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Everything You Need to Know: DIY Solar Installation

Solar power is becoming a more and more popular option for energy. This is the age of going green with hybrid cars, e-books, and, you guessed it, solar power. It may seem like a major expense, but it’s one that eventually pays for itself in savings. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know, consider and do to install it yourself.

What You Should Know Before Installation

Be sure to do tons of research before starting this project. Use the internet for its wealth of knowledge and search for instructional videos to see how exactly it’s done. It’s important to acquire some wiring and voltage knowledge. Read up on each before beginning.

Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations of your town for projects like this. Learn the process for obtaining any permits you need to start and complete the solar power installation.

Decide whether you are doing an “on the grid” or “off the grid” power source. In most cases, it is best to do on the grid. This means you stay connected to your utility company. If you don’t generate enough power for your needs you’re covered by the utility company.

What You Need to Start

Your supply list should include: solar modules, a power inverter, PV disconnect, your breaker box, and a net meter. The solar modules are the panels you’ll be installing. These are what collect energy from the sun. A power inverter is needed to turn the energy current collected by the panels into a current your house can use. PV disconnects allow you to cut the power so no one is electrocuted while working on the system. The collected solar energy connects to your home through your breaker box. Finally, a net meter measures how much energy you give or take from the power grid.

Calculate Your Energy

Calculating your energy is important in determining the kit you’ll purchase and the layout you’ll install. There are calculator apps you can use right on your phone to calculate your energy uses. All you need is your electric bills. Your electric bill will tell you how much energy you consume. You’ll also need to find out the peak sun hours of your location. This is a number of hours your area gets sunlight.

Take the energy amount you use in a day and divide it by the number of daily peak sun hours and that amount is the kW you’ll need in panels.

What Kind of Panels Will You Need

Crystalline and thin-film are the two basic types of panels.

Crystalline panels are the more commonly used option. They have a 40-year lifespan and are durable and very efficient. The major drawback of this option is the complicated installation. These panels require an intricate racking structure.

Thin-film is exactly as it sounds. It is a thin and flexible film material that comes on a roll. It is more affordable than crystalline panels and profoundly easier to install. Installation is composed of sticking the film on a smooth surface. The drawback to this option is that it is not as durable or long lasting as the crystalline panel. It is also said to be more efficient at night, however, less efficient overall.

The kind of panel you choose will also depend on the location you plan to mount it. If you choose crystalline it is important to make sure your roof is stable enough to support the weight. If it isn’t, consider a ground installation or using thin-film. Also, be sure to mount them away from any shaded areas.

Power Inverters and Net Meters

Choosing a power inverter is important, but simple. Make sure to purchase grid-tie inverter as opposed to an off-grid inverter. Ensure it can handle the wattage of your solar array and you have the power inverter you need.

A special net meter is needed to properly measure the energy you’re giving back to the grid. It needs to be able to spin backward. Since this is something that greatly helps the power grid, your utility company will usually provide one for free

Once you’ve made the important decisions and acquired the tools and knowledge needed for this project, you’re ready to begin your installation. Follow a step by step how-to video for the physical installation.

Article donated by Jon Reus from Jon is an expert in home improvement and renovations and had year of experience in writing and passing on his knowledge

Author: Jon Reus

I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.

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