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Why DIY Solar Kits Are A Bad Idea

solar san diego

DIY Solar?

I just read an article on the PV Solar Report highlighting a solar company selling it's grid-tied solar panels on Amazon. I was so shocked by what I saw that I thought I'd write about it.

Before getting into the reasons why DIY solar kits, on-or-off-grid, are a bad idea, I'd just like to point out the obvious problems with this particular set.

Panel Manufacturer

As you can see from the image, Andalay Solar is selling a 4 pack of DIY solar panels.I had to dig for awhile to find the panel manufacturer. I eventually came across the name Tainwei as I scoured Andalay's Warranty pdf. I'm not familiar with Chinese-made panel, so I can't offer my opinion on them, but I do know not all solar panels are created equal. Onthe Andalay spec sheet I saw, "5-25% more energy collection than ordinary solar panels." This is a very uncommon and subjective way of displaying a panel's efficiency rating, making me initiallyskeptical of the quality of these panels. Every big manufacturer will have their panel's efficiency rating clearly stated, and unless we are talking about the ultra efficient SunPower panels, that number is usually between 15-16%.

Panel Output

Unless I'm missing something, last time I checked 250 Watts equals .25 kW, not 2.5 kW like the title of this product states. And speaking of250 Watts, that output is pretty low by today's standard. Nowadays you don't really want anything lower than 270 Watts. Why does it matter that this panel is only 250 watts? Smaller output means more panels are needed to offset your energy usage. More panels means more money.

The average home in America uses 10,000 kWh annually. For the sake of arguing, let's say a homeowner living in San Diego using10,000 kWh annually wants to add some DIY solar panels to his roof to offset his electricity cost entirely. Generally speaking, he'd need something like a 5.7 kW (5,700 Watts) system to do this, or six of these 4-packs!

Panel Cost

This 4-pack of panels is $3,578.90, making each solar panel cost roughly $895 a piece! As noted above, an average homeowner would have to purchase about six of the 4-packs to build a system large enough to offset their energy usage entirely. That's $21,474 and you have to install them yourself! If you think this cost is way cheaper than hiring a solar company, please call us and you will see that it's not!


Other Factors to Consider

DIY solar energy kits are growing in popularity. Why? Because solar energy is amazing! But before you decide to climb on your roof, here are a few things to consider:


Besides the obvious dangers of climbing onto your roof while holding a 40-lb, 65"x40" piece of equipment that cost you about $900, there are the dangers of working with electricity. Solar panels create DC electricity. The moment the panel is in the sun, it's creating power. All you'd have to do is touch both leads to get shocked. This particular set is grid-tied, which means you are still connected to the utility company. Have any idea how to get the power generated from your panels to power your house? No? Hopefully you hired a contractor that does. Safety is a huge issue when installing solar. When working with live electrical lines, mistakes can be lethal!


Between buying DIY solar panels and hiring someone to help you install them, you could hire Baker Electric Home Energy and receive a turnkey solution with a much better product, warranty, and assurance for nearly the same price.


What companies like Andalay don't like to talk about is the exhausting amount of paperwork you'd have to fill out to get the permit from the utility company to attach a solar energy system to their grid.


What happens when that DIY panel stops working? Who honors the warranty, the company you purchased the panels from or the manufacturer?


Leave It To the Solar Experts

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of DIY solar, I just don't think it's a very good one.

solar panel installation on your roof is a big home renovation – and Baker Electric Home Energy is here to help. Between getting the panels delivered to your home unharmed, getting the panels onto your roof safely, properly mounting your panels so that your roof doesn't leak, and interconnecting the solar energy system to the grid, there are plenty of bad things that can happen that can result in serious bodily harm or severe property damage.

If you're considering a DIY solar installation on your home using panels such as the ones discussed here or similar ones like those at Costco, I challenge you to call us first and compare the cost. Don't forget to consider your time cost as well. It takes our crew 2-3 days to install a system. How long do you think it'll take you? How much time will you spend filling out all the necessary paperwork? What about other potential costs, like dropping a panel to the ground when installing?

Baker Electric Home Energy is Southern California's solar company backed by over 75 years of electrical contracting experience. Our consultants will work with you to design a solar energy system, using quality products that will meet your needs, no matter if you want 50% energy offset or 100%. We are a safety and performance award-winning company, so you can rest assured that you, your family, and your property will be well taken care of during installation.

Call today for a free quote!

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