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Community and Q&A

Dana, others, DIY PV, mini split, superinsulate, costs

wjrobinson | Posted in General Questions on

What would it cost today to roof install 5.6KW of PV DIY?

DIYers are eligible for what rebates in NY in 2015?


Martin a blog on DIY PV and DIY mini split installation?

5,6KW PV for $2/W? $11,200?

DIY 2 ton mini split two heads, $1800×2= $3,600?

Superinsulate a 1,800sqft home, DIY cellulose purchase, 12″ walls, 30″ lid, $5.000?

These items can be done by one timers, DIYers.

Be nice to have a Q&A with this information on costs all in one thread.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Large PV arrays are being installed in the U.S. these days for about $3.50/watt, but the price varies from region to region.

    For rebate information, visit the DSIRE website.

    The best source of information on DIY installations of PV systems is Home Power magazine. The magazine maintains a quality website, and most back issues are available online.

    There have been several good Q&A threads on GBA discussing DIY installations of ductless minisplits. If you can't find these threads using ordinary search techniques, let me know, and I'm track them down for you.

  2. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #2

    $3.50/watt is the full retail price for a fully qualified and experienced solar contractor to installation a fully code-compliant inspected, warranteed and insurable grid-tied PV system. It doesn't have to be particularly large either- even 5.6kw would come in at about that price point in my neighborhood. YMMV.

    DIYers can do it for less than half that in raw hardware costs, as long as they know the local magic on what is and is not required in terms of operating specs and installation details for hooking it up to the local grid, provided the utility would even let unlicensed uncertified people install power generating equipment onto their local grid at all... (If you screw up a bootleg installation and injure/kill a utility worker or mess up the utility's equipment, try to guess who pays.)

    Part of what you get with a professional installation is (usually) a smoother permitting & inspection process, the latter of which varies widely with local jurisdictions & utility companies.

    I've never heard of rebate incentives or tax credits being offered to DIY PV. I HAVE heard of unscrupulous PV installers overstating the size of the array and pocketing the "extra" incentive cash (a notorious installer in Arkansas was busted on that a couple of years ago.)

    Most incentives programs require a credentialed & bonded contractor doing the work- that goes for insulation as well as PV or high-efficiency mechanical equipment.

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    As far as I know, the 30% federal tax credit applies to purchases of photovoltaic equipment, whether the equipment is installed by a licensed electrician or by the homeowner.

  4. Svig | | #4

    My favorite at this moment example from Home Power Magazine for DIY solar;

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Yes, that's a nice 6-kW array.


  6. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #6

    Steve: On the second page of that article...

    "On January 2, 2013, I applied for Wisconsin’s FoE Renewable Rewards program. To be eligible for the program, I had to retain the services of a PV installer to oversee and sign off on the installation. I hired Trang Donovan, who provided me with design reviews, recommendations, and a final system inspection for compliance to the National Electrical Code."

    Basically they rented the guy's license to get it legally installed. The ease / difficulty of finding a willing partner like that, and the willingness of local & utilities inspectors to go along will vary, but it can be a reasonable approach.


    "Wisconsin’s FoE program offered a cash-back rebate (up to $2,400) for grid-tied PV systems, and we could also take the 30% federal tax credit. Balancing these economic and energy goals, I arrived at a 6.1 kW system, which would max out the FoE rebate..."


    "My original target for the PV system was $6,100 (or $1 per watt), after incentives. The final cost came in at $7,661 (or $1.25/watt)"

    To get to "before incentives", working backwards, the 30% tax credit is only on the post Wisconsin rebate cost, which was then $7,661/ 0.7= $10, 944, and adding in the $2.4K rebate the full retail cost for the hardware/permitting/consulting was then ($2400 + $10, 944= )$13,344 for 6100 watts, which is $2.18/watt.

    That's a bit on the high for hardware-only, which I would expect to come in at ~$1.50-1.75/watt. I suspect the difference is what they had to pay the credentialed PV contractor for consulting plus permit filing fees, etc.

    In Australia or Germany you can get the whole shebang installed turn-key by a pro at the $2.18/watt price point (or less.) That should be possible in the US too once the market size has hit critical mass. It's not as if German or Australian labor rates are cheaper than the US. There is a lot of soft-cost built into the recent regional $3.50/watt price point- a bunch of marketing, client education/hand-holding, and multiple levels of inspection/documentation that isn't necessary in a more mature market. By the end of 2016 when the 30% tax credit drops to 10% on January Fools Day 2017 I wouldn't be too surprised to see instances of two-buck retail for rooftop PV, even if the US average were still north of $2.50.

    Martin: What do you have to show the Feds prove that the equipment was actually installed rather than re-sold, taking a profit on the 30% tax rebate? I suspect they need to see something more than some receipts.

  7. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #7

    I imagine that if an IRS auditor comes to your house, it's a two-step process: (a) you show the auditor your receipts, and (b) you stand in the yard and point to the roof.

  8. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #8

    But what if it's installed on racks out in the yard? :-)

    BTW: I had missed this link- apparently they took the 30% tax credit AHEAD of the WI rebate, and there pre-subsidy cost was $14.373, or $2.36/watt:

    You can probably beat that price if you have friend-labor that doesn't eat so much (or drink that much beer :-) .) The $2k+ for travel, equipment rental and miscellany seems on the higher side than I might have expected too.

  9. wjrobinson | | #9

    Dana, all, great posts. As to doing the wiring, it's not rocket science. I and many customers wire homes often. As to linemen getting zapped, they do not treat wires as dead. 240V is nuttin compared to the voltages that raise the hairs on their heads. Lastly, it would be when I said DIY i meant an someone who knows how to install electric to NEC codes not folks that don't do electric work already. I think any electrician should be able to install PV. Right now it's a paperwork nightmare. I have a friend who jumped into the business and loves it but his partner does his paper pile work and that puts a smile on his face big time. Not related but with Grids tightening their costs, I now call to another state to get permission to do new service installs, fun fun. Call the number, nope, no answer, leave a message, talk the next day. When can I get the install? Oh, your ESR will go thru in three months.. !! So I call all my secret back door numbers... well, we could probably get there later this week, are you guys really that busy?... Well actually yesterday we sat in the shop for half a day, nothing ready to go to.. sweet... love it. Oh so nice to have a huge bank of personal cell phone numbers collected over the years. Local planners are the best still.

    If you are in my area and need a new service, get your paperwork in 3 months in advance if you don't know the right people.

    Edit add... An another thing, Electricians and whom ever install stand by generators some up to 20 kilowatt... no paperwork here. How can we install generators but PV has insane amount of training, piles of paper, OSHA breathing down hard hats, tie offs, danger danger danger... sometimes I wonder how the heck they built the Empire State Building prior to OSHA. Watch some old tape, guys running around on beams a thousand feet up.. no body forced them to take the job. A few died, thousands on the job, built in a year. Must be there was a lot less paperwork back then.

  10. gusfhb | | #10

    Here in the people's republic, one usually needs an electrician to do wiring. There should be no problem doing the physical install, and probably the low voltage wiring[the DC side] but most inspectors would want an electrician to connect to the panel. Much like minisplit installs, there is no need to have an expensive professional do grunt work.

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