DIY Solar Install?

LydaRA

New User
LydaRA
I'm in Charlotte. I'm also a networking engineer & BSA climbing instructor.

Anywhere across the state, has anyone tried DIY solar for their home? How was the experience? What did you run into unexpectedly? Recommendations?
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
At NCSU's McKimmon center they have a solar demonstration house, at least they used to. It's a passive design. Had a friend who built same house and it met all of their expectations. One problem I ran into was neighbor's pine trees didn't read the specs on how tall to grow. There used to be a solar home tour in Orange County.
 

kserdar

Ken
Senior User
The "Green Home Tour" had lots of homes with solar (including mine).
Because of Covid-19 this tour was canceled this year.

The electrician wiring my home was a licensed solar installer. So, I just used him to get equipment and installation.
Not much help for the DIY. But, everything worked together and he explained everything to me.

My biggest problem was getting the power company (Piedmont) to put the correct meter on my house. After three months of my meter running backwards and them trying to bill me. When the solar was basically the only thing operating at the house. They finally installed a "net" meter and zeroed out my bill.
 

Oka

Casey
Corporate Member
I've done a few solar systems, they can go from basic to complicated. Here in Hawaii, a normal system for a home is between 26-40 panels (2'x4') a lot of people will install stand alone solar for AC, so the AC runs on a dedicated solar panel cell with enough back up batteries to last 12 hrs of ac use. Currently Hawaii gets about 35% of its electricity from solar generation.
Biggest issues most people have these days is the Elec. companies are getting more rigid about home owners installing solar. Just like Ken said, it seems like you need an act of God to get them to engage with you. That said, the solar panels are one piece, their supports, then the inverter , battery backup, the switching equipment, there some other misc things you need besides the wiring and connection, and those parts tend to be more specific to the type of panel and/or system you are installing. In general, the brackets and posts you have to buy can get costly depending on the type of roof you have. If I remember correctly, the wind load in N.C is 110-120 most places unless you are near the coast then it is higher. Here we have 130 mph load requirement. That adds cost to the substrate. Anyway, they are easy to install, to me, easier than assembling a computer.

Here is a link for some solar info ............. Solar info ..........
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
Dealing with all of the power company regulations and others will extend the time on the learning curve. It would be better to hire a licensed solar installer company that already knows the regulations and how do deal with them. Plus they have the connections within the industry to get things done quicker.
 

Billm0066

Bill
User
Also keep in mind cost vs return. Solar adds no value to your home from an appraisal perspective. A lot of solar companies and installers lie about increasing home value. It would be interesting to see how much money you save from not paying labor and if you can find any deals on parts. Solar is a great concept but most systems take 9-12 years to recoup money if you don’t have to put any other money into it after install.
 

Mrfixit71

Board of Directors, Treasurer
Rich
Staff member
Corporate Member
I took a continuing ed course at our local community college about 10 years ago. We had one workshop where we went to NCSU and actually installed a small system, hands on. They also covered all the state and power company rules. Depending on your schedule, you might want to see if they have a similar course near you. Well worth the $150 course fee.
 

jlwest

Jeff
Corporate Member
Also be aware that if placed on your roof it will have to removed when its time for roof repairs.
 

Oka

Casey
Corporate Member
It adds value to houses here in Hawaii :cool: A proper solar system here reduces the cost 90-98% but usually return on investment is 10-14 years

Also keep in mind cost vs return. Solar adds no value to your home from an appraisal perspective. A lot of solar companies and installers lie about increasing home value. It would be interesting to see how much money you save from not paying labor and if you can find any deals on parts. Solar is a great concept but most systems take 9-12 years to recoup money if you don’t have to put any other money into it after install.
 

tvrgeek

tvrgeek
User
There are some not-too obvious code issues with solar. Some rather important safety issues.
In MD. there was a way where you just leased your roof. No cash outlay. You got back about half as much as if you owned it, but zero payback time and zero maintenance and replacement. They would even remove and reinstall once every 20 years for roof repair. Don't think we have that here in NC. I was told the utilities have got some restrictions passed as they have invested in farms heavily, but there is a Federal law that says if it is solar, no other laws or zoning can prevent the install, so you could put an array in your front yard. I know of one person who put a passive hot water collector in the front yard and used the "supports" as a garden shed and the city could do nothing about it.

I woudl not jump on a 10 to 14 year payback as the panels degrade with time. Seems like you would be replacing them about the time they were paid off, so a net zero gain.
 

Oka

Casey
Corporate Member
TVRGeek has brought up some good points. Here is some other information that can help understand the issue, and costs.

1. First thing, you can look up how much sunlight you get per day. This number usually has 2-3 numbers that make up the total or is shown on a graph.
Even if you have cloudy days some electrical pv generation will occur. (pv=photo voltaic) there usually is a graph showing a rough percent efficiency bracket of sunlight.

2. The distance from the equator will determine how much seasonal change happens to the day's duration. NC is set roughly 33.5-36.5 degrees above the equator, Hawaii where I live is set 18-21 degrees above the equator. That means here in Hawaii we get about 2 more hours of sunlight in winter vs being in NC.

3. Costs are broken out into 5-6 sections: 1-development costs, research, engineering, plans & permits; 2-panel costs (brand,type and quantity) 3. Associated connection costs e.g. brackets, hardware, wire, cable, conduit, emi/rfi/emc filters, mini controllers, seismic or hurricane holdowns, hardware, caulking and sealants. 4-Inverters (dc to ac) and switch gear. 5- Battery backup - this can be huge depending on the local code. Usually it is about 1500 bucks but some areas require you have back capacity that can handle 60-120 min full demand. That can run upwards of 7-12,000 bucks. Steer away from Tesla and companies like this. They install propitiatory software through their system so you cannot change even one battery cell unless you get it from them (yes even batteries have computer software built into them) 6- Install costs.

I know it seems like a lot but they are worth it if you are patient in your purchase, understand what you are getting and understand all costs and all returns.
One other note, the cheapest panels most likely are not the best choice. You need to understand the build quality, its lifecycle and the warranty. Panasonic and GE used to have (they still might) best warranty, it had a indemnification bond behind it that made it Gold clad. So even if these companies were to disappear tomorrow the warranty would not. I would stay away from all lease options their contract agreements are rife with deception and misdirection. Further, because of the percentage reduction of federal credits these offer no real benefits to the owner other than less up front out of pocket expense.

The problem with PV systems and determining which is best for you is more a financial/ cost benefit analysis exercise as it is a construction project. A good quality PV panel can last upwards of 30 years plus, a cheapo will only make 7-10 years, choose wisely
 

jlwest

Jeff
Corporate Member
Also, not all utility companies will buy your excess power at retail value so pay back takes much longer.
 

skrewd

New User
john
Buyer beware. Have experience with three neighbors that added solar to their homes. A few seldom told truths,

solar panels don’t last forever, they are subject to decreasing efficiency over time due to, uv degradation, abrasion of surfacing, damage from birds bugs hail, thermal shock,

a home roofing system not designed from the start for panels may not handle the weight load, the fasteners and wires entering shingles, sweating underpayment, cost of leak repair and expense of accessing damage panel or roof shingles, leaf entrapment, rot and time delay to discover the rot, lightning strikes and damage /system failure,

selling energy back wholesale rate but using at consumer rate, battery bank, battery like span of five years, electric grid tie in hardware cost and insurance

insurance coverage denials, contractors under insured, fly bynite

lack of adequate sun, panel angle, clouds

but the biggest is sustainablity, it takes more btu s to make a solar panel than it can create in its life time, think how glass is made, silicon sheets created, all those processes and the pollutant byproducts, do the math

All three neighbors had to replace not only their roofs but truss and ceiling repairs not covered by state farm or Allstate, Goshen NY.
 

skrewd

New User
john
Just 20-15 percent efficiency new,10 to 15 percent loss every year after, after 15 years the are ugly shingles that you have to throw away.
 

Oka

Casey
Corporate Member
I have a number of solar projects under my belt, all were commercial. Generally, there are 3 basic types thin film, mono-crystalline and multi crystalline types

Efficiency ratings and output is a bit deceptive. Most panels will produce between 16-22% efficiency hybrid panels will rise above 40% (lot more expensive).

Most decent quality produce 32-40 watts per sq ft. That is at the panel. Loss is developed via the resistance going from the panel through the inverter. Average year by year loss is 1% . So 20, years later if a panel produced 35 watts per st ft the output is roughly 28 watts per sqft. Loss comes from UV degrading, micro cracks in the solar panel silicon, corrosion at connections and getting dirty.
As @skrewd pointed out, knowledge is power and understanding prevents getting a poor system. Here is a Reality Check a decent residential system of decent quality is about 30k or more depending on your size. Getting a contractor that is a no-nothing fly-by-night will be a catastrophe. This is not a framing job, there are many engineering considerations, matching components, proper wiring, micro-conditioning modules to raise efficiency, are those parts compatible with other parts? It requires more than a basic understanding of electricity, a lot more than an average licensed electrical contractor generally has.
The projects I have managed were all over engineered, over kill designs. Of course they were, they were Federal projects :rolleyes:. Only in the last 6-8 years has the tech become really worth it. That said, this is the future. 35% of Hawaii is generating on solar especially on Kauai island where the electricity rate is 36-42 cents a KWH vs 7-11 cents in North Carolina.


Just 20-15 percent efficiency new,10 to 15 percent loss every year after, after 15 years the are ugly shingles that you have to throw away.
 
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Billm0066

Bill
User
Buyer beware. Have experience with three neighbors that added solar to their homes. A few seldom told truths,

solar panels don’t last forever, they are subject to decreasing efficiency over time due to, uv degradation, abrasion of surfacing, damage from birds bugs hail, thermal shock,

a home roofing system not designed from the start for panels may not handle the weight load, the fasteners and wires entering shingles, sweating underpayment, cost of leak repair and expense of accessing damage panel or roof shingles, leaf entrapment, rot and time delay to discover the rot, lightning strikes and damage /system failure,

selling energy back wholesale rate but using at consumer rate, battery bank, battery like span of five years, electric grid tie in hardware cost and insurance

insurance coverage denials, contractors under insured, fly bynite

lack of adequate sun, panel angle, clouds

but the biggest is sustainablity, it takes more btu s to make a solar panel than it can create in its life time, think how glass is made, silicon sheets created, all those processes and the pollutant byproducts, do the math

All three neighbors had to replace not only their roofs but truss and ceiling repairs not covered by state farm or Allstate, Goshen NY.
fly by night companies are no joke. I do real estate for a living and constantly get hounded by all these new companies to earn a commission if my clients hire them for a solar panel system. Ummm no thanks.

people need to be very careful. The salesmen for a lot of these companies are ruthless and will lie their butts off.
 

Dee2

Gene
Corporate Member
$0.07-0.11, in NC for electricity? Wish I had had those rates in ENC - I paid $0.13 when there. Moving to SC and thinking I'll pay less gas tax, less real estate tax, and less electricity rate. 1 out of 3 an't good.
 

Oka

Casey
Corporate Member
Well in Hawaii my local rate is .36 cents almost 3 times your rate, but then, we have no heating costs as the lowest temp is about 62-63 degrees ;) ...and only for a few hours. Always trade offs to everything
 

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