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 Do-It-Yourself Solar Power Kits For Your Home 
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Post Do-It-Yourself Solar Power Kits For Your Home
by: Kriss Bergethon

Many do-it-yourself homeowners are trying to find ways to "go green". Energy efficiency and going green go hand in hand. If you've already made your home as energy-efficient as possible, the next logical step is to start generating electricity yourself. The easiest way to do this is with solar energy. Thanks to advancements in solar technology and marketing, you can now purchase a solar power kit that can be up and running in a matter of days. Here are eight great things you probably didn't know about these residential kits:

1. Easy design. There are many tools needed to design the ideal solar power system for your home. Fortunately, these tools are readily available and easy to use. The National Renewable Energy Lab has a tool called PV Watts on their website for determining how much energy a system would produce in a year in your area. Most kit manufacturers have similar tools and will walk you through the process if you like or simply design the system for you. It is important to remember, however, that you must evaluate your home thoroughly and find the place most likely to get steady, unshaded sunshine throughout the year.

2. Simplicity. A grid-tied solar panel array is a relatively simple system. The panels are mounted on a system that is compatible with your home and the panels. Many of the mounting hardware manufacturers have videos on their websites on how to install their systems. Once mounted, the panels generally tie together into a gathering box, and then are wired to the inverter. The inverter turns the direct current (DC) electricity that the array generates into alternating current (AC) electricity that your home and the power grid uses. Then the system ties into your electric meter. Most utilities insist on making this connection to the meter and the grid, as they have to install a bi-directional meter so that it can spin backwards in the event you generate more electricity than you use. Many utilities recognize the importance of renewable energy and do not charge for this service.

3. All-Inclusive. Solar kits are designed to be turn-key, meaning they are meant to be all-inclusive. The wiring, hardware, and accessories are all included. Occasionally you may have to provide some small parts to complete the installation depending on your particular house.

4. User-Friendly. These systems of course include the most important part: instructions. Many companies recognize that home-owners are by far the largest market for solar panels. So they have created instruction manuals for installation and operation that are easy to understand for the average person. The systems also don't require special tools. Usually the basic tools that most do-it-yourself folks have (e.g. wrench set, pliers, drill, hand tools, ladder and so on) are adequate. And most equipment rental businesses offer anything you need and don't have. It is important to enlist the help of a master electrician to test the system and ensure that the connections are made properly.

5. Permit ready. It is very important to get the proper permits for these installations. Local building departments are great resources for the information on best practices in your area. Most kit makers provide complete schematics and specifications that permit departments can use to approve your installation. Usually this is all that's needed to get the proper permits.

6. Customized. Are you looking to provide nearly all your home's power with solar? Or do you just want to light the shed in the backyard? Regardless of your needs, these systems can be scaled to meet your specifications. Solar kits can be used for lighting, security, remote power, telecommunications, and residential uses. Your kit maker can design a system for nearly any application.

7. Expandability. Don't have enough money to get it all done now? Luckily these systems are very 'modular', meaning you can start out with enough panels for today, and still add more components in the future as your needs grows.

8. Incentives. All solar power kits are eligible for some sort of incentive. The federal government has a 30% tax credit for renewable systems and most utilities and/or states have an additional incentive. In Louisiana you can get 80% of your system paid for through these programs. In California, almost 50% of the system can be paid for this way. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) is a great resource for this.

So now that you know more about home solar power kits, its time to get started designing a system for you.

About The Author
Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado.

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Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:30 am
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