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Is DIY Solar a Solar Power Option for Your Home?

Two years ago, my neighbor asked for a solar quote.  I provided a quote after looking at his house online and taking into consideration his home’s electricity usage.  

The quote was to purchase the solar equipment outright, including quality solar components, the turnkey solar installation process, and a 25-year warranty from Green Power Energy.  My neighbor thanked me for my efforts, said he would hold off for now, and may consider installing the equipment himself. To which, I half-jokingly retorted, “Good luck with that!”

Then two years later as I was mowing my lawn, I looked to the horizon and saw what appeared to be solar racking on his roof, and then my neighbor screwing solar rail into his rafters.  

My initial reaction was complete shock, I then wondered, “Why is he doing this?” And is “DIY solar ever worth it?”

I know my neighbor is smart enough to understand the basics of how solar works.  So I texted him the next morning and asked what he ended up doing. He informed he procured products from a variety of different sources at about half the cost of our company’s turn key quote, and he would be doing the installation himself.  He said he submitted a permit but had not submitted for SRECs when I asked him about that.

Off the bat, I understand the value in saving money on the initial installation, but wondered if some of that value is lost in undertaking a solar installation on your own.  For one, he informed me he chose Hyundai 280 watt solar panels. Not a bad product, but an outdated product nonetheless.

The average wattage solar module sold from Green Power Energy these days will be approximately 330 watts.  

He said he oversized his SolarEdge inverter so he can add more panels later. Another problem right away. When an inverter is oversized, the system’s “Solar Availability” is limited. Basically if your system wattage is significantly less than the inverter capacity there may not be enough voltage to turn it on early in the morning and keep it on later in the evening.  Adding to the system is also easier said than done. If you are to follow the guidelines set forth by the State that will count as a separate solar installation, which will require all new approvals.

I pried a little bit more.  “What about SRPs, I asked?” SRPs are the forms needed to receive SRECs. One is to be submitted 10 days after contract signing to qualify for the program.  Within a few weeks, one will find out if they have been approved. There is then an “AS Built” form with NJ Clean Energy which confirms the final system size as installed to confirm SREC amount.  My neighbor informed me he had not filled out this form yet. I am unsure if he will be able to enter the program now, and even if he is, he may feel foolish that he waited.

You see, New Jersey is undergoing a massive transition in the SREC program.  Once the current program hits 5.1% capacity, the current program ends and the new “Interim program” starts.

Whether he had gone with our company or not, as someone who is active in MSSA, the local solar lobbying agency, I could have encouraged him to get his application in right away.  The “interim program,” according to our most recent conference call will be similar to the current SREC program but at 80% of the current value. So if my neighbor misses this due to lack of oversight on the application process he stands to miss out on a lot of money. For example, his system at approx. 6 kW will produce maybe 7 SRECs per year.  At a current value of $200 each, his initial estimates of ROI would have him at about $1,400 per year. With the new program he will be at $1,120 per year. A potential loss of $2,800 per the 10 year SREC program.

I am also unsure about how far he got in the interconnection process and if an electric permit was procured properly.  My neighbor intends to install the entire system himself, but the electric work required for the line side tap and to pull the wire down off the roof requires an electrical license. Green Power Energy submits all paperwork for our customers properly, including as built, certified of approvals, and permission to operate.  

Again, trying to get more information, I asked about warranties.  He said he has a 25-year warranty on everything. Ok, maybe, but not on the installation.  If your roof is leaking because of a hole that missed the rafter, you would be out of luck.  Even as someone who has been involved with solar 8 years, I would be extremely nervous drilling holes into my rafters without the help of a professional.  Anything wrong with the inverter, you are looking at a service call starting at $150 per hour. Then there is the physical undertaking of getting the solar panels up on the roof and screwing them in with one person only.  The initial solar racking footings are in now, but we are still waiting a week later for the rest to go up. Green Power Energy would be on and off of his roof in a day. My neighbor may not be able to turn the system on in time for the spring sun.  And then the bill that comes after that because the date of interconnection is incorrect may never be corrected.

You would need a reputable solar company to advise you on the right interconnection date. Green Power Energy sells SRECs for customers and provides free support for 25 years.  

The initial savings in a DIY solar power for home may be tempting, but risking life and limb for a few thousand bucks with the risk of complete failure or even partial failure is never worth it. My neighbor is only able to consider this because of the small low slope of his roof, but it got me thinking about the shadow cast by the main part of his house onto the roof plane with the solar panels.  If he had chosen our company we could have done a proper sun survey and figured the best location of the equipment. I wish him luck, but don’t believe this is going to be a smart move for my neighbor. Green Power Energy maintains a 4.9/5 star google rating based on 125 reviews. Give Green Power Energy a call today to see how much you can save on solar!

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