Should you DIY a Solar Installation

cow_ranchercow_rancher Solar Expert Posts: 117 ✭✭✭✭
It appears that Mother Earth News thinks the Solar installation industry does not add much to the cost of a solar system.
What are your thoughts?

https://www.motherearthnews.com/renewable-energy/diy-solar-with-a-solar-panel-kit-zbcz1601

10%    Really?


Rancher

Comments

  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,496 ✭✭✭✭✭
    That article really doesn't say much at all.  10% might be about right if I bought panels etc at a box store vs getting something installed, but it's really apples and oranges.  I saw $3/watt on sale at Canadian Tire recently.
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • cow_ranchercow_rancher Solar Expert Posts: 117 ✭✭✭✭
    Tire stores install Solar Systems?

    Rancher
  • mcgivormcgivor Solar Expert Posts: 3,854 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2017 #4
    They do sell tires but are actually stores like Target and Walmart, with an automotive shop attached.
    1500W, 6× Schutten 250W Poly panels , Schneider MPPT 60 150 CC, Schneider SW 2524 inverter, 400Ah LFP 24V nominal battery with Battery Bodyguard BMS 
    Second system 1890W  3 × 300W No name brand poly, 3×330 Sunsolar Poly panels, Morningstar TS 60 PWM controller, no name 2000W inverter 400Ah LFP 24V nominal battery with Daly BMS, used for water pumping and day time air conditioning.  
    5Kw Yanmar clone single cylinder air cooled diesel generator for rare emergency charging and welding.
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,496 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Home Depot also sells pv online.  $514CAD for a 150w panel.  $2770CAD for a 400w DIY kit.  Like CT, they don't install and mainly sell small 12v systems.  At those prices, installed prices from a solar specialist are likely close, but it's apples and oranges. 

    I priced out gear locally from a specialist when I did my system about 3 years ago.  It was  nearly double (not including labour) versus what I paid NAWS.  CAD/USD is lower now, so I expect it's still roughly the same.  On top of the extra cost for the local specialist, I wouldn't have had to do all the reading and planning I did, so there would probably also have been the cost of murdering at least one battery bank in the learning curve.

    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 6,304 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The local brick and mortar solar business is over twice my price. I unfairly compete as I teach the user how to install by text or e-mail Outback or Schneider.

    They do a great job of going to these remote rural locations and doing the work. They are great for people who do not have basic handyman skills. I require that and pass on the bid to them. They have alot of stock and a wharehouse. I have few spare 24 and 48v inverters and a cc or two. My stock all comes from two of the largest warehouses in the Americas.  I don't change the price but rather charge a flat fee anywhere in the world.

    I am what the financial guys call critical mass. I like the work and the people, but if they get weird, I go outside and enjoy my life offgrid!
    Plenty to do here for 25 years now  :)
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Nevada mountain area
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • oil pan 4oil pan 4 Solar Expert Posts: 767 ✭✭✭✭
    That mother earth article could be accurate if you used $10 to $20 per watt panels prices.
    Only then could the install price be considered insignificant.

    What I have found is the installers mark up the hardware to almost double it's original cost, then double that number again to install it.

    Solar hybrid gasoline generator, 7kw gas, 180 watts of solar, Morningstar 15 amp MPPT, group 31 AGM, 900 watt kisae inverter.

    Solar roof top GMC suburban, a normal 3/4 ton suburban with 180 watts of panels on the roof and 10 amp genasun MPPT, 2000w samlex pure sine wave inverter, 12v gast and ARB air compressors.

  • stmoloudstmoloud Registered Users Posts: 111 ✭✭
    Estragon said:
    Home Depot also sells pv online.  $514CAD for a 150w panel.  $2770CAD for a 400w DIY kit.  Like CT, they don't install and mainly sell small 12v systems.  At those prices, installed prices from a solar specialist are likely close, but it's apples and oranges. 

    I priced out gear locally from a specialist when I did my system about 3 years ago.  It was  nearly double (not including labour) versus what I paid NAWS.  CAD/USD is lower now, so I expect it's still roughly the same.  On top of the extra cost for the local specialist, I wouldn't have had to do all the reading and planning I did, so there would probably also have been the cost of murdering at least one battery bank in the learning curve.

    The reading and planning is worth it though. If you are moderately sensible and practical, you don't need to leave yourself open to being ripped off by the 'experts'
    760W panel array, 4 x 6v 220 ah Crown batteries, Tristar TS-45 PWM controller,  no name 600 PSW inverter. 
  • BoFullerBoFuller Solar Expert Posts: 187 ✭✭✭
    I did my initial system (12V with 2 batteries and 3 panels) on my travel trailer that I was living in while building my log home. I felt comfortable enough from what I learned from here and from that install to attempt my bigger system, but time constraints changed things. Due to permit deadlines, I decided to sub out solar setup and plumbing. I had already purchased my panels and worked with a local guy who I felt did a good job for a reasonable price.
    I think DIY is the way to go if you are mechanically inclined to do it. 
    12 Kyocera 235 panels, 3 Gyll LiFePO4 batteries (previously 16 Trojan L16 RE-B batteries), Outback 3600W 48V system, Generac 11K propane backup generator, NW AZ, off grid, 6,000 ft (system installed in April 2015)

  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,630 ✭✭✭✭
    Absent a consulting guru like DA, I see three qualifiers for the real do-it-yourselfer to do a real solar system:
    1) Have a background working with wiring.
    2) Have a background in building stuff.
    3) Have a lot of time to do some reading then a lot of time to spend at a place like this. 

    I'd say 90% should hire it out. My years here and personal experience is that almost everybody makes gigantic mistakes with their installation. Like the guy I sold a 1500 inverter to. He used the biggest 90's era refrigerator he could find for free. You know the rest of that story. Then he ignored two offers to look at his system. Instead deferring to his electrician friend. Being an electrician doesn't make one a solar consultant. Being a guy - I'm sure he thought he was.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • JRHillJRHill Registered Users Posts: 150 ✭✭
    Limitations - Imgflip
    Off Grid. Two systems: 1) 2925w panels, OB VFXR3648, FM80, FNDC, Victron BMV-712, Mate3s, 240 xformer, four SimpliPHI 3.8; 2) 780w, Morningstar 30a, Grundfos switch, controller and AC/DC pump, 8 T105. Honda EU7000is w/AGS. Champion 3100. HF 4550, Miller Bobcat.
  • Mike134Mike134 Registered Users Posts: 3
    You'll notice all the solar module connections are designed for a trained monkey to plug together.  As far as a DIY solar install on a roof 2 biggest requirements are enough knowledge not to fall off the roof and #2 find the roof joists so you can properly mount the rails. Everything else on a roof is plug and play and tighten nuts and bolts.
    When you get to connecting them to the rest of the equipment, you'll notice that is always different crew/person that has enough electrical knowledge  to make the connections.
  • JRHillJRHill Registered Users Posts: 150 ✭✭
    Then there is wire sizing and best practices for connections, hardware and safety, even codes as Mike suggested, if they apply in the area and for insurance. But a really big gotcha for many is tuning for the type of battery. Research, reading and understanding tech manuals and specifications is huge.
    Off Grid. Two systems: 1) 2925w panels, OB VFXR3648, FM80, FNDC, Victron BMV-712, Mate3s, 240 xformer, four SimpliPHI 3.8; 2) 780w, Morningstar 30a, Grundfos switch, controller and AC/DC pump, 8 T105. Honda EU7000is w/AGS. Champion 3100. HF 4550, Miller Bobcat.
  • Mike134Mike134 Registered Users Posts: 3
    edited April 1 #14
    It appears that Mother Earth News thinks the Solar installation industry does not add much to the cost of a solar system.
    What are your thoughts?

    https://www.motherearthnews.com/renewable-energy/diy-solar-with-a-solar-panel-kit-zbcz1601

    10%    Really?


    Rancher

    DIY my costs look to be $9671 or $1.33/W. That's everything, drawings, permits, engineering, materials, yada yada yada. I've received online rough guess numbers between  $2.60/W up to $3.46/W.  Safe to say having someone install it adds a bit more than 10%
  • DDonger43DDonger43 Registered Users Posts: 4
    Jeesh, I wouldn't want to DIY install a big solar array. It would be cool to try, but I'd really want some more experience first...
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,976 ✭✭✭✭✭
    DDonger43 said:
    Jeesh, I wouldn't want to DIY install a big solar array. It would be cool to try, but I'd really want some more experience first...
    It really is very straight forward.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • JRHillJRHill Registered Users Posts: 150 ✭✭
    Until that little thing happens that you haven't learned yet.
    Off Grid. Two systems: 1) 2925w panels, OB VFXR3648, FM80, FNDC, Victron BMV-712, Mate3s, 240 xformer, four SimpliPHI 3.8; 2) 780w, Morningstar 30a, Grundfos switch, controller and AC/DC pump, 8 T105. Honda EU7000is w/AGS. Champion 3100. HF 4550, Miller Bobcat.
  • MJSullivan56MJSullivan56 Registered Users Posts: 41 ✭✭
    It took me 6 months of research/planning and 12 months installing. After a total of 18 months it finally  passed inspection and I’ve been tweaking/refining the settings ever since. I saved some money and had to make lots of mid-project changes but more importantly I learned a lot and now know every little detail of my system. However, DIY is not for the impatient nor for those who don’t like to solve complex puzzles.
  • JRHillJRHill Registered Users Posts: 150 ✭✭
    Uninvited I get a feed from an RV forum. All the water tank problems and leaks and hydraulics for the side stuff, yeh. But what is really depressing are the folks trying to do a few cheap panels on their RV. If they don't blow off thith some part of the roof or cause major leaks there are the dead battery issues. Dead tow vehicle batteries. On and on. Many of these folks shouldn't do anything more than a black to black, red to red connection from a Walmart charger but they ask really deep questions including programming and voltages. And the RV dealerships? Hah, not much better. Many can't figure out why not to pull the RV plug from the tow vehicle.

    Sometimes this happens in the solar forums. Flick the switch and all will work just like in the city. 
    Off Grid. Two systems: 1) 2925w panels, OB VFXR3648, FM80, FNDC, Victron BMV-712, Mate3s, 240 xformer, four SimpliPHI 3.8; 2) 780w, Morningstar 30a, Grundfos switch, controller and AC/DC pump, 8 T105. Honda EU7000is w/AGS. Champion 3100. HF 4550, Miller Bobcat.
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