A DIY solar panel kit can be a great way to utilise off-grid energy at a heavily reduced price.
Solar energy has a multitude of benefits, from financial savings, energy independence and as a more sustainable method of producing energy.
The benefits are so clear that the Government has introduced a range of schemes, including the Smart Export Guarantee, which allows you to sell your energy back to energy companies, as well as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme that can heavily reduce the cost of buying and having solar panels installed.
However, please bear in mind that in order to be eligible for the Smart Export Guarantee and therefore earn money by selling your energy back to the grid, the solar panels must be installed by an MCS accredited installer.
However, with that in mind, installing solar panels yourself can still be extremely rewarding, both financially and from the psychological perspective of escaping the national grid.
So, what else should you be aware of? And which DIY panels are the best available in the UK?
Benefits of DIY solar panels
First of all, DIY solar panels are often less expensive than other kinds of the solar panel due to the lack of labour costs and the fact you have more control over buying all parts of the system yourself.
Therefore, it is vital to weigh up the upfront costs and the long term financial benefits before you make a purchase.
As solar panels should be able to generate electricity for 25-30 years, this could culminate in thousands of pounds in savings over their lifetime.
DIY solar panels are also a great idea for small off-grid projects.
Whether you have a small tool shed that needs power or an RV, boat or garden house that could benefit from having solar panels installed, they are a simple and effective way to generate green energy.
What size solar system do you need?
It can be a little bit overwhelming trying to figure out what size system you may need for your property.
In the UK, the 4kW system will be sufficient for most domestic properties as it can provide adequate energy throughout the year for the average sized home.
If you have a particularly large home or a tiny project, it can be worth figuring this out yourself to get the best value for your money.
The simplest way to decide which kit you will need is to find the wattage of your 12V electrical appliances and use this to estimate your home’s daily energy consumption.
To calculate your panel’s wattage size, divide the daily watt-hours you need by the hours of usable light you expect in an average day – in the UK, generally allow for 1 hour in winter and 4 in summer. This will give you a minimum panel wattage.
For example: 43W (daily watt-hours) divided by 4 hours = 11W or more is required.
To find your battery size, multiply your daily watt-hours by 7 to get a weekly requirement.
Convert this back to amp hours – this is what batteries are rated in – by multiplying the sum by 2, and then dividing by 12.
This will give you the required battery size.
For example: (43W X 7 X 2) divided by 12 = 50Ah.
Which DIY solar kits are available in the UK?
A popular store named Sun Store offer a wide range of solar panel DIY kits, ranging from £400 for a 100W kit – perfect for a small garage or summer house – to £5,600 for a deluxe 4500W kit.
Each kit comes with everything that you will need to install the system yourself, including the solar panels, mounting brackets, solar cable, and a smart-charge controller.
RS PRO is another brand that offers a full DIY kit, starting from just £290 for a small kit that is perfect for smaller spaces like workshops or garden rooms.
This particular brand boasts quick installation in just 10 minutes and an advanced lithium battery for faster charging.
How much do solar DIY kits cost?
As you can see from the kits mentioned above, the price for these DIY solar panels can vary depending on the size of your home, the amount of energy needed, and even the direction of the roof.
Prices for a DIY solar kit can start as low as a few hundred pounds but increase to around £5000 for a medium sized home, and can be double for larger buildings.
How easy is DIY solar to install?
Whilst it is true that DIY solar panels have previously been difficult to install, they are now far simpler to attach to your property.
This means that if you have proficient DIY skills, you should be able to install them with little difficulty.
The only tool that you really need is a drill, and by watching a few simple tutorials you should have all the knowledge you need to successfully install your panels.
If you have zero experience with wiring, it may be a good idea to hire a professional electrician who will be able to do this for you.
These solar panels are secured to the roof by using roof batons on brackets.
It is advised to get the scaffolding up to the gutter height of the building – professional installers will use a winch and pulley system.
These are available to hire at most tool hire companies and will make the job a lot simpler.
Because solar heating technology will become pressurised to a 3 bar flow, the best way to connect the pipes is with compression joints to ensure the pipe is well insulated and at less risk of heat loss.
It is highly recommended to check these pipes every 3-4 years to observe the PH level of the antifreeze, as well as the seals and joints. This will help your solar panel system to last a lot longer.
All roofs are suitable for solar panels, except thatched roofing. Southerly, South West and South East facing roofs are particularly ideal for solar panels.
If you do not have suitable roof space on your property, then you are able to get wall-mounted or ground-mounted solar panels that do not rely on your roof.
In the vast majority of cases, you do not need planning permission; this is only usually needed if your building is listed or situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
DIY Solar Kits Summary
DIY solar panels are a great option if you are looking to get off-grid, or just subsidise some of your home’s energy to a cheaper, cleaner method.
Once you have figured out what size solar panel kit you need, they are relatively easy to install and little effort to maintain, as well as having plenty of cost-saving benefits.