Are you cheap like me and want to stretch your dollar further on everything? There are no solar coupons, so the next best thing is DIY solar systems. Solar has some City and Utility processes that need be followed, but it’s nothing that you can’t do most of yourself. Many States and Jurisdictions require a licensed electrician, but segmenting the electrical work or installation is better than paying a markup on all the solar equipment.
First you want to figure out your system size. It’s a math equation. Take the total kWh’s you use in a given year and divide by the kWh/kWp (kilowatt hours to kilowatt power) number for your area. Some approximate kWh/kWp numbers for California is 1500, Arizona is 1600, and Massachusetts 1200. If you use 15,000 kWh’s per year and live in California, a 10 kW (kilowatt) system to cover your full load. 60% – 80% is a good offset number so you’ll take the 10kW and multiply by whatever percentage you want to offset. Now you have your desired system size.
Secondly, you need to figure out if that amount of power will fit on your roof. Measure your total available roof space, preferably facing south or west. An average 250 watt solar panel today is about 18 square feet. Divide the available roof space by 18 and that will tell you how many panels will fit in that space. Cross reference to the available system size.
Now you have a system size and a general understanding that it will fit on your roof. Now where to order product. Solar is being sold all over the internet and even at local electrical distribution shops. Online kits can be purchased on sites such as www.watthub.com , www.civicsolar.com , andwww.affordable-solar.com . These kits are usually packaged from pre-engineered system sizes including appropriate string sizes for modules, inverter, racking, and some miscellaneous clips and clamps to complete the installation. Some of these online companies even provide design services that meet the kits specifications to make it real easy for the consumer. Should engineering not be included, online based design services like www.greenlancer.com is a reputable website for fast, affordable design services. They will provide you with everything you need to go to the City to pull a permit.
Installing all this gear that is shipped to your home or business is where the Electrical or Solar Company comes in. I know I wouldn’t trust myself to penetrate my own roof! Be sure to get a few bids to make sure everyone is honest, we don’t want Adam Corolla showing up with his pal Skip on “To Catch a Contractor”.
Lastly, you’ll need to fill out the appropriate paperwork for your Utility company; interconnection applications, incentive documentation if any, and rate plan adjustments. Likely your Utility company will spell out the steps on their website, or you can call them to walk you through it. They owe it to you, you pay them every month without fail.
The unknown steps of the solar process is many reasons why there aren’t more DIY solar. With any luck, you’ll be producing your own power for a fraction of the cost.
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