blog - too good to be true?

DIY Electrician

DIY Electrician

It seems I'm on a roll finding renewable energy claims that are just too good to be true. A few days after discovering the Magniwork Scam I came across Now, I wont call what they are doing a scam, but I will say they are being a little misleading.

Like Magniwork, Earth4Energy is selling plans to build your own power source, in this case a solar panel or wind turbine.  They claim that you can build your own solar panel for under $200, and I bet that it is probably true.  The creator of the site, Michael Harvey, says he was inspired to create the manual after he was given a cost of $28,000 to install solar on his home.  The manual he is selling costs a little under $50.

What isn't clearly highlighted is that while you might be able to build a panel for under $200 bucks, the panel is only a small cost of installing a solar system.  Most of the cost is in labor and necessary equipment like the DC -> AC inverter , circuit breakers for the system and mounting equipment.

In the FAQ, it says the plans for the panel in the manual are for 100 Watt panels.  So $200/(100 Watts) is $2 per Watt.  Guess what?  New panels are currently selling for about double that.  If you are like most people and you actually value your time, then the time you spend on building your own panel added to the cost of the material you have to procure, you're spending much more money on the panel you build yourself.

Also, to be eligible for incentives for your system you might have to prove your system is up to the National Electric Code (NEC) which would require UL panels.  Panels you build yourself will not have a UL listing!

Once you build your panel you still have to get it on your roof, secure it so it doesn't blow away, then hook it up to your electrical system. Unless you are trained at doing these things, please don't.  Getting shocked to death is not that fun.  Plus, do you really want to put panels that you build yourself that create electricity on a flammable structure above your head?  You need to hire professionals to do this, and this is where a lot of the cost comes from!

If you are looking for a professional solar PV electrical generating system, then you won't be able to do it with yourself and a manual.  Find installers in your area and get multiple quotes.  This is how you can save money on your solar system.

However, if you are looking for a fun DIY project then I'm sure this is a good one, just don't believe you are saving money on a whole solar system.

So has anyone bought these plans and tried them out?  I'd be interested to see if they were at least helpful and if you knew what you were getting yourself into.

***Update - I've done a more in depth analysis of products like Earth4Energy in my Renewable Energy Scams post.

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Why are we listening to a solar panel sales person, tell us how bad building them your self is? Seriously, the guy or gal is trying to make a buck and I would not ask them for advice, since that advice will always be "give me your money"
There are many claims on the internet promising you the world. The internet has become such an integral part of the world that some people ignore the world outside. Go speak to a local solar panel installer like the article says and have them describe the process to you. If they are really nice, they will tell you if its possible to do it yourself. But think about it, if you could really do it yourself, would it be really possible for the industry to be growing and as big as it is. Installing a solar energy system does not only require a skilled solar panel installer, it also requires a strong background in electrical installation/engineering and mathematics respectively. Most contractors pour over electrical plans for many days with years of experience behind them before getting on the roof. This article gives many all too hopefuls the truth. Keep the dream alive and hopefully we will all be free of foreign sources of fossil fuels.
ckmapawatt's picture
Great comment. It's possible to build and install solar panels yourself, just like it's possible to make your own medicine from chemicals. But just because something is possible, doesn't mean it is safe.
I bought the Earth4energy scam and learned all the important details that make up the solar power or turbine generated system. I actually enjoyed the instructions on building a panel using recycled cells. I am not very mechanically inclined and haven't actually built one but I do see how it is possible. This was a great introduction to the actual mechanics involved. Although, it is only through their updating emails that I was even led to this site.
I reduced the schematics for the wind turbin down to make a mini example for curiousity, It sits next to my chicken coop and runs all the power for lights and warmers for my chickens just great. It does not cut my present power bill, however, it is a power source I did not have before, and yes, I used things from around the house and off of an old auto to build it. It charges a car battery. My only out of pocket was the small 2 outlet inverter. $29.00....It was fun and the chickens are not complaining. lol
Earth4Energy is a complete scam - not a question about it. There are now enough people writing the details, to have them exposed - there is no reason to pay any money for DIY plans - all needed is available - general suggestions seems to be that you pay for what you get. I will not be trying to build one myself, but if you do - enjoy - it is not only about the money - hobbies are OK also - I play golf ...... For list of power factor correction and other scams - so many .....
That's crazy, I just went to this site looking up the $200 claim. I'm really glad I just read your post. I didn't even know there were solar scams out there.
I've made my first panel. 63 watts. It works. I learned what to do by watching Youtube videos. Mainly, I just wanted to know how to do it. It wasn't very expensive. Now, I can make more panels when I get spare cash. I'll expand my system over time with no financing to worry about. I'm powering PC monitors and some lights right now. I just need to expand my battery bank. I've made a small wind turbine, also, to help charge the batteries.
I beg to differ...get a quote?! yeah, we all know what that means. a huge investment! These plans are great for do it yourselfers. No its not a slap up on a weekend job and you do need more than one panel. go figure. I contacted my local electric company and the information was great, and THEY come put in the grey box. Anyway, I'm all for this, most people couldn't afford it otherwise. I give earth4energy a definite thumbs up. R
You've made excellent points. Thank you for pointing this out. There are numerous complaints on the web about these DYI solar systems. The materials they talk about aren't available at your local hardware stores either, and as you pointed out, it will take you a long time to make them. Installlation, too, is not as simple as slapping them on a roof. To get the most out of any panel, home made or not, they should be oriented and installed correctly. Also, keep in mind all of the rebates you get now when it's professinally and efficiently done. Oh yeah, and most manufactured panels are guaranteed for at least 20 years, but typically go for 30 plus. I say this because I love solar and what it can do now for the planet. It's affordable and you can get a free quote from a local installer, so there's nothing to lose to see how much it will cost you and save you over the 20-25 year warrenty period. And by the way, panel prices are now down to 2 bucks/watt--wholesale. So, unless you're a real hobbyist, if you want to go solar, just get it done right. You can read a lot about solar and its costs, as well as get a quote from Thanks again for questioning these kits. They really do promise much less than they deliver. Solar Fred.

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