Of course the easiest way to convert to solar energy is to hire a professional. But, it's also the most expensive. The least expensive way to make use of solar energy is by building the solar panels yourself.
By choosing to build your own solar power system, the costs of this renewable energy source are greatly reduced, and it makes it simple for anyone to convert to solar power.
With four easy steps you can be on your way to making use of Green Energy, and if you build your solar power system correctly its life expectancy is 30 to 40 years.
Step 1 - Reduce Your Energy Requirements
Before making the decision to convert to solar power it is suggested that you first work to reduce your energy requirements. The less power you need to keep your home running, the lower your initial installation costs will be. There are many simple ways to reduce the amount of electricity you use.
For example switching to LCD lighting could reduce the amount of electricity required to light your home. A 100 Watt incandescent bulb uses 100 Watts of electricity per hour. On the other hand a 3.5 Watt LCD bulb will produce the same amount of light.
There are other simple things you can do as well. Adding in a solar water heater to your current electric hot water heater can reduce the amount of power needed to heat the water for your home. Changing that 10 year old fridge or dishwasher for newer, more energy efficient models, is also a simple way to lower your power requirements.
Simply taking a few steps ahead of time may cut your power needs by as much as 50%.
Step 2 - Decide on How Much Power You Need
After working to reduce the amount of power you need, it's time to calculate how much electricity you do need. This step actually isn't that difficult. Simply look at every item in your home that uses electricity. Take the wattage ratings from each appliance and light, and then multiply it by the number of hours it runs each day.
For example, a fridge that requires 400Watts of power will run for about 8 hours (about 1/3 of the time) a day. This appliance uses 400 x 8 = 3200 Watt Hours of electricity every day. That 3.5 Watt LCD bulb that you run for 4 hours each night uses 3.5 x 4 = 14 Watt Hours of electricity every day. If an appliance doesn't have a wattage rating on its label, you can get the watts needed using OHM's law; P=E*I (Watts = Voltage x Amps).
Create a list and repeat this step for every item in your home that uses electricity.
Step 3 - Build Your Solar Power System
Once you know how many watt hours of electricity you use each day it's time to build your solar panels, and convert your home. If in step 2 you determined that you need 10000 Watt Hours (10 kilo-Watt Hours) of electricity, then you need to build enough solar panels to suit.
Assuming that the sun shines for 8 hours of the day, it would take about 13, 100 Watt solar panels to produce that much energy. Building the solar panels yourself is the least expensive solution. According to Science Daily, a 100 Watt solar panel cost $1150 on average in 2008. You can build that same panel yourself for around $150.
In this step there may be other considerations. For a grid-intertied solution, where you also have power from the grid, building 13 panels and having them wired to power your home directly is a suitable solution. When the sun shines you'll be running your home off solar energy alone, and when it doesn't, any additional electricity needs are taken care of by the power grid.
Where things get more complicated is when you want to go off-grid, or when you want to add a battery backup to your system. In this case you should consult with a DIY solar power guide. These guides include the information needed to make these additional calculations.
Step 4 - Have an Electrician Inspect and Wire it into Your Home
Whether you buy your solar panels or build them yourself, you should have a qualified electrician do the final wiring into your home. This may cost you a few dollars extra, but in some places it's the law, and even if it isn't an electrician is qualified to deal with the 240Volt wires coming into your home.
There is a definite danger doing this step yourself. Also, if you did build your own solar power system, the electrician will be able to do a final inspection to ensure all of your wiring is up to code.
After you have your system wired into your home, you're now finished with your conversion to solar power. With just basic maintenance you can expect to enjoy renewable energy, and cheaper power bills, for years to come.
Article Source: Convert to Solar Power in 4 Easy Steps
DIY Solar Panels and Windmills Building Guides
Earth 4 Energy - Make your own solar panels or wind turbine. More info here
Home Made Power Plant - There are some other guides for DIY wind and solar generators, but all of those that I've read don't get into the same details. More info here