Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How Much Money Do You Save Installing Your Own PV System?

When we did our PV system two years ago, I did not really have a good way to evaluate how much money I saved by doing the install myself, let alone how this might vary over the country.  I knew how much it cost me, but, I did not really have a good number on how much an equivalent professionally installed system would cost.

Our 2.1 KW micro-inverter DIY PV array.
The Nov/Dec issue of Solar Today answered that question by providing a state by state installed cost per watt survey.  The current US wide average turns out to be $6.80 per peak watt.  

So, armed with this new data on what professional installs typically cost, I decided to update what our PV array would cost at today's prices and compare that to the $6.80 average professional install.  The results surprised me a bit.

Using the latest prices, a setup similar to what we put in two years ago would be about $3.30 per watt.  So, the savings for for DIY install is a bit over 50%.  For the 2300 watt system I looked at, this is a bit over $8000.  Not exactly chicken feed.

Being a fan of solar thermal I'll just mention that that the cost per peak watt for our $1K Solar Water Heating system is less than 50 cents a peak watt  -- Holy Cow! :)



  1. Part of the increased cost of the professional installed system is the added benefit of some tax credit qualifications. So if their is a tax credit for $2000 needing a certified installer, expect a $1000-$2000 increased price from the installer.

  2. I guess that is true in some places, but not where we live. I collected both the federal 30% tax credit and the $500 MT state credit.
    The DSIRE site will tell you what the deal is for your state: http://www.dsireusa.org/index.cfm


  3. What I think he is trying to imply is that when business in general know that the customer base is saving or making more money they expect part of it themselves and artificially raise their prices accordingly. For example, several years ago corn prices went up drastically due to demand from ethanol production. The farmers were making quite a decent profit. The next spring however across the board the price of ground rental, fertilizer, insecticides/herbicides, equipment all jumped up drastically in price. Seed corn companies raised their prices from 100$ a bag to near 300$ a bag. Everyone got their share of that profit that they knew was their and they all acted in sync so their was no choice to go somewhere else.

    Same goes with government energy grants. I was talking to a nun that ran two private ophanages. She was proactive and raised money from private donors to replace the old windows in the first one. Many of the suppliers helped her to find cosmetic seconds windows and she did quite a lot with little money.

    Someone helped her obtain a government energy grant for the second house. The grant matched raised funds. By the time she finished with it she found the cost to be four times the first and nearly double the price she was quoted for perfect(non second) before the companies found out about the grant. When asked about the price difference the reply was the work had to be from qualified window manufactures and installers. The windows were the same window but had the required paperwork with it and the out of town "certified" installers did a poor job where the local non certified did a wonderful job on the first house. She swore off all future government grants due to it.

    By installing the panels and system yourself you kept some of the vultures away from the government rebates.


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