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You ask, we answer: Are Home Built Solar Panels Worth it? No.

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 01/03/2010 in
Updated 12/28/2018

Gina from New York writes:

I was wondering what you thought of homemade solar panels.  I have been told by a few people that it is fairly easy to make your own panels.  Is it worth looking into in your opinion?
Thank you,
Gina

ANSWER: Hey, Gina. I’ve already written about this before in my post Energy4-Earth Scam. Within that post, there’s a link to this explanation that really breaks down the scam, how it works, and why it’s bogus.

Honestly, for most people except extreme hobbyists who happen live next to a solar manufacturing dumpster for easy access to discarded (broken) photovoltaic cells, these “Do-it-Yourself” (DIY) solar kits are a waste of time and money.

  • Even if the materials were readily available at your local hardware store, as claimed (false), it will take hundreds of hours to build enough cells to power your home.
  • Second, your DIY home built solar panels will not meet any electrical codes. In other words, they’re potentially a fire hazard.
  • Third, you’ll have to hook it up to your own electric panel, so you’ll have to hire an electrician.
  • Fourth, because DIY solar panels are not approved by the state, you don’t get the benefit of net metering, which many states provide to consumers.
  • Fifth, because DIY solar panels are “home made” from spare parts, they end up looking pretty gnarly and ugly on your roof, decreasing your home value. Conventional panels look much better and actually increase your home value.
  • Sixth, Say goodbye to any State of Federal rebates or incentives. These are applicable only to solar panels that are UL listed (deemed safe by the Feds) and/or registered with your State (deemed safe by your State). I could go on….

Bottom line, even if the materials were free, I wouldn’t put DIY solar panels on my roof.

Hope that helps,

Solar Fred

Last modified: December 28, 2018

12 thoughts on “You ask, we answer: Are Home Built Solar Panels Worth it? No.

  1. Avatar for Kylie Kylie says:

    How would I get a job working for a solar company in Missouri? I have a year and a half of experiance at a well knows solar company on the east coast. Please someone let me know!

  2. Avatar for martin martin says:

    “Often times, installers want to install the system that is most profitable to them instead of the most dependable, …” Absolutely. Specifically, if string inverters, suggest a relative high V(oc) design based on the lowest ambient temperature in accordance with NEC 690.7, and factors of degradation over time, and other things.

    Besides, code compliant, the size of the conductors, sized for cost or sized for energy with distance as a factor – voltage drop -> power loss. If residential, if string inverters most may use #10 AWG on the DC side ~<2%-3%. With micro-inverters conductors sized on the AC side at ~1%.

    Solar Power = Current * Voltage.
    Solar Energy = Power * Time.

    The primary source of current would be sunlight.

    "You’re paying for expertise as well as the value of your own time." Correct. If you empower an individual with maximum empower, the solar energy system prevails with a not only with the sunlight tranformity to energy, but the embodied energy to complete the project ~ $6/Watt?

    Solar Emergy = Empower * Time

    "We love consumers to be educated" Over time, consumers would explicate the meaning of solar energy systems as prosumers at a mean size of ~4kW. Average available roof or ground area code compliant to NEC 690.64(B) ~20 amps for current. Since the first time using solar energy for most, knowledge would be a factor of time. In time, the wisdom to use renewables as knowledge plus experience, results in one thing – an epiphany – climate change @ ~387.27 ppm

    An epiphany, equal to a greater impact than mother nature * father time combined. "Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future."

  3. Avatar for Tor a.k.a. "Solar Fred" Tor a.k.a. "Solar Fred" says:

    Jonathan, thanks for your comments.

    We love consumers to be educated. That’s one of the main reasons why we’re here. On topic, however, these home made DIY solar panel kits aren’t worth a Twinkie. Not even a half a Twinkie. There are real DIY kits that some companies offer, however, but these are composed of manufactured solar panels and components. They are safe, but if you want net metering and all of the other incentives that go with solar, it’s going to be a lot of extra time and work. I think that’s the value in professional installers. You’re paying for expertise as well as the value of your own time.

    Thanks for commenting.

  4. Avatar for Jonathan Cole Jonathan Cole says:

    While it is a fact that professionals have the experience to install equipment safely, sometimes that is not enough. Often times, installers want to install the system that is most profitable to them instead of the most dependable, maintainable and cost-effective for the end-user. That is why education of the home-owner is indispensable to make sure no design issues are overlooked. That’s why as a researcher/author with 27 years of solar experience, I wrote the book for homeowners to be used in conjunction with their installer/contractor. It is called Light on the Earth: The Solar Option and is available on Amazon.com.

  5. Avatar for PVAddict PVAddict says:

    With your permission, I’d like to print this out for my PV overview class as a handout. Let me know what I need to do so you get proper credit. Well-written and to-the-point, can’t beat it. THANK YOU.

  6. Avatar for martin martin says:

    “Do-it-Yourself” (DIY) systems … what do you think?

    http://news.google.com/news/search?aq=f&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&q=Andalay+DIY

  7. Avatar for Tor a.k.a. "Solar Fred" Tor a.k.a. "Solar Fred" says:

    I’m with you Cristof. I never follow DIY solar panel hawkers on Twitter, but I do allow them to follow me and perhaps pass on real solar info.

  8. Avatar for martin martin says:

    Not all do it ‘yourself’ (DIY) solar would be bad … with differentiation between modules and systems. Specifically for classroom, safety training, …

    It’s at the point of connection NEC 690.64 – that’s the issue :)

    “Get ‘yourself’ quotes from solar installation companies!”

    https://www.solarpowerrocks.com/see-your-solar-savings/

    There are various articles https://www.solarpowerrocks.com/ with regards to the use of licensed contractors to do it ‘right’ (DIR)?

  9. Avatar for Christof Christof says:

    Gets to the point — and quickly. Thanks for this. On a side-note, I find the links some people put up on their Twitter pages as, allegedly, their home page link, but which point to DIY solar sites, really irritating. I never follow someone who does that..

  10. Avatar for martin martin says:

    Sam, exactly. Including proper system grounded and equipment grounding conductors of NEC Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4.

    In addition, not only UL 1703, but UL 790, … also consider IEC 61215, …

    The substantial issue is current which is directly proportional to sunlight. As a result, body currents greater than ~0.1 to 1.0 A may result in ventricular fibrillation – dangerous – depending on the time of day, azimuth, tilt and the duration of the shock.

    Not only parallel is an issue, but series to increased voltage. Not only practical safeguarding would be a requirement, but also PPE – Personal Protective Equipment.

    The issue is not only NEC, but NFPA 70E, and safety training. Suggest the NJATC National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee as a resource for additional information.

    A qualified person is ‘one who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to recognize and avoid the hazards involved.’

  11. Avatar for Sam Harriman Sam Harriman says:

    Ask your local installer what the number 690 means to them

  12. Avatar for martin martin says:

    Concur. Practical safeguarding is a substantial issue typically without a disconnecting means for sunlight along with other issues – specifically in compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC), …

    It’s highly unlikely for one to reach up an turn off the sun? In other words, may the “sun rise on the evil and on the good”

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