Many people are interested in solar for their homes and some people want to be able to sell electricity back to the electric company to offset the cost of the install. Unfortunately costs of solar in residential projects is still pretty high. The payback can be decades and about the time that you are coming close to breaking even so you have free electric for your home you find that the solar panels have degraded from UV rays and they need to be replaced.
New panels are reducing the cost because they have higher outputs but until those panels become the base and not the upper level of panel for sale their price will be higher. Manufacturing over time will reduce the cost and older models just won’t be made because no one will want them.
The one good thing about residential installs is that the commercial installs such as ones on factories, businesses and even solar farms are installs that have huge numbers of product. This means that these customers will drive costs of higher wattage panels down.
Another bonus if you are really interested in saving money is buying used panels from companies that are changing out their panels. This happens because the panels are aging and you won’t want to buy those panels but it also happens when a system is being upgraded from 180 and higher wattage panels to new 300 or higher watt panels because the company needs to produce more electricity with the same area of roof. In this case if you can get your hands on panels that are 5 years old or less and of a good wattage then you can save quite a bit of money for a DIY project.
Professional Installs Might Be Mandatory
When you are building your system to feed back into the electric company’s grid they might require that your install be performed by an approved contractor that the electric company has reviewed. This is because they want to make sure that the system that is connected to their grid and producing electricity is safe and won’t cause them problems.
If you still want to do this on your own or do most of the work yourself then you should contact your electric company and ask if they can approve systems by inspection or if you can pay a contractor for inspection to get approval for connection.
I wouldn’t put it out of your mind that you might have to change out some of your system components or make improvements to comply with their needs.
Is A Solar Array All You Need For Sustainable Power?
In reality solar even with a large size batter backup won’t normally serve all the needs of a standard home. There may be many changes that you need to make to your home and to your lifestyle along with other additions to your electric generating system to make life livable.
Some of these things might include a wind power generator for nights and days when electric generation is low. Normally wind will pick up in winter months and overnight you already know you are living off your battery or you are using grid electricity from the electric company.
Things like changing your electric hot water heater to Gas and the same for your stove and oven in your kitchen will make big differences. If you are in a remote area you can always have a propane tank installed and then any natural gas appliances and heaters can be retrofitted with new valves to run off propane with very little problem.
Your lifestyle will also change and you will find ways to cool your home and do without every light and TV on in the house.
Do You Need Permits To Install Your Own Solar Electric System?
Most likely you will need permits and inspections to install any solar electric system even if you are off grid. In some areas permits are not a huge part of life. This is in very rural areas only. However in the rest of the world in suburbia and cities you definitely will need permits and inspection not just for the electrical side of your system but also because the weight of the panels on your roof could be a problem when you add snow loads. In these cases some people resort to free standing panel installs that take up part of their yard but at that point you really have to look at your project differently especially if the loss of property and costs make life not so happy.
I would check early on about the permitting process and what you can expect before you get too involved. You can also call contractors that do this work for a preliminary interview and then decide how much of the work you can do yourself and how much you might want to farm out to them. This is a good idea because it will take care of your grid tie problems when you want approval to sell back to the electric company.
In all honesty if you are on a budget this is not a real option for most people. In some states in the Southwest area of the USA there are government subsidies and electric companies will actually install a free system on your roof but then you do not own it and if there are problems you will have to deal with another layer of people. On the other hand a free or extremely discounted system might be worth it if you are on a budget. I would warn you to look very hard at the contracts and your liability because many people have reported problems with these deals over the years.
For people looking to go with a full professional install again the contracts for this work and the costs and problems dealing with solar companies are astounding. Even large companies with big names that you think you can trust are well known for delaying projects and installs for months and for bills that don’t match up with what you thought you were paying.
If you want to do this yourself then an off grid install would be your first objective and then later you can request approval and buy the equipment to tie into your grid. Until that time you can rewire some of your home systems to run off your solar and reduce your consumption of grid power.
This is not an easy thing and it is no where even close to how easy it is to get your home powered by the electric company. A new home that is getting a drop from a pole and a new meter installed can have everything from the order to completion done in a week with the man hours being only a couple hours. With solar it normally takes months. It should only take a day or two but it normally takes months. This is because so few homes are on solar and the people you rely on are not as dependable as the electric company… that has to be said because it is true and somewhat disappointing at the same time.
I suggest that you talk with as many people as you can before you get started.