How to Install Solar Panels Yourself
With the rising cost of energy and the movement to utilize renewable energy sources, many homeowners are interested in using solar photovoltaic panels. These panels are comprised of solar cells that do the actual work of converting the sun’s rays to power that can be harnessed and used. The cells are mounted in a frame, or panel, that is typically placed on the roof. You can install solar panels yourself, even if you have only basic home improvement skills.
The first step is to select a location for your home solar panel installation. You want to select the area of your roof that receives the most sun each day. The south side is optimal for residential solar panel installation, but the west side is the second best orientation to use, followed by the east.
Solar panels installed on the east or west will not produce as much energy as those on the south, which means that you will need more panels to provide the same amount of energy. Solar panels should never be mounted on the north side of the residence.
Check with your city to see what building permits you may need before you begin your do it yourself solar project. There may also be specific instructions or inspections required. Failure to comply with permitting codes can result in having to tear everything out and redo it.
Use a stud finder to locate your roof rafters. Write down the spacing between them. Measure your solar panels and prepare a written sketch of how to install them so that all mounts will be placed in a rafter. If the rafters do not line up properly, you can install a wooden block on the underneath side of the roof for placing the mount. Never drill the mount into the plywood that lies beneath your shingles.
Mounts should be placed so that the installed solar panels will have at least three inches of air flow beneath them. They should also be tilted for maximum production. The tilt is dependent upon your latitude.
If you are installing solar panels at latitudes between 15 and 20 degrees latitude, make the angle of tilt equal to the latitude. Increase the tilt by 5 degrees for every 5 degrees of latitude until latitude reaches 40 degrees. If your latitude is in excess of 40 degrees, add 20 degrees of tilt to the latitude.
Measure carefully and use a pilot bit to drill the holes for the mounts. Install them with the lag bolts. To help guard against roof leaks, install flashing over the mounts. Attach the rails by bolting them onto the mounts and then install the solar panel onto the rails.
Open the junction box on the solar panels and interconnect them. Each box will have negative and positive terminal screws. Attach the each wire to the appropriate screw, creating a daisy chain of solar panels until you come to the last one. This wire should be run through a conduit to the next component, such as the controller.