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Is DIY Solar Panel Installation Viable?

DIY solar panel

When looking to save money on home improvement projects, DIY is always an option to be considered. Homeowners can tackle these projects either partially or completely on their own. This begs the question, is DIY solar panel installation a viable way to save money?

Installing a solar panel system can be very beneficial from a financial point of view. It can cut down on your energy expenses and raise the value of your home. However, it can still be a big investment upfront even if you take advantage of the many tax credits and rebates.

Generally, professionally installed solar panels cost from $6 to $8 per watt, depending on the area you live in. There are several factors that determine the cost of a whole solar system.  Labor and installation costs can be up to 15% of the price. 

The Pros of a Home Solar Kit

Unsurprisingly, homeowners are looking for the best deals and ways to cut down the initial costs as much as possible. DIY solar panel kits are one of those options. Homeowners can buy these kits from retailers such as Home Depot or Costco. These solar kits are not really comparable to a professionally installed solar system, but they do have their niche.

Home solar kits can be for both grid connected and off-grid use. This makes them perfect for supplementing power needs in a variety of ways. For off-grid use, a solar kit can be installed on anything that is not connected to your home’s power supply such as RVs, boats, barns, and tool sheds. Grid connected panels can help to cut down your utility bill, with a much lower upfront cost.

Prices and power outputs for home solar kits can range from $1,199 with 400W for an off-grid system, to $9,999 with 5,830W for a grid-connected system.

The Cons of a Home Solar Kit

A big difference between a DIY solar panel kit and a professionally installed solar system is the output. A home solar kit will rarely be able to sustain or supplement your energy needs as thoroughly as a whole solar panel system. 

The greatest disadvantage of DIY solar panel installation is that some of the rebates available require your panels to be installed by a professional. If your home needs a 5 kW solar system and you pay $6/watt to have it installed, the total would be $30,000. You can receive a 30% tax credit from the federal government until 2020, which would make the cost of your system $21,000. If you qualify for a rebate from your utility company, you can possibly receive up to $1.50/watt. Your total cost would then come down to $13,500!  That’s pretty comparable to the DIY solar panel kit, but you won’t have the hassle of installing it yourself.

You won’t have an installation warranty with your kit either, which is another disadvantage. Some manufacturers also only guarantee their product if it’s installed professionally.

Is DIY Viable For You?

Hiring a professional may cost you up to 15% of the system’s price, but you will benefit from having a trained and certified professional who knows the ins and outs of solar panels. Contractors can also help you take advantage of the incentives and rebates in your area. They usually buy at bulk prices from manufacturers as well and can typically get higher quality components than you’d find in a solar kit.

DIY solar panel installation can be a great choice for smaller projects. If you want to power your RV, or connect your barn to the grid, DIY is the way to go. But if you want to have a reliable system that can last up to 40-50 years and power your home almost completely, then it’s best to go with a professionally installed solar system.



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