Hi there!

Maybe you've considered solar energy - even if only for a brief moment - only to dismiss it as too complicated and too expensive, or maybe you're seriously considering a project, but don't know where to start. With this Instructable, I hope to demystify the (not-really) intimidating process of installing solar panels in your home. We'll review the parts of a solar panel system, the things you need to consider when you're planning, and how you can save money on (and even get free money for) your project. At the end of the day, you'll know what to look for and what to keep in mind with any solar project.

Why Go Solar?

If you've been thinking about going solar, there's no better time than now to do it. Government financial incentives are still ripe for the picking, the cost of photovoltaic (PV) cells is falling every day, and you'll probably be the first person on your block to make the jump. Adding solar energy to your house is an excellent project for several reasons: You'll save loads on electricity, and may even be able to sell some of yours back to the utility company; you'll reduce your carbon footprint; and if you're installing in a remote location (such as a cabin), you'll have much less to worry about than you would with a gasoline generator. You'll also support a growing industry, and in doing so, help contribute to the worldwide adoption of this wonderful new energy source.

Further Reading:
Throughout the guide, I'll be providing links to articles from SolarTown.com's learning center. This guide is meant to be very broad, so that you know what to keep in mind and what to plan for. Once you start researching individual products, though, you'll probably want a little more specific information. Hopefully, these links will address your questions. If anything you need to know isn't covered, feel free to surf over to our community page and ask an expert solar installer.

Step 1: Parts of a Home Solar Energy System

The hardest part of starting a project like this is knowing what to buy, so we'll look at a list of parts before we get into the nitty-gritty.

What's Grid-Tie?

This article is going to assume that you'll be building a grid-tie (or "on the grid") system. Grid-tie means that your house will still be connected to the utility company. The biggest benefit of staying on the grid is net metering: If you're producing excess power, you can actually sell it back to the utility company. Since your system will help produce green power for the grid, and reduce the overall strain on the utility company, they'll buy it from you at a huge premium. Because you're still on the grid, you'll still have power on cloudy days.

What do I need?

These are the parts of a grid-tie system, in order:
1. Solar Modules (aka PV Panels) collect energy from the sun and turn it into direct current.
2. Power Inverter turns the DC from the panels into AC that your appliances can use.
3. PV Disconnect lets you cut off power so that you can work on the system without electrocuting yourself.
4. Your home's breaker box is where the solar energy connects to your house.
5. Net meter connects your house to the grid, measuring how much power you take from - or give to - the power grid at large.

You can buy panels, racking, inverters, and more at SolarTown. As we continue through this article, we'll look at some of the products that are available and what each will cost. If you feel overwhelmed by all of the different options, we sell packages that include panels, racking, and the inverter at discount prices, so give that a look as well! You could have a 5kW system for $35,000. Try not to let the price tag turn you off - we'll look at government programs to help cover the costs in step 7.

Now that you're familiar with the vocabulary, we can get to planning your solar array.
How can i get solar when my power comepny will let me tie in to them
<p>Just do an OFF GRID solar install. If you use led lights and use conservative power, you can get by nicely on a 3000 watt system. I myself don't understand why people go solar and still tie to the grid, if the grid is down, you still have no power, however with an off grid battery bank, you do. </p>
<p>It's because off-grid solar power costs from 5-10 times what it does from the power company per kWh. There is never a ROI due to battery cost (initial and replacement cost). With grid-tie, you can have an ROI.</p>
<p>I disagree, I have saw evidence the power companies always find a way to steal back whatever money you would of saved. There is a return on your own system if you do it right. There are solar panels that have 25 to 30 year warranty, and they should still produce power even after that. If you use Edison type batteries they will last decades, and when they go bad you can just refresh them. Once you have them paid for you no longer are paying for power anymore, and when everyone's power goes out, yours will still work. </p><p>There are in fact people that collect the original Edison batteries, and believe it or not some of them still work even today. The problem is people take the cheap battery way out and those batteries don't last. Buy good batteries and cry once. There is a company that offers the Edison type batteries for sale brand new, and that is the route I would suggest going. Buy good solar panels and Edison type batteries, and cry once. The only thing you will probably have to replace is he battery acid and maybe your inverter somewhere down the line. </p><p><a href="https://ironedison.com/nickel-iron-ni-fe-battery" rel="nofollow">https://ironedison.com/nickel-iron-ni-fe-battery</a></p><p>Read up on these batteries.</p>
<p>People (like me) go with grid tie because net metering makes it economically a win (unless you end up in a bad lease, PPA or simply over-pay). I installed my 4 kW system myself for $8000, the IRS gave me back 30% of that and my $1200 annual power bills are now slightly negative :-) I've paid no power bill for two years now, and it's a pretty good feeling, and slightly weird to have the power company owe me money. </p><p>If I had batteries it would be very different. With FLA or AGM batteries cycle cost at roughly $.50 to $.80 per kWh, my power cost would more than quadruple. SO there is no way I would have a battery system. If I needed backup power, I would just buy a generator. </p><p>At work we install large off-grid solar battery systems, but not with NiFe because the ones we looked at had high internal resistance and low charging efficiency, which would require much larger arrays. The people we have talked to that do use them say they are a PITA to maintain and take a lot of water, and that they wouldn't buy them again. At least they don't suffer from sulfation. I think they are worth watching to see if they improve, but I wouldn't suggest using them now unless you like to fiddle with batteries.</p><p>If you have a system of your own and would like to post your experiences with it, by all means do so, I've love to hear about it. I value advice based on first hand experience much more than advice based on what someone reads on the internet. </p>
<p>&quot;If I had batteries it would be very different. With FLA or AGM batteries cycle cost at roughly $.50 to $.80 per kWh, my power cost would more than quadruple. SO there is no way I would have a battery system. If I needed backup power, I would just buy a generator.&quot;</p><p>So you think buying a generator that takes fuel and maint cost is a better solution than buying NiFi batteries once that don't take fuel, lol. Why keep talking about the expense of FLA or AGM batteries when that was not what I suggested? If you need backup power you can't use a generator tied to the grid, unless it's off grid only. </p><p>There is nothing wrong with NiFi batteries, and they don't need improvement. Sure you have to add water, big deal, at least you only have to buy them once. Unlike the FLA or AGM batteries you keep talking about which you will be replacing every 5 to 10 years, you only need buy NiFi once. Since you can drain over 80 percent from an Edison style battery and it don't hurt the battery, you don't need as big of a battery bank as with the others, which saves money even up front. </p><p>Yep, the IRS will give you money back on your system whether it be on or off the grid. </p><p>You want a story from someone who uses them, well here is a good one: </p><p>http://www.nickel-iron-battery.com/Nickel-Iron-Solar-Chicago.pdf</p>
<p>That junky install makes me glad I am not one of his neighbors. The fact that his system is 12V should tell you something. </p><p>&quot;So you think buying a generator that takes fuel and maint cost is a <br>better solution than buying NiFi batteries once that don't take fuel, <br>lol.&quot;</p><p>Yes</p>
<p>I just read an article where he says &quot;</p><p>&quot;...And I<br> was having trouble because I wanted to vacuum but there were no sunny<br> days. I can't run my vacuum if I want to have power in the<br> evening.&quot;</p><p>So he's having to carefully conserve so much that it has changed his lifestyle. Meanwhile, with my grid tie system, I'm able to run the A/C, hairdriers, TVs, anything I want, and still spend no money for power. Looking at his roof, my system is about 1/3 of his size, physically. There is one difference: If the power goes out, I have no power, but he does. To me, having all the power I want, when I need it, for free, I can suffer through an outage once or twice a year. So even if he didn't have any battery cost whatsoever, I would never advise anyone to do what he did, unless they are just really into it. For him, it's a hobby, a labor of love, and all that. That's great for him, but it's not what most people are in this for, they just want to save money or get off the grid without understanding the ramifications. Even if there WAS a ROI, you'd have to value your time at zero to realize that. </p>
<p>You missed the point of why I showed you that article entirely. The point was how old was his batteries and they still worked. I get it, you are only in this for the money. Some of us though desire our own power anytime we want it. It don't matter what kind of solar array or battery bank you get, if it's off grid and you are not a millionaire, then you probably will have to make a lifestyle change and learn to not waste power.</p><p>Of course you can use power anytime and as much as you like when the power is up, you are doing what everyone else is doing, which is using a giant NiFi battery bank to store your power at the power company. This guy used a bunch of different mixed size solar panels with old tech, they make better panels now that work good even in overcast days. Of course, your panels won't make much either on those days. </p><p>There is a video on youtube where a guy from Cali puts in a massive grid tie system, and his power bill actually went up. The reason it went up is the power company would only pay him for so much power a day, and do what they do best, dump excess power back into the ground which is wasteful. </p><p>I agree with you, if your only goal is to knock a little off your power bill, then just do a grid tie system. If your goal is to have power no matter what and be off grid though, then you should buy Ni-Fi batteries and not waste power. I am on the grid right now till I sell this house and build my off grid house, but I been researching this for many years. My power bill is only around $50 a month, and that's because I don't waste power. If I walk out of a room I turn that light off, etc. </p><p>In my off grid house I will be building, it will be very efficient, and won't need much power because I won't be heating and cooling with power, I will be using thermal mass and sun instead. There is nothing wrong with a 12 volt system either, and most accessories and inverters are 12 volt and can be sourced anywhere. With a 12 volt system you can use anything from an RV. With a 24 volt or 48 Volt system your system uses less gage wire at the cost of being limited in hard to source components. Here read this link: </p><p>http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/big-steps-in-building-change-our-wiring-to-12-volt-dc.html</p><p>With 12 volt you can always use your car as a backup power source. I keep a 450 watt invertor in my car, it will run most smaller things, and cost me about $40. </p>
<p>12V is OK for small installations like campers and RVs, but I wouldn't use it for a system like this because of the huge currents and massive wire needed. His inverter is 2500 watts, and with 12V, I think that would need 4/0 cable. He's going to have over 200A going into the inverter at times, which is dangerous in a DIY system in my opinion. He could have 1/4 of that with 48V. </p><p>Grid tie can eliminate the whole bill, not just a little. Well, I need to qualify that; they do charge $10 a month for the privilege of using the grid, but I don't mind that too much because they are, in effect, providing me with a huge unlimited battery that I never need to maintain. </p>
<p>If you use Edison NiFi batteries you only have to buy them once it's a proven fact that people own the original batteries from the 1920's and those batteries still work. So you are wrong, there is a ROI, because once you got your system paid for, you always have free power. Thomas Edison said the NiFi batteries will last 100 years, and he has already been pretty much proven right as there are batteries almost that old that still work fine. </p>
You said &quot;the power company will let me tie into them&quot;, so it depends on the purpose of the solar. If it is to save money by lowering your bill, you want a grid tied system. You can do that if your power company allows it and allows for net metering. If you want to have backup power for when the grid goes down, the cheapest way is with a generator, but solar can be used if you don't mind paying 5-10 times the cost of grid power.
Just put your solar power off the grid, you can either go fully off grid or just have your solar off grid and on it's own wiring. An example would be to take just your refrigerator and lights off grid and on their own circuit.
<p>Any tips on wiring the solar array to the house wiring?</p>
<p>I made a video explaining how to select the right wire for your solar system. https://youtu.be/89u8R_aUFO4 </p>
<p>Amy, your contributions on solarpaneltalk are great! And I think your youtube videos are great too. </p>
<p>I built my own Solar Panel following this excellent guide I found <a href="http://the-natural-treatment.com/Solarpanel.php" rel="nofollow">HERE</a>.</p>
<p>You can take instructions from inplix website :-)</p>
<p>I was wonder if you have any information on adding a house battery for when the grid goes down. I realize it's not as economically advantageous as the original solar installation. biggest ques</p>
<p>They have really oversimplified a complicated process. If you go playing with your electricity to your home, you will likely burn your house down. And if you believe the electric company (who currently has a monopoly for your business) will pay you a premium for you to generate electricity, then you are very naive. </p>
<p>actually it is simple, the hardest part was the paper work to setup net metering. Which was worth it. The $1000 check at the ends of the year is great. </p>
<p>actually it is simple, the hardest part was the paper work to setup net metering. Which was worth it. The $1000 check at the ends of the year is great. </p>
Hey the... Love what you do! I have a anker 2nd gen astrole 5 external power pack with dual usb out put and micro usb input for charging. I want to use solar lawn lights to charge it but i dont know much the anker or solar so could you plz help me out?
<p>Thats right</p>
<p>This may come across as a slightly odd question but i have a thatched/grass roof house and was wondering if solar panels give off any heat that may cause a fire risk to the roof?</p>
<p>I saw these in Mexico. I would stay away from high voltage systems, but a small system properly installed should not be a problem.</p>
<p>Thank you. Been looking for something like this. </p>
<p>really good information about solar home. here i have got a site which is about green living and <a href="http://www.wiselivingjournal.com/" rel="nofollow">wise living</a>.</p>
<p>Nice guidelines on planning a Solar Array. As a beginner I am happy to get these information. Previously I read <a href="http://solarhomeguides.com/" rel="nofollow">solar home guide</a> blog.</p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>I'm glad that I found this site! Yes, the price of installing pv system is still gradually falling, our saving are increasing, and that's great. I hope that people will turn to being more environment-friendly. To all reading it: we have to start being more responsible for our environment and use renewable sources of energy. It's really not that hard to design and do all the installations, especially now, that we have better tools to do it, like the apps ( this one for example <a href="http://easysolar.co/" rel="nofollow">http://easysolar.co/</a> ) that practically do everything for you, design, calculate the azimuth, provide you with simulations and financial analysis and save your time! We have to start to make good changes... Oh, and good luck to all beginners!</p><p> <br>Elizabeth</p>
<p>Great instuctable! A few points:</p><p>If you live in a HOA, be sure to check your covenants for solar panel restrictions. Mine prohibited them; three of us proposed and got passed new covenants with defining approved installs. Not as good as all balls-out, but sufficient for a good install. BTW, this cost about $5K so try to roll this in with other changes the board has been talking about, plus be ready to go door-to-door to get people to say OK. Took us a year and 2 months - we have a small (600 house) subdivision. YMMV.</p><p>BE very sure to check with your local power provider AND your state regulator. Our local company (GA Power) won't buy back power because GA prohibits it - not that they would unless pressured by the state. Next on the list: Petitioning our local state representative to support a bill allowing it (it has failed 4 times in the past 5 years - but like all things political, squeaky wheels).</p><p>If you use am installer, make sure they can provide you with workman's comp and liability insurance proof AND call the companies and verify the policies are still in effect. Both of these are expensive and easy to cancel - if you don't check you could end up paying for a hurt worker for life or fixing damage.</p>
Thanks this is the best I have seen I surfed the web and found such bewildering stories that it ends in frustrations
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