Basics of installing solar panels

Installing a solar panel system in your home can help you save thousands of dollars on your energy expenses, free you from the often-unpredictable nature of utility companies and decrease pollution into the environment. You can either hire a contractor to perform the installation or you can do it yourself. While hiring a contractor does require less effort, it can be expensive. Many people prefer to do the installation themselves, purchasing the materials they need according to instructions. Below, you'll learn the steps involved for installing a solar panel system. The following steps assume you've already placed the panels in the appropriate direction to receive sufficient sunlight.


Step #1: List the needed supplies

It's important that you plan ahead. That means making a list of all the materials you'll need for the installation. Besides the solar panels, you'll need a charge controller, an inverter and a battery charger. You'll also need a couple of AWG cables, some mechanical lugs, a plastic container for battery storage and at least 1 12-volt deep cycle battery. Gather a drill, screwdriver, cable cutters, a crescent wrench and electrical tape for the job.

Step #2: Charge the battery

Before getting your solar panels set up, begin charging the battery. That way, by the time you've completed most of the installation, the battery will have a full charge. One quick note: you may want to invest in a few batteries for redundancy. Once one battery is depleted, you can easily direct the current from another that is fully-charged.

Step #3: Make the jumpers

Your 12-volt battery should be placed into the plastic container you prepared. Assuming you're using multiple batteries, line them up in the container with the positive terminals on the same side. Use the AWG cables to create jumpers to connect your batteries' terminals. Keep the ends of the cable stripped to insert them into the mechanical lugs.

Step #4: Fix the lid

Drill a small hole through the top of the lid of the plastic container. You're going to place the charge controller and inverter on top of the lid. One set of wires will connect the charge controller to the batteries resting inside the container. Another set of wires will connect the charge controller to the solar panels.

Step #5: Connect the wires

Connect the wires from the charge controller and the inverter to the positive and negative terminals on the batteries. The inverter should be turned off while you're doing this. Also, make sure the charge controller isn't connected to the solar panels until you've connected it to the batteries.

Step #6: Test

Once all of the components in (or on top of) the plastic container (batteries, jumpers, inverter and charge controller) have been connected, connect the charge controller to your solar panels. Once you have done that, turn your inverter on. Your solar panel installation should be working properly.

Starting small and scaling

The process we've described above will store solar energy and convert it to electricity for use in your home. But, it's a small installation. That is, it's unlikely to be enough to power everything in your household. Our objective was simply to direct you through a solar panel installation procedure. All of the supplies needed for the job should cost no more than $700. Installing everything should only take 1 day. If you decide that you'd like to scale the installation to output more electricity, you now have a good foundation to build upon. For larger homes, it may be worthwhile to hire a professional to install your solar panel system.