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Who installed your solar?

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by nwdiver, Jul 13, 2018.

?

DIY or Professional Install?

  1. 100% Professional 'Turn-key install'

    22 vote(s)
    73.3%
  2. Some DIY, hired Electrician for permitting and final wiring

    2 vote(s)
    6.7%
  3. Mostly DIY, hired Electrician to pull permit

    2 vote(s)
    6.7%
  4. 100% DIY

    4 vote(s)
    13.3%
  1. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    Interested to see how many people are doing their own PV systems vs hiring an installer. IMO solar has the highest return of any DIY project vs how difficult it is... I mean... where else can you save up to ~$20k with 2-3 days of work? HVAC is probably a very close 2nd...
     
  2. Ampster

    Ampster Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2012
    Messages:
    918
    Location:
    Sonoma, California
    In the past 10 years I have done 5 systems. Three of those were by professional installers and two I did with hired labor. I have als had some maintenance done in a hybrid fashion by a professional who worked on a per Watt basis (essentially piecework since I bought the materials).
    In terms of type of systems they have run the gamut from my first string inverter, replacing BP panels under warranty with cheap Chinese panels expanding that with with micro inverters, replacing a dead inverter with amother string inverter with optimizers. The professionally installed systems have also varied from string inverters with optimizers to integrated Sunpower panels. I have learned a lot during that time.
     
    • Like x 2
  3. Park2670

    Park2670 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2013
    Messages:
    459
    Location:
    Utah
    Installed my own Silfab system with 24 300 w panels, solar edge, and snap n rack. Took a couple days. Could do it again in half the time.
     
    • Like x 1
  4. arnolddeleon

    arnolddeleon Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2012
    Messages:
    255
    Location:
    California
    Good grief, I thought my 4 systems over 16 years was a lot. I've also had to take down BP panels (with hired labor). My first systems I was involved with the design (part of the reason I chose the vendor), the last two are SolarCity.

    BTW I have a pair of Trace SW5048 that I would give away to someone who can safely haul them away along with the 8 big batteries and controllers. They're still "installed" at my first house, they're just not connected

    Someday I hope to replace my Outback inverters at my current house. I need to run the math to see if the efficiency gain would pay for it. If I can find someone to buy the old inverters then the numbers probably do work.
     
    • Like x 1
  5. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    I might be interested... what state are you in?
     
  6. arnolddeleon

    arnolddeleon Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2012
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    255
    Location:
    California
    California
     
  7. Ampster

    Ampster Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2012
    Messages:
    918
    Location:
    Sonoma, California
    #7 Ampster, Jul 14, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018
    I didn't mention that I had installed an Outback Radian Inverter in one of those houses to do load shifting. I powered it with a pack from a Nissan Leaf reconfigured to run on 54 volt. That install I considered a hobby but one year I consumed 2 megaWatts (net) but still had a dollar credit at true up. We turned that house into a rental so I sold the Radian on Ebay. It is now powering a restaurant somewhere in Baja. It has been a fun hobby that somewhat pencils out. What I learned is AC coupling is tricky and with my Radian, I was never going to get my Enphase inverters to charge my batteries and run my house during a prolonged power outage. I now have a Powerwall on order.
     
    • Like x 2
  8. Anzir

    Anzir Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2012
    Messages:
    508
    Location:
    Central Florida
    We used a local solar co-op. Base rates were 2.35/W for 290W panels; we upgraded to a tier 2 system and 310W Hanwha panels that brought it to 2.65/W installed.
     
  9. cpa

    cpa Active Member

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    May 17, 2014
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    1,975
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    Central Valley
    I envy those who know what tools to use and how to use them. I can no more build something than I can fly.

    If I can ask, how is erecting your own DIY rooftop solar so easy? I watched the installers, and it sure seemed complicated to me. And how do you learn these skills? You just hop onto the roof with a screwdriver and wrench, and three days later, voila?
     
    • Like x 1
  10. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    YouTube... ;)
     
    • Like x 1
  11. Anzir

    Anzir Supporting Member

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    Nov 9, 2012
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    508
    Location:
    Central Florida
    There is no way I would have tried myself. We have a tile roof, and it's too easy to break them just walking around. Even with their professional install we had a water leak during a heavy storm. And it ended up being a pinhole-sized hole in the roof attachment.

     
  12. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    I wouldn't try tile either. Composite roofs are super-easy though... almost fool-proof especially with the new flash-feet.
     
    • Like x 2
  13. ZsoZso

    ZsoZso Member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2014
    Messages:
    792
    Location:
    Brampton, Ontario
    I have self-installed my 3.3kW rooftop system with enphase microinverters back in 2011, it has already paid for its cost. I spent a couple of days installing the rail mount system myself, then had brother + cousin help installing the panels themselves and hook up the inverters which was another day work. Then called inspector and representatives of local utility to make the grid connection and install the new dual-meter.

    The roof is simple wood structure + shingles, just had to find the studs to mount the rails to.
     
  14. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2014
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    3,750
    Location:
    California
    It's like putting together an Erector Set. I've used Iron Ridge rails on my last two systems and they work well. Good attachment systems. Wiring is simple plugs. You can hire an electrician for the utility connection if you're not comfortable with that work.
     
    • Like x 1
  15. jaguar36

    jaguar36 Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2014
    Messages:
    1,808
    Location:
    NJ
    I would have loved to install the panels myself. On a shingle roof, with a good mounting system it's stupidly easy. The wiring is not difficult either. Like many things in life though its the administrative and approval process that is far more onerous and time consuming than the actual work. I'd need a licensed electrician to do the meter connection, and I couldn't find any that were willing to do that unless they did the whole job. In addition navigating the permit and inspection process appeared like a giant pain in the ass.

    At the end of the day, even though the work is easy, I elected to just hire someone to do the system.
     
    • Informative x 1
  16. Don TLR

    Don TLR Member

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    Jul 27, 2017
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    574
    Location:
    Apache Junction AZ
    I recently bought a house with solar that was installed 8 years ago and just learning about it now, subscribing to hear more..
     
  17. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    3,750
    Location:
    California
    I have three solar systems and they run the gamut from turn-key to DIY.
    First was 4kW on poles with SolarWorld panels and Enphase microinverters (16x250W panels). Hired a local installer who did a good job.
    Second was 9 280W panels on standing seam metal roof with Enphase inverters. This was DIY.
    Third was used SunPower panels (6x 430W) with a SMA Sunnyboy 5kW string inverter... also DIY.
    Cost went from high (4 years ago) $21,000 for 4kW (before tax credit) to very low $2000 for 2.5kW (the panels were a bargain so I just had to buy the inverter and misc electrical parts, etc.)
     
    • Like x 1
  18. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    It's amazing how much money you can save with DIY. Not just on the labor but also on the materials. A former co-worker was building a new ~6k sq ft home and decided to add a ground mounted solar array. He knew a local guy selling surplus ~280w panels for 0.30/w so he bought 96. Then sun electronics had a clearance sale on the old Fronius inverters and he was able to get 2 11.4kW inverters for $1500ea. He paid the electricians working on his house to finish wiring the array. I think he paid <$25k for a ~27kW array. Now he's saving >$300/mo on his electric bill.
     
  19. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2014
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    3,750
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    California
    Yes, prices on equipment have dropped but I don't see that reflected in quotes. For my second install, I got a quote from my originally installer which had rather high prices on panels and inverters. This install was delayed about a year (while other construction was completed) and when I went back to him and pointed out that prices on everything had dropped, he didn't want to reduce his prices. That's when I decided to do this DIY. His $12,000 price ended up costing me only about $6,000 DIY.
     
    • Like x 3
  20. cpa

    cpa Active Member

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    Therein lies the rub. I could not assemble an Erector Set (and by gosh, I had one when I was a boy back in the '50s). They made no sense to me, and I had a dad who did not know how to help.

    My maternal grandpa was an electrician for Edison from 1920 until the Navy recalled him for WWII to work on the mothballed battleships. His teaching style was to yank the tools out of my hand and do the job himself. While he was a fantastic grandpa, he had zero patience in matters like this.
     

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