DIY Solar Panel Installation: Your Step-by-Step Guide

diy-solar-panel-installation-your-step-by-step-guide

Many online stores now offer DIY solar kits. The goal is to make solar energy more accessible by providing an “easy” installation. However, if you’re not familiar with the technical vocabulary and have some electrical skills, you might feel overwhelmed. That’s why we have created a complete tutorial for beginners. It covers a ground-mounted installation, where the photovoltaic panels are connected to an outlet without having to touch the electrical meter. It’s a step-by-step guide for beginners.

Here are the main steps:
1. Analyzing and reducing your energy consumption
2. Choosing the right power
3. Buying your panels
4. Preparing your installation
5. Setting up the supports
6. Installing the panels
7. Connecting the panels
8. Activating the system
9. Ensuring compliance with regulations
10. Should you hire a professional?

This tutorial will guide you through each step, making it easier for you to install your own solar panels and harness the power of the sun. Get ready to embrace renewable energy!

Step 1: Analyze and reduce your electricity consumption

The purpose of this DIY installation is to produce a portion of the electricity needed for daily consumption during the day, which is known as self-consumption. To get started, it is important to accurately determine your electricity consumption.

Consumption baseline: Start by measuring your instantaneous consumption at different times of the day when no specific appliances are running. This will give you an idea of your “consumption baseline,” which includes devices that run almost continuously, such as ventilation systems, internet routers, and refrigerators. You can use a Linky meter by pressing the “+” button four times. In our case, the baseline is around 250 W.

Detailed analysis: Next, you need to analyze the consumption of each individual appliance. This can be done using a watt-meter (about €20). Here is a summary table of some appliances and their power consumption:

Consumption < 100 W: Easily covered by solar panels
– Induction hob (standby): 100 W
– Electric bike charger: 60 W
– Refrigerator: 90 W
– 32″ LED TV: 50 W
– 23″ PC screen: 35 W
– Internet router: 9 W
– Laptop: 25 W
– DVD player: 16 W
– Phone charger: 5 W
– Tablet: 8 W
– Standby devices: 0 to 20 W
– TV box: 5 W

Consumption around 1000 W: Can be covered by solar panels, but challenging
– Heat pump water heater: 850 W
– Senseo coffee machine: 1400 W
– Food processor: 1000 W
– Mini oven: 1470 W
– Microwave (max power): 1150 W
– Induction hob: 1000 to 2500 W
– Corded vacuum cleaner: 550 to 1300 W
– Electric radiator: 1000 to 3000 W
– Jigsaw: 260 W
– Drill: 200 W
– Electric kettle: 2815 W

We can see that appliances that generate heat consume a lot of energy and often exceed the capacity of solar panel production.

Reducing consumption: In this case, the detailed analysis revealed unnecessary standby power consumption, such as 13 W for the DVD player and 15 W for the electric bike charger. Additionally, the induction hob consumes more than 100 VA (Volt Ampere) in standby mode. Although this energy is not billed, it is recommended to completely turn off this appliance to avoid unnecessary consumption.

Step 2: Choosing the power of your solar panels

Sizing of power: The solar panels will power all the equipment in the house that consumes energy during daylight hours. The goal of this DIY installation is to cover the base consumption, which is around 250 W. It is estimated that a standard solar panel produces about 75% of its peak power under normal conditions. Therefore, a 275 Wc panel will typically produce around 200 W.

To cover our base consumption, we will need 2 solar panels for a total power of 550 Wc and usually around 400 W most of the time. The surplus power can be used to operate other devices or can be fed back into the grid. It’s worth noting that with newer solar panels that have a minimum power of 400 Wc, a single module may be sufficient. Check out our dedicated article on solar panel power for more information.

Future expansion: Eventually, we plan to power the thermodynamic water heater with solar panels, as it can operate during the day, for extended periods, and with moderate consumption. In this case, we would need to invest in an additional 4 panels. This expansion can be done afterwards (up to 14 panels maximum). It will just require investing in shipping costs again, which slightly decreases profitability (100€).

Step 3: Buying Solar Panels and Calculating ROI

Buy DIY solar panels: There are many websites that offer the sale of DIY photovoltaic solar panels. Here are a few in alphabetical order:

– Allô! Solar
– Alma Solar
– Monkitsolaire
– My Shop Solaire
– Oscaro Power
– Sunology
– Solatek
– Watt U Need

When searching, limit your options to “self-consumption kits” with a pre-wired AC panel (shown in the photo above). Here is the offer made in this case:

– MonkitSolaire: €1,080, 2 panels – 600 Wc, 2 bracket fixations, 1 micro-inverter, 1 pre-wired panel, necessary cables. The technical service quickly and accurately answered our questions before purchase.

– Oscaro Power: €877, 2 panels – 550 Wc, 2 plastic fixations, 1 micro-inverter, 1 pre-wired panel, necessary cables. The kit was created by the technical service as it is not offered as a standard. The technical service quickly and accurately answered our questions before purchase.

– Allô! Solar: €539, 2 panels – 550 Wc, 2 micro-inverters, without panel or cables. The price here is very low, but not everything is included. No ground fixation, no panel, no energy meter in the panel, for example. Everything can be purchased separately, but some knowledge is needed to make the right choices. Technical service was not contacted.

*Note: Some micro-inverters can connect to 2 panels, others cannot. This explains the difference in quantity.

We chose Oscaro Power as it had the best price and a service suitable for beginners.

We recommend having your kit checked by the technical service in any case. This service is free and allows for a confident purchase.

Profitability of DIY solar panels: Before making the purchase, evaluate the system’s profitability on the website evaluer-mon-devis.photovoltaique.info, a free tool supported by Ademe. The process takes just 3 minutes without registration.

We can see that the profitability is achieved in 10.5 years. Since the equipment is guaranteed for 10 years, there is not much risk. Over 20 years, the installation will be fully reimbursed. The assumptions made are as follows:

– South-facing installation
– Inclination of 15°
– €0.155 per kWh with a 2% annual increase
– €900 investment
– 75% self-consumption rate.

Step 4: Receiving Solar Panels and Installation Requirements

Reception: The carrier agrees in advance on an appointment at the home and the pallet is received a few days after the order. The equipment is well protected and the packaging is kept to a minimum.

Note that the kit is provided without any instructions! There are videos available on the merchant’s YouTube channel, but beginners may not feel “taken by the hand” enough to complete the project. That’s the purpose of the rest of this article.

The reception is an opportunity to “get to know” the equipment. Please note that the male plug is not provided.

Installation prerequisites: This involves installing 2 ground-mounted photovoltaic solar panels connected to an outlet. This installation requires that the outlet be protected at the electrical panel by a 30 mA circuit breaker.

Required skills: The installation was carried out by one person, with no particular skills in DIY or electricity. However, it is preferable to have two people, especially to carry the 19 kg solar panels.

Required tools:

– 10 mm wrench
– 10 mm and 8 mm sockets
– Phillips screwdriver
– Flathead screwdriver
– Wire stripper (or cutter)
– Folding and cutting pliers
– Saw

Important! We recommend performing the installation during technical service hours. This will help clarify any doubts. Also, don’t hesitate to consult their practical guide on the different steps of a photovoltaic solar project.

In this case, Oscaro Power was contacted for the installation of the micro-inverter and the grounding of the panels. The technical team is educational and competent, so take advantage of their expertise. They also reviewed this article for technical accuracy, a big thank you to them!

Step 5: Installing Rénusol Plastic Trays

Preparation of the support: Start by mowing the area where the solar panels will be placed. You can also lay down a woven fabric to make future maintenance easier. This will also allow for some flexibility in moving the panels (easy sliding). Just be careful that the fabric doesn’t cast shadows on the panels.

Installing and weighting the Rénusol trays: Next, position the trays where you want them and make sure they are weighted down with stones, sand, or any other heavy material (old ceramic tiles in this case). Make sure the weight doesn’t exceed the support.

Attaching the micro-inverter: Leave some space in one of the trays to attach the micro-inverter (and install the junction box later). In this case, it is screwed into a board held in place by the weighting material. Remember, safety regulations require the support to be non-combustible. This board will eventually be replaced by a metal rail. Alternatively, you can directly attach the micro-inverter to the metal frame of the panel using self-drilling screws provided.

Step 6: Installing Solar Panels

unlock-the-power-of-the-sun-the-ultimate-diy-solar-panel-installation-guide

Fixing the supports on the solar panels: Turn the solar panels over to access the frame and position the mounting bars. Be careful not to position them too off-center, otherwise they won’t fit on the plastic tray.

For screwing, start on the side with pre-drilled holes. Hold the bolt with a washer under the frame using a wrench while screwing the head on top. The fixing legs at the ends should face upward.

Repeat the process on the other end, which has an oblong hole.

Releasing the cables: The cables secured with a clamp can be released.

Fixing the 60 cm grounding cable: On each panel, screw the small grounding cable onto the frame at the symbol’s location.

Placing a panel on its stand: Now you can attach one of the panels to the plastic support. The second tray, which accommodates the micro-inverter, will be “closed” later.

To do this, position the panel with its bars on the plastic support in a centered manner. Check that the connection cables are near the second panel. It’s easier to do this step with two people. Then, clip a metal bracket under each end of the bars so that the holes overlap.

Assemble everything using the provided self-drilling screws. A power drill is preferable for this step, but if not available, drilling can be done easily with a screwdriver.

Preparing for connections: On the panel fixed to its support, bring the cables out from inside the tray (including the grounding wire).

Step 7: Connecting the Solar Panels

– “Overview

At this point, it is important to take the time to understand the overall diagram below in order to have a clear understanding of the steps involved.

Please note the following wire colors:

L = Line: Brown
N = Neutral: Blue
Ground: Yellow and green.

1 – Connections to the junction box

We start by making all the connections in the electrical panel. This allows us to work comfortably indoors before moving the panel near the solar panels.

1a. Unused output: We notice that the “House Ground Output” will not be used in this configuration because the grounding is done through the electrical outlet. Please note that this only applies to ground-mounted installations and only if the outlet is protected by a 30 mA circuit breaker.

1b. Grounding connection: We begin by cutting an appropriate length of wire (about 2.5 meters here). Then, we unlock the panel by releasing the 4 latches with a flathead screwdriver.

Next, we strip the grounding wire and connect it to the yellow terminal. Finally, we close the panel.

1c. Connecting the AC cable to the “AC Output”: To make this connection, a female connector is required. We start by separating the plastic cover from the connector using a flathead screwdriver. Then, we slide it along the AC cable.

Next, we strip the AC cable and the 3 wires, and connect them in the indicated order. Please note that since it is a flexible wire, wire ferrules (not provided) are necessary. Finally, we put the plastic cover back on the connector and make the connection to the panel.

1d. Connecting the APS cable to the “AC Input”: We perform the same operation as before, but this time we use a male connector.

2 – Installing the male plug (socket)

This DIY guide doesn’t provide a plug, so you’ll need to get one from a hardware store for around €5. First, strip the end of the AC cable to reveal the 3 wires. Then, strip each wire for about 8 mm.

Next, you’ll need to pass the AC cable through the male plug. Since the cable is thick, you may need to saw off the end of the plug to fit its diameter. Then, connect the 3 wires to the plug, placing the ground wire in the middle. The order doesn’t matter for the line and neutral wires.

3 – Connections to the micro-inverter

At this stage, you can place the electrical box close to the tank and the micro-inverter.

3a. Connection to the box: Simply clip the two connections until you hear a “click”.

3b. Connection to the panels: Simply connect the cables from the first panel to the inputs labeled “1” on the micro-inverter, and do the same for the second panel.

4 – Connecting to Solar Panels

Simply connect the grounding wire to the solar panels. At the end of the wire, use the quick attachment system of the first solar panel (no need to strip the wire). Repeat the same process for the second solar panel, making sure the wire is in its path.

Step 8: Commissioning the Photovoltaic Installation

Taking photos: If you are a beginner, we recommend taking photos of all the connections and submitting your installation for technical review. Once the check-up is done, just turn on the breakers in the panel, close the box, and plug in the socket.

Please note that in this case, the panel is temporarily placed. The standard requires it to be between 80 and 180 cm high on a non-combustible support.

Verification: To make sure the installation is working, go to the Linky meter. If there is sunshine, the instantaneous consumption should decrease. Here, it becomes zero. Mission accomplished, the solar panels are covering the household’s consumption baseline!

At the AC panel, the LED on the energy meter should also blink, and the blinking should be faster if the production is significant.

Disconnecting the installation: This is necessary to comply with Enedis regulations.

– Step 9: Ensuring Regulatory Compliance

Before being able to enjoy your DIY solar installation, you need to declare it to EDL, the electricity distribution company. This involves answering a detailed questionnaire, which may require multiple attempts. The whole process takes about 3 hours for a beginner.

To start, you need to create an account on EDL’ dedicated connection website.

Next, follow these steps to create a connection request: Add a request > New connection > Production only > Less than or equal to 36 kVA > Next.

At this stage, you will find the contact details of your local Enedis agency, which can provide precise information if you have any questions about the fields to fill in, as there are quite a few of them. We strongly recommend doing a “simulation” before submitting the final request. Here are some key points to note:

– Urban planning authorization: Not required as the panels are less than 1.80 meters in height.
– Cadastral reference: You can find your plot number on the government’s website.
– Injection option: Total self-consumption, with a tolerance for reinjection up to 3 kWc.
– Consuel: Not mandatory in this configuration as the kit is pre-wired. However, you need to provide a compliance certificate for the APS YC600 inverter.

Validation: The request is validated directly by EDL or by tacit agreement starting from 15 days after submitting the application. You can now enjoy locally produced renewable electricity.

Considering professional installation

If you find these operations inaccessible, you can consider hiring a professional for the installation. In this case, the cost of the installation is naturally higher, around 2 to 3€ per Wc. To get the best price, it is advisable to get quotes from different installers.

Get a free quote for photovoltaic solar panels.

Conclusion: Installing solar panels yourself is possible!

This ground-mounted solar panel installation that can be plugged into an outlet is the easiest to do yourself. You don’t need any special DIY skills, specific equipment, or many administrative requirements (total self-consumption).

However, this setup is not perfect. You can learn about the advantages and disadvantages of ground-mounted solar panels to go further. Our tips for improving self-consumption should also interest you.

Furthermore, there are solar panels available that are directly sold to be plugged into an outlet. The cost is often a bit higher, but the installation is even simpler. This feedback on this system could also be of interest to you.