12 solar panels cost

Today, we will be reviewing the 12 Solar Panels Cost. Solar-powered homes are the future. With fossil fuels rapidly running out and greenhouse gases giving the Earth a hard time, it’s no surprise that so many people are turning to the sun. Solar panels will completely transform your energy bills, and the new Smart Export Guarantee launched on 1st January 2020, meaning more money for households exporting renewable energy.

Now’s a great time to get involved – over 840,000 UK homes have solar panels, and the cost has fallen by a whopping 70% since 2010. The state of UK renewables is excellent, meaning that switching to solar energy is a smart decision (and you don’t have to live in sunny California to use it).

solar panels by the Italian coast

12 Solar Panels Cost

Solar panels for the average household in the UK cost roughly between £4,000 and £6,000. A family of three typically needs a 3kW solar PV system, which consists of about 10 x 300W panels, and requires around 20m² of roof space.

The higher the efficiency and power of your panels, the more electricity your home will generate – as long as you keep them clean.

According to data from Which? between 2015 and 2018, the average cost of a 3.6-4kWp* solar panel system in the UK is £6,672.

* The power of a photovoltaic (PV) cell is measured in kilowatt peak (kWp), which is how much energy it can generate at peak performance during the summer.

The good news is that solar panels just keep on getting cheaper. Back in 2010, the average price of a 4kW solar PV system was around £20,000, which means the cost of solar power has fallen by about 70% in the past nine years.

The majority of solar panels are around 250 watts, which means you’d need four panels to create a 1 kilowatt peak (1kWp) system, eight panels to create a 2kWp system, 12 panels to create a 3kWp system, and so on. A single solar panel costs around £400-£500.

Here’s a breakdown of residential solar panel costs in the UK, including required roof space and average annual electricity output.

The output potential of solar PV systems varies depending on location, for example a 4kWp system in the sunny south of England can generate about 4,200 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, but put it in Scotland and the figure is closer to 3,400 kilowatt hours.

Please use these cost estimates as an indication only – to receive tailored quotes for your own solar panel installation, simply fill in the form at the top of the page.

Solar PV system sizeNumber of solar panelsCostRoof spaceAnnual electricity outputSuitable forAnnual CO2 savings
1kWp4£1,500 to £3,0008m²850kWh1 adult0.26 tonnes
2kWp8£3,000 to £5,00014m²1,700kWh2 adults0.51 tonnes
3kWp12£5,000 to £6,00021m²2,550kWhFamily of 30.77 tonnes
4kWp16£6,000 to £8,00028m²3,800kWhFamily of 4+1.14 tonnes

Information last updated in January 2020.

Just for some context, an economy class passenger on a return flight from London to New York will be responsible for approximately 1.2 tonnes of CO2. That’s pretty much equivalent in size to a three-bedroom house (about 550 cubic metres).

Cost of solar panels for a three-bedroom house

A family of three or more will need a 3-4kWp solar panel system, which will provide them with around 3,000 kWh of annual electricity. This system consists of approximately 12-16 panels, and requires up to 28 square metres of roof space.

Cost of solar panels for a small household

If you’re in a one-bedroom or two-bedroom property, a 1-2kWp solar panel system will produce more than enough electricity (up to 1,700 kWh per year). This system consists of 4-8 panels, and needs up to 14 square metres of roof space.

How much will 12 solar panels cost me?

To find out exactly how much you’ll need to pay for your home’s solar panel system, it’s important that you make an appointment with a professional installer. They will come round to assess your property, work out what type of solar PV system you need, and advise you on all the costs.

We can help put you in touch with the right people. To use our quick quote-finder, simply fill in our short form, and our qualified installers will be in touch. From there, you can make an appointment, get a proper understanding of the costs, and kickstart the process of switching to solar power.

To find out why it’s sensible to buy reliable, premium solar panels, check out our guide to cheap solar panels (and why they aren’t worth the risk)!DID YOU KNOW?

You can save more than £400 each year, just by switching your home’s energy supplier. If you’re looking to cut down your bills, this one’s a bit of a no-brainer.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Switchd. With four different price plans (including a free option), Switchd will find you cheaper, greener energy suppliers in no time.

What’s more, we recently conducted some research and made a rather exciting discovery. Based on our findings, if you purchased a 3.5kW solar PV system today, you’d break even by around 2037, earning almost £12,000 on energy bill savings and SEG earnings. Check out the graph below for a better idea of what we’re talking about.A Flourish chart

We used a lot of information to put this study together. To learn more, check out our full methodology.

If you’re interested, we also have a complete guide to renewable energy vs fossil fuels.


Solar panel price calculator

Let’s ask the machine!

Our solar panel cost calculator gives you an estimate of how much it costs to install solar panels, the amount of roof space they’ll need, and how much electricity they’ll produce in a year. Just push its buttons and let it do the rest.

Not sure how many solar panels you’ll need? According to Smarter Business, the average UK household uses about 3,100 kWh of electricity each year, which equates to between 12 and 16 panels. Most solar panels come in one standard size; about 1.6m x 0.9m (and around 5cm thick).

Please note: these costs are estimated and based on industry averages. They are not an exact indication of how much you’ll be charged by a solar panel installer. For a tailored quote, use our quote-finder tool, and talk directly to qualified solar panel installers near you.


How are solar panel prices calculated?

There are three key factors that influence the price of solar panels. The cost estimates above can be used as a rough guide, but you’ll also want to think about the type of panels you want, how efficient they are, and how many you need.

Panel type

Most solar panels are made from silicon, which comes in two different forms; monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Monocrystalline cells are smaller, more durable, and more efficient than polycrystalline cells, so they come at a higher price.

Panel efficiency

The ‘efficiency’ of a solar panel refers to how much sunlight it can convert into electricity, represented as a percentage. For example, if a solar panel has 19% efficiency, this means it can convert 19% of its received sunlight into energy for your home. Currently, the best solar panels on the market are nearly 23% efficient, but the average is between 15% and 18%.

Number of panels

This one’s quite self-explanatory; the larger your solar PV system, the more panels you’ll be buying, and the more you’ll pay. As indicated in the table above, a 1 kWp system consists of about four panels, while a 4 kWp system consists of around 16 panels.

You can reduce the number of panels you need by opting for high-efficiency models, but if you have the roof space, it’s generally more cost effective to buy a larger number of cheaper, less efficient panels.


Do you really save money with solar panels?

Solar panels are a great way to reduce your energy bills, because they allow you to create your own power instead of buying it from the National Grid. Once you’ve got your shiny new solar panels installed on your roof, you’ll be fuelling up on good, clean, complimentary sunlight.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, a standard 4 kWp system in Southern England can save you up to £390 year, providing you’re at home during the day. If you’re out all day until 6pm, annual savings are closer to the £300 mark. This is also factoring in earnings from the Smart Export Guarantee.

What’s more, 84% of the 390 UK homeowners we surveyed in January 2018 said that their solar panels are saving them up to 50% on their monthly energy bills.

Take a look at how much money solar panels could save you, depending on where you’re located in the UK and how much time you spend at home (source: Energy Saving Trust). You can also find out more on our page about whether you should invest in solar panels (you should).

Location in the UKOut all day (until 6pm)At home all day
London, England£90£220
Manchester, England£85£210
Aberystwyth, Wales£90£210
Belfast, Northern Ireland£85£210
Stirling, Scotland£85£205

Information last updated in March 2019.

Energy bill savings from solar panels ultimately depend on two things: how much electricity your solar panels produce, and how much of this electricity you use. The more you can get out of your solar power, the less you’ll rely on the National Grid.

For example, solar power only works during the daytime, which means you won’t get much use out of your solar panels if you’re never at home during the day.

As you can see, someone who barely leaves the house in London will generate and use much more electricity than someone in Stirling who’s only at home during the evenings – meaning more savings for the Londoner.

This is where a solar battery comes in useful.


Should I get a solar battery?

On average, UK homes with solar panels use only 25% of the electricity they create – that’s a lot of free solar energy going to waste.

The peak times in the day for people using electricity in their homes are the mornings and evenings, which is when the sun is either rising, setting, or gone completely.

Meanwhile, solar panels produce the most electricity in the middle hours of the day, when you’re likely to be out and about. This all seems very silly and out of sync, but there’s a clever bit of technology that can fix the problem.

If you add a solar battery into the mix, it will store the extra electricity produced by your panels that you aren’t at home to use. Then, during those mornings and evenings when you need power, your solar battery will keep you going until the sun comes back.

That’s right; your solar panels, your solar battery, and the sun all working together to keep your home powered for free.

A solar battery will work wonders for your energy bills. According to E.ON, with a 9.6 kWh solar battery storage system (and 12 x 315W panels) in central England, you could use up to 30% more of the energy your solar panels generate, and reduce your annual energy bills by up to £560.

People are getting smarter and catching on to the importance of solar batteries. For example, EnergySage’s Marketplace Intel Report in 2017 showed that 74% of people in the US who install solar panels are also interested in adding a home energy storage system. Meanwhile, in the UK, there are now almost 10,000 homes with solar batteries.

The cost of a solar battery generally ranges between £1,200 and £6,000, depending on the quality, capacity, and lifespan of the battery. Of course, the larger your solar battery, the more electricity you’ll be able to store, and the more money you’ll be able to save.


Can you still earn money with solar panels?

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) launched on 1st January 2020 to replace the old Feed-in Tariff. Check out our guide to the SEG here to find out how much you could earn.

The Feed-in Tariff ran from April 2010 to April 2019, and it was hugely successful. The scheme paid households for each kWh of electricity that they generated from solar panels, while also allowing homeowners to sell any of their unused electricity to the National Grid (known as the Export Tariff).

During the Feed-in Tariff’s nine-year existence, renewable energy capacity in the UK skyrocketed from 9.3 gigawatts to a mighty 38.9 gigawatts. Fortunately, anybody who signed up to the Feed-in Tariff before its conclusion will still receive payments for the full 20 years of their contract.

The Smart Export Guarantee

The Smart Export Guarantee launched on 1st January 2020, which requires all large energy providers (with at least 150,000 customers) to pay households for the renewable electricity they export back to the grid.

The tariffs being offered by most suppliers are very reasonable and similar to the export tariff rates previously being offered by the government. To find out more, check out our detailed guide to the the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG).

Additional solar panel costs

After you’ve thought about the solar panels and the solar battery, there are three additional costs you should consider.

Solar power inverter

The solar power inverter is a key part of any solar panel system, converting electricity from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) before it can be used in your home.

While solar panels can last up to 25 or 30 years, unfortunately, the inverter isn’t quite so hardy – it will generally need replacing after 10 or 15 years, the cost of which will set you back between £800 and £1,000.

Cleaning

The rainy weather in the UK isn’t always a bad thing. In drier countries, dust and dirt builds up on solar panels and needs washing off regularly, but frequent rainfall keeps the UK’s solar panels looking fresh.

You can also buy self-cleaning solar panels (covered with a hydrophobic coating) which stops water droplets from sticking to the surface.

However, bird droppings are a bigger problem, as they can significantly reduce a solar panel’s efficiency, and rainfall barely budges them. If you have a TV aerial located directly above your solar panels, this will inevitably become a perch for birds and invite a whole load of trouble.

It’s important that you have your solar panels cleaned fairly regularly (about once a year), and you can either pay the service or attempt it yourself. In the UK, the cost of having a 3-4kWp solar PV system properly cleaned is typically around £100.

Repair

Solar panels are reliable pieces of technology that aren’t prone to breaking, so finding the money to pay for repairs isn’t something you need to worry about too much. They don’t have any moving parts, and their surfaces are generally built to withstand hailstones the size of golfballs.

However, nothing’s invincible, and on rare occasions some solar panels fall prey to misfortunes like falling trees and stray cricket balls, or micro cracks caused by extreme weather, or perhaps your neighbourhood’s local family of squirrels suddenly develop an appetite for solar panel wires.

In the event of panel-busting mishaps, it’s good to know you can get things fixed. However, you should always hire a professional solar panel repair company to do it for you, as messing with electrical equipment is dangerous.

Depending on the extent of the damage to your solar panel, you should find that small breakages can be fixed from as little as £80, while large repairs will cost you up to £1,500.

What are the pros and cons of DIY solar panels? 

Before we jump into the 11 steps for a DIY solar panel installation, I think it’s worth going over the pros and cons. 

After all, a DIY solar is a big and costly commitment. It’s best to figure out whether or not DIY solar is right for you before you’re too heavily invested in the process!

pros and cons of diy solar systems

Pro: Cost savings 

At the risk of stating the obvious, the biggest reason people opt for a DIY solar panel installation is to save money on the upfront installation cost. 

Solar panel systems have dropped in price — by over 70% in the last decade alone — but they still represent a significant financial investment for most homeowners. 

Right now, the average cost of solar panel installation by a professional solar company is around $3.00 per watt. For a typical 5 kW (5,000 watt) solar panel system, that works out to $15,000.

On the other hand, you should be able to buy a 5 kW DIY solar panel kit for under $2.00 per watt. Assuming you perform all of the work by yourself (i.e. no contractors for any of the tasks), the total cost of the 5 kW DIY solar project would cost no more than $10,000.

That works out to a potential savings of over $5,000 by choosing DIY over a professional solar installation. 

Of course, the exact cost difference between the two is affected by many variables. Factors that can affect costs include system size, your location, your choice of brands, your roof layout, your state and local incentives, and more. And you’d also want to take into account 26% solar tax credit would apply for both a professional installation and a DIY job, reducing the cost and thus the price differential between the two methods of going solar. 

That said, there is without question a substantial price difference between buying a DIY solar panel kit, and hiring a solar company to complete the installation for you. 

Pro: DIY satisfaction

If you’re someone who really enjoys a big and challenging DIY project, then a solar installation might be what you’re looking for. 

You will have to draw on many different skill sets, such as the ability to negotiate municipal processes, financial planning, proficiency with power tools, electrical work, and even tax accounting.  

And there are many stages to the solar installation — researching, planning, shopping, permitting, installation, electric wiring, and monitoring. 

This is a project that will keep you busy for a while. 

Con: It’s a lot of time and effort 

I know, in the point immediately above this one I framed the challenging nature of a solar installation as a positive. Yes, it can be rewarding — but only if you’re actively seeking a difficult and time-consuming DIY challenge. 

If, however, your idea of a DIY project doesn’t expand far beyond assembling some Scandinavian flatpack furniture, then you might want to steer clear of taking on solar. It is a very time-consuming project. From conception to commissioning, a DIY solar installation for a home usually takes between one to four months.

Con: Risk of roof damage or leaks 

This is perhaps the biggest financial risk when it comes to a DIY solar installation.

Unless you have a flat roof, your solar installation will involve drilling a large number of holes into your roof. Drilling into the wrong spot on the roof can cause structural damage, while incorrect sealing and flashing can cause a roof leakage and/or mold issues. 

Another factor to keep in mind is that a DIY solar installation is likely to void the warranty of your roof, so you’ll have to foot the bill for any repairs that may be needed. 

Con: Physical danger 

Heights and high voltage electricity. If you’re doing a DIY solar installation from start to finish, there’s no avoiding these two risks.

A man falls off a roof in cartoonish fashion

Falls are a hazard in DIY solar panel installation. Image source: Twitter

And the physical risks can continue after the installation. If your panels aren’t performing as they should, you may need to get back on the roof to troubleshoot the issue. 

Worst of all, if you haven’t connected the wiring properly, your rooftop system could catch fire!

Con: Inability to claim some incentives 

Many states offer incentives and rebates that dramatically reduce the cost of going solar. 

Some incentives, however, are only available when the installation is completed by a certified solar company.

Con: No support for faults or warranty claims 

You are on your own if there is ever a fault with the equipment. 

Of course, you can still contact the manufacturer directly, but it can be difficult to prove a warranty claim. Furthermore, if you perform an improper installation, you can actually void the warranty. 

The 11 steps for DIY solar panels

Let’s now dive into the 11 steps needed to take your DIY solar panel project from conception to completion. 

1. Decide on your goals 

If you haven’t already, you first need to decide what your goal is for going solar. 

The goal you’re shooting for will determine the best system type for you, how complex the installation will be, and how much the project will cost.

Homeowners usually choose between the following goals.

  • Financial savings
  • Backup power
  • Energy self sufficiency (independence from the electrical grid)

We strongly recommend that you decide on your goal right at the outset. There is an almost infinite number of options and permutations when it comes to DIY solar, so you need to be clear on what decisions you make, and why.

2. Choose the right solar system type 

The next decision is to choose the right solar power system type to match your goal.  

There are three main types of solar installations:

  • Grid-tied solar panel system
  • Hybrid solar panel system (aka grid-tied with battery storage)
  • Off-grid solar system 

All of these system types have many features in common: they all involve solar panels, inverters, mounts, and wiring. There are, however, some crucial differences, and they can impact the project’s cost and complexity. Here’s a brief summary of each. 

Grid-tied solar panel system 

A grid-tied solar panel system is a solar setup that is connected to the grid and uses it as a battery through net metering. Grid-tied solar panel systems are usually smaller than the other types and have the lowest upfront cost. 

Best for: Maximum financial savings

Pros: Lowest cost, simple design and installation

Cons: The system will shut off during a grid outage. Your system will need to pass inspection before it can be connected to the grid. 

This video shows how a grid-tied solar system works for a typical home: https://www.youtube.com/embed/A5Wb61nEoZc?rel=0

Hybrid solar panel system (aka grid-tied with battery storage) 

A hybrid solar panel system is also connected to the grid; the key difference here is the inclusion of a battery storage solution. 

As with a regular grid-tied system, a hybrid solar system can import and export power from the grid as needed. But a hybrid solar system can use the battery system for two additional uses: for backup power during a grid failure, and to take advantage of Time of Use (TOU) arbitrage

However, solar batteries — the most famous example of which is the Tesla Powerwall — are still an expensive option, so adding one to a solar system nearly always lowers the return on investment for the homeowner. In other words, the increased cost of adding a battery typically does not lead to an equivalent increase in savings. 

Best for: Backup power

Pros: Emergency power supply during grid outages

Cons: Requires a battery backup solution, and unfortunately batteries are still expensive to buy. Your system will also need to pass inspection before it can be connected to the grid.

Off-grid system

As the name suggests, an off-grid solar system operates independently of the grid. 

Since there’s no grid to fall back on, the solar system needs to be very large so that it can meet the home’s power needs 24/7, 365 days a year — even during winter and/or long stretches of overcast weather. 

To achieve this, off-grid solar systems require a large number of solar panels as well as a large  battery bank.  

Best for: Energy self sufficiency

Pros: Zero reliance on the electricity grid and no interaction with the utility company, and no inspections. 

Cons: Very expensive, and lots of space required for the large number of solar panels and accompanying battery storage. 

3. Check solar rules and regulations  

There is a wide range of rules governing solar installations. They can vary greatly between states, and even between local jurisdictions. 

You will usually need a building permit and a utility permit before you start your installation. This usually involves an on-site inspection by either a structural engineer or a licensed electrician. You will need to pass another round of inspections before your system can be activated and connected to the grid. 

Some states don’t allow a solar system to be connected to the grid unless the installation was performed by a licensed contractor. If this is the case where you live, you won’t be able to install a DIY grid-tied or hybrid solar system. 

It is important to know these rules beforehand so you can judge if a DIY solar panel installation is possible where you live; and if it is possible, if it’s still a worthwhile option to pursue. 

4. Design a system 

This is one of the most complicated parts of the DIY solar panel process. You want your system to take into account all of the following factors:

  • Your energy usage
  • Climate and the number of sun hours you’ll see each month
  • Solar panel orientation
  • Solar panel angle
  • Natural efficiency drop
  • Conversion losses
  • Shading 
  • Expandability
  • Battery size and charging (for hybrid and off-grid systems)

The PVWatts Calculator from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is a well-known tool that takes into account the above points to show you total system output over each month of the year. 

We also recommend you try out our solar panel calculator. It builds on the data provided by PVWatts to recommend a system size for your specific home, and even shows you which section of your roof you should use for maximum exposure to sunlight. 

Calculate the system size you need to offset 100% of your electric usage

GET STARTED

If you’re adding batteries for a hybrid or off-grid system, you’ll need to take care to size your battery correctly. If your battery is too small, you may run out of backup power just when you need it. On the flip side, if your battery is too big, you’ll wind up spending too much, and might quickly diminish battery capacity by failing to charge it sufficiently. 

For more information about batteries, check out this handy guide on battery sizing. 

As part of your system design, you’ll want to create an electrical diagram. This will be useful as a blueprint when it’s time to install your panels; it will also be required when you’re applying for permits.

5. Do the math 

By this point, you should have a clear idea of what kind of system you want, as well as what’s allowed (and what isn’t) under the rules and regulations governing solar in your area. 

Now you’ll want to move on to specifics and work the numbers, i.e. your estimated costs and savings.

Man in formal attire works on desk with laptop and calculator

Make a solar costs and savings projection covering the guaranteed life of your panels (typically 25 years). Image source: Freepik

Based on your system design, you should be able to search online and find the costs for the equipment you require. The simplest way to do this is to look for a complete, all-in-one DIY solar kit that matches your needs. 

Next, you want to work out your utility bill savings. Using the system size you worked out in your design in Step #4, it’s relatively easy to calculate the annual output of your system. Based on that, you can figure out and total up avoided utility costs. When projecting ahead, be sure to account for inflation in utility costs. 

Some homeowners may be constrained by limited roof space; in that case, they should calculate the maximum number of solar panels that can fit on their roof, and then figure out costs and savings from there.

Now, with the cost and savings figure in hand, you can calculate what the return on your DIY solar panel project will be, and if it’s worth going ahead with from a financial perspective. 

6. Stop and reevaluate

Assuming you’ve already completed Steps 1-4, you should have a clear idea about whether a DIY solar panel installation is feasible or not. Specifically, this is what you should know by now:  

  • If a DIY solar panel system is allowed where you live
  • The permitting and approval process
  • The solar panel system size you want, and whether you have the space for it
  • The estimated cost of the installation
  • The electricity bills savings you will receive
  • If the financial equation is right for you
  • All of the risks associated with a DIY solar panel installation (refer to the ‘Cons’ section earlier on this blog) 

If you’re still unclear on any of the points, step back and continue your research. 

If you do have all this information, then I recommend you pause and reevaluate. 

Is solar right for you? And if it is, here are the three options you can choose to make it a reality. 

DIY solar panel installation 

You’ve done your research and are clear on what DIY solar installation entails. You’re confident in your ability to perform all the necessary tasks yourself, and have a plan to avoid or mitigate all the risks. Congratulations, you’re ready to get started and get your hands dirty. 

Outsource part of the installation 

You may decide that you’re better off outsourcing part of the installation. This is often a good idea if there’s a specific section that you don’t feel comfortable with. For instance, many solar DIY-ers decide to hire an external contractor to perform the electrical installation.

Get a professional solar company to perform the entire installation 

While this is the most expensive in terms of cost, it’s the cheapest option when it comes to time, effort and peace of mind. The solar company will design the system for you, source all materials, and deal with all permitting requirements. Furthermore, if there are any issues with panels or workmanship down the line, they will be there to handle them for you. 

I encourage you to check out this option. To do so, simply use our solar panel calculator to request no-obligation quotes from licensed solar installers in your area.

See live solar prices in your area and request obligation-free quotes

GET STARTED

If you’re still not sure which is the best way forward, here is a solar decision matrix to help you out. 

 Financial costsTime costsRoof leakage riskPermitting requirementsEasePersonal safety
DIY solar install++ –
Outsource part of the installation+++++
Professional solar install++++++++++

7. Start permitting process

You’re ready to get your hands dirty and install some solar panels! But wait — remember the rules and regulations you researched back at Step #3? 

If you haven’t already, list out all permit processes required by the state, your utility, and your authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). 

There’s a good chance that you’re going to have to apply for a building and utility permit before you start any work. This will often involve an inspection by either an electrician or a structural engineer, or both. 

It’s important to follow all the steps required to ensure that your installation is code-compliant and legal. 

8. Choose supplier and buy equipment 

Here’s is a brief list of all the equipment you’ll need for you solar setup:

  • Solar panels
  • Solar inverter
  • Mounting and racking equipment
  • Wiring and general electrical supplies
  • Battery system (for hybrid and off-grid system)
  • Charge controller (required for some battery systems) 

Ideally, you’ll find a complete DIY solar panel kit that includes everything you need for your solar installation. That’ll save you time that you would otherwise spend searching for individual components and then figuring out whether each part can work together.  

When you’re comparing kits, we encourage you to check product reviews on SolarReviews to make sure that you’re buying from reputable brands that homeowners are happy with. 

When it comes to picking a supplier, you want to choose one that offers great warranty and after-sales support. I would prioritize both these factors over price — unless you’ve performed a solar installation before, you’re going to have to talk to the vendor many times during the installation, and maybe even after.

9. Install the solar panel system

At this point, you should have successfully applied for all necessary permits and approvals, and accepted delivery of your solar equipment. It’s now time to install the panels!

The actual specifics of the installation will depend on what system type and equipment you’ve decided upon. 

The process I’m describing below is for a grid-tied system that uses microinverters for the DC to AC power conversion. 

Task 1: Install solar panel racking and mounting 

Use a chalk line to measure and mark out exactly where on your roof the racking system will be installed. 

Next, look for solid bits of the roof to drill into for the installation of lag bolts. You should consider using a stud finder with AC current detection to ensure you’re not drilling through a power line. 

Caulk the holes and install flashing to create a waterproof seal before you screw the lag bolts in. Once the lag bolts are all ready, you can install L-feet and then lock the rails on to them.

Task 2: Connect microinverters 

Onto the microinverters. These are little boxes that will modulate the output of each panel. You’ll connect them to the rails using the provided bolts. Each box will have a positive and negative wire coming out of it, which you will connect together to form a series connection for each array. 

Close up of a microinverter connected to a rail atop a shingled roof

Microinverters attached to a rail. Later, each solar panel will be connected to one before it is mounted. Image source: Enphase

Task 3: Connect grounding wire

Connect copper wire of an appropriate gauge across the rails as grounding. This is an important safety precaution and will help dissipate any anomalies caused by a lightning strike or a fault.

Task 4: Install roof junction box 

You’ll need to drill a hole in the roof to install a junction box. If you have more than one solar array, you will run the trunk cable from each into the junction box. This will allow you to channel the power from the solar panels to your house. 

Task 5: Install the solar panels

It’s now time to haul the panels onto the roof. Each module is about 65 inches by 39 inches, which can be an awkward size for one person to handle on their own. Consider getting someone to assist you with this part, especially if your roof is steep. I also strongly recommend that you use a harness while you’re up there. 

It’s now time to attach the solar panels to the mounting rail. Before laying them down flat, first get the wiring in order. Each solar panel will have a negative and positive DC wire attached. You don’t want the wires to touch the roof, so you clip or zip-tie them to the panel. You can then connect the wires into the microinverters you’ve already attached to the railings. 

Next, insert the provided mid-clamps into the railing to hold the solar panel in place from each side. For the solar panels that lie on each end of the rail, use end-clamps to keep them in place and present a more aesthetically pleasing look. 

Task 6: Home run connection

With the solar panels ready, it’s time to connect them to the house. For this you will need to install:

  • A conduit
  • An external junction box
  • An emergency disconnect box

The conduit will carry the wires from the roof junction box down to the external junction box. 

The junction box will in turn connect to an emergency disconnect. This is a safety feature that allows you to quickly shut off your solar panel system, and is a required feature in many jurisdictions.

From the emergency disconnect, the wires are passed through to the home’s main electrical panel. The external junction box and emergency disconnect box should be weatherproof and installed in an area that is easily accessible and allows easy connection to the home’s main electrical panel.

Your solar panel system is now ready, but unfortunately there’s still a couple of more hoops to jump before you can actually switch it on. 

10. Final inspection and interconnection with the grid

Once your installation is complete, you’ll have to schedule an inspection with the local AHJ. The inspector will come out and inspect your system to ensure that it’s compliant with local ordinances, and that the design matches those laid out in your plans. 

The system will also need to pass an electrical inspection to ensure that it is code-compliant. 

Once the inspection is done, you will need to apply for interconnection with the grid. The utility will either install a second meter, or replace your existing one with a bi-directional (or net) meter. The bi-directional meter can record your home’s power exports the grid so that you can receive credits on your power bill.  

11. Switch on your system

Assuming your system has now met all state, local and utility requirements, you can now commission it. 

These days, most inverters offer solar monitoring app that allow you to check your system performance online from wherever you are. Use this to make sure that your solar system is performing as expected. 

It was hard work, but you can now benefit from a solar panel system that produces clean energy, lowers your electricity bill, and improves the value of your home. Congratulations! 

DIY or not, solar power is highly rewarding

If you’ve read through this very lengthy blog post, kudos – you are definitely serious about going solar! You are now on a journey that I’m sure you’ll find highly rewarding. 

Here are some of the best things about having solar panels: 

  • The satisfaction of receiving a much lower utility bill – and thinking of all the things you can do with the money you’ll be saving over the years
  • Monitoring your solar panel production and usage from day to day
  • Pride in producing clean energy and doing your part in combating climate change

If you have a lot of time on your hands and the skills to pull it off, you can achieve all these benefits at the minimum possible cost. 

However, if you’ve read through this guide and feel that a DIY solar installation is just too much work, then fret not: you can still get all the benefits by getting a professional solar company to do the work for you.

Either way, we encourage you to check out our solar calculator. It will recommend a system for you that offers 100% offset of your utility bills, and can show you what the panels will actually look like on your roof. 

Best of luck on your solar journey!

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