PanasonicGrid-tie systemsHow to install a PV systemCanadian Solar

How to install solar panels yourself: 7-step overview

Most homeowners prefer to hire professionals to install their solar panels. However, there are DIY enthusiasts who choose to do the installation themselves to save money and get a deeper understanding of how their solar system works. How do they do it? Here is a quick overview of how to install solar panels yourself.

DIY installation: Disclaimer

Homeowners usually don’t install panels themselves. In most states, you’ll need permits from county or municipal officials to put PV modules on your roof. In some of them, the installation can be performed only by certified contractors. If you aren’t a certified solar installer, we recommend calling professionals in order to ensure the safety and effectiveness of your solar system. This article provides just a basic overview of the installation process.

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Step 1: Determine your energy needs

The first step in DIY solar panel installation is to determine your energy needs. You need to know how much electricity your household consumes on average to size your solar panel system correctly.

Check your recent electricity bills to find your monthly usage in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and divide it by 30 days. Then divide it by the number of peak sun hours in your area. 

Peak solar hours are not the same as sunlight hours. It is the time when the sun shines brightest and solar panels are running at their maximum. Check the number of peak sun hours in your state in our State Solar Power Ranking. 

Add 25% for energy losses from the conversion and transfer of current and you’ll get the size of a solar system for your home. Now divide this number by the wattage of solar panels you have chosen and you will get the number of panels you need. 

Let us do the math

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Step 2: Choose your solar system type and components

Decide whether you want a grid-tied, hybrid or grid-off solar system. With a grid-tied system, you stay connected to the grid and can draw energy whenever you want. Grid-tied systems are a good choice for areas with a reliable grid and available net-metering programs. With a hybrid system, you store and draw energy from your batteries and when it runs out, take it from the grid. And with a grid-off system, you only have batteries and no connection to the grid. This type is mostly used in remote areas with no access to the grid. 

Solar panels

The most popular solar panels for home are rated at around 400W. If the space on your roof is limited, consider panels with a high-efficiency rating. Consider using high-output modules as well. Powerful panels are more expensive, but you’ll need fewer of them, so the whole system may be cheaper. 

Different solar brands have their own features. For example, Canadian Solar panels perform great in low-light conditions and would be a nice choice for cloudy and rainy areas. Panasonic solar panels are not afraid of heat and would be a perfect choice for hot climates.

Out of stock

Canadian Solar 400W Solar Panel CSI CS6R-400MS-HL Clearance

  • Rated Power Output 400 W
  • Voltage (VOC)36.8 V
  • Number of cells108
  • Cell TypeMonocrystalline

Delivery on May 01–06

Inverter

The type of inverter you choose will depend on the type of your solar system. If you have a grid-tied system, you can choose either a string inverter or micro inverters. Micro inverters are more expensive but ideal for situations with shading or panel orientation challenges. They are attached to each solar panel, providing individual panel optimization.

Battery system

For a hybrid or an off-grid system, you’ll need batteries and a charge controller. The capacity of your battery system will depend on the amount of energy you want. Perhaps you want to store energy generated during the day to use in the evening or on a cloudy day, and to last for a few hours in case of a power outage. Or you may want to have a power bag for several days.

Step 3: Find the right location for your solar panels

Ideally, your solar panels should be installed in a place that receives plenty of sunlight throughout the day, preferably facing south and without any shading from nearby trees or buildings.

If you plan to install solar panels on your roof, make sure it’s in good condition and can support the weight of the panels, especially if you’re living in an old house.

Create a detailed plan for your DIY solar panel installation. Consider factors like the angle and orientation of the panels, shading issues, and the path of the electrical wiring. Having a well-thought-out plan will help to avoid many problems and save time and money.

Vasilii Smirnov
Solar Installation Expert

To install a solar system, you generally need to get building and interconnection permits. Your utility has to verify that the PV system is safe for the grid and building/city planning department checks if the project complies with building and electrical codes. If you’re building an off-grid system, you’ll only need a building permit. Usually, your installer takes care of the paperwork but you can also get them yourself.

Step 4: Install the mounting hardware

Mounting equipment for panels depends on your roof type

Once you’ve thought it all through, it’s time to install the mounting hardware. If you’re placing them on your roof, identify the rafters and mark their locations. Attach the mounting brackets or rails to the rafters and ensure that the mounting structure is level and securely anchored to the roof. Make sure to locate and seal all the connections properly to prevent water leaks. 

Step 5: Install and connect the solar panels

With the mounting hardware in place, it’s time to install the solar panels themselves. Carefully position each panel on the mounts, ensuring that they are securely fastened. Home solar systems are usually wired in series — read the article about series connection to learn more. Properly secure the wiring to the mounting structure to prevent it from dangling or getting damaged.

We recommend grounding solar panels to protect all your equipment from damage that could be caused by lightning and power surges.

Step 6: Install the inverter and connect the solar panels

The solar inverter is a vital component of your solar power system. It converts the direct current (DC) generated by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) that can be used to power your home and be fed back into the grid if your system is grid-tied.

If you have a string inverter, install it in a cool, shaded place with good ventilation to prevent overheating. If you have microinverters, attach them to the panels directly. Connect the DC terminals from the solar panels to the DC terminals on the inverter, then connect the AC terminals of the inverter to your home’s electrical system. Double-check that all the connections are correct, and the wires are properly secured. 

Contact your electric company to learn about the interconnection procedure. Usually, it’s an electrician from your utility who connects your inverter with the consumer grid 

Step 7: Start up you solar panel system

Once everything is in place and connected, it’s time to start up your solar panel system. Turn on the solar inverter. Monitor the inverter’s display to ensure that it’s functioning correctly.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your solar panel system’s performance over the first few days to ensure it’s producing the expected amount of electricity. 

We recommend studying all the installation guides from installers to successfully complete your DIY solar panel installation. Check out our article on how to install solar panels in 7 steps to find more information about the installation process. If you have any concerns, it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional solar installer. 

Article updated April 2024

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Years of experience in translation and a love of nature help Julia find the right words to encourage going solar. She joined the team in 2023 and is happy to make her contribution to a greener future.

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