needed? It’s going to depend on the type of panels you choose, the direction(s) your roof faces, the trajectory of the sun and even tree shading. The right solar company will handle this complex equation and be accountable for any energy production overestimates.
6. It Takes a Lot More Than Just Solar Panels
Do you have a plan and/or vendor for what’s known as the “balance of system?” This includes all of the racking equipment, your micro inverter, all wiring, and every other seemingly mundane nut and bolt required to safely and correctly install your new solar panels. If you’re determined to go the DIY route, be sure you have an excellent inventory list and ask your panel seller to verify it because it’s not all stuff available at the local hardware store.
7. You Will Need All Relevant Permits
How do you like day trips to City Hall? You’ll make at least a couple of them, but not before figuring out exactly which permits your city requires and which paperwork needs to be filed. You’ll bear some additional costs for this as well, so be sure to find out what your city charges for processing and work it into your budget!
8. How Good Is Your Toolkit?
Most folks who consider installing their own solar panels are contractors. Otherwise, you may want to ask yourself a few of the tough questions, such as, “Am I confident I won’t damage my house?” “Is it worth risking damage, time and money to save a little money on a complex project?” And, “Will I have the help I need?”
For non-contractors who survive that self-interrogation, you’ll want to take a hard look at your toolbox to determine whether you have the equipment required for a solar installation. If you don’t have everything necessary, be sure to adjust your budget for the expense of renting or buying the proper tools.
9. Can You Replace Drywall?
Your handiwork may need to stretch further than some roofing, electrical work, and mounting your panels. It may be necessary to hide some exposed wiring, and that requires tearing out and replacing drywall. The same may be true if you damage your roof and create leaks. Again, this is a simple job for a contractor, but still an additional cost and one more sub-project DIYers will struggle to perform at a professional level.
10. Getting Interconnected with the Utility Company
When it’s time to use your system, you’ll need to work with the utility company in order to feed solar energy back into the grid. Unless you’ve executed your install perfectly—from sizing to permitting to installation to final checks and approval with the city—the utility company won’t help you. Major delays and added expenses are part of the risk if your end-to-end installation was at all mismanaged.
So is it worth it to install your own panels? To decide, you should weigh the potential savings against possible hidden expenses of time and money, plus the fact that most solar companies include installation in the energy quote. DIY may not be the significant source of savings you hoped, and it’s probably not worth the risk when professionals will install the system quickly and properly, keeping all work and equipment under warranty.
Go Green and Save Some Green – (951) 800-7926
With the finest solar panel design, craftsmanship, and affordable pricing, SunPower® by Precis has established itself as one of the most trusted solar installers in Riverside County. Having helped countless homeowners and businesses throughout Temecula and the surrounding areas slash their monthly electricity costs and switch to clean, renewable energy, our team of solar experts can offer the customized solutions to your property’s needs.Get in touch with us online today to request your free solar analysis!