DIY Solar Panels: Are They a Good Idea?
DIY solar panel systems can seem like an attractive way to generate cheap renewable energy, but many homeowners don’t realise the serious safety risks involved, not to mention the permanent damage you could do to your roof. Here’s why it really doesn’t pay to install solar yourself.
Are DIY Solar Panels a good idea?
It’s a complex and potentially dangerous job!
You’re unlikely to qualify for government incentive schemes
Incorrectly installed solar panels can cause fires
You can damage your roof with DIY solar panels
The solar panels may have a shorter life span
Installing solar panels is not an easy process, and without undergoing the same training as a professional installer there is a lot that could go wrong. Lifting heavy panels, wiring electrical equipment and simply working up high on a roof are just some of the safety hazards you face. If you aren’t confident in working with this kind of specialised equipment, then homemade solar panel installation may be too advanced for your skill level.
As an example, if you’ve just spent a few hours Googling how to build a solar panel and watching YouTube videos – then you’re probably not ready to start building your own DIY solar power system.
The technical side of solar PV installation can also be tricky and doing it yourself often results in systems being connected and fitted incorrectly. Even if you have electrical experience there are still many elements of solar installation that differ greatly to traditional jobs and should be left to a professional.
To be eligible for the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), your solar panel system must be MCS certified (or equivalent) which means that the system has to be installed by an MCS (or equivalent) installer, meaning that DIY solar panels can’t be eligible.
The government’s FiT scheme closed to new applications on 31st March 2019 but has since been replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee. Having this financial incentive in place makes it much easier to make back your investment in a solar system and even earn an income over time.
The biggest risk with DIY solar power is fire. Generally this is caused by using the wrong materials or because the installation was not executed properly. Many DIY tutorials will recommend soldering panels together yourself or even using wood to back them – this is especially dangerous considering the temperature panels can reach. Poor wiring is another big problem as it can actually lead the inverter to blow up and cause a fire in your home.
Before investing in solar you should always consider if your roof is suitable for solar panels. The biggest part of this is ensuring that your roof is structurally able to hold panels and if it will need strengthening. An MCS certified (or equivalent) installer should carry out a structural analysis before work even begins and missing this crucial step could result in disaster. They will also be able to analyse your roof to see how effective a solar system could be and spot any issues to work around such as shading or obstructions.
The design element of the solar panel installation process is crucial – it’s not a one-size-fits-all product and an MCS certified (or equivalent) installer is able to design and fit the correct system for your roof and energy demand.
Buying a DIY solar panel kit may be less costly upfront, but it’s unlikely to be of the same quality as the products offered by professional installers. The right solar panel system should last for 20 – 30 years (usually covered by a warranty when installed by a professional) so getting the cheapest deal now could end up costing you more in the long run in repairs or even breakdowns.
DIY installations, especially where the panels themselves have been constructed at home, will likely see a shorter life span and can be costly to replace without a warranty. It’s also important to be wary of ‘scams’ in the form of paid for DIY tutorials and even the sale of panels which are not up to standard. In addition, solar panel installers are also buying from manufacturers in bulk so can often offer lower prices.
DIY solar kits
The majority of DIY solar kits are for off-grid use so they can’t be used alongside your usual electricity supply. It’s unlikely that any solar panel system will generate enough electricity for all your energy demand all year so a DIY kit simply isn’t the right move. Plug-in Solar offer a number of DIY solar kits that are suitable for a number of solar PV systems.
However, solar kits can be a good idea for small projects like powering lights for a barn, shed or mobile home like a boat or caravan as they’re already off-grid.
Can you build your own solar panels?
If your plan was to not only install your own solar panels but build them too then it is possible but it is a time consuming process that requires a certain level of electrical expertise.
How much does professional solar installation cost?
In 2018 solar panels cost around £6,000 – £7,000 for the average sized residential home, which is over 60% cheaper than 2010. According to data from the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, of the average cost of a solar panel installation just 10% is for design and labour costs. That means all you’re likely to save when buying a DIY solar panel kit is 10%, and you’ll have the added hassle and potential risks involved in installing it yourself.
This table gives the average cost of installing solar panels in the UK:
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Find out more in How Much Does it Cost to Install Solar Panels in the UK?
What is the best way to save money on a solar panel installation?
The main reason people show an interest in DIY solar panels is to save money. While it would be cheaper than hiring a professional, the process could end up costing more in the long run and comes with a number of safety risks. Fortunately, there’s another way to save money on a solar panel installation.
By comparing quotes from multiple MCS certified (or equivalent) solar installers you will increase your chances of finding the most competitive quote for an installation in your area. Not only that but you’ll also be getting expert advice from a number of fully-qualified professionals.
To get multiple solar installation quotes, all you have to do is complete our simple online form and we’ll connect you with up to 3 installers based in your area. Each will provide a free quote then it’s completely up to you whether you’d like to hire one of them.
So, whilst DIY solar can sound like a great idea, the risks to both your safety and home really can outweigh the benefits. The cost of solar panels and installation today is the cheapest it has ever been, so if you are looking to go solar now is a great time to do it professionally.