Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could buy a solar panel and just plug it in to an outlet without needing to hire an electrician? Well, now you can! Be sure to read the cautions below for why you still might need a licensed electrician.
I learned about solar micro-inverters about 4 years ago when Enphase emerged and I often imagined how cool it would be to make a plug-n-play solar panel. I believe that many people would install a little solar if they could invest a modest amount of money and end up with a connected solar panel. A typical residential solar installation costs $10,000 to $20,000 and most home owners just cannot afford to invest that much at one time.
I have a degree in electrical engineering which has led me to think through a lot of the challenges to creating a plug-in solar panel. I am very excited to see that someone has worked through those issues and brought a product to market at a reasonable price.
Enter the SpinRay Energy DeckPower™ plug and play supplemental solar appliance. The DeckPower120™ or DeckPower240™ each includes all the pieces to safely connect up to 5 of their solar panels to a dedicated 15A outlet.
- (1) 240 watt high efficiency mono-crystalline solar panel listed to UL 1703
- (1) 120 volt 60hz AC Grid-Tied micro-inverter listed to UL 1741 (outdoor/waterproof)
- (1) Aluminum deck mount bracket complete with easy to assemble stainless steel hardware
- (1) 12 foot long 120 volt molded outdoor male plug
The important things about this kit is that the inverter and solar panel are UL listed which means they meet strict electrical safety requirements for the United States.
One thing to note about solar panels is that if you are tied to the grid, these panels will not, by themselves, provide power to your house in the event of a power outage. To protect the safety of any people repairing the grid, the micro-inverter will automatically stop any “back-feeding” in the event of a loss of grid power. This means it will stop supplying electricity to your house if it senses a power failure or is unplugged. If you are looking for a backup source of power, these panels are not for you. You will need to off-grid systems that include batteries which are available for the DIY solar enthusiast from AltE.
At roughly $1,000 per 240W solar panel system, that works out to just over $4/watt which is a very good price for installed solar. Unless you have a spare dedicated circuit with an outdoor outlet just sitting around doing nothing, you will likely need a licensed electrician to install the circuit and outlet for you which would add to the cost, but does not require a solar expert.
Two things to be very careful about are the net-metering regulations in your area and will your meter correctly report any excess electricity you feed back to the grid? If you only install one panel, chances are good this will not be an issue because your base usage is probably more than the solar will ever produce and you will therefore not have excess electricity to put back on the grid. Our base usage, with every light and other appliance turned off, but our refrigerator/freezers and our security alarm still running, is about 200W. We try very hard to keep this low, and it is lower than average households. If you add two or more panels, you should definitely find out more about net-metering and utility interconnects.
- Only install these DIY solar panels on a DEDICATED Outdoor Outlet. If you plug in some other device to the same circuit, you have effectively bypassed the circuit breaker or fuse limiting the amount of current on the wire. Overloading the wire in the wall can lead to fire because you can effectively have double the rated capacity on the wire: 15 amps from the circuit panel (utility) and 15 amps from the solar panels for a total of 30 amps traveling on wire sized for only 15 amps.
- I have not personally inspected or tested these solar panels. All the information provided above was found on their website and I do not have any affiliation with SpinRay Energy.
Here a short video from the SpinRay site about their DIY Solar Panels:
p.s. found another DIY plug-in solar kit on Amazon.com from Ensurpa. I like the SpinRay design with the micro-inverters much better, but the $350 difference in price definitely is appealing.
To learn more about residential solar installations, check out our series Going for Solar, which details every step from dreaming about installing solar, through picking a contractor and the steps in construction. We provide information and advice for every step of the way, as well as different approaches such as paying for it yourself versus leasing a system. Don’t miss the steps on how much money we saved during our first year of usage!