This article consists of frequently asked questions about the installation of solar panels. Below is an overview of what will be covered:
- What does a solar panel installation consist of?
- How much is the cost of the installation?
- Can I install my solar panels on my own or do I need professional help?
- How long time does the installation take?
- Will the installation of solar systems be simpler in the future?
These are the main steps of a solar panel installation:
- Mounting the solar panels on the roof or ground
- Wiring the solar system to the electrical circuit in your home
- Connecting the solar system to the electrical power grid
Also note that there are various testing stages in-between to ensure a successful installation and that your solar system performs optimally.
A typical installation, consisting of 20 to 30 solar panels, usually has a price tag somewhere around $2000 – $4000. In other words, the installation makes up about 10 – 20% of the total costs of a solar system. The price varies significantly from where in the world you live, and which installer you choose to go for.
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Given the price tag of a typical solar panel installation that you just read, you would be forgiven if you were thinking about doing it yourself and saving yourself a few thousand dollars.
Can I do the installation myself? The short answer is yes, but there are major drawbacks with doing this:
- Getting your solar panel installation certified
- Taking advantage of the feed-in tariff
- Connecting the solar system to the electrical grid
- Ensuring optimal performance
- You can get seriously injured or killed
In most places, certification of the solar system is required if you want to use the feed-in tariff scheme – in other words, selling the electricity back onto the utility grid might be problematic if you go the DIY-route. Connecting a solar system to the utility grid is no joke – only a certified installer is legally allowed to do so.
Solar panel manufactures and installers in the UK have to go through a process of certification called the Microgeneration Accreditation Scheme (MCS). Only MCS accredited solar manufacturers and installers are eligible to take advantage of the UK feed-in tariff scheme.
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is the “gold standard” for solar panel installation and certification in the U.S.
If you know what you’re doing, you should be able to mount the solar panels where you want them (e.g. on the roof, pivoting stands or on racks on the ground) – and can cut labor costs by doing so. However, you will need a qualified electrician to connect your solar panels safely.
The installation for a full 3-kilowatt system of about 20 panels a can take as little as one day. The main determining factor is the how suitable the location is.
Installing a solar system is not easy. If it weren’t for the high voltage-drops that are involved and the importance of the stability of the utility grid, rules would not be as strict and people would be able to experiment or “learn as they go”.
The reality is that to ensure safety, guidelines and rules must be in place when dealing with solar electric systems.
In the last decade, we have seen an increase in the use of micro-inverters. This is the part of your solar system that converts DC (direct current) into AC (alternating current), which is what the majority of your appliances use. Instead of all your solar panels connected to one inverter (central inverter), one inverter is placed on the back of each panel. This offers a much simpler installation and more importantly much lower voltage drops.
The bottom line is this: Someday maybe an amateur can handle the installation of a solar system based on built-in micro-inverters, but connecting a solar system to the utility grid will be left to professionals in the near foreseeable future.
Every installation is different
The prices you’ve read in this article are based on typical installations. If you want to get a better idea on how much a solar system will cost you, or have any other questions regarding solar, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Author: Mathias Aarre Mæhlum