PV: Install myself?

Hi All,

I've been thinking about a PV system for my home for a while, and I got some quotes from a few local companies for a complete system, installed by them. Last year's quotes ended up being around $20-25k for a PV system sized high enough to zero out my electricity usage (around 5kW), with a break-even of around 12 years.

Recently, the state of California enacted some more rebates and the price of electricity shot up bigtime, so I was expecting the cost of the system to have dropped or at least the break-even period to have shortened somewhat. So I called around again and had the same companies do a re-quote. The quotes I got were interesting. They actually INCREASED their prices by adding to their "labor" charges so that the break-even period stayed right at 12 years. And all the local companies here seem to be doing the same thing.

So, needless to say our local installers are very slimy. About half of the cost of a PV system seems to be labor around here.

My question: How hard would it be to order all the parts myself and do the installation myself? At the very least to mount everything on the roof and run the wires down, and then get an electrician to do the final wiring? It seems well worth it to save around $10-12k. Is this something that you all recommend? What's the best way to get a system installed? I have a two-story house with a concrete tile roof.

Thanks!!

Comments

  • mike95490mike95490 Posts: 7,956Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: PV: Install myself?

    Take a look here http://www.wind-sun.com/smf/index.php?topic=1954.0 at the very good video Roderick produced.

    Problem areas: Cement Tile Roof. You have to drill into it a lot. Cracked tiles, do you have spares?

    How "handy" are you. Feel up to 4 or 5 weekends cooking on your roof ? Can you buy sodas and electrolyte drinks for helpers /-fools/ you can recruit ?

    12 years is not a bad payback.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • dhilldhill Posts: 47Solar Expert
    Re: PV: Install myself?

    I agree with Mike that the tile roof could present some difficulties. Do you know any roofers? Maybe someone experienced in tile roofs could tell you how to go about mounting those panels without destoying tiles. Do you have a place you can go and look to see someone else's installation? Seeing how it's done can also help you do it yourself. If the installers are getting 10-12k for labor prices, I think you could sub-contract and save lots off of that quote. If you do much of it yourself, you'll save even more. The installation of a system isn't too difficult, but it does take careful planning and some skill.
  • mike95490mike95490 Posts: 7,956Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: PV: Install myself?

    Also, I'm not sure, but the rebate may vary if DIY vs Contractor install. And be prepared to deal with a Building inspector who has no idea what PV is. (That's who I had inspecting my install in Los Angeles)
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: PV: Install myself?

    I live in San Diego, so I'm subject to the same rebate penalty for DIY.

    The best way to go might be to subcontract all the way. I hadn't thought about that. I can get a roofer to install the roof panels and get an electrician to do the final hookup and grid-tie. Do you know if I would qualify for the full rebate if I go that way, or do I have to use PV-specific contractors to get the rebate?

    Thanks!!
  • RoderickRoderick Posts: 253Solar Expert ✭✭
    Re: PV: Install myself?

    The only authoritative place to check on the rebates is the CEC website. The rules seem to change every once in a while.

    My last recollection is that to get the full rebate, you need a certified installer (for example, a C-10 rated contractor), and the installer must give you warranty for a certain number of years (I forgot how many). I looked about a year ago to see if I could find a certified installer that would do only parts of the work for me, but no one was willing. Even if they did all the work, they were unwilling to install parts that I had bought personally. They would only install parts they sold to me. There were plenty of electricians willing to wire it in, but that wouldn't have helped in the as far as a rebate.

    If you're leaning towards self-install, I wouldn't let the reduced rebate make the decision for you. The penalty was only 15%, last I checked, so you still get 85% of the rebate. That 15% won't come close to paying for installation. And if you have reasonable faith in your own work, a warranty is unnecessary.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: PV: Install myself?

    I don't know about the rebate programs in your area, but you can do it yourself. Lots of people with no previous experience do, although it will be a project that will require more time and research than you probably think. Don't pay a lot of attention to the payback period. To be meaningful, you'd have to know a lot of factors, such as the future price of electricity out a decade or more, the return on investment (for the money you spent on a solar system) out a decade or more, the precise depreciation rate on your solar equipment, the future price of solar equipment, etc. You just can't know all that.
  • marksmarks Posts: 17Registered Users
    Re: PV: Install myself?

    These types of projects intrigue me, and hence have also decided to install my own system. Here's my two cents:

    The CEC will allow you to install the racking, panels, and conduit runs without labeling the installation as a DIY if you have a C-10 or other qualified contractor do the wiring and final hook-up. They aren't too crazy about it, since it can create problems with the functionality of the system... but they do allow it. A 5 year warranty on the labor is required, the C-10 I chose was listed with the CEC. I can provide the emails from the CEC allowing for this arrangement. The CEC is a pain, but persistence and thoroughness is the key.

    I too have flat cement tiles, however since my roof pitch is 10:12 I decided to hire a couple of roofers to assist with rack and panel installation. They state that once the tiles are cured and seasoned, seldom do they break.

    In order to simplify things, I purchased a preassembled power center from OutBack. Everything is prewired and mounted on a single panel and is ETL approved. The AC and DC disconnects, inverters and MX60s are all in place and ready to go.

    PG&E was easy. And with Roderick's assistance I was able to submit a set of plans that were water tight, and didn't require any corrections.

    This forum provided for a wealth of insight and information, especially niel as he fine tuned my calcs.

    The shipment will be delivered within the next few weeks, and have scheduled the roofers for late May. I hope this helps, if you need additional info PM me.

    Mark
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: PV: Install myself?

    personally, i have no idea why you wouldn't have a pro do something as imporant as this. mikes point about a LOT of time on your roof, managing the subcontracts, maximum performance issues all equate to the cost of the expertise you're paying for.

    if you do it yourself you should try to get an electrician familiar with solar. you'll need to understand your inverter specs in detail, do a proper site and tilt planning.. there is just so much involved. as with any kind of bundled solution from a provider you are also payin for expertise in a NUMBER of overlapping fields. for example they'll use hardware they know and can support well. it will be installed 100% correctly so that warranty wont be voided.

    i dont see what the big deal is, is your current electricity going to pay for itself, ever?

    i have done my own small offgrid installs and it was fun, and all works fine. but if my whole house/families power depended on it, and if i was talking about a multi decade investment, dont you think youre just asking for trouble? unless you have all KINDS of spare time to make sure its all right then id consider it.

    if youre determined to "save" that money (assuming your time is free), maybe consider hiring a local installer to inspect your choices and progress as you go might be some good insurance.

    -matt
Sign In or Register to comment.