DIY Solar Kits
With all of the buzz lately about declining fossil fuel supplies, increasing electrical costs and the stagnating economy, it is no surprise that more homeowners are looking to solar energy as a solution. It saves money, increases home values and protects the environment. While the cost of a complete installation is reasonable, budget conscious owners may want to save even more by using diy solar kits.
Is a DIY Home Solar System Right for You?
The good news is that you don't have to be Bob Villa or the Toolbelt Diva to make it work. Many of our customers do install their own solar system. Typically the homeowners hire a qualified electrician to handle the wiring and metering, choosing to install the racking and solar panels themselves or with hired help. Solar system are capable of producing hazardous voltages and we always recommend that customers do not do any of the electrical connections themselves and hire a qualified electrician to do the work.
If your home is currently on the grid, a diy solar project is much simpler. These systems can be easily expanded and have the added benefit of allowing you to sell electricity back to the grid. You will most likely need a qualified professional to complete the final electrical hook up and ensure it passes inspection.
Living off the grid means that your system can meet your electrical demand without buying from a utility company. While installation is more complex and costly due to the necessary battery system, there is a significant benefit to being off grid as well. It allows you the flexibility to build a home wherever you like, without worrying about how to get power to it.
Some of the questions that you need to ask yourself include:
Do you have enough space to accommodate solar panels? A solar array may be located on the roof or on the ground. Keep in mind that the more kilowatts you need, the larger your home solar system is going to be.
- Does the space receive enough sunlight? Is it a primarily southern exposure? Wherever you chose to place your solar panels, they need to receive approximately 8-10 hours of sunlight daily without any significant shading
- If you choose to mount the panels on the roof, is the framing sturdy enough to support the additional weight? What is the age of the roof?
What Components Do You Need?
A basic photovoltaic system consists of 3 major components: solar panels, a power inverter, the racking system. The solar panels contain photovoltaic cells for capturing the sun's energy. Several panels together form a solar array. The power inverter is responsible for converting the DC electricity from the solar panels into AC, a form that can be used by household appliances and fixtures. Alternatively, each panel can utilize a micro inverter for converting the DC to AC, offering significant advantages in installations with slight shading issues and making future expansion easier. The racking system for a typical household installation is mounted on the roof of the home and/or garage with the solar panels connected to the racking system. Alternatively a ground mount racking system may be utilized which allows the panels to be optimally positioned, but is slightly more expensive.
In addition, typical installations utilize an AC disconnect switch that is connected between the power inverter and the electrical panel. Micro inverter installations typically include a performance monitoring system that allows the individual modules to be monitored. You may require additional components based on your particular installation. The overall cost of the solar kits also varies. When estimating pricing, you will need to know how many kilowatts per month your home is currently using. You can check your utility bills to see what your monthly average is. We are here to help you. We can help you determine the appropriate system size and best equipment for your installation. Give us a call at 805-765-2781 and we will be happy to help you get started.
Get More Bang for Your Buck
The federal government offers several incentives for installing photovoltaic systems. This includes personal tax credits for homeowners, as well as personal subsidy exemptions. Corporations can also qualify for credits and deductions. The United States Department of Agriculture provides grants and low interest financing.
Individual states and utility companies provide additional financial incentives for home solar systems. While these vary from state to state, examples include:
- Waived permit fees
- Local rebates
- State rebates
- Property tax deductions
- Performance based incentives
- Reductions in sales tax
The best way to save money and keep your solar installation size/cost down is to lower your energy usage. On average, every dollar you spend on improving efficiency reduces the cost of a solar system by five dollars. If you are not sure about how to reduce energy usage in your home, most local utility companies will provide a free- or nearly free- assessment. Also consider saving on energy consumption by:
- Turning off electronic equipment when not in use. Computers, printers, VCRs, stereos, and televisions continue to use electricity while in standby mode.
- Change your light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs or light emitting diode bulbs. Both types use significantly less electricity to operate than standard bulbs.
- Use energy star appliances.
- Insulate your water heater and reduce the operating temperature to 110 degrees. Up to 13 percent of your utility cost is from your water heater alone.