The average cost of installing DIY solar panels in America

$2.50 per watt

with you organizing your own permits and approvals.

Who is allowed to do solar panel installation work

The rules as to who is allowed to install solar panels changes from state to state but at its most basic level the installation of solar panels is generally, in a legal sense considered to be two things:

  • Building work for which a building permit is required; and An alternation to your electrical service requiring approval of your utility.
  • The most basic requirement of this work from all cities and utilities in America is that this work be done by a licensed electrical contractor. Makes sense right, we are talking about DC power which can be both dangerous to install and also a fire risk if installed incorrectly.

However, in some states, counties, cities or utilities additional requirements are required.

In some states the solar contractor needs to be registered with the relevant authority. New York is an example of this where solar companies are required to be licensed by NYSERDA.

In some jurisdictions the authorities require that a specific individual working for the solar company must have a solar specific accreditation. The most commonly required solar specific installation accreditation is a Nabcep accreditation.

Find a licensed solar installer in your area


The approval process

Securing approval for a solar PV project involves several basic steps. First a permit application is submitted to a local permitting agency, known within government as the "enforcing agency," and reviewed by that agency. Typically, a permit is submitted on behalf of a building owner by the contractor installing the solar PV system.

Once the permit application is approved, the applicant has permission to build the solar installation.

After the solar installation is constructed, it is inspected by the enforcing agency to ensure it complies with applicable building codes and local ordinances. Each of these steps is described in more detail below.

While securing project approval from the local agency, the permit applicant should contact the local utility provider to request permission to connect the solar installation to the local distribution grid.

It is usually once this approval is granted that you sign a net metering agreement with your utility.

This net metering agreement is the agreement that the utility will pay you the legislated amount for solar power that you export to the public grid for the length of time that is legislated in your state.

In some states you can choose between 10, 15 and 20 year net metering agreements. These agreements are important as they lock in your return from solar power.

The solar system cannot be "turned on" until approval is granted by both the local agency and the local utility.

Well-informed solar installers and knowledgeable, well-trained local agency staff are critical to achieve an efficient permit approval process.

Solar permit application


Cost of DIY solar panel installation

One of the key things to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of installing DIY solar panels is how much the cost savings are likely to be form choosing this type of solar panel installation.

Unless you are a licensed electrician who can physically install and wire the solar panels yourself then the cost of DIY solar panel installation is the cost of the solar panel kit plus the cost of getting a licensed electrician to install the solar panels on your roof and connect the wiring.

To work out the cost of a DIY solar project you need to add the cost of the:

  1. solar panel kit; plus
  2. solar panel installation labour.

Compare the cost of a fully installed solar power system

Here is a link to a site that sells solar panel kits for DIY solar panels installers Solar Wholesalers.


Cost of the solar panel Installation labour

The cost of solar panel installation labour is more expensive in the US than it is in other developed solar markets. This is mainly because there are still many electrical contractors who have no experience with solar and so this type of specialist electrical work attracts a premium over other electrical work.

The cost of solar panel installation labour in the US, as at June 2016 averages $500 per kilowatt, or $3,000 for the installation of a 6kW solar power system.

This amount can be more or less depending on whether you wish to have this person take care of your permits and approvals with the city and the utility or whether you are willing to learn to do this yourself.

So the cost of installing DIY solar panels is usually the solar panels kit price, generally around

$2 per watt


The cost of the solar panel installation labour, generally around

$0.50 per watt


Making the average cost of installing DIY solar panels in America at

$2.50 per watt

with you organizing your own permits and approvals.


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