Difference between DIY Solar and Portable Solar Kits

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DIY Solar With Wires

Many solar terms can be confusing to newcomers to the industry. What is DIY solar? What are portable solar kits? Are they the same thing? If not, how do they differ? These are all valid questions and ones that can be difficult to find an answer to with a simple internet search. To help potential solar homeowners understand the difference between these two, we’ll look at each one individually and then compare and contrast them.

But first, let’s start off with defining our terms.

What Is DIY Solar?

DIY solar is a simple concept — it’s installing solar yourself, without the aid of any professionals. Generally speaking, this is something that most solar-knowledgeable people discourage. While installing solar initially seems simple, it becomes clear that it’s only simple on the surface.

The Problems of DIY Solar

Once you get deeper into the installation process, you’ll realize that there’s much more knowledge necessary to add solar to your home than just getting the panels onto the roof. You need a working knowledge of your home’s electrical system, how to safely wire the panels and inverter into said system, and how to work with heavy equipment on your roof. 

You also need to know whether the products you’re purchasing work well with each other. Mixing and matching products can result in a loss to your system production. It is for this reason that almost all solar educators, writers, and companies recommend going with a professional installation company. 

What Is Portable Solar?

Portable solar, like DIY solar, is exactly what it sounds like. It consists of portable solar panels and sometimes battery backup. The panels and batteries can be moved around, sometimes by hand and sometimes with a cart. 

Portable solar, while not fit for powering an entire home, has a number of benefits. For example, portable solar panels are perfect for camping trips. They can provide power for your electric stove, a portable refrigerator, or even charging your phone. 

Portable solar can also provide emergency power in case the grid goes out. When that happens, your portable solar can provide you with electricity for essential medical devices or running a computer. Power outages have a habit of striking when we least expect, so having the security of portable solar can help ease your mind. 

What About DIY Portable Solar?

This brings us to an important question: what happens if you combine the two? Can portable solar be part of DIY solar? Can you use only portable solar without rooftop solar?

The Problems With Combining Portable and DIY Solar

Let’s start with the combination of the two. Can portable solar combine well with DIY solar? The answer is no. But why?

Portable solar is, ultimately, an addition to rooftop solar. Portable solar can be useful for those who don’t have rooftop solar, but only in rare situations. Someone who drives around the country in an RV will have more of a use for portable solar installations than the average homeowner, for example. 

For a homeowner though, portable solar does not provide as many benefits without rooftop solar. And DIY rooftop solar doesn’t provide as many benefits as professionally installed rooftop solar. So combining portable solar installations with DIY rooftop solar, or with no rooftop installation at all, is an inefficient and costly way to go solar.

Portable DIY Solar Without Rooftop Installations

Which brings us to DIY portable solar without a rooftop installation. Portable DIY solar are pre-made solar kits purchased online or from a local retailer, but without any professional help. These kits can be useful, but without rooftop solar you’ll be missing out on some of the benefits.

Losing Efficiency Through Setting Up Portable Solar Yourself

The first pitfall of portable solar is purchasing a kit and setting it up yourself. A professional will be able to help you set up the panels to get the most sunlight. They can also help you ensure that your battery backup is getting enough power to ensure that it’s always charged. After all, what’s the point of having battery backup if it isn’t charged when you need it to be?

Losing Value Through Not Installing Rooftop Solar

Finally, not having rooftop solar will reduce the efficiency of your portable solar. Portable solar panels charge your battery backup options fairly slowly. Because of the slow charge times, you can be looking at large gaps between when you’re able to use your portable batteries. 

Rooftop solar, in contrast, provides enough electricity to keep your batteries charged at all times. This means that your batteries will be ready to go for any picnics, camping trips, or road trips that you may find yourself on. While portable solar panels and batteries are useful, and are a potential alternative to rooftop solar, their full value isn’t unlocked without a residential installation. 

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