Going green is more than a buzzword. It is a lifestyle and involves having a proactive approach. While there are many things that you can do, one of the best is to take advantage of renewable energy, especially solar. Harnessing the energy of the sun is initially costly, but in the long run, it offers a plethora of benefits, including huge savings.
Aside from the actual cost of the solar panels, installation is also be expensive. Unsurprisingly, many people choose to take the DIY route. It can be intimidating at first, especially if you are not a handyman. However, with the right knowledge and a bit of an effort, things can be a lot easier.
Do not be intimidated by the thought of building a DIY solar system. Read this quick guide and learn from the valuable insights we’ll be sharing.
How Much Does It Cost to Use a Solar System?
Before anything else, let’s quickly talk about the cost of building a solar system. The costs will vary greatly depending on where you are from. The size of the installation, as well as your energy needs, will also impact the overall cost.
According to the Center for Sustainable Energy, a typical residential solar installation can be as much as $14,000. The payback period, on the other hand, will be from six to nine years.
Meanwhile, in the case of smaller solar installations, the cost can be from $2,000 to $5,000. Take note, however, that at such a price, the output is limited, and the quality is not yet top-notch.
Depending on your location, there are state or federal incentives for using a solar system. You can enjoy tax credits and energy rebates, among other perks.
Given the figures mentioned earlier, it is obvious that solar installation is expensive. No wonder, many people are hesitant. This is why you might want to consider taking the DIY route.
Pros and Cons of a DIY Solar System
Is setting up a DIY solar system worth it? To give you an idea, let’s quickly weigh the good and the bad. First, let’s talk about some of the reasons why you might want to do it on your own.
- It is a cheap way to enjoy an alternative electricity at home. It might intimidate some people, but after learning about how it is beneficial, many will be more than willing to understand the ins and outs.
- You can go green without the high cost of a traditional solar set-up. Aside from expensive solar panels, hiring experts to complete the installation will add up to the costs you need to shoulder.
- You will get a different kind of satisfaction knowing that your solar installation is a DIY project. Not only that you can brag it to your family and friends, you will also feel rewarded.
Nonetheless, there are also some drawbacks, including those that are mentioned below.
- It is a complicated process. For many people, the steps are quite overwhelming. Some may give up before they even get started. It requires a comprehensive technical knowledge that many of you might not have.
- Many of the DIY solar systems are designed only for small off-grid projects. This means that you might not be generating sufficient power to supply the electricity that your home demands.
- You might end up in an accident, especially without the right tools. Rooftop installations are difficult for most people. Solar panels are also quite heavy. Take note of the risks that you are about to face before starting with a DIY solar project.
A Step-by-Step Guide on Building a DIY Solar System
Ready to start your solar project? In this section, we will walk you through the important steps.
1. Compute Your Power Needs
A good starting point is calculating your power needs. This will give you an idea of the size of the system that you will need to install. By knowing your power load, you can also identify the size and number of the panels that are required for your DIY system.
Start by identifying the appliances that you would like to run using your solar installation. Do not think that you can power your entire home! Start small. Choose a few appliances, such as light, fan, or TV, among others that do not consume too much electricity. Calculate the watt hour, which is simply the wattage of the appliance multiplied by the number of hours it is used. For instance, if you have an 11-watt light that you use eight hours in a day, then the watt hour rating is 88. Combine this with the watt hour rating of the other appliances you wish to connect to your solar installation, and from here, you already have an idea of the size of the system necessary.
2. Choose a Battery
After identifying the size of the system that you will be putting up, pick the right battery. The most important components of your set-up, so the right choice is a crucial consideration. The panel’s output is in DC power. It generates power only during the day. Meaning, you will need a battery to store this energy so that you can use it at night. A deep cycle battery is recommended if you are looking for the best performance. Choose a battery that is big enough to handle your power needs.
3. Select an Inverter
Aside from a battery, an inverter is another important component in your DIY set-up. It converts DC into AC, allowing you to power your appliances. There are different types of solar inverter, so you need to figure out which one is most suitable for your needs. The most basic is a square wave inverter, but this may not be suitable for all devices. You can also consider a modified sine wave, but it does not work on electromagnetic and capacitive appliances, such as refrigerator and microwave. If you want one that will work on most appliances, then the best option is a pure sine wave inverter.
4. Pick a Charge Controller
It might be smaller than the other parts of your solar set-up, but it is equally important. It connects the battery and the panel. The main function is the regulation of the current and voltage from the solar panels. There are also different types of charge controllers, so you need to choose one that is suitable for the rest of your set-up.
5. Choose Solar Panels
This is perhaps the most important component of your solar system. It has photovoltaic cells, which are the ones that absorb energy from the sun. From here, the energy is converted with the help of the other components, and it then generates electricity that will power the appliances.
There are generally two options when it comes to solar panels – monocrystalline and polycrystalline. If you are looking for a better option, then we suggest that you go for polycrystalline. It can be more expensive, but it is better, so the added cost is justifiable.
Most of the solar panels will have 60 to 72 cells each. They can convert up to 23% of the power from the sun.
6. Set-up Your Mount
Now that you have all the components ready, the next thing to do is to set-up the rack where they are mounted. This is installed on the rooftop, which makes it quite tasking. Not to mention, it is risky, so make sure to observe caution. You can also mount it on the ground, but this can be quite inefficient, especially when there are tall buildings and trees around. The mounting hardware is often inclusive of steel or aluminum brackets. Pick sturdy materials that can withstand the external environment, including harsh winds. Secure the mount and the panels using the right nuts and bolts. Test the mounts to make sure that they are tightly fitted.
7. Connect the Components
After setting up the mount, now is the time to connect all of the components earlier mentioned. Once the panels are positioned, connect the charge controller, battery, and inverter. Proper wiring is a must to ensure peak performance. Choose high-gauge wires that will withstand the outdoor conditions. You might also need an electrical tape or soldering iron to complete all the connections. You can go online and search for some videos if you need a visual guidance on how you can complete this step.
8. Test It Out
After completing the connections, you are now ready to test out the system. Do not be frustrated if it did not work. This is common for many novices. Chances are, there are problems with your series connection or some components. Go back to make sure that you have done everything right.
Conclusion for DIY Solar System
In sum, a DIY solar system is intimidating and can end up being frustrating. However, with a bit of patience, knowledge, and effort, you can complete the task like a pro. Start by calculating your energy needs, then look for high-quality components to use in your solar array. Once you have everything, connect the pieces and enjoy your solar power!