There are certain aspects of a solar installation that you might be qualified to carry out yourself. However, other work (like the electrical work) must only be carried out by a qualified tradesman. Working at heights (to fit panels on a roof) is also something you should not attempt unless you’re fully qualified to do so.
Still, it is possible to “half-DIY” a solar installation by:
- Independently ordering solar hardware for yourself
- Doing as much work as you can safely and legally
- Hiring a professional roofer and electrician to do the rest
So the rest of this article will focus on “half-DIY” solar.
Will half-DIY solar save you money?
At first glance, DIY solar may seem far cheaper than a fully-installed solar panel system from a solar installer. Indeed, the cost of hardware can be as little as half the price of a fully-installed system. However, there are plenty of hidden costs that narrow the gap:
|No SEAI grant for DIY solar panels||Missing out on a €2,400 grant|
|Shipping of the hardware||€120 within Ireland for one pallet|
|Scaffolding||€200 – €2,000|
|Roofer||€400 – €1,200|
|Electrican||€300 – €1,000|
|National Rules for Electrical Installations||€120|
|The hardware you didn’t think of||Residual Current Device, AC wiring, DC wiring, isolators, end caps, cable ducts, …|
|Possible obligatory electrical upgrades||You may need a new Earth rod (€200 inc. fitting)|
Potentially even a new consumer unit (fuse box) (€500+ inc. fitting)
|For ground-mounting systems||Concrete/ballast, support structures, and groundwork (~€500 – €2,500)|
|VAT||23% on hardware / 13.5% on labour|
versus 13.5% all-round for complete installation
On the plus side, skipping the grant cuts down on the bureaucracy. Specifically, you won’t be obliged to get a BER cert – saving you €200.
When all’s said and done, you may make some savings, but not dramatic ones, compared to a decent quote from a solar installation company.
What are the main regulations to be aware of?
As mentioned, a qualified electrician must sign off on the installation – and make the actual electrical connections. The most you can legally do is to lay the cable runs loosely in place, mount the inverter to the wall, etc. The rules on how to do this (legally) are contained in the National Rules for Electrical Installations (a copy will set you back over around €120).
With the hardware loosely placed in-situ the actual wiring-up will be a quick and easy job for the electrician (provided you did everything correctly!)
Your electrician must notify ESB Networks of the installation by submitting form NC6
You must use an inverter that conforms to IS EN 50549-1 (with documents to prove it)
All hardware must be CE marked and conform to the National Rules for Electrical Installations.
Make sure to follow the rules for planning permission exemptions. Especially to keep panels at least 50 cm from roof edges
Where can you buy solar panels for half-DIY installation in Ireland?
There are two main suppliers that offer solar panels to the public in Ireland. These are solartricity.ie and midsummer.ie.
Stay away from Alibaba and eBay solar kits. Equipment from those sites is unlikely to meet the Irish regulations.
What are the other benefits of half-DIY solar installations?
Probably the greatest benefit of half-DIY solar is the amount you’ll learn along the way. You’ll do many hours of research on how the technology works… so by the time your panels are installed you’ll know exactly how to take care of them and get the most from them.
You can also take greater control of the hardware that you purchase. This is because many solar installers have a limited menu of brands that they work with. Ordering your own equipment can open up a wider selection of solar panel and inverter brands.
There’s also an extra sense of achievement: The felling of “I did that” when you look up at your solar panel system.
What are the pitfalls of half-DIY solar installations?
With a solar installation company, you have a single point of contact that’s responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly.
But with an assortment of independent tradespeople, plus equipment suppliers – you may find that no-one wants to take responsibility when something goes wrong. So you could be left out of pocket to fix any problems that arise.
Time is another major consideration. Understand that you’ll be getting knee-deep in regulations, contracts, and research. And that’s before you lay your hand on a single tool.
When you should and shouldn’t half-DIY solar panels
|You should||You should not|
|You want a learning experience and a challenge||You just want to save some money|
|You’re comfortable dealing with multiple contractors and suppliers||You want one point of contact who takes full responsibility for the job|
|Ground-mounted solar panels (you can do more work yourself)||Roof-mounted solar panels (less work you can do yourself)|
|You’re looking for a pastime/hobby||You don’t have lots of spare time|
If you’re into DIY for the passion, and the savings come as a cherry on top – then half-DIY solar may be worth considering. It can be a learning experience and an interesting project.
But if you’re just trying to save a few quid, then you’ll likely be disappointed with the return on your time. In this case, going with a solar installation company will be far smoother, stress-free, and satisfying.