Ready to DIY a Solar PV Installation?
Adding solar PV is almost always a good decision, but it shouldn't be an impulse buy because you saw some panels at store because there's a lot to think about and what you buy may not be right for you without considering them.
Check off all the items on the checklist to make sure you're ready to go before you buy!
This list represents some hard-learned lessons that members have posted over the years. It's meant as a guide of things to consider when you start thinking about adding solar.
Help for many of the items (e.g., wire sizing) can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions
section. If there's anything you don't understand or is tricky in your situation just ask on the forums!
- Energy Audit completed
- Create a spreadsheet or other model of the system (e.g., SAM) to ensure you understand the expected power generated for your location over the varying seasons.
- Check your local rules
- Research local net-metering agreement to see if being grid-tied is warranted (it usually is)
- Some local governments will require a "licensed solar contractor" at least for some parts.
- Annual shade patterns analyzed and location picked (if some panels will have shade, think about microinverters or optimizers)
- Research National, State, and local economic incentives for installing solar
- Build a rough economic model to understand payback (or use SAM's)
- Decide on the Array size you can afford (number and type of panels), and then decide the location, racking technique, and orientation (note: south isn't always best, use a tool like SAM to find the optimum). Most put them on the roof to conserve yard space, but if you have a lot of land and think they look cool it might be more economical and easier to maintain them on the ground.
- Critical loads (or smart loads) planned
- Ability to measure power from/to: Panels, house (inverter output), batteries, grid
- Monitoring solution to generate alerts if anything goes wrong
- Battery low/high voltage and temperature cutoff
- SPDs planned or ruled out for the house and panels.
- Insurance Plan, many insurance companies need to be notified and have different rates depending on the amount installed.
- Rapid shutdown planned (optional for ground mounts in the U.S.)
- Panel disconnect planned
- NEC requirements satisfied
- Proper wire types/gauges calculated
- Roof conduit (elevated if needed) planned
- 120% rule verified
- Grounding/Earthing plan
- Voltage drops calculated
- UV Resistant Labeling as per codes
- Building Codes
- Mounting plan to withstand local winds
- Verification roof doesn't need additional support for additional forces
- Battery bank location can withstand/support weight, has proper ventilation (if needed), and fire safety (enclosures or plans to contain any fire).
- Roof Plan (e.g., no Zone 3 or if so reinforced)
- Components all mounted at BFE+1 (flood zones only)
- Double-check all selected hardware is ETL/UL, or equivalent.
- Figure out how to get panels/tools to site (roof) without falling off the ladder.
- Determine how many, if any, soft-starters you'll need.
- Purchase all the necessary tools ahead of time. Some tools are hard to source locally.
- Review the Energy audit and replace inefficient, high consumption appliances with more efficient models.
- Create a building permit. Often your local office will have examples you can use, if not there are online sources that can create plans for you too.
- Put roof in good repair (it'll need to last +20 years underneath)
- Plan to seal all roof penetrations
- Size Battery bank disconnect/breaker
- Size Grid disconnect/breaker
- Select hardware for all equipment, double check shipping costs and times, and refine the economic analysis
- Design strings (not required for microinverters) and that they're balanced and under MPP maximums with temperature corrections
- Verify wire gauges
- Create a panel cleaning/maintenance plan (can you get to those middle panels easily enough?)
- Check your electric bill, some learned the hard way they didn't get a bidirectional meter installed and got charged for power they exported to the grid.
- Warranty, Engineering and Maintenance documentation assembled (for future owners after home/vehicle sale)
- Setup the monitoring software
- Create a log/notebook so you can track what the settings are and how you've modified them over time.
- Test battery back-ups