In the last few years, affordable solar panels have finally reached the consumer market. If you’ve got money and lots of confidence, you might consider doing your own solar installation. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the decisions you’ll need to take if you go this route, and some of the problems you’ll have to deal with.
First things first: obtaining panels is not a problem. These days, you can buy panels over the counter at many out-of-town DIY chains. No local store? Try Amazon or eBay.
But, buying the panels is only the beginning. You’ll need to attach them securely, and you’ll need to wire the solar panels up.
Believe it or not, attaching the panels (solar roofing) is often the more difficult of the two. If you’re putting them on your roof, you’ll need to fit mounts right through the shingles and down to the rafters, without losing waterproofing. That’s a big operation, especially if you’re trying to do it from a ladder! Maybe an ‘A’-frame in the yard is a better idea…
Wiring up the panels is as easy or as hard as you want it to be. If you’re not familiar with electrical safety, it may be a good idea to go DC/low-voltage, building a standalone network — but you’ll need halogen lights and low power appliances to match. We like Sundaya’s Ulitium system, which includes low-power TVs, fridges and computers, plus panels with integrated power management — but you can also buy your own power controller for a few bucks and rig up car batteries for overnight storage.
Maybe you want to go the whole hog and wire your new panels up to the grid? You won’t need to buy new appliances, but you will need an inverter to convert the solar feed to high voltage AC.
Until quite recently, fitting a grid tie inverter was a specialist job, not recommended for the DIYer. But, in the last couple of years, we’ve seen the arrival of consumer-level inverters which you can hook up to your domestic supply just by plugging the box into a wall socket.
Of course, some utilities mandate a pro installation before they’ll deal with your solar feed. But maybe the DIY route will work for you…
Disclaimer: Keep in mind that you need to be a licensed electrician to wire panels into your home. You should never wire anything unless your a professional or have extensive training!