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  • buy solar panels and micro inverters myself and hire contractor for install?

    Plan to buy a EV so want to consider install solar on my roof,
    trying to get some advice on partial DIY to reduce the costs, buy panels, micro inverters myself. and hire contractors [see available contractors in local and provide some warranty]
    any one have tried this idea? i only can find some panels on ebay but is there other recommended place to buy?
    located in LA, see an same house nearby had 12 panels. thanks

  • #2
    Originally posted by fanskyer View Post
    Plan to buy a EV so want to consider install solar on my roof,
    trying to get some advice on partial DIY to reduce the costs, buy panels, micro inverters myself. and hire contractors [see available contractors in local and provide some warranty]
    any one have tried this idea? i only can find some panels on ebay but is there other recommended place to buy?
    located in LA, see an same house nearby had 12 panels. thanks
    I would start with some bids for installed systems so you have a benchmark. There are some cookie cutter deals from Tesla. Find a local supplier and save shipping.
    9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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    • #3
      Fanskyer: Welcome to Solar Panel Talk. You pose two interesting questions: Whether to buy for an installer and where to buy.

      The first question is impossible to answer. If you can find an installer that will install your equipment well, why not? I can't tell you if you will be able to find such an installer. You need to ask around.

      But if you wanted a guess, I'd be very skeptical. Installers make money on what they install, as well as on their labor. You're asking them to accept less money.

      Installers are good at what they do because they do the same thing over and over. You're asking them to work with materials that they may not know.

      Good installers will support their labor and the products they install. It will be really hard for them to support a product that you buy. If something goes wrong, they could be stuck in a lose-lose situation arguing who is at fault and who should pay. They will have no say the manufacturer because they didn't buy the material.

      Doing a solar job is more than installation. It involves designing the system, picking the right components, getting permits, working with the power company and the local inspectors. Are you prepared to do the rest of the job?

      You can learn the other aspects. You can also learn installation. Perhaps in the right labor market, if you are good at everything else and good at supervising work, you can find decent labor at a fair rate and be successful this way. But I'm skeptical.

      Before you go too far, start learning about solar power. Learn about the different types of panels. Learn about how they are mounted. Learn about inverters. Learn about connecting to the grid. Learn about local regulations and permitting. Learn about netmetering. Learn about your power company's requirements. And there's quite a bit more.

      Your second question is much easier. You mentioned buying panels and microinverters. If you use google to search for "solar panels" or "microinverters", you will find many dealers willing to sell to you directly. Some will help you design the system and will support the products that they sell.

      In general, the people on this site are strong advocates for being an informed consumer. Too many people jump into solar without learning what they're getting into. Are you willing to spend time learning? If so, we're willing to help teach. All of us started clueless and came up to speed, many much further along than me. Study and knowledge is your best friend here.

      If you're not willing or concerned that you don't have the mindset to learn this new field, you may be better off leaving the whole job to an expert.

      It is really valuable to have your installation done by a dependable, knowledgable installer. If something does go wrong, you'll be confident that it isn't due to bad design or bad installation. They will debug it quickly, get the supplier to replace defective component, and get you back producing energy quickly, at low or no cost.

      If, instead, you have a dependable but stupid installer, or a smart but flaky installer...you get the idea. Simply hiring an electrician who says that they can install anything might seem like a good idea, but could leave you with a mess.

      This probably wasn't the answer you wanted, but I hope some of it is helpful. Please continue to ask questions and we'll try to help.
      7kW Roof PV, APsystems QS1 micros, Nissan Leaf EV

      Comment


      • #4
        thanks for all the responses ~ here are more details.
        I bought a 2.2kw system 5 years ago and I really love the solar (more because of generate tax-free income, and green)
        so i have some basic understanding, the panels, micro inverters, installation on shingle roof.
        however, i relocated due to a job change so i didn't get much out of it.
        now because of the EV i am re-considering install solar.
        my roof has a very well south facing area which is great for solar installation.
        i actually did get 2 quotes 2 years ago but eventually didn't install because of the cost seems pretty high. one of them is tesla and seems higher than the other installer

        I found a local ppl in craiglist, has license and want to get some side gig solar installation and charge 0.6$ per watt.
        so i am researching to see the total cost if i do this partial DIY make sense cost-wise.
        I understand the installation is very important and if any leaking would become a nightmare.
        also I found SCE (provider in southern CA)'s solar policy may be worse nowadays but I do not have a full understanding on that.


        Comment


        • #5
          i just check the tesla and found their quote system is instant, the smallest system is 3.78kw which is 10500, i checked my record, the solar city quote is 2.6kw 10500 3 years ago. guess the solar price going down these years.

          Comment


          • #6
            If you're not going to do the install yourself, I wouldn't bother trying to buy the components yourself. I doubt any installer would give you a warranty if they aren't responsible for the equipment.
            Also, why do you think you can get a better deal on panel than someone who buys them by the truck load?

            Comment


            • #7
              An installer is in business to make money. That usually includes a markup on some or all of the equipment. Note the difference in "user" prices and "contractor" prices as one indication.

              Think like the installer and put yourself in his shoes. Why would he take a job that lowers his profit by using equipment he does not get a markup on ?

              Often, and not uncommonly, installers who do good work are at least reluctant to do labor only jobs. It usually isn't worth the hassle to them, not to mention the uncertainty of the materials they don't supply and may be unfit for service, the possible/likely learning curve/hassle that goes with some customer's Rube Goldberg inexperience , and maybe above all, the increased likelihood of callbacks and the hassle of what to do if warranty claims are necessary.

              There is other good and sound logic for an installer to pass on it.

              After all that, if I was an installer, and I did take such a job, I'd think it necessary to price it so that it was worth all the extra hassle and liability - or at least make it up on change orders that will almost inevitably be necessary.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by emartin00 View Post
                If you're not going to do the install yourself, I wouldn't bother trying to buy the components yourself. I doubt any installer would give you a warranty if they aren't responsible for the equipment.
                Also, why do you think you can get a better deal on panel than someone who buys them by the truck load?
                I've had customers try to do that with us. We don't itemize our quotes and I'm not aware of anyone else that does either so the 'markup' on any equipment is integrated into our cost. If you buy your own equipment you're unlikely to save any money unless you also do the design and act as your own GC.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by fanskyer View Post
                  i actually did get 2 quotes 2 years ago but eventually didn't install because of the cost seems pretty high. one of them is tesla and seems higher than the other installer
                  I am a Tesla Fanboy but I would probably not hire them for my installs. I see you found one of their instant quotes for less than $3 per Watt. I am sure you can do it less expensively based on your knowledge. I will try and remember the vendor I used in the San Fernando Valley.

                  I found a local ppl in craiglist, has license and want to get some side gig solar installation and charge 0.6$ per watt.
                  I had luck moving some panels to another location using a guy like that that worked for a piece work wage per kW. He wasn't licensed but an electrician friend helped me with the electrical run to the panel and we checked that the system worked. It was a good value.
                  Last edited by Ampster; 05-22-2020, 01:03 AM.
                  9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    thanks for all the advices, appreciate it!
                    Indeed, I now feel for a small system it make more sense to get some quotes to buy.a system than this partial DIY. I will try to get some quote from local and ask question here if there is any.

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                    • #11
                      If you arent an electro engineer i would prefering an local contractor. Otherwise it is too dangerous to install such things alone.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by fanskyer View Post
                        Plan to buy a EV so want to consider install solar on my roof,
                        trying to get some advice on partial DIY to reduce the costs, buy panels, micro inverters myself. and hire contractors [see available contractors in local and provide some warranty]
                        any one have tried this idea? i only can find some panels on ebay but is there other recommended place to buy?
                        located in LA, see an same house nearby had 12 panels. thanks
                        If you want a warranty all you will get is product warranty from the manufacturers. I have DIY installed three systems and had three systems installed professionally.
                        You will need to do some research about rates and the process of using a grid tie system. There is a complicated process to get approval from your power provider to use a grid tie system to sell energy to the power provider. There are a number of online and local vendors in the LA area where you can buy equipment.
                        If you want an quote for an inexpensive system log on to the Tesla.com site and pick one of their cookie cutter designs for a benchmark. Look at your utility bill to get your annual consumption in kWhrs and estimate how much extra you would need for an EV.
                        9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I agree with what folks are saying here, either plan to go complete DIY, or go complete installer. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground. I DIY installed a 5kw grid tie system for about $2500 in parts ($3000 if you include the microinverter mistake from my other post), that included designing, learning electrical code details (many hours spent poring over electrical code, and then finding the electrical inspector has their own interpretation that required several iterations and reinspections), navigating the PSE utility net metering guidance, and then wrestling with some faulty hardware that was my own fault for picking the wrong brand of microinverters. I tried to reach out to contractors and electricians for help a few times, but unsurprisingly they either weren't knowledgeable or they were knowledgeable but wouldn't touch the project with a 10 foot pole, so I just had to learn from the school of hard knocks.

                          I saved $7500 in parts costs vs. a contractor, but I put in 100's of hours. If I bill my time at $50/hr, that is almost worth it. But more importantly, I learned a ton, so even if the fiscal payoff wasn't there, the adventure was it's own reward... or maybe that's just the cognitive dissonance talking

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mcheck View Post
                            I agree with what folks are saying here, either plan to go complete DIY, or go complete installer. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.
                            I hired an electrician to pull the permits and wire the inverter for my first and second DIY projects. Just shop around a bit. The first electrician I found wanted $4k for <4 hours of work connecting my inverter to my distribution panel because solar is expensive.... I eventually found one willing to do it for $500.

                            To some extent that's what I do now that I run a PV installation company. I'm not a licensed electrician but I hire one. Most electricians don't know much about solar PV (which is probably why micro inverters are so popular) but connecting a grid-tie inverter is no different than any other AC load they know how to wire. So I design the system and submit the one-line, the electricians submit the permits and do the electrical work.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nwdiver View Post

                              ..........

                              To some extent that's what I do now that I run a PV installation company. I'm not a licensed electrician but I hire one. Most electricians don't know much about solar PV (which is probably why micro inverters are so popular) but connecting a grid-tie inverter is no different than any other AC load they know how to wire. So I design the system and submit the one-line, the electricians submit the permits and do the electrical work.
                              So are you a consultant or do you have some other form of contractors license?
                              9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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