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Return On Investment: Is Solar Worth the Upfront Cost For Me?

Grid-Tie systems have the highest return on investment (ROI), and have the fastest payback timeline between all the system types. But, there are multiple variables to consider when calculating your ROI. This section aims to help you find the true value of your solar system.

1.1 Watch: How-To Calculate Your Payback Timeline

1.2 Watch: The Solar Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC)

1.4 Calculate Your Payback Timeline / ROI

Solar ROI Payback Calculator

*Default values are based on national averages for electricity cost and usage. Several factors will influence the ROI of your solar panels. This payback period is not guaranteed.

1.5 Quiz: Solar Return on Investment.

1. What information do you need to accurately calculate your payback timeline?

2. When does your return on investment truly kick in?

3. What CAN’T you write-off on your solar tax credit?

4. What year will the Solar Federal Tax Credit (ITC) completely go away for residential?


How-To Choose the Best Solar Panels for Your System

Picking your solar panels can be exciting but also daunting. If you don’t know the difference between panel types and placement angles, you could be impacting your solar array’s effectiveness (and not in a good way). This section tackles these questions and more to ensure you get the most out of your solar array investment.

2.1 Watch: Best Solar Panels & Their Pros and Cons

Key Take Aways

  • Most solar panels have a 20-30 year warranty guarantee
  • 72-cell panels take up more space than 60-cell panels, but the cell efficiency is the same, which means the cost-per-watt is comparable for both options.
  • SunPower offers a flexible solar panel solution that works best with RV’s and boats.

2.3 Quiz: Solar Panels

1. What key factor(s) determine how many solar panels you’ll need?

2. What’s the MOST useful way of determining the value of a solar panel?

3. Why would you likely use a 60 cell panel over a 72 cell panel?

4. What’s the difference between monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline solar panels?


Choosing the Best Inverter Type for Your System?

Solar inverters are the heart of your system. They convert Direct Current (DC) from the sun to Alternating Current (AC), which is what powers all your appliances and devices. Learn about the different inverter types and how their features differ.

3.1 Watch: Which Inverter Type is Best for My Application and How to Install it?

Key Take Aways

  • The Sunny Boy string inverter is the most cost-effective inverter (great if there is no shade)
  • Microinverters & Optimizers improve the efficiency of your system in shady environments
  • SolarEdge is a string inverter that is optimized for shade and costs less than microinverters

3.3 Inverter Installation

Enphase Microinverters
SMA Sunny Boy
SolarEdge HD Wave
SolarEdge Optimizer Pairing
SolarEdge SetApp Commissioning

3.4 Quiz: Solar Inverter Types

1. What’s the best inverter(s) for shady applications?

2. What makes the SolarEdge HD-Wave our preferred inverter for most people?

3. When would someone want to use a string inverter with no optimizers?

4. If you were going to buy a smaller solar system now and expand in the future; what would be the easiest and most flexible inverter to use?


What’s the Best Mounting Hardware and How To Install It?

In this section, we’ll discuss the different mounting applications and the hardware we recommend for DIYers.

4.1 Watch: Roof vs Ground Mount Mounting Options?

Key Take Aways

  • Roof mounts cost less upfront than ground mounts
  • Ground mounts are easier to access for cleaning and maintenance
  • Solar trackers are not ideal for residential applications

4.3 Racking Installation

Roof Mount
IronRidge FlashFoot2 Installation
IronRidge Ballasted Roof Mount
IronRidge Tilt Roof Mount
IronRidge Ground Mount Intro
IronRidge Ground Mount Advanced

4.4 Quiz: Solar Mounting Hardware

1. What can be the benefits of a ground mount racking system?

2. When installing your mounting hardware, you will likely choose a location that allows you to mount your panels to face what direction?

3. Why would you likely use pole mounts?

4. What piece of solar mounting hardware ensures water doesn’t leak into your roof?


Making the Permitting Process Easier

Most often, the largest snag in the DIY solar journey isn’t installing your system yourself, it’s getting the permit (when and where required). Let our guide be your cheatsheet to the permitting process, so you can avoid those unforeseen delays and start benefiting from solar faster.

5.1 Read Permitting Guide & Additional Content:

5.2 Quiz: Solar Permitting

1. What document needs to get approved by your utility company?

2. Besides your utility company, you’ll need to speak to your Authority Having Jurisdiction or AHJ. Where might you find this office in your town/city?

3. Some AHJs may require a ________ sign-off to ensure that your roof is safe for PV installation

4. To ensure you’re working with the right AHJ documents you’ll want to clarify if your address falls under one of the two following jurisdictions?


Our DIY Solar Heroes Show & Tell

Our customer’s love breaking down how they Power Their Own Way with DIY Solar. Check out these customer projects for ideas, inspiration, and motivation.

Will you be the next Install of the Month?

6.1 Customer Showcase Videos

Ryder’s Installation Walk-Through
Michael’s Timelapse
Another Timelapse
Solar in a Freezing Cold Climate
Editor’s note: Dave and his wife Sher worked with Unbound Solar to build their 6 kW solar system back in 2014. Five years later, he contacted us to share his reflections on going solar in a freezing cold climate.
Troy and Suzanne H. From West Virginia
Our April Install of the Month winners are Troy and Suzanne H. from West Virginia. They built their system in two phases, starting in 2014 and adding on in 2017 to build an array that produces 11.1 kW of solar power in total.
A Mother’s Install in L.A. California
We love Eddy K’s install because, even though it wasn’t a walk in the park, he did it all for mom. And with Mother’s Day coming up, everyone knows that mom is the most important person in the world! What everyone may not know however, is just how difficult it is to install a solar power system in LA county.

Your Success is Our #1 Priority

Are you ready to start the conversation on how you can Save Thousands when you Power Your Own Way with Do-It-Yourself-Solar?

For the past 20 years Unbound Solar’s mission has been to build confidence and guide DIY enthusiasts like you through the most affordable and satisfying solar buying experience in the industry. Here’s what you can expect:

Solar Tech Assignment, Energy Evaluation, Site Considerations, System Customization, System Design Checks, Permitting Guidance, Free Lifetime Post-Sale Support