Solar panels are an appealing way to make your home more eco-friendly and reduce your monthly energy bills. However, they’re expensive to install, with a large portion of the cost going toward labor. Do-it-yourself (DIY) solar panels have become increasingly popular as a result, but this is a complex project that requires knowledge and skill.

We’ve spent more than 300 hours researching the best solar panels available, including DIY solar kits. Our guide explains what a DIY solar panel project entails and gives advice on whether they’re worth it.

Pros and Cons of DIY Solar Panels

Pros Helps you save money on solar panel installation Gives you more control over the installation process Lets you design your own solar power system
Cons Requires a lot of expertise, and mistakes can lead to roof leaks or damage Is a highly time-consuming project Isn’t backed by a warranty


One of the primary appeals of DIY solar panels is that you can save money. According to the Center for Sustainable Energy, solar panels cost an average of $3–$5 per watt, totaling $15,000–$20,000 for a typical 5 kilowatt (kW) system. With DIY solar panels, you won’t have to pay for labor, which typically makes up a considerable portion of this total.

One downside is that you may not be eligible for as many solar tax incentives if you choose to install DIY solar panels rather than hiring professionals. Incentives are offered by federal and state governments, utility companies, and certain municipalities to lower solar installation costs. Common types include tax credits, cash rebates, Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), and property tax exemptions. These incentives vary by state in terms of whether they apply to DIY installations. 

One exception is the federal solar tax credit, which provides a tax reduction equal to 30% of your solar panel system installation costs. If your tax liability is lower than the deduction, it will roll over to the following year. A professional solar installation company should have extensive knowledge of available incentives and help you to access them.


It’s possible to install solar panels on your own, but DIY solar installation requires serious know-how and tools. Some solar companies design solar panel kits targeted toward DIYers. However, these kits are often meant for small builds, such as converting a shed, RV, or boat. 

Many DIY solar panels are designed to hook up to something other than the energy grid, since they aren’t meant for your home. DIY solar panels can get the job done if you want to supplement your traditional energy source, not replace it. 

If you want to power your entire home, you’ll need a solar battery with the panel kit. These battery systems offer backup power at night and during power outages. Solar batteries can be challenging to obtain and are expensive, averaging $8,000–$10,000. 

Installing a solar energy system requires knowledge of electrician work. You’ll have to work on your roof and with buried wires. The stakes are high for a mishap; crossed wires can malfunction and even cause electrical fires. Additionally, it may be illegal for you to do this work without a professional, depending on your municipality’s zoning laws. Many zoning laws also prohibit installing off-grid solar energy systems. 

It’s often best to hire an expert if you’re looking to power your entire home with solar power.


Professional solar companies include a warranty with installation that protects your investment if there’s a malfunction or installation error. They’ll complete repairs or replacement if necessary and may even cover the cost. DIY solar panel installation doesn’t come with this support.

How To Find the Best Solar Panels

You’ll need to consider many factors when selecting the best solar panels for your project, including the panel type, efficiency rate, and warranties. We’ll go over each of these factors in more detail below. A solar panel manufacturer can help you with your selection, but hiring an installer is the best way to ensure you get the right panels for your project.

“If you work with a turn-key installer that communicates at each step of the process, the home solar installation should be easy and worry-free,” says Matt Johnson, co-owner of Namaste Solar. “A seasoned installer should handle all the logistics from design to permitting to finding all the incentives and rebates available.”

The video below offers an overview of common factors you should consider when shopping for DIY solar panel kits: 

Solar Panel Type

Knowing the different types of solar panels available can help you narrow down your options. Monocrystalline solar panels are the most popular. They’re the most efficient and have a simple, low-profile design ideal for residential homes. Monocrystalline panels are created from pure silicon and come in two different variations: passivated emitter and rear contact (PERC) and bifacial. PERC panels have a conductive layer added to the backside of cells to increase energy absorption. PERC panels are most commonly used in rooftop solar systems.

Bifacial panels absorb light on both sides at a higher rate than PERC panels. For this reason, they’re typically reserved for ground-mount systems that expose both sides of the panels.

Polycrystalline solar panels use older technology than mono panels and are a cheaper option. However, these panels are less efficient than monocrystalline offerings and, in turn, require more panels to power your home.

Thin-film panels are the standard for small DIY solar panel kits. They’re also the cheapest solar panel option. The manufacturing process for these panels is less complicated, so they take little time to make. They’re also the least efficient panel type, but they have practical uses. Small DIY solar projects, such as RVs and small off-grid systems, use thin-film solar panels.


Solar panel efficiency is vital to your solar energy system’s performance. Higher efficiencies indicate that the solar panel can convert a larger percentage of sunlight throughout the day. The more sunlight that gets converted, the more power your system generates to run your home. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) says solar panels typically fall between 16% and 22% efficiency. The most efficient panels cost the most, but they can be worth it because they’ll save you money on your electric bills long term.


Standard solar panel warranties cover the product and its performance. However, these warranties may not always be separate. Some companies provide comprehensive warranties that cover both the product and its performance in one contract. Sadly, warranty coverage for DIY solar panels is limited since you’re taking on the installation yourself.

A standard product warranty lasts for 10–12 years. Some companies offer extended warranties for 25 or more years. Other companies only offer extended product warranties if you use one of their authorized dealers or installers. 

The standard performance warranty guarantees 90% production for 10 years and 80% through year 25. Some premium solar panels guarantee 90% or higher output for 25 years. These warranties typically include coverage for any dips in performance as well. If your solar panels are not performing to the standards outlined in your warranty, the solar installer will send you the required parts for free repair or upgrade.

Our Conclusion

DIY solar panel installation is possible if you feel comfortable dealing with the issues outlined in this guide, but it’s generally only recommended for small projects. Solar panel installation is complicated and can be dangerous, so you may prefer working with an installer. A professional will help you determine the correct number of panels for your project based on your budget and energy needs. If you do decide to install panels yourself, make sure to do your research and take the proper safety precautions.

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FAQ About DIY Solar Panels

Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team is committed to providing comprehensive and unbiased reviews to our readers. This means earning your trust through transparent reviews and data to back up our ratings and recommendations. Our rating system for solar providers is on a 100-point system based on five factors:

  • Payment options (40 points): Options include purchase, loan, lease, and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Companies receive points for each of the four options they provide.
  • Solar services (30 points): Does the company provide in-house installation of solar panels and battery backups? Can the company also monitor energy production and perform energy-efficiency audits to ensure system performance? The more options available, the higher the score. 
  • Warranty options (10 points): The success of a residential solar system depends on the workmanship, performance guarantees, and length of product coverage. The more warranties a company offers, the higher the score it receives. 
  • State availability (10 points): We award the most points to companies with the broadest service area and state availability.
  • Reputation (10 points): We factor in how the Business Better Bureau (BBB) scores each company. We deduct points for any alerts or pending lawsuits.

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