How to Build a Low Cost DIY Solar Panel System For Your Home

Installing solar panels on your home can reduce or even eliminate your electricity bills. With the cost of retail solar panel systems still high, building your own DIY solar panel system is an affordable alternative for environmentally conscious homeowners. In this guide, I will walk you through the entire process of constructing a low cost solar panel system with affordable components from local hardware stores.

Determining Your Energy Needs

The first step is calculating how much energy you need your DIY solar panel system to produce. The key factors are:

Take these variables into account when designing your system's production capacity. Overestimating is better than underestimating your energy needs.

Choosing Solar Panels

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are the most efficient and affordable options for home DIY projects. Here's how they compare:

For a DIY solar newbie, I recommend polycrystalline panels as they provide a good balance of cost and efficiency. Shop for panels in popular wattages like 250W, 300W or 330W. Buy from reputable brands like Renogy, Rich Solar or WindyNation.

Calculating Number of Solar Panels

To calculate the number of panels needed:

Total watts required = Average daily usage (kWh) x Days of autonomy

Number of panels = Total watts required / Watts per panel

For example, if your average daily use is 30kWh and you want 3 days of backup, you need 30kWh x 3 = 90,000W. With 300W panels, you will need 90,000/300 = 300 panels.

Sourcing Components

Here are the key components to source for your DIY solar system:

Online solar retailers like Renogy, WindyNation and Wholesale Solar are great places to source these items. Brick and mortar stores like Home Depot also carry limited solar equipment.

Structural Considerations

Your roof structure needs to be assessed to see if it can support the additional weight of the solar panel system:

Also check with your local permitting office to see if any approvals or permits are required to install a DIY solar system where you live. Better to verify this ahead of time.

Mounting Solar Panels on Roof

Once you have all the components, it's time for installation:

Take precautions when working on a roof including safety harnesses, erecting barriers and having someone there to assist you.

Connecting Components

Follow these steps to wire up the full DIY solar system:

Consult a qualified electrician if unsure of how to make wire connections. Use cable strain reliefs and waterproof all outdoor connections.

Configuring and Testing System

Before turning on the system:

When ready for testing:

Take time to monitor voltages and currents during initial operation. Your DIY solar system should now be up and running!

Maintaining the System

Like any power system, some periodic maintenance is required:

Performing regular maintenance will maximize system performance and lifetime.

Building your own solar panel system takes research, careful planning and installation. But with smart component selection and safe wiring practices, you can harvest free energy from the sun for decades to come. The solar energy you produce will mitigate your home's carbon footprint and protect the planet for future generations.