Should you do-it-yourself (DIY) for a solar panel installation in Florida? While is is completely permissible and possible to install solar on your home or business, it is not recommended.
I’m a self-taught guy in many disciplines, and I love to do home maintenance myself. Learning new skills is part of who I am. Learning the solar energy trade was not easy. Here are some reasons why you may not want to do-it-yourself:
Solar Electric (PV or Photovoltaic Systems)
- PV Systems involve dangerous DC voltage and AC voltage electricity. You may be able to wire a ceiling fan or a light. That does not qualify you to perform complex wiring for a solar electric system. Grounding is a special concern for PV systems and can be quite complex.
- Requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The City of Fort Myers’ and Lee County’s building departments have very different interpretations for some key code sections. Navigating this maze will cause you serious frustration and cost.
- The larger solar panels popular today are heavy. Working with solar panels on your roof is not an easy task.
- There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter or plug-and-play solar electric system. Even newly introduced microinverters require careful electrical design considerations. You will need both a structural engineer and an electrical engineer to draw up plans for you.
- Solar energy systems can be monitored by your dealer, ensuring that you have a second set of eyes on the system to maximize performance and identify problems.
- Specialized parts are required to install a solar pool heating system. You can’t pick these up at a home improvement warehouse.
- Higher performing solar panels are only available from dealers. You can only buy the lower performing consumer grade panels online.
- Warranties are far, far better when purchasing from a dealer, and reputable dealers cover the labor to perform warranty service.
- Solar pool heating panels are big and difficult to maneuver, especially in wind or on difficult roofs.
- Automated controllers and valves are complex, required electrical know-how, and need detailed programming, especially if there is a spa or other features involved.
- Ensuring that you have proper flow, filtration, and circulation is critical for pool chemistry and pool heating performance. Calculations may be beyond the ability of most DIY’ers.
- All I should need to say is, “do you want a water leak in your home? No? Get a professional.” Hopefully that’s enough said, but…
- Hot water is… hot (dangerous).
- Solar water heating panels and water tanks can be extremely heavy.
- Specialized knowledge is needed to connect and program controllers and power sources.
- Proper system design by a competent dealer to meet your family’s hot water needs maximizes the value you will receive from a solar water heater.
- Roof mounted solar energy systems usually require roof penetrations. Do you know how to maintain your roof warranty? Who are you going to call if you get a roof leak? Amateur roof attachments are the #1 reason that DIY solar installations fail.
- The labor to install solar energy systems is a relatively small fraction of the price of a system. This can easily be recouped by a trouble-free installation. The competition in the Southwest Florida market is robust, so dealer prices (and profits) are held to a minimum.
- Design wind speeds required in Southwest Florida range from 120 mph – 150 mph. Do you know how to ensure proper roof attachments?
- Solar dealers have relationships with building departments that enable smoother inspections. Knowing the requirements (idiosyncrasies) of particular jurisdictions is very valuable.
If you choose to proceed with a do-it-yourself installation, plan to be mostly on your own. Your local solar dealer can’t compete with online retail pricing, so you are better off getting solar products online for DIY projects (except solar pool heating). That means you are probably going to be on your own. Make sure you understand the job ahead of you fully, because dealers are hesitant to work with equipment purchased from another source. These products are often incompatible with the dealer’s typical brands, and specialized knowledge in the product may not be readily available locally. And assisting with DIY projects may open a solar dealer up to liability risk they are not willing to take on.
It’s not that your local solar dealer doesn’t want to help you with a DIY project. It’s just not cost feasible. If I could stock solar panels and sell them to you for a DIY project at a price you would find acceptable, I certainly would!
I obviously have a dog in the hunt here. I want you to use my company for all of your solar needs. With the labor being a relatively small fraction of the cost to install solar, you are honestly best off leaving it to the professionals. It’s not rocket science, but you will save yourself a lot of headaches, and probably money in the long run.