When to Do-It-Yourself and When to Hire a Solar Installer

Tape Measure(44202)Credit: sxc.hu/svilen001A residential solar energy system is a smart investment for homes, but it can be pricy.  Many people consider cutting the cost by doing the work themselves rather than paying a solar installer.  Doing the work yourself can save a lot of money, but it can also end up making your system cost you more in the long run if you jump into the project unprepared.

If you are on the fence about doing the work yourself or hiring a solar contractor, there are some things to consider to help you make your decision.


How big is Your Solar Energy Project?

The size of your system makes a big difference.  It is often practical to do small installations yourself.  Do you want a small standalone solar system just to power a backyard pond pump and some lighting? This may be a good starting project to learn with. A whole house solar system is much more complex and more dangerous because higher voltages are used. Depending on your experience level, it may be wise to hire a solar contractor for a big job like this.


How Experienced Are You with Electrical Wiring and DIY Home Improvement ?

Electrical WiresCredit: sxc.hu/cieleke

Are you an electrical engineer? Do you know how to wire a home safely and to code? Are you handy around the house and proficient with DIY home improvements?  If any of these are the case, you may be thinking about doing some or all of the work yourself.  If you have limited experience, this is probably not the project to start on.  Call a solar contractor and get it done right, and without pulling your hair out.


Are you Willing to Deal with Permitting and Codes?

You may be comfortable with the installation itself, but there is more to it than that.  There are protocols that must be followed when installing a solar electric system.  You should get a permit before you even begin, and the work itself must pass inspection. A solar contractor will take care of all of the permitting, codes, and inspections.

Of course you can bypass these steps but it’s not a good idea.  First, if there is ever any problem such as a grievance with your neighbor – maybe they don’t like the view of your solar panels roof from their bedroom window – then you may be forced to take it down, simply because you didn’t get a permit. Also, if you want to get any kind of government tax credit or rebate, you must get a permit.  No permit, no rebate.

Installing a solar electric system can be a big job.  Problems will occur along the way.  If you are working with a contractor, it is his job to solve problems and make sure everything gets done correctly.  It may be possible to hire a solar contractor and still do some of the work yourself if the arrangement is agreed upon and in the contract to begin with.


Going solar is a huge step toward meeting our energy needs with renewable energy.  Whichever route you chose, DIY or hiring a professional solar installer, you will be making an improvement to the value of your home, and your carbon footprint.


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