Most new grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) systems are installed by solar contractors. Here’s what usually happens: the homeowners call up a few local solar companies; representatives come to the house to make a site assessment; the homeowners choose the contractor whose quote sounds reasonable and sign a contract for the work. The homeowners don’t even have to put up a ladder; all they have to do is sign a check.
Is it possible to do the work yourself? The answer is, “It depends.” In areas of the country with lenient local regulations, homeowners may be able to install their own solar array. But they’ll have to be adept at submitting all the required paperwork, including permits; they’ll probably have to hire an electrician to make some of the electrical connections; and they’ll have to get the system inspected and approved before it can be connected to the grid.
Off-grid systems are an entirely different story. Many off-grid homes are located in remote rural areas beyond the reach of building codes and inspections. In these areas, it’s fairly common for off-grid homeowners to install their own PV systems.
Advice for the DIY crowd
I recently got a copy of a new book called Solar Rooftop DIY. Written by Mike Sullivan, the book aims to be “the homeowners’ guide to installing your own photovoltaic energy system.” There’s a need for such a book — one that is more accessible than a textbook aimed at electricians, but is still technically accurate.
For a homeowner who doesn’t know much about PV systems, Sullivan’s book might be a useful introduction to the topic. The book’s photos can give a homeowner a better idea of what various components…