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DIY Solar:Your Ultimate Guide

(2 minute read)

Hello, DIYer.

You change your own oil and never pay for cable installation. Now, you’ve heard about do it yourself solar panels, and you’re intrigued...but is DIY solar realistic for the average homeowner?

We certainly think so. In this guide, we’ll provide a step-by-step overview of what it takes to design and install your own system, and explain how you can save thousands by doing it yourself.

What is DIY Solar?

DIY solar panels aren’t panels you have to build from scratch (phew!). Instead, they refer to solar system kits that ship directly from a warehouse to your doorstep. You’ll be responsible for taking care of the installation -- either by building it yourself or hiring a local contractor to help.

A DIY solar panel installation involves:

  1. Configuring and designing your personalized solar system based on your unique energy needs (this includes choosing the size and number of solar panels)
  2. Filing for permits with your local building authority and utility company
  3. Buying your solar panels, racks, inverters, and other essential solar panel equipment
  4. Mounting the solar panels and connecting them to your racking system and inverter
  5. Programming your system settings and flipping the switch!

Does DIY Solar Save Money?

Yes! According to a 2019 solar industry report produced by NREL, turnkey installer Vivint charges $3.25 to $3.50 per watt to build a solar system, with $1.78 per watt going toward installation costs.

That means more than 50% of your project costs go toward installation, a job most homeowners are perfectly capable of handling themselves.

For the average home solar system producing around 6.9 kW (6900 watts), you would stand to save more than $12,000 by installing your own system. Not bad for a few weeks of work!

Not sure if you’re equipped to tackle your DIY solar project? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. When you purchase your solar panels from Wholesale Solar, our team of seasoned solar designers will guide the way. We offer free solar estimates, system sizing and design, permit help, tech support, shipping on complete system kits, and other tools and resources along the way.

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installing solar panels

Free DIY Solar Workshop

Learn how to install solar panels by yourself! Your free DIY Solar Workshop is packed with videos, product comparisons, installation guides, and other resources to help you conquer your solar project from start to finish.

I Don’t Have a Construction Background. Is DIY Solar Installation Still Possible?

Building your own solar system sounds like a huge undertaking, but many of our customers are happy to report that the DIY solar process is easier than it first appears.

Most solar components are plug-and-play, meaning every cable snaps into a dedicated port. And since we provide a as part of your system package, there’s no guesswork about which cable goes where. Everything’s clearly labeled; all you have to do is plug it in. Installing your own system requires some other basic skills. You should be able to:

  • Tighten screws and bolts in place with a wrench / screwdriver
  • Lift up to 75 pounds (recruit a friend if needed!)
  • Dig holes and pour concrete (applies to ground mounts only)
  • Wire the system to your electrical service panel
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That’s about it!

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The last point is the only one some people don’t feel comfortable with. But that’s okay: many of our customers choose to bring in a licensed electrician for the final electrical hookup, typically paying a few hundred dollars for 1-2 hours of work.

That’s the beauty of a DIY project like this. You have the freedom to do whatever you’re comfortable with and leave the rest to professionals. No matter your approach, we’ll walk you through it every step of the way.

What are the Pros and Cons of DIY Solar?

Learning how to install solar panels requires extensive research and plenty of hard work. We know it’s not for everyone, so we want to highlight the pros and cons of DIY Solar approach and let you decide for yourself.

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Some DIY solar panels pros and cons to consider:

Pros:

  • Save on most labor costs (which can account for over 50% of a traditional solar panel installation cost). For an average-sized system, you could pocket more than $12,000 by installing it yourself
  • Design your solar electric system from scratch to suit your specific needs. Choose from a wider selection of brands and only buy as much as you need (no “one-size-fits-all” packages).
  • Speed up your payback period. If you install your own system and claim the federal solar tax credit, your grid-tie system can pay for itself in as little as 3-6 years.
  • Fewer unexpected costs and surprises along the way. You’re in control of everything

Cons:

  • It’s hard work. You have to put in a lot of sweat equity to make your DIY solar dreams a reality. Finishing your build is immensely rewarding, but some homeowners may not have the time to commit to a project like this.
  • Some local building departments may not allow DIY solar projects. Especially for off-grid systems, certain jurisdictions require solar systems to be built by a certified professional.
  • Professionals typically offer a 5-10 year labor warranty when they install a system. If you go DIY, you’re solely accountable for the quality of your work.

Who is Wholesale Solar?

Wholesale Solar distributes solar electric equipment direct to consumers. We sell individual solar components, as well as complete system packages suitable for grid-tie, off-grid, energy storage, RV/mobile, and commercial applications.

Since 2002, we’ve shown homeowners, installers, and commercial clients how to install their own solar power systems. We have helped more than 10,000 thrilled DIY solar customers achieve energy independence. Now it’s your turn.

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  • 100% Employee-owned (we benefit by working for you)
  • USA-based (offices in California and Oregon)
  • One of the highest rated solar companies on Google (4.8/5 Stars)
  • Industry-leading design & support techs (before, during & after installation)
  • Live USA-based sales & support team (available by phone, chat or email)

Yes, I'm Interested in DIY Solar!

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You Got the Basics. Ready for DIY Solar Workshop?

Almost anyone can install solar with the right information, confidence, and support network. Get all that and more in our free DIY Solar Workshop, designed to guide you through your project step by step.

Let us know your level of experience and goals for your DIY Solar project. We’ll get you into the course that works best for your needs.

*Wholesale Solar will never share your information with a third party.
  • DIY SOLAR:

    The Step-By-Step Timeline

    Your DIY solar installation is a big project with a lot of moving parts. Here’s a step-by-step project roadmap to keep you on track.

    Need more guidance? This is just a sneak peek of what’s available inside the Workshop. Be sure to sign up for full access to our collection of videos, tools, and tutorials that walk you through the entire process.

  • A

    Do the math.

    Between reduced energy bills and tax incentives, solar pays for itself in a few years. Our solar ROI calculator will help you figure out your solar payback period to see how long it takes to break even on your investment.

  • B

    Choose your system type.

    Do you need a grid-tied or off-grid system? Download our Getting Started Guide to learn the basics.

  • C

    Size your system

    How large does your system need to be to cover your monthly power usage? Enter your location and monthly power bill into our system size calculator to help scale your system to your needs.

    This will give you an early cost estimate and help set a realistic budget. It also gives you a sense of how much space you need to mount your array.

  • D

    Ask for help.

    Enlist the help of a design tech early. There are a whole host of factors that impact what you need. It helps to consult with an experienced designer to point out unforeseen problems and iron out any kinks in your design.

  • E

    Pick your parts.

    Find products you love and tailor the system to your needs. Your design consultant can help with this.

    Our grid-tied and off-grid packages list the components you need to build a complete system. We only feature brands we trust with a stable history in the solar industry.

  • F

    Research permitting

    You'll need a permit to make sure your system is up to code. Grab our solar permitting guide to make sure you complete your project by the book.

  • G

    Place your order.

    After extensive research and careful deliberation, it’s time to go solar! Your design technician will process your order, schedule your freight shipment, and provide documentation for your system components.

    Your components are on the truck, and it’s almost time to...

  • H

    Install your system.

    It’s finally time to tackle your solar panel installation! You’re about to build your system from the ground up. Our DIY Solar Workshop is packed with installation guides and videos that guide you through the process.

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Free DIY Solar Workshop

Learn how to install solar panels by yourself! Your free DIY Solar Workshop is packed with videos, product comparisons, installation guides, and other resources to help you conquer your solar project from start to finish.

DIY SOLAR:

Customer Testimonials

JAY HARRINGTON
"When the system came I was initially a bit overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, but the WWS website had videos that, within 25 minutes had me ready to do the job. Many folks have asked me about my system and are surprised that I did it myself, or that one can do it on your own. Every roof!"

JAY HARRINGTON

MICHAEL WORNATH
"Just finished the install and found all the components to be of great quality and fit. Ian was great, helpful and professional. I completed the install myself, so I found the install instructions with each item to be helpful. When I did have questions I just called Ian and got my answers."

MICHAEL WORNATH

GENE STROBEL
"I did a lot of research and Wholesale Solar kept coming up with the best reviews, plus local people that had worked with Wholesale Solar previously raved about them. I was paired up with Cheyenne as my contact. She ALWAYS treated me with respect and patiently answered all my questions (treated me with customer service rarely found in today’s world)."

GENE STROBEL

REINHOLD ROEDIG
"Jeremy Allen at Wholesale Solar advised me with competence and patience, going through several commutations before I understood everything and could make a decision. I did some comparison shopping and found that their pricing was very fair, considering that they take responsibility for delivering a complete and well designed system."

REINHOLD ROEDIG

MARTIN VERDIN
"They gave me all the support I needed to apply for permits, and information on how to assemble the system. When I had questions Wil was there to help. Since I completed my system, my neighbor has bought and installed his system from Wholesale solar; my cousin saw my system and also bought two systems from them."

MARTIN VERDIN

K. SUMMERS
"Purchased a 6kW off grid system from Wil. I had no previous solar experience, some previous homeowner type electrical work: installing a new circuit, adding a sub panel, etc... Bolted everything together following the manuals, closed the breakers and all worked. Had a few questions/calls on tuning and maximizing performance and all were answered promptly."

K. SUMMERS

STEVE CELLO
"Wholesale Solar and John Grenvik were a pleasure to do business with. I found it interesting and quite unusual that John would not let me up-size my battery bank beyond what my panels would support on my off grid system, as he said I would be destroying the batteries by their not getting a full charge. How's that for looking out for the customer even at the expense of additional sales."

STEVE CELLO

EDDIE ROWE
"Wholesale Solar and Jeremy Champt were the greatest to work with. They helped with all my needs to make the DIY project as smooth as possible. Wasn't sure about ordering from an online company, much less from California since I'm in PA. And indeed they did deliver as promised. Thanks for all your help with making it a great experience!"

EDDIE ROWE

DOUG L
"I have been looking for a reasonable DIY solar kit off and on for years. After coming across wholesale solar I had a few questions. From the first response I felt like I was respected and valued as a customer. Which is pretty rare these days. I would highly recommend Wholesale solar to anyone looking for a kit at a great price and fantastic service before and after the sale."

DOUG L

JANELLE CLAYTON
"I came across Wholesale Solar's website and found out that we could purchase a system and install it ourselves. I researched their products and called several times with questions. Wil was readily available to answer every question, spent time looking at pictures that I sent of our property, and gave us several options that he felt would work well."

JANELLE CLAYTON

MARK CHRISTISON
"I purchased a self install solaredge system package from Wholesale Solar a year ago and they were helpful before and after the sale. This year my parents bought a similar system and the experience was just as positive. Everyone from Ian Shurtleff the design/sales rep to the people at the warehouse were helpful and friendly."

MARK CHRISTISON

RICHARD G
"Even though I had never done an installation before the wiring diagram they provided was custom to the job. I still had questions along the way and the staff always took the time to help, particularly Jeremy Champt who spent a lot of time with me. I couldn't have asked for anything more."

RICHARD G

TOM KORDICK
"I purchased an approximate 10kw ground mount system which included the electrical diagram and all vendor documents. It was a straightforward installation without any code issues with the AHJ or the local electric company. I would highly recommend them for a DIY installation. Thanks for all the assistance!"

TOM KORDICK

JERRY DUKE
"Jeremy was easy to work with and instilled confidence from the beginning. I never felt pressured to purchase, and every question was answered. I felt confident and I knew that if I had a question or an issue he would help. On the installation, I was a bit nervous at first but once I understood the layout and installation it went together quite fast, and it was relatively easy."

JERRY DUKE

GARLAND CROWELL
"My job is sales for a manufacturing company. I understand that small things can happen like damage during shipping or the occasional missing part. A really great company Is determined by how they address the problem. Wholesale Solar, in my opinion, is one of the few really great companies."

GARLAND CROWELL

DIY SOLAR:

Inspiration

Still not sure you’re ready to take on a DIY solar project? Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration. Take a look at our Install of the Month feature, where we showcase the awesome systems that Wholesale Solar customers have built for themselves.

If these folks can do it, so can you!

DIY SOLAR:

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I really install my own solar electric system?

Yes! Over half of our customers install and maintain their own solar power systems. Some hire extra help for part of the installation. Most have an electrician connect the wires to you’re their home electrical panel.

If you commit to the research, there’s nothing stopping you from completing the entire installation yourself. Of course, if you get stuck, our experienced design and support team is here to lend advice and get you back on track.

Can I build my own solar panels?

We suggest leaving solar panel manufacturing to the companies who keep tight control on production quality and safety. You can find information on the web about building DIY solar panels, but we don't recommend it because the panels would not be approved for permitting.

However, there's plenty you can do yourself—sizing your system, picking components, mounting and installing the solar panels, inverter(s), safety disconnects, and so on. The more you do yourself, the more you’ll save.

How big of a solar system will I need?

Your system size depends on your unique circumstances. Some common factors that influence system size are:

  • current energy usage
  • budget
  • available build space
  • temperature
  • exposure to sunlight
  • future plans for system expansion

We have two calculators to help you size your system:

To understand what we factor into these calculations, take a look at our article: "How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?"

Of course, there’s no substitute for personalized help. Give us a call at 1-800-472-1142 to connect with an expert solar tech. We’ll help you design the perfect system for your needs.

How much does DIY solar cost?

The cost of your system will depend on how much electricity you plan to use. To estimate the answer to that question:

  • Check your electric bills for how much power you use during your highest months of usage.
  • Decide whether you’ll be paying for an installer or not.
  • Learn about the solar incentives that may be available to you.
  • Contact your county or city building department to learn about installing "to code"—both for safety, and to pass inspection.

In over your head? Call us at 1-800-472-1142.

Can I self-install a grid-tied solar power system?

Many of our grid-tied customers do. Grid-tied solar—for homes that are already plugged into utility power—is less complex to install than off-grid and can be easily expanded.

Because you are tying into the utility grid, your installation may be more regulated. Check out the regulations, legislation, and policies in your state, and plan to have an electrician or licensed contractor do the final hook-up.

Can I self-install an off-grid solar power system?

Of course! Off-grid solar power is for independent-minded people who want no restrictions on where they choose to live. Off-grid solar power allows you to buy undeveloped land that you can afford more easily. Where other people wouldn’t have power, you’ll have clean, effective solar energy.

Do It Yourself (With Our Help!)

Our design techs are ready to get your system designed, packaged, and on its way for your DIY install.

Call us today at 1-800-472-1142

Or click below for your

Free System Estimate
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