DIY Solar FAQ: Answering Your Questions About Solar Energy

DIY Solar

Solar energy is the future of humankind and our planet. But although solar panel technology has been around since 1954, there are still so many questions about solar energy and solar panels.

We're answering some of the most frequently asked solar questions. 

Table of Contents

What are the benefits of installing solar?

The benefits of installing a solar power system are two-sided: environmental and financial — both equally important. On one hand, you're contributing to our planet's welfare. On the other, you're lowering your energy expenditure.

How do solar panels help the environment?

First of all, solar energy is clean and renewable.

Unlike other energy sources (e.g., coal, gas), solar energy doesn't require mining or drilling, so it doesn't contribute to greenhouse gas emissions or produce hazardous waste. Solar panels also don't need water to produce energy, so they're not polluting the water like fossil fuels or nuclear power.

On top of everything, the carbon footprint is roughly 20 less than that of coal-powered electricity sources, making solar one of the most environmentally sustainable and climate-change-friendly sources of energy.

Will solar panels increase my home's value?

Yes. Studies have shown that installing a solar power system will increase the value of your home. The amount your home value will increase depends on your location and the size of the system. Investing in a solar power system will raise your home's value more than a kitchen remodel in many parts of the country.

Will I qualify for the solar tax credit?

Now through December 31, 2023, any U.S. homeowner who installs and turns on a solar electric system will qualify for a full 26% Federal Tax credit if installed between 2020 and 2022, and 22% if installed in 2023. 

To qualify, all you need is proof of purchase and an interconnection agreement as proof that you turned on the system. 

Check the Solar Tax Credit Guide

How much money can I save by installing solar?

Not only can you reduce your current energy bill by installing solar, but you also protect yourself from future increases in electric rates. Basically, you are buying your next 25 years of electricity at a lower rate than you currently pay. You will start saving money immediately, and the more the electric rates increase over time, the more money you will save.

 

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What is net metering?

Net metering, also known as Net Energy Metering (NEM), is a term used to describe your arrangement with the electric company after installing your solar power system. When your solar power system produces more power than your home uses, the excess energy goes to the electric company, and they will give you credit for that power. When your solar is not producing at night, you will use power against those credits.

The electric company will calculate how much power you fed to them and how much you used each month and provide a report. Some months may result in them owing you credits, and other months may result in you owing them for additional power usage.

In typical net metering agreements, the electric company will keep a tally each month and then bill you for the amount of power you have used at the end of the year. If they owe you credits at the end of the year, they may cut you a small check (a few pennies per kilowatt-hour) or keep those credits and start the new year at zero.

How does solar energy work?

It starts with solar panels that turn sunlight into D.C. electricity through the "Photovoltaic Effect" process. Photons, which are energy packets in sunlight, knock electrons loose within the solar cells that make up a solar panel. Those loose electrons are what create electricity. Then, an inverter changes the D.C. power generated by the solar panel into useful A.C. electricity to power your home.

Let's see what else is there to learn about how solar panels and energy work.

What happens to solar panels when it rains or snows?

Rain does not damage solar panels, but your panels will produce less energy during rainy or snowy weather when sunlight is obscured. 

When estimating the amount of energy your solar power system will produce, we consider your location and how much rain you typically get to provide an accurate estimate. 

If snow accumulates on your solar panels, they will not produce power until the snow melts or you remove it. If you live in an area with frequent snow, we recommend sweeping the snow off your solar panels regularly to keep them working in top shape.

Do solar panels work during a power outage?

Whether or not your solar panels will work during a power outage will depend on what other equipment you have installed. Most systems without batteries will not operate during a power outage. One exception is that SMA inverters will provide a small amount of power during an outage when the sun is out. 

Check our kits with SMA inverters

If you install batteries with your solar, then the solar can provide backup power during power outages. The amount of energy available during an outage will depend on the amount of solar and the size of the battery system you choose. 

See how to choose the best battery backup system for your home

How long do solar panels last?

Once you have installed your equipment, you can expect it to last a long time. Most solar panels have a 25-year warranty and will likely continue to produce power for many years after that. Most inverters have a 10-year warranty (except for Enphase microinverters, which have a 25-year warranty).

Is there maintenance on a solar power system?

One of the great things about solar power systems is that they require very little maintenance. 

If you live in a very dusty area that doesn't get a lot of rain, you may have to clean the solar panels once in a while to get better production. Or if you live in an area where snow accumulates and doesn't melt until spring, you might have to remove the snow from your panels to keep them producing all winter. 

A string inverter will typically have to be replaced about 10 to 15 years after it is installed. Other than that, your system will operate for years without you having to lift a finger.

Should I go off-grid with solar?

If your home is already connected to the grid, you should keep that connection. A grid-tied system is much simpler to install and less expensive than an off-grid system because you can use the grid to fill in when the solar doesn't produce as much power as you need. 

When you stay on the grid, you only have to size the system based on how much money you want to save on your electric bill. When you go off-grid, you need batteries to store power to use at night, and you must size your system to produce enough power for your needs even during days of bad weather.

An off-grid solar panel system is a good solution if you plan to live on a remote property where it would be costly to have the utility company bring in power.

How much solar do I need?

The amount of solar you need depends on many factors, but the best place to start is to look at how many kilowatt-hours you use. This information will be listed on your electric bill and might be abbreviated as "kWh." 

Pro-tip: Look at an entire year of electric bills to get your average kWh usage. Most households fluctuate each month based on heating and cooling needs.

Once you have your annual kWh usage, you can see what size system it would take to offset that usage on our solar system size estimator.

Should I install batteries with my solar?

Grid-tie solar does not require batteries, but there are a few reasons why you might want to add them. 

One reason is that they provide power during outages which a typical grid-tie system without batteries can't do. 

Another reason to add batteries is they can help you take better advantage of Time of Use (TOU) electric rates. With TOU electric rates, you pay more for power used during peak times (typically 4 pm – 9 pm), so storing solar power earlier in the day makes sense. 

Some places have financial incentives like the SGIP rebate in California to offset the price of the batteries.

DIY Solar Panel FAQs

If you want to save money on solar panel installation and are quite the handyman, then DIY solar panels are the perfect solution. 

Solar power has never been more accessible and affordable!

What is a DIY solar panel?

As the name suggests, DIY solar panels are solar panel kits that you can assemble and install independently or with a bit of help. Think of DIY solar panels as the IKEA of the solar power technology — they come with comprehensive and easy-to-follow, how-to installation instructions that leave no room for misinterpretation.

How much money can I save by installing my own solar?

A DIY solar installation will save you a significant amount of money. Your savings will depend on the size of your system, whether you'll install it by yourself, and if not, how much the installers in your area typically charge. 

To give you a general idea, if you compare the cost of the equipment by itself to the cost of a turn-key installation, it's about $1.75 per watt. If you are looking at a typical size 6 kW residential system, that equates to a savings of around $10,500.

Discover the cost of solar panel systems.

Am I qualified to install my own solar?

Installing DIY solar is a great way to save money, but it's more complicated than assembling a piece of IKEA furniture. DIY solar requires some basic construction skills, knowledge of power tools, and a good understanding of electrical safety.

However, if you are capable of basic home renovation work, you should be able to quickly learn the ropes of DIY solar and install it yourself. 

It is also possible to do most of the work and hire a professional for the parts you aren't sure about. For example, you can install all the panels on the roof and have a professional electrician make the final connections in your main service panel.

Learn how to pick the right solar installer.

Who buys GoGreenSolar DIY Solar Kits?

Our DIY solar kits are perfect for a wide variety of use cases, including:

Do-It-Yourselfers - They have the trade skills to tackle major home improvement projects on their own. They purchase the DIY solar kit, follow our directions and complete the project on their own or complete the majority of the DIY solar kit installation and hire an electrician to make the final hookup to the electrical service panel.

Owner-Builders - These customers have existing relationships with a contractor they trust. With our help, the owner-builder will secure their solar permit, get approval from their utility company to install the solar panels, and then hire their trusted contractor to complete the installation.

Homebuilders - We help homebuilders lower their solar installation costs by providing a DIY solar kit that can be installed by collaborating with their existing roofer and electrician who are already on site. This removes the need to hire a third-party solar contractor and reduces the cost and complexities of managing another contractor.

Specialty Contractors - Remodeling, electrical, and other specialty contractors often get clients asking if they can install solar panels. These specialty contractors purchase GoGreenSolar solar kits and services from us to help their clients go solar without the headaches and burdens of becoming solar contractors. Our company becomes their solar back office, providing the solutions they need to help customers power their lives with sunshine.

Organizations - Governments and corporations with their own qualified staff workforce purchase our DIY solar kits and install them in their facilities.

What is the installation process?

A typical solar roof-mounted system can be installed within two days once you obtain a permit from your city or county. After that, it's just five easy steps until you're producing power from the sun.

#1 - Take your plan set to your city or county and apply for a permit to install. The plan review process can take up to 10 days. Once the city or county approves your plans and issues your permit, you may begin installing your solar system.

#2 - First, install the racking and mounting system. This step is the most laborious process of the solar installation process. You have to locate the rafters on your home and secure the racking system directly to them.

#3 - Once the racking and mounting system is on your roof, the solar panels and inverters can be quickly installed. The inverter(s) are then tied into the grid through a dedicated breaker in your main service panel.

#4 - When the installation is complete, your city or county inspector must sign off on it. You can accomplish this by scheduling an inspection meeting with them.

#5 - Lastly, you must send the final job card, interconnection paperwork, and your net metering agreement to your utility. They will then grant you Permission to Operate. It can take up to 4 weeks after passing inspection for your utility to provide you Permission to Operate. 

With our interconnection service, we will process all the paperwork for you. Our job is not over until your system is producing clean energy from the sun! We offer you support throughout the installation process with manuals, videos, and technical support.

To learn more about what happens after the installation process, check out this resource.

How long does it take to install solar?

It will depend on the complexity of the installation, but a good rule of thumb is to plan for about 2 hours of work per solar panel. If you install a 16-panel system, it will take about 32 hours of work. 

Where should I install my solar panels?

Solar panels will have the best energy production if they face south, but you won't lose too much if they face east or west instead. Shade during the middle of the day will cause a significant drop in production, so you will want to avoid that where you can. But shade early in the morning or late in the day is not as big of a deal. 

Remember that some shade, like trees in your yard, can be fixed with a chainsaw.

Here's a full explanation of solar panel efficiency.

Many systems are installed on the roof because it's an out-of-the-way place with less shade, but solar panels can also be installed on ground-mounted racks if you have ample space.

Is my roof suitable for solar?

There are a few things to look at when evaluating your roof for solar. One crucial factor is what direction it faces. You will get more energy from solar panels that face south, so if you have a roof that slopes in that direction, you are in good shape. Solar panels that face east or west also provide ample energy.

Another important factor for production is shade. Mid-day or afternoon shade on the roof will hurt your solar production.

One more thing to consider is the age and condition of the roof. If the roof needs to be replaced in the next ten years, you should replace it before installing the solar. Removing solar panels to replace the roof later is not an easy task.

What should be included in a solar kit?

A DIY solar kit needs to have more than just solar panels and an inverter, so beware of the cheap internet deals. You will also need racking hardware to mount your solar panels and quality roof attachments to properly secure them to your roof. A solar monitoring system is required to ensure that your system continues to function properly in the years to come.

Finally, you should make sure you purchase your kit from someone that will help you size it correctly and provide guidance on your installation. 

Here's a list of the tools you'll need for a DIY solar installation.

When you buy a kit from GoGreenSolar.com, we will help you calculate your payback on your solar investment, engineer the system for your roof and provide installation guides. Permit plans are also available for an additional fee if you need them.

What is NOT included in my solar kit?

To complete the installation of your customized solar kit, you will need to purchase wire, conduit, fittings, breakers, AC/DC disconnects (if required), junction boxes, a sub panel (if required) and some additional minor hardware. All these items can be purchased at most electrical supply stores, Home Depot or Lowes.

The average total cost of these materials (not included in the price of your kit) is typically $500 to $1,000 for roof-mounted systems and $1,000 to $3,000 for ground-mounted systems.

Costs for a service panel upgrade are not included, and these are estimates — prices may vary. Your technical support representative will provide a shopping list of materials you need to purchase once your plans are complete.

For metal roofs: Some metal roofs may require additional materials not included in the kit. We recommend that customers installing on metal roofs budget an additional $600 -$1000 for Unistrut and other components that may be needed to retrofit their roofs. During the plan set drafting process, an engineer will analyze your metal roof to determine whether additional support is needed to accommodate a P.V. racking system.

For ground mounts: Usually require Schedule 40, fittings and concrete to complete the project, which are not included in our kit.

How long will my solar kit take to ship once the order is placed?

Once an order is placed, we will schedule your order to be shipped within 2-3 weeks. If any components are back-ordered, you will be notified before your payment is processed.

Will I need to upgrade my main service panel to install solar?

This depends on your existing main service panel and the amount of solar you want to install. If you have a 200 amp main service panel, you can install up to about 9 kW of solar without having to do an upgrade. But if your main service panel is only 100 amps, you would be limited to about a 5 kW system. 

Find out more about main service panel requirements

How much should I expect to pay a contractor to install the solar kit?

Any licensed general, electrical or solar contractor can install our solar kits. If you select to hire a contractor to install your solar kit, you should expect to pay approximately $1.00 per watt for labor, wire, conduit, fittings, breakers, and other miscellaneous electrical components to complete the solar system installation. 

For example, for a 5 kW (kilowatt) system, which is 5,000 watts, you can expect to pay around $5,000 for installation.

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