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 Earth4Energy.com. 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.