DIY Solar and Grounding: What You Need to Know Posted on 01 May 07:30
DIY solar energy systems must be wired properly. Otherwise, the system poses a significant safety risk. Electrical grounding, or connecting the system to the earth with a wire or metal rod, is one of the most important aspects of a safe photovoltaic installation.
Even though you will need a licensed electrician to handle the actual work, it’s important for you, as the system owner, to understand the reasons for this requirement.
Why Do DIY Solar Panel Systems Need to Be Grounded?
Grounding protects your system (and your home) from electrical overload.
Without an electrical ground connection, any extra surge of power — from a lightning strike or sudden increase from the utility lines — could result in electricity surging into your home, damaging your wiring, outlets, appliances and electronics.
Or worse, someone in your family could sustain a harmful or even fatal electric shock.
This hazard isn’t limited to DIY solar energy systems. Grounding is required for most electrical applications. For example, as a safety measure, utility poles and gas lines are grounded to the earth. Many parts of your home are probably also grounded, including your electrical panel, outlets, light fixtures and copper pipes.
But some older houses, or those that have not been wired in compliance with electrical codes, may not be grounded.
If your home already has a grounding system, it should be used to ground your solar array. You do not want to add a second ground.
How Are DIY Solar Systems are Grounded?
If you create a separate electrical ground for your do-it-yourself photovoltaic array, power can flow between the two grounding conductors. As a result, if one of your solar panels is hit by a power surge or lightning strike, the energy spike could destroy your inverter or even set your house on fire.
Your electrician will wire your DIY solar array to your home’s grounding system, so that any stray electrical current will flow safely to the earth, with no damage or harm to your family and your home.
How to Ensure the Safety of Your DIY Home Solar Energy System
You must use a licensed electrician to complete the wiring portion of your photovoltaic installation, not just for your safety, but also because your utility company will require that a professional handle all the wiring and grounding.
Licensed electricians have experience with wiring design, installation and grounding standards established by the U.S. National Electrical Code (NEC). They are also legally obligated to perform their work safely and in compliance with all governing building codes.
Paying a licensed electrician for a few hours of work will increase your solar investment costs only slightly, and the peace of mind it provides is worth every penny of the added cost.
Solar GOODs, the online DIY superstore for energy independence, offers a variety of resources to help homeowners design and install their DIY solar energy systems. Visit our website today to learn more.