Have you ever felt the rush of pride and achievement from completing a DIY project?
Like maybe you built your own backyard shed?
Or remodeled your living room to accommodate your sweet new 8K TV to watch your favorite team on?
Have you ever considered something a little more out there to impress your friends?
Have you ever considered building your own solar panels?
Many of us probably haven’t . . . yet surprisingly, the option exists.
Do you happen to know when the first solar panel was invented?
You can now impress your friends and family with the answer: 1883.
Crazy to think the solar panel has been around for nearly 140 years.
And after much tinkering and experimentation, it took approximately 100 years for the solar panel’s efficiency to reach a level that made widespread residential use possible.
As new developments in photovoltaic technology continued more recently, solar prices plummeted, achieving a 60% drop from 2008 to 2018.
Today, an installed solar panel system typically costs between $10,000 and $20,000.
This is still a significant price tag.
And people hoping to save money on solar power may be wondering whether it’s cheaper to buy or build solar panels.
What Are Your Options for a Solar Panel Installation?
You have options for your installation:
#1: You can purchase pre-made solar panels or build them yourself and install them.
#2: You could hire a solar company to provide a full turnkey solution, removing all hassles for you.
#3: You could hire your own contractor to install them. This option will likely be cheaper than having a solar company install them for you.
What Types of Systems Make It Cheaper to Buy or Build Solar Panels?
There are three different types of residential solar power systems available.
#1: Off-Grid System
An off-grid system is designed to make you completely independent of your local electric utility.
The upfront costs are greatest with an off-grid system because you must purchase a battery bank for energy storage.
#2: Grid-Tied System
A grid-tied system is intended to supplement the power you receive from utilities, not replace it altogether.
Net metering allows the system to use the grid as a battery, meaning there is a lower upfront cost because there is less equipment.
#3: Hybrid System
A hybrid system is grid-tied but has a battery as a backup whenever you need excess power.
What Is Included in the Price per Watt?
Because solar panels can range in size, their cost is typically expressed by the wattage.
A standard residential system requires an estimated 5,000 watts.
The price per watt of a 5,000-watt DIY system can range from $1.00 to $1.50 per watt, while an installed system typically ranges from $2.50 to $2.85 per watt.
The total price of a grid-tied system install at $2.85 per watt breaks down like this:
- Solar panels (74 cents)
- Installation (68 cents)
- Sales and marketing (43 cents)
- Racking and balance (29 cents)
- Inverter (29 cents)
- Installer margin (29 cents)
- Permitting and inspections (14 cents)
On the other hand, installing pre-made solar panels yourself eliminates installation costs and the installer margin, reducing the price per watt to $1.88.
If you build your own solar panels from scratch, you also significantly reduce or eliminate the sales and marketing expenses.
You may additionally save on materials to build the panels themselves.
Just keep in mind that an off-grid or hybrid system – whether DIY or installed – costs more because you have to include the cost of a battery bank.
Ultimately, Is It Cheaper To Build or Buy Solar Panels?
A DIY solution should cost you less upfront than having a system installed.
However, if you build the panels yourself, it may cost you more in the long run.
The materials may not be very efficient and may not last as long.
Also, you may need to absorb the cost of replacing them without a manufacturer’s warranty to back them up.
If you decide to buy your panels, a DIY installation with pre-made panels from Unbound Solar will decrease your costs and meet your energy needs.
Our team will collaborate with you to design a system with equipment from the most vetted manufacturers to ensure you never compromise on quality.
And with free lifetime support, we ensure that your off-grid system continues to support your energy needs as they change and evolve.
Contact us if you’d like more information!