Many homeowners are switching to solar energy to save on electricity bills and lower their carbon footprint. However, the initial outlay can be high, and professional installation costs may be a dealbreaker for many people. Some people avoid this problem by installing solar panels themselves.
While this can save you a considerable amount of money, a DIY solar installation requires basic wiring knowledge, working at significant heights, and specialty tools. Here’s a list of essential tools for a DIY solar installation. Check it out and see what you might not already be in your toolbox, and don’t forget the safety tips to prepare you for a successful installation!
Essential Tools for DIY Solar Installation
The most critical part of a DIY solar installation is the photovoltaic panels that capture clean, renewable energy from the sun. Even if you purchase a plug-and-play system like the EcoFlow Power Kits, you still need to install the solar panels. Here are the essential tools for a successful DIY solar installation.
You will do a lot of hole-drilling and screw-driving throughout a solar panel installation. Luckily, we live in the modern age of power tools. You will want to acquire a battery-powered drill for your solar panel installation. It’ll come in handy for other household projects in the future!
Solar panel installations require you to drill holes in the roof to secure the mounting rails. You will need to use copious amounts of sealant to prevent leaks in the future. A caulk gun allows you to use bulk sealant refills for clean sealant applications.
Every solar panel will require a custom length of wire and the correct connectors attached to the ends. Connecting multiple solar panels leads to lots of wire stripping and cutting.
A quality set of wire strippers will usually have a built-in cutter, but you may need a pair of heavy-duty pliers to cut thicker gauges of wires.
While a pocket knife doesn’t serve any specific purpose in a DIY solar installation, it may be helpful in unpredictable ways. Need to open the packaging for your solar components that just arrived? Use a pocket knife! Do you need to strip a wire while on the roof, but you forgot your wire strippers? Luckily you have your pocket knife!
You will use Flathead and Phillips-head screwdrivers countless times on a DIY solar installation. You’ll need to screw in mounting hardware or scrape old sealant away with a flathead. A power drill can sometimes serve the same purpose, but you risk over tightening and stripping the screws.
For your installation to be square and level, you will need a few essential measuring tools, including a level, measuring tape, chalk line, and a metal square.
Solar panels rest on rails on the surface of your roof. Typically, mounting rails must be custom-cut — a hack saw is the best tool for this job.
Hacksaws are easy to use, affordable, and useful for other DIY projects down the line.
An EMT conduit is a type of tubing electricians use to protect wires from the elements. Solar installations require working with multiple electrical systems, which is why some states require local solar permits.
You will use many pre-bent conduit connections, but some areas may require a custom bend. A conduit bender lets you shape the tubing to fit your home’s unique angles.
A digital multimeter is essential for any electrical work, including solar panel installations. With this tool, you’ll be able to determine the quality of your connections, check for live wires, and find problems in your wiring. A multimeter includes an ohmmeter, voltmeter, and ammeter — all in one essential device.
While installing solar panels, you’ll climb up and down from your roof repeatedly. If you value your safety, you don’t want to use that rusty or wooden ladder grandpa gave you.
Purchase a sturdy metal extension ladder that can easily reach the height of your roof. Ladders and scaling heights are a required part of the solar installation job.
If you are concerned about installing a rooftop solar panel array on your own, consider hiring a professional installer. Alternatively, look into solar generators that come with portable solar panels. Portable solar panels don’t require fixed installation but still have enough capacity to run a household off-grid.
Other Safety Considerations You Should Know
Most people don’t use extension ladders often, so it’s important to note a few safety tips. Ladders should extend to a length of at least three feet (1M) above the height of your roof. Place the base of the ladder a distance from the house equal to one-fourth of the ladder’s height. For example, you should place the bottom of a 16-foot ladder four feet away from the roofline.
Once the ladder is well-placed, you should tie off the top to keep it in place. There may be no attachment points on your roof. If this is the case, install a temporary hook into a rafter that runs beneath the roof.
Always use two hands when climbing a ladder. This may seem like common sense, but you’ll be surprised at how often you’re tempted to carry tools up while climbing the ladder with only one free hand. Install a bucket-pulley system or wear a functional tool belt to haul up your gear.
For a comprehensive look at ladder safety, check out this info sheet from OSHA.
Work With Care
It should go without saying, but care must be taken with every step when working on a roof. Always walk with a clear view — stepping backward can lead to a dangerous fall.
Keep your center of gravity as low as possible. Wear knee pads to crawl comfortably on your hands and knees when needed.
Take the day off during bad weather. Wind, snow, ice, and rain produce unsafe work conditions. Come back to your project when inclement weather recedes.
Wear personal protective equipment whenever applicable. Harnesses and anchors can save you from a nasty fall. Work goggles and respirators protect you from power-tool debris.
Manual labor is not a fashion show. Dress in functional, practical clothing that allows you to move freely. A sturdy pair of work boots with intact treads are essential. You don’t want to slip-sliding around on a roof.
A tool belt will hold all your necessary implements as you work on the roof, helping to prevent additional trips up and down the ladder.
If you’re working in direct sunlight, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen to help prevent sunburn. Add a neck gaiter and sunglasses for extra coverage. A long-sleeve UPF shirt will also prevent excessive sun exposure. A wet towel around your neck can quickly cool you down on hot summer days.
Knee pads will also come in handy. They may not be required, but they make it much more comfortable with scrambling around on a roof all day.
Now that you have a better idea of what tools and safety precautions you need to take to prepare for your DIY solar installation. Remember that every installation is different, and situations can arise that require additional tools.
Be prepared for some setbacks — that’s what makes DIY projects fun (and sometimes frustrating!) With the right tools and the right attitude, you shouldn’t have any issues installing a fully-functioning solar system for your home by yourself.
If safety or ease of installation is more of a priority than a DIY project, check out EcoFlow’s plug-and-play solutions and portable solar systems — your best source for sourcing energy from the sun.