How To Install Solar Panels: 9-Step DIY Guide for 2021

Have you ever looked at your power bill and said to yourself “goodness, that’s going to hurt my budget this month…”. 

“WHAT THE HECK, I barely used any electricity this month, how could this be!?”

You are not alone, thousands, if not millions of Americans and people worldwide are slaves to the electric companies in their local areas.

As a result they are being forced to pay the ridiculous rates which are just there because people don’t have any other option. You know these big electric companies  are like a BIG monopoly in the local counties and districts, they will jack-up the rates without even telling you sometimes and they expect not a single word out of anyone’s mouths. 

The only thing they are afraid of is you either going completely off-grid with your electricity OR, at least you cut your electric bill significantly by installing alternative energy methods such as solar, wind and even hydro. In this article we are going to cover solar panels, why they are CRUCIAL additions to anyone’s home, and how you can install your own solar system WITHOUT requiring professional help.

Why Bother with Solar Panel Installation?

In 1954, Gerald Pearson developed the first silicon photovoltaic (PV) cell. This ultimately lead towards the development of solar panels in the applications we see today.

As mentioned previously, most have been slaves to electric companies for more than a century, paying unreasonable rates with no other perceived options. Today in the 21st century, solar energy is taking off like a ROCKET and year by year they are getting cheaper to buy.

At first glance it may seem intimidating with the thought of having solar panels, after all… it’s totally normal when you don’t know how the system works and is hooked up. But before you go any further, I’d like to inform you that you can install your solar system at home no matter what size with relative ease. As long as you follow the instructions, you will have the required knowledge to get the job done for yourself.

If you are a bit adventurous and are willing to get your hands dirty, professional installation won’t be a total requirement.

Advantages & Disadvantages

When one thinks of solar energy, what first comes to mind?

“Money savings!”

You’d be correct, that is after all the primary benefit to having solar energy running your home.

But let’s dig a bit deeper into the TRUE benefits of having solar panels providing you 100% clean and 100% free energy.

In this day and age there are more monopolies than ever before (think major cell-phone & internet providers), being able to totally unplug from one (electric company) is a very LIBERATING feeling. Like you don’t need them to provide for you, you can provide for yourself.

And they will hate you for that, after all, you aren’t being forced to give them money anymore! 🙂

Let’s no be so naive into thinking that you CAN unhook legally from the grid. Unfortunately many places, especially in cities and around cities, will block you from being 100% unplugged from the grid. You at the very least may have to have SOME energy coming from the grid.

If you decide to still go off-grid with solar and your local regulations prohibit you form doing so, it is very likely you’ll have your home take away from you EVEN IF… you own it outright.

The only other bump you may encounter, especially if you are in the USA, is the Home Owners Association (HOA). This legal group is hated by many, primarily because they want everyones homes to look the same… and God forbid you install something on your roof and other neighbors don’t have, you are breaking the law and are subject to a fine. This is unfortunate, and the only option you really have is to place your solar panels in a discreet area (which is hard to do and still keep the sun), or you simply move out into an area where the HOA does not enforce rules.

One other thing which is something you should consider is COST, of course to start saving money every month you’ll need to first invest money into a solar power system which is going to run you at least $1,000 for 1kW of power.

You can always progressively add more and more solar power until you fully satisfied with your system.

Is Professional Installation REALLY Required?

This has to be one of the most daunting questions when one is considering having a solar panel system installed. “Can this be a DIY project?”

The quick answer is, Yes.
The long answer is, Maybe.

This DIY solar panel installation project, will require quite a bit of effort to do properly. We are going to cover instructions on how you can install solar panels on your roof, wire them together, get your solar power controllers, store your energy, and disperse it into your home. Everything will be laid out in a step-by-step manner. At the END of the guide, I’ll mention some things which you should be looking out for.

How To Install Solar Panels At Home

We will be showing instructions on how to install ONE array of solar panels. The measurements here will vary depending on the size of the solar panels you’ll be installing. As solar panels bring in more WATTS, they become bigger in size. Make sure each array of solar panels you do, has the exact same solar panels to ensure proper fitment across the entire array.

Layout the Locations of the Stanchions
Which Will Be Supporting the Solar Panels.

Before you place any kind of solar panel on the roof, you need to pick the locations where you’l be placing your stanchions that will be supporting the solar panels. Once you market each location properly, with even distance from all sides, we are ready to move on to the next step.

Locate and Screw Each Stanchion Into The Roof Rafters.

This step is VERY important, since the roof rafters will be the solid wood that will be holding your stanchions in place. How you can check for your roofs rafters is by doing a “knock” test, using something like a hammer. Take the hammer and gently tap the area of where you market for your stanchions to be installed. Odds are it will likely sound hollow, so you’ll need to tap a bit more towards the right or left until it feels like something solid is beneath the shingle (create a new mark once this happens). Once you do that, repeat for the other marketing.

Please use your eyes and a tape measure to coordinate even distance between your marketing.

Each stanchion should have a flat mount which fits beneath the shingles, make sure you this is fitted properly and is sealed off with roof caulk to prevent leaks.

Fasten The Upper and Lower Aluminum Rails.

How many solar panels you’ll have will determine how long each rail will be. Assuming you already picked the appropriate length of rails, the next step requires you take your aluminum rails which will be holding the actual solar panels and mount them horizontally when facing the roof head-on. Use stainless-steel bolts to do the mounting to ensure your whole system stays resistant to weather.

When you are done mounting your rails, measure diagonally across from the end of the upper rail to the end of the lower rail. Repeat for the other sides to make sure everything measures equally.

Since we are doing a single array of solar panels, you’ll want to make sure the distance between each side is appropriate to the size of your solar panels vertically.

Mount Your Solar Panels.

This next step requires you to mount your solar panels directly into the rails. Each rail is going to have little brackets which will be holding the panels. Using a drill, carefully screw these brackets to the aluminum frame of the solar panels, being careful not to overdo it and crack the glass on the panels.

Connecting The Array of Solar Panels.

Once you have your stanchions and rails installed properly, have the solar panels mounted, its time to connect the solar panels together.

What we will be doing here is connecting the solar panels you installed in PARALLEL. This will help to keep voltage the same while at the same time, increase amperage. As mentioned earlier, it is VERY important your entire array of solar panels are exactly the same in size and WATT output.

Also, when you wire everything together… use as little wire as possible because long wires lose energy due to resistance.

Lets say you have 4X 100 watt solar panels and you want to connect them all together in parallel, all positive cables are connected together and all negative cables are connected together. What you get in the end is just two cables which represent all inputs from our solar panels.

Side Note: To connect all solar panels together, since most use the MC4 connections, we recommend you get the appropriate MC4 Y adapters found here.

Run These Cables Into Your Home.

It’s now time to run these cables directly into your home. You can drill a hole through the shingles, run the wires through and use roof caulk to seal-off what’s remaining to ensure no water makes it through. You have TWO options as to what you want to do with that energy.

Do you want to use and store it for later use, or do you want to simply use it yourself and when you are not, feed it back into the grid and let others use it. The latter is called Net Metering, and this is options from state to state (check your local regulations for more info).

We will dive deep into the system if you wanted to store it for later using batteries, but first.. let’s quickly cover what you do if you want to do Net Metering and feed excess back into the grid.

BONUS Step 6.5. Net Metering, How It’s Done.

Let’s say you want to do Net Metering and use the solar energy for yourself, and when you are not, feed it back into the grid. To do this, you’ll need to run your DC current from the panels, through an AC inverter.

For example, if you have 4x solar panels putting out 400 watts MAX, you’ll need to do next is get a 400 watt alternating current (AC) power inverter. Using that inverters AC current, you can then wire it into your homes electrical service panel which feeds electricity into your household.

In the event that your solar panels produce MORE electricity throughout the day than you actually used, your electrical meter will spin backwards, putting the excess electricity back into the grid for others to use.

At night when demand is lowest, your home will tap back into the grid and consume electricity that way. When you connect the solar panels directly into your home, the only difference you’ll notice is in your electric bill.

Run Solar Panel DC Power Into A Charge Controller.

In the example above as we have shown, we had 4x 100 watt solar panels putting out 400 watts max, so we are going to match THAT with the appropriate solar charge controller.

Each 100 watt solar panel would put out MAX of 22.5 volts and around 5.29 amps. All 4 being wired into parallel, we would have 22.5 volts MAX and about 21.16 amps MAX. For this setup, we found a PWM Charge Controller with 40A and can have 12 or 24 volt input. This should cost around $30-$40 dollars. Connect the solar panel positive and negative terminals into the PV inputs on the charge controller.

Batteries + Charge Controller.

Now here’s where we store ALL of our electricity captured by the solar panels, we are going to get for this setup 2x 232ah medium flooded batteries and wire them in parallel. From there, we are going to run a single positive and a single positive, and run them from the 2 batteries, into the charge controller.

Remember, this parallel wiring is exactly the same how we did it with the solar panels. What you’ll have now is solar panels constantly charging the batteries and a charge controller preventing damage to the batteries once they reach 100% state of charge. Next step!

DC to AC Inverter Connected to Charge Controller.

For this setup, we recommend a Sine Wave power inverter (600watts). You’ll connect the positive and negative terminals of the inverter, directly into the “load” section of the charge controller. Once this entire system is setup, you’ll have a complete solar power system ready to go.

To run your entire home, you’ll need to scale this up GREATLY. Regardless of the size, the setup will be mostly the same with exception of more expensive hardware due to increased power and load.

Total Cost For Example Setup

Now that we went through the necessary steps to build our solar powered system, lets go over the costs associated with each item in this list. We will be browsing online to get various prices.

  • 4x 100 watt Solar Panels $500-$600 USD
  • 40A Charge Controller $30-$50 USD
  • 2x 232Ah Batteries $275-$350 USD
  • Roof Mounting Hardware $100-$200 USD
  • 600 watt AC Pure Sine Wave Inverter $100-$200 USD

Average Total Cost: $1,200 USD for everything.

DISCLAIMER: Things To Be Cautious About

If this is your first time undertaking a project such as this, there’s a few things you should be really careful about. It goes without saying that electricity is nothing to play with, you know it can kill you very fast if you are not cautious or not wearing appropriate protective material.

When doing any kind of task, even if it is slightly risky, always wear protective eyewear. Our eyes have the greatest impact on our life and without them… life will never be the same (you already know this).

Lastly, if you are planning on climbing on your roof and mounting solar panels, use protective gear such as a rope in case you slip and fall. Even if you have a one story home… a 7-8 foot fall can prove to be very dangerous if not fatal.

What Do You Think?

I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on how to install solar panels in your home. Together, we discussed all the wiring necessary to get this whole things up and running. If you got any questions about what I wrote here, just leave a comment below. I’ll reply with further detail. See you in the next post!