In the growing world of clean energy enthusiasts, many homeowners are looking into solar panels and trying to find the absolute cheapest way to install them. Like many other home improvement projects, solar shoppers are often seeking a do-it-yourself option. In the past few years, DIY solar has evolved from a niche concept to a common phrase heard around the solar industry, leading homeowners to wonder if buying solar panels from websites like eBay or Craigslist is a good idea. This article breaks down the pros and cons of doing a DIY solar installation through eBay and explains when it makes sense to have a professional system installed.
Are eBay solar panel kits the cheapest DIY option on the market?
Homeowners seeking record low prices when shopping for solar in 2017 are frequently attracted to the low equipment price they can get by ordering from a site like eBay in comparison to the more significant cost of having a company do an installation. The price of buying solar panels through e-commerce sites like eBay is significantly lower than a professional solar installation because the cost of labor is removed.
The problem with this comparison is that a true residential energy system is not something anyone should try to attempt after merely doing some internet research and watching a few instructional videos. The question of whether or not to do DIY solar can be outlined into a simple framework:
When to do a DIY solar project
When it comes to small-scale solar applications, DIY can make a lot of sense because it may not be necessary to hire an installer. If your purpose in doing a DIY solar project is to add a few off-grid solar panels to your boat or RV, you will probably not need to hire a professional company to do the installation.
When not to do a DIY solar project
If you want to make a complete switch from fossil fuels to clean energy, a DIY solar project may not be realistic for your needs. Installing a system that will have a durable and efficient energy output for decades to come requires some professional experience. In addition, large-scale solar systems often require maintenance down the line, and the lack of an installer workmanship warranty through a DIY project can be hugely detrimental. Furthermore, for a full residential installation you will need to file for permits and applications to get your house approved – something an installer will usually help you with. Without a professional, the complex process of going solar can get a lot more confusing.
Solar warranty consideration: what’s the risk of getting a solar panel kit from eBay?
There are even more factors to consider when looking to do your solar installation with an eBay solar panel kit or other DIY product from an e-commerce site. When you install solar panels through a licensed solar contractor, you are the beneficiary of two warranties: an installer workmanship warranty (that guarantees the quality of the system installed) and a product or manufacturer warranty (that guarantees the performance of the specific equipment such as the inverter or solar panels). If you choose to skip the traditional install and directly buy the DIY solar panel kit from eBay, not only do you lose the workmanship warranty but in some cases you lose the manufacturer warranty as well. This means that doing a DIY solar project from eBay significantly increases the risk of your solar investment.
Solar is often (rightly) described as a low-risk investment with strong returns. Though this statement is widely considered to be true, it assumes that there are warranties to back up the performance of the solar panel system to begin with. If the purpose of installing solar is to offset your energy use, it’s risky to rely entirely on an amateur installation without any guarantee to back it up in the event of a product or system issue.
Our recommendation: without warranties, you should take into account the additional cost of of risk when you compare the economics of eBay solar panels to a professional solar installation. In the case of finding a licensed distributor on eBay that can at least offer the product warranty, some of this risk can be alleviated.
Other ways for solar shoppers to cut the cost of going solar
If, at the end of the day, the purpose of looking for solar panels on sites like eBay is to find the absolute lowest price available, homeowners should be aware that there are other strategies to use when trying to find a lower price for solar. Here are some tips we often give to homeowners just starting to look for solar:
1. Comparing multiple offers has historically saved consumers money
Though it may be a somewhat obvious strategy, many homeowners only look at one option or one quote before going solar. Shopping for solar can be a lengthy and complex process and it can be easy to want to shorten the decision process as much as possible. However, on the contrary, doing your research is key and it will certainly pay off. Homeowners who compared solar quotes on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace saved 10 percent or more on their solar installation.
2. Small solar installers may offer lower prices
The bigger isn’t always better premise is one of the main reasons we always recommend homeowners consider every company available to them, not just the company big enough to pay for the most advertising. In residential solar, a few large companies control most of the market, and their business model assumes that homeowners won’t bother to shop around. On the contrary, small installers on EnergySage are aware that they are not the only company offering you a quote and often offer lower prices to stay competitive.
In a sense, the widely assumed cost of solar across the U.S. is higher than it needs to be. Depending on the process you use to go solar, the eventual price tag can be significantly lower than what most people are paying. For any homeowner in the early stage of solar shopping that would just like a ballpark estimate for a solar installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local installers today, check out our quote comparison platform to ensure that you don’t overpay for solar.