Welcome to the Solar DIY Blog!

Here you will find tools, tricks and advice for installing solar on your home as a DIY project.  Search the archives.  Also, please comment, ask questions and share what you have learned.

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Solar in the Third World

October 23rd, 2016|Comments Off on Solar in the Third World

I just came back from a mission trip in Nicaragua where we installed solar lighting on 10 churches in a remote region of that country.  We used the same design I blogged about a few months ago (DIY Solar Lighting Project).  Here is my trip report:

The Coco River (Rio Coco) snakes along the northern border of Nicaragua separating it from […]

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What is maximum power point tracking (MPPT)?

July 8th, 2016|Comments Off on What is maximum power point tracking (MPPT)?

Simply put, MPPT is a feature built into inverters to find the “sweet spot” in solar array performance.  Basically, solar panels put out current and voltage.  But it’s the product (V x I) that gives what matters; power.   The challenge is that current and voltage vary based on sun, load and temperature.

Under short circuit conditions, current is max (Isc), but […]

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Tips When Adding Circuit Breaker for Solar

March 14th, 2016|Comments Off on Tips When Adding Circuit Breaker for Solar

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Measure your roof area from the ground

February 14th, 2016|Comments Off on Measure your roof area from the ground

You do not need to climb up on your roof to measure your roof area available for solar. With a digital camera and some high school trigonometry, you can do it from the ground – accurately and safely – here’s how.
Method 1: Counting asphalt shingles to measure your roof area from the ground.
Most asphalt shingles are three feet wide with […]

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Passive Solar Basics

February 1st, 2016|Comments Off on Passive Solar Basics

Passive Solar is an architectural design technique that uses direct sunlight for heating. By wisely orienting your home and proper use of window design and building materials you can drastically cut, or even eliminate, your heating bills. In this post I will re-introduce you to this ‘lost art’ of building design.

Passive solar design was used by the Greeks thousands of […]

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6 Things To Do When Choosing a Solar Installer

January 23rd, 2016|Comments Off on 6 Things To Do When Choosing a Solar Installer

Whether you have a friend’s glowing recommendation on a solar installer or you are just starting the search process, when choosing a solar installer, these steps will save you hundreds of dollars.
1. GO DIRECT, not through a 3rd party service.
Often times when you Google “solar installers” you get so-called “Lead Share” services. These are nothing but marketing firms that then […]

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Add batteries to grid-tie solar PV system

January 3rd, 2016|2 Comments

This question comes up often, “I have solar installed, but now I want to add batteries to grid-tie solar PV system – can I?” Yes you can. In this post I will tell you how.
Basic Grid-Tie
First a little back ground. The vast majority, like 95%, of residential solar is grid-tie to offset, not replace, utility (grid) power. These systems are […]

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Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Solar Lighting Project

December 14th, 2015|3 Comments

In our modern world we take for granted lighting after the sun goes down. Nearly one quarter of all the world’s population live without electricity so when the sun goes down – there is no light. In this post I will show how this problem can be solved with a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Solar Lighting Project. I designed this system for […]

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Connecting Solar Gen with a Transfer Switch

November 25th, 2015|Comments Off on Connecting Solar Gen with a Transfer Switch

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Types of Solar Power Defined

August 3rd, 2015|Comments Off on Types of Solar Power Defined

There is a good amount of confusion out there on some of the basic solar terminology and on the types of solar power available.  We’ll get into that in this post and then focus on some other Solar basics in subsequent posts.
Types of Solar Power
In this post we’re going to define and explore the three types of solar power: solar […]

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Solar Power Monitor

July 1st, 2015|Comments Off on Solar Power Monitor

Once you have your solar PV system installed you will want to know how it is doing. Without a basic solar power monitor display you will have no idea. Would you buy a car without a dashboard? At a minimum, you would need to know: 1) real time power (in KW) – how much is your system generating – right […]

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Solar Power Incentives In Texas

June 29th, 2015|Comments Off on Solar Power Incentives In Texas

Are you considering Solar Power Incentives in Texas?  You are in a great position. The sun is strong here and so are the economics. The technology is now quite straightforward; put solar modules on your roof, and the sun’s energy is directly converted into power for your home – which offsets the amount of electricity otherwise purchased from the power […]

  • Canadian Solar CS6P-255W

Microinverter Safety

June 17th, 2015|Comments Off on Microinverter Safety

In my last post – I compared microinverters and string inverters and made the case that for the Do-It-Yourselfer (DIYer) microinverters are the way to go. See that post here. Today, I want to take the topic a bit further and show you how easy – and safe – modern microinverters are for the electrical side of the installation.

First – […]

  • Microinverter vs. String Inverter

Microinverters vs. String Inverters – What is Best for DIY?

June 10th, 2015|Comments Off on Microinverters vs. String Inverters – What is Best for DIY?

Choosing between microinverters vs. string inverters is a decision that you have to make as a DIYer.  Inverters are the devices that convert DC sun power into AC power ready to be consumed by your home. Microinverters seem to be growing in popularity in recent years. Microinverters are little inverters that match one-for-one with a solar panel and are attached […]

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How the Tesla Powerwall Compares to Conventional Solar Batteries

June 3rd, 2015|Comments Off on How the Tesla Powerwall Compares to Conventional Solar Batteries

A lot of people are asking me about the Tesla Powerwall. In case you haven’t heard, Elon Musk’s company Tesla (maker of high end electric vehicles) has come out with a home battery called Powerwall. On April 30th, 2015 Mr. Musk launched the product in a manner many people are calling his “Steve Jobs’s iPhone moment”. It was also a […]

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Sizing solar array to battery bank

May 28th, 2015|Comments Off on Sizing solar array to battery bank

The prior post “Batteries for solar” – we took a deep dive into sizing a battery bank for your household’s loads and came up with a minimum number of batteries you will need. If you have not read that, do so now, it’s a quick read here. Now we will look at the second factor is sizing the batter bank, […]

  • Batteries for Solar

Batteries for Solar

May 22nd, 2015|Comments Off on Batteries for Solar

In the last post, Solar Back-Up Power,  we discussed how solar can be used in conjunction with batteries and serve as a backup power generator.  But how much battery power do you need?  The answer depends on two bounding factors; 1) your desired load (how many things you need to power and for how long) and, 2) The size of […]

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Solar Backup Power

May 11th, 2015|Comments Off on Solar Backup Power

When do you need batteries for solar backup power? The precise answer is: when you need to store your energy. As I discussed in the prior post — “Do I need batteries for my grid tie solar panels?” – – you do not need batteries on most modern solar systems, thanks to grid tie design and net-meter agreements. You only […]

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Do I need batteries for grid tie solar?

May 5th, 2015|Comments Off on Do I need batteries for grid tie solar?

No, thanks to grid tie designs. That is the short answer. But let’s talk about why.

The vast majority of people living in the U.S. and looking to have solar installed on their homes already have power through their electric company, through the electric grid. For those of you with grid power, solar makes sense from an economic stand point. Thanks […]

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How To Determine Your Solar Panel Layout

April 25th, 2015|Comments Off on How To Determine Your Solar Panel Layout

The Basics of Solar Panel Layout
In this post we will go through the basics of solar panel layout to accurately determining how many panels will fit on your roof. We assume that your roof is like most residential roofs encountered in North America – a pitched roof over plywood decking on a wood rafter/truss system. In previous posts we discussed how […]

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How Solar Increases your Property Value

April 19th, 2015|Comments Off on How Solar Increases your Property Value

  • SREC FACTS

SRECs Increase your Return on Investment

April 19th, 2015|Comments Off on SRECs Increase your Return on Investment

  • Can HOAs Ban Solar on your House?

HOAs and Solar – Together you Can Make it Work

April 15th, 2015|Comments Off on HOAs and Solar – Together you Can Make it Work

“I don’t know if my HOA will allow solar on my home.” This is often said in passing at the beginning of a potentially meaningful discussion on solar. “I like the idea of solar, but our Home Owners Association would never allow it”.  Sadly, this can be the dismissive end of the conversation (let’s talk about Johnny’s soccer camp instead!).  […]

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Return on Investment of your Solar System

March 21st, 2015|Comments Off on Return on Investment of your Solar System

  • Uncle Sam wants you to Go Solar

Solar Incentives – Know Where to Look

March 12th, 2015|Comments Off on Solar Incentives – Know Where to Look

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PVWatts – an Easy Tool to Size your Solar Project

March 3rd, 2015|Comments Off on PVWatts – an Easy Tool to Size your Solar Project

  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

How Big Should My Solar Array Be?

February 22nd, 2015|Comments Off on How Big Should My Solar Array Be?