5 Reasons Why DIY Solar Panels Are a Bad Idea
Building and installing your own DIY solar panel system 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.
1. It’s a complex and potentially dangerous job!
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.
2. You’re unlikely to qualify for government incentive schemes
Although the government’s FiT scheme closed to new applications on 31st March 2019, it’s likely that when this is replaced by another incentive scheme only MCS certified (or equivalent) solar panel systems will be eligible. Government renewable energy incentive schemes reward owners of renewable energy systems with payments based on how much energy they generate. This makes it much easier to make back what you invested in a solar system and even earn an income over time.
3.Incorrectly installed solar panels can cause fires
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.
4. You can damage your roof with DIY solar panels
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.
5. The solar panels may have a shorter life span
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.
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?
Is DIY solar ever a good idea?
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. 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.
How to get the best deal on solar panels
When it comes to installing solar on your roof there are ways to ensure you get the best deal. By comparing quotes from 2, 3 or 4 MCS certified (or equivalent) solar installers you can find not only the best price but also the compare their professional recommendations for your home, so you know you’re getting the best advice.
It’s also a great way to look at both large, national installers and smaller independent companies. Each will make different recommendations in terms of solar panel manufacturer and often smaller companies are able to offer more flexibility if you have a preference.
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.