Start Going Solar With These 5 Steps
If you’re thinking about going solar, you probably have the exact same question that I did when I started thinking about solar:
Where do I start???
Having been through all of this before, I know it can be a little daunting to jump right in, especially if you don’t consider yourself to be handy or geeky.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be either of those to install your own solar power system. You just have to understand the basics, you have to be patient with yourself, and you need to take the proper 12 volt safety precautions. We’re here to help you with the rest.
So, if you are preparing to install your own DIY solar power system, here are 5 things you can do to get started right away.
1. Buy a Kill A Watt
A Kill A Watt is an indispensable tool for figuring out how much electricity your household consumes. Simply plug an appliance into the Kill A Watt, then plug the Kill A Watt into the wall. Switch the appliance on, and the amount of electricity that the appliance consumes should immediately appear on the Kill A Watt screen. You can choose to view watts, amps, or volts.
If you’re unsure what the units mean, remember the formula:
Watts = Amps x Volts
What should you do with this information? That brings us to our next point …
2. Make a List
After you buy your Kill A Watt, you can immediately start making a list of all of the appliances that you plan to power with your solar power system. This is the key to sizing your system properly. If you size your system too small, you could end up having to quickly upgrade certain components of your system, which can be costly. If you size your system too large, you could end up wasting money on gear that you don’t really need. It’s important that you know what your typical daily energy consumption is so that you can buy the right gear.
What should your list look like? Excellent question. It should look something like this:
We’ll show you how to tally up all of your numbers and size your system in a future article. For now, you can start by making your list.
Just because you can power everything under sun with solar panels doesn’t mean that you should. Remember that the more you plan to power with your solar power system, the more money your system will cost. You’ll have to buy more solar panels, more batteries, and more accessories. If you can downsize your needs before you convert to solar, you could save quite a lot of money.
Can’t figure out how to downsize? Try thinking of ways you can replace higher wattage items with lower wattage items. For example, if you currently use a 1500 watt microwave, consider replacing it with a 600 watt microwave. Even if it takes a little longer to heat up your food, using lower wattage items means that you can purchase a smaller inverter and thinner cables, which will likely cost less in the long run than buying a larger inverter to accommodate your 1500 watt microwave.
You can also downsize your power consumption by replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs, and unplugging appliances that draw phantom loads.
4. Fix Your Roof
It doesn’t matter if you’re a homeowner going solar, an RVer, or a van dweller: if you plan to mount solar panels on your roof, you should first make sure that your roof is in good enough condition to handle the installation. You’ll want to fix any and all leaks, cracks, and rust before you install your solar panels.
As a side note, if you plan to install your solar panels on a van high top, or other non-traditional type of dwelling, you’ll also need to make sure that the roof can hold the weight of a roof rack plus the solar panels. If you’re not sure, have your vehicle or dwelling inspected by a specialist.
5. Start Saving $$$
It’s no secret that going solar costs money. If you’re in the early stages of planning your solar power system, then now is the perfect time to start saving up. A small solar power system can cost anywhere from $500-$5,000 if you install it yourself, and prices only go up from there if you choose to have your system installed by a professional. Start setting money aside now so that when it comes time to purchase all of your solar gear, you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank.
So there you have it: 5 Things You Should Do Before Going Solar. Hope that helps!