We frequently receive calls from folks interested in installing their own residential or commercial solar electric (PV) or small wind system, or having their own electrician do the work. Some already know everything they need to do it, others are just at the “wild idea” phase. Most though, are somewhere in between, having done enough research to have a general idea of what to do, yet still needing some level of assistance to make their solar dreams come true.
A few who have looked around for the help they need have been told that solar is not a good do-it-yourself (DIY) project. We respectfully disagree with that opinion. Fire Mountain Solar excels at “hands off” projects. We have helped hundreds of clients around the U.S. and even some in Canada and Mexico, accomplish their solar goals without ever setting foot at the project site.
With information you provide, we’ll design a cost effective DIY solar or small wind solution. We will then help you choose from the wide array of products available, so you can be certain you are receiving the best overall value for your investment. Our recommendations will be for equipment that balances quality, features, reliability and price – not just those that are the cheapest. We would rather lose a sale because the right solution is outside your budget, than to sell you something that you will not do the job.
And throughout the process, from beginning to end and beyond, we will provide you with personalized, expert and timely installation and technical support, to insure your DIY solar project is a success.
Don’t need all our services? Not a problem. Just tell us how we can help.
Installing your own solar panels is not really as complicated as it might initially seem. Wind turbines can be a bit more challenging, but are not impossible to do yourself. If you have some general construction and electrical skills, more than likely you can do all or part of the project yourself. This will save you money on the cost of your renewable energy system, and it’s a fun challenge and can be a source of pride for those who like to tinker.
Before deciding whether you want to do it yourself or hire someone else, do an honest assessment of your skills. Even for the most experienced do-it-yourselfer there are parts of every renewable energy installation where professional help may be needed. Educate yourself on what is really involved and then make your plan.
Below are some general considerations and information we will need if you request our help. Anything we don’t answer here, please give us a call. We will be adding to the DIY section of our website, so over time more information will be available to assist you.
Being energy efficient can help reduce the cost of your DIY solar or DIY wind system. Energy Star appliances, thermal windows, adequate insulation, compact fluorescent or LED lighting, and adjusting your consumption habits, means you need a smaller solar or small wind system to power your home, which means you save money on equipment.
For more information on energy use considerations prior to installing renewable energy, please follow this link: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Once you are as efficient as you want to be or can be, then you need to determine if your site is a good candidate for renewable energy, and whether solar, wind or a hybrid system will give you the best return on investment.
Solar PV will work almost anywhere, however some locations are better than others, and some sites may be less suitable for certain reasons.
Which direction does your roof face? In the northern hemisphere, true south is always the best orientation for solar panels. However east, southeast, southwest and west may also work, but the amount of power generated will be reduced from what you would get with a southern orientation. Often just adding a few more solar modules to your array will compensate for these losses.
Roof Angle (Roof Pitch)
For the best year round power output with the least amount of maintenance, set your solar array at a tilt angle equal to your latitude with respect to the horizontal position. The pitch and type of roof on your structure will determine which mounting system to use to achieve the optimal tilt angle, and to provide needed stability and security.
The type of roof on your structure will influence how your solar array is mounted, but rarely does it prevent installation. As the popularity of solar increases, so do the number and types of available mounting solutions. This means an option is available for practically any type of roof, though the cost will vary depending on which material the array is mounted on.
Roof Layout and Obstructions
Some home designs can make a rooftop solar array impractical or unworkable. If your roof has a variety of pitches and angles, or if there are obstructions such as chimneys, solar tube lights or vents that reduce roof space or cannot be covered, you may need to consider mounting your solar array on a pole or the ground.
Obviously a home in the middle of the forest is not a good candidate for solar. But be sure you also look at surrounding landscaping and buildings that might shade the panels at different times of the day and during different seasons. Consider not only obstructions on your site, but also on adjacent sites. Any shading will reduce the amount of power available from your solar panels.
For those on the grid, the pros and cons of installing a wind turbine is much more complicated. Because Fire Mountain Solar does not offer grid-tie turbines, our discussion will focus only on off-grid wind (standalone).
Deciding whether to purchase a small off-grid wind system can be complicated. There are many factors to consider, such as:
If you have the right set of circumstances, a well-designed off-grid wind energy system can provide you with many years of cost-effective, clean, and reliable electricity.
For more information about off-grid DIY wind systems, please give us a call.
The next step in the DIY renewable energy process is to size your system and select your equipment. Feel free to give us a call for design and product help, or go to our Learn More page for additional articles such Grid-tie Basics, Off-grid Basics, and Incentives.
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