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Arizona - Solar Panel + Powerwall Install Experience

aswami

Member
Feb 12, 2021
54
24
Phoenix
Documenting my experience installing 8.16 kw solar panels and two Powerwalls in Arizona. Hopefully, this is helpful to someone.

Summary: Few avoidable mistakes that were quickly corrected. Over-all very positive experience. Great people to work with.

Ordering: Ordered on Nov 30, 2020. My friend who ordered just a couple days before me saw a message online that if the install was delayed beyond Dec 31, 2020 and the 26% federal tax credit dropped to 22%, Tesla would make up the balance 4% by giving a discount. I didn't see that message when I placed my order. Customer support and my project advisor couldn't promise me that discount. Project advisor said she had escalated it to a manager. After a couple of weeks or 10 days, they told me that they will give me the 4% discount. Ultimately it was a moot point because the federal government retained the 26% tax rebate for the next couple of months.

People experience: Unlike a lot of horror stories I read, almost everyone I interacted with in Tesla was very helpful and prompt in replying. My project advisor cheerfully worked with me on everything I requested, and usually replied back to me within 24 hours. Email was the best way to reach her. Phone was unreliable. The local contractors (Icon Power) were also great, although my entire install took a full 7 days to complete everything. Whenever there were small issues to be fixed, the local contractors were quick to reach out to me, quick to come onsite, quick to fix. After reading all the horror stories of bad experiences of others, I felt very lucky.

Project pace: My friend who ordered solar panels only just a couple of days before me in late Nov 2020, had their install and PTO in mid Feb. My install was somewhat delayed. Not sure why. I thought may be because I also included Powerwalls. Tesla was very prompt in keeping the ball rolling on the design and permit process. I don't think Tesla slowed anything for me, except once. I saw them respond to emails, submit paperwork even on Saturdays. City of Phoenix and the APS, the local utility, were also equally prompt in completing their tasks. In fact, the longest I had to wait was to actually get my HOA approval. The actual approval letter that they said was already in the mail never ever reached me. Had to call them to have a copy emailed to me.

Detailed project schedule, all events, including errors and corrections:

Nov 30, 2020 - Placed order.

Dec 1, 2020 - Sent in all my paperwork, got approved for the loan.

Dec 1, 2020 - Received first version of design and accepted / approved it.

Dec 4, 2020 - Realized the design had been done for my neighbor's roof! Requested to have it updated for my roof. To my surprise, they wanted me to take a picture of the front elevation of my house and send it to them so that they can ensure they do the design for the right house! The revised design put all 24 of my panels on the South-facing roof. The estimate of my annual production capacity increased by almost 1000 kWh. The previous design made for my neighbor's roof had some of the panels facing West.

Dec 5, 2020 - Realized that my laundry dryer and cooking oven were not included for Power Wall back up. My cooking range was included though. Asked Tesla about it by email.

Dec 18, 2020 - Tesla sent an email confirming that they will give me 4% discount if the tax credit reduced to 22% in 2021. Tesla also emailed me asking for my house purchase contract since the county records showed someone else as the owner of my house! Turns out, they were looking at the wrong house!

Dec 19, 2020 - Tesla submitted for City of Phoenix and APS (local utility) permits.

Dec 23, 2020 - APS utility approval received. Reminded Tesla about my design question from Dec 5th.

Dec 29, 2020 - Tesla replied back to my design question. They basically told me to choose any two of the following 4 for Power Wall backup: cooking range, oven, AC, laundry dryer. They said two Power Walls were not enough to back up all of them. I chose the cooking range and the AC, as included in the original design. Still don't understand why I have to choose! I explicitly asked Tesla if the Power Walls would still support EV charging and they said they would.

Dec 29, 2020 - Tesla never explicitly asked for a copy of the HOA permission letter. However, my project advisor asked me to get it, just in case. Submit requested on the HOA website for the permit letter. Sent a copy of the Tesla design.

Jan 11, 2021 - Called City of Phoenix and learnt that my permit had already been emailed to Tesla. Wrote to Tesla to check about it.

Jan 13, 2021 - Tesla project advisor mentioned that they were waiting for some internal status update and loan department approval before proceeding to the next step. This is the only time when Tesla caused a delay. I am not sure when they received the City's permit and how long they sat on it. But I don't think it was too long because I was checking with the City almost every day.

Jan 15, 2021 - My install is scheduled for March 5, 2021.

Feb 3, 2021 - Noticed in the design that EV charging back up was not mentioned anywhere. Also, the inverter brand was not mentioned. Wrote to my project advisor to ask about it. Project Advisor replied back to say I am getting Delta inverter and that my EV charging will be backed up if I already have it. What? I don't have a Tesla car yet nor do I have any EV charger installed. I requested the project advisor to give the new Tesla inverter and also to ensure that the EV charger will be backed up. I decided to install the Tesla Wall charger, although I don't have a Tesla car yet, just so it would be backed up by the Power Wall!

Feb 11, 2021 - Tesla updated the design to include the Tesla inverter and also to back up EV charger.

Feb 11, 2021 - I read in these forums that there is no sales tax for solar equipment in Arizona. I checked my loan contract and noticed a line item for tax. Contacted my project advisor and received a new loan contract the same day with the tax line item taken off. #1371.70 saved!

Feb 18, 2021 - Finally got the HOA approval letter by email after repeated follow-up. They claim that they sent the printed copy on Jan 21st! I never got it.

Feb 22, 2021 - Got an email from Tesla requesting me to confirm my mailing address on the account so that they could send me the referrer check of $400 for my friend's solar install, which was turned on on Feb 11th.

Feb 26, 2021 - Tesla called to check if my install could be moved to March 1, 2021.

Mar 1, 2021 - Install day! Install was handled by local contractors Icon Power. 24 solar panels and Power Walls went up quite quickly. However, they said more work was left. They would complete the next day.

Mar 2, 2021 - Day 2. Almost everything was completed. But they had installed one large switch in my garage. The Tesla QA person who visited my site said it needed to be moved outside so that the utility people could have access to it. One disappointment - I noticed today that the roof-top conduit connecting the panels to the inverter is very long and visible on one side of the roof. They could have easily installed it in the attic. Kicking myself for not asking them about it in advance. Too late to change now.

Mar 3, 2021 - Day 3. Almost all install tasks are completed. There is a piece of dry wall that was cut out to connect wires to the new sub-panel in my garage needs to be repaired. Found that part of the dry wall behind my Tesla Wall charger was broken. The Tesla QA guy was kind enough to unscrew and reinstall my Tesla Wall charger in a better location.

Mar 4, 2021 - Day 4. Dry wall repair completed. Icon Power schedule the Fire Dept inspection for Monday, Mar 8th and the City of Phoenix inspection for Tuesday, Mar 9th. I was surprised how quickly they were scheduled for.

Mar 5, 2021 - Day 5. Some other last bit of pending work was done this day. I forget what it was... All in all, it took a full 5 days for them to complete all install tasks.

Mar 8, 2021 - Fire inspector didn't show up as scheduled! Surprised.

Mar 9, 2021 - Fire inspector showed up first thing in the morning so that she could finish her inspection before the City inspector came later. Fire inspection failed! There was to be a safety device installed in the garage that would detect smoke or fire, and set off the smoke alarms inside the house. That was missing. Icon Power came in the same day and installed the fire / smoke detector quickly, connecting it to my indoor smoke alarms.

Mar 10, 2021 - Fire inspection passes.

Mar 11, 2021 - City inspection passes.

Mar 15, 2021 - Tesla submitted revised design documents (changed Delta inverter to Tesla inverter) to APS utility for approval.

Mar 18, 2021 - APS approved revised design documents. Tesla requested for final utility inspection and meter set.

Mar 19, 2021 - Utility inspection didn't pass. Some of the labels on the outdoor equipment, switch boxes do not literally, exactly match the design document submitted to APS! Whaaat? Icon power person comes the same day, gets on the call with the APS person, and while they are both on the call, they agree on what additional labels are required and they put them up.

Mar 22, 2021 - Tesla submitted once again for final utility inspection and approval.

Mar 23, 2021 - Utility inspection didn't pass again! The wires in two of the switches - one for the storage meter and another for the solar meter - had the wiring switched. APS person called Icon Power person, and requested to have it fixed immediately so that he can return back later in the day and finish the inspection and meter set. Wow! Talk about customer service. Icon Power person came within the hour, he called the APS person who also reached there... they both agreed on what needed to be fixed and fixed it. Utility inspection passed, meters were set and my system was turned on. Uh-ho... Icon Power person found that one of the two "strings" was not showing power production. He said he would come the next day. It's been a cloudy day and I see very less power generated for half the day, but it already offset all of my electricity needs today.

Mar 24, 2021 - Icon Power guys came first thing in the morning, and spent 1.5 hours on the roof. Turns out the connections between the panels were not right. They fixed it, and turned the system, and everything worked okay now. I also got a notification from the utility that PTO has been provided. First full day of generation. Tesla app shows 372% energy offset as of 715 PM and 5 kWh exported to the grid today! Woohoo!
 

aswami

Member
Feb 12, 2021
54
24
Phoenix
Continuing my Arizona experience... if you are a customer of APS (largest utility in Arizona), it is a no-brainer to get solar. APS is probably one of the friendliest utilities for solar.

Firstly, they have a renewables department that is very efficient in processing solar permits. I am talking 1-3 days tops, although officially they say it can take up to 10 days.

Secondly, APS buys back excess generation at 10.45 cents per kWh. You can lock in that buy back rate for 10 years if you install solar before Sep 30, 2021. This much better than many of the net metering programs other utilities offer.

And here's the kicker - APS has a residential service plan for which BOTH on peak and off peak kWh prices are LESSER than the excess generation buy back rate of 10.45 cents per kWh, in BOTH summer and winter! That service plan has a demand (kw) component to it which can easily be managed with solar. Is there any other utility in the country that pay you higher to buy back solar power than what it charges you for your consumption? I highly doubt it.

The APS field crew guys who came by to inspect my setup and install the meters were very friendly and helpful. The first time they came by for inspections, not only did they tell me what was missing, they had a couple of phone calls with my installers to explain things to them and walk them through how to set things right. The second time the APS crew member came by and found the wiring reversed on a couple of switches, he himself called the installer and had him come out to fix it quickly. Then, the APS crew member came by a second time on the same day to install the meter and get me all setup. I couldn't imagine that kind of customer service from anyone. For sure I thought he would simply leave and my PTO would be delayed a few more days. Any other utility would probably have done that.

Sincere kudos to APS and their team! Also, shout out to Icon Power, the installer that Tesla contracted out to for being very responsive and quick.
 

wwan0003

New Member
Mar 26, 2021
1
0
Phoenix, AZ
Great post! Thank you for sharing your solar system experience! I had SolarTopp installed my system in 2018. Unsure they charged me the sales taxes or not. I guess it is too late to revise. Where do you find that Arizona solar system waived information?
 

aswami

Member
Feb 12, 2021
54
24
Phoenix
Great post! Thank you for sharing your solar system experience! I had SolarTopp installed my system in 2018. Unsure they charged me the sales taxes or not. I guess it is too late to revise. Where do you find that Arizona solar system waived information?

Not sure I fully understand your question. My loan agreement included a line item for $1371.70 tax. After I read a post in this forum and contacted my project advisor, they revised the loan agreement and removed that line item.
 

SMAlset

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2017
8,856
9,453
SF Bay Area
Congrats on the system and PTO! I have a question in reading this day's account:

"Mar 9, 2021 - Fire inspector showed up first thing in the morning so that she could finish her inspection before the City inspector came later. Fire inspection failed! There was to be a safety device installed in the garage that would detect smoke or fire, and set off the smoke alarms inside the house. That was missing. Icon Power came in the same day and installed the fire / smoke detector quickly, connecting it to my indoor smoke alarms."

People here in the SFBay area are having code changes requiring a hard wired system with heat sensor in the garage. What unit got installed in yours?

Nice review and should give people waiting some idea of steps that happen and also situations that can come up. I have to say the guys in your area provided great service from installers to utility and inspectors. Not everyone gets so lucky, but it gets done with some patience. I wonder if the signage was due to changing up of some of the equipment and placement. Our solar panel changes were correctly reflected and they showed our equipment inside our garage but we wondered if it should have been shown on the opposite garage wall which is where we asked it to be placed and had more room.
 

aswami

Member
Feb 12, 2021
54
24
Phoenix
Congrats on the system and PTO! I have a question in reading this day's account:

"Mar 9, 2021 - Fire inspector showed up first thing in the morning so that she could finish her inspection before the City inspector came later. Fire inspection failed! There was to be a safety device installed in the garage that would detect smoke or fire, and set off the smoke alarms inside the house. That was missing. Icon Power came in the same day and installed the fire / smoke detector quickly, connecting it to my indoor smoke alarms."

People here in the SFBay area are having code changes requiring a hard wired system with heat sensor in the garage. What unit got installed in yours?

Nice review and should give people waiting some idea of steps that happen and also situations that can come up. I have to say the guys in your area provided great service from installers to utility and inspectors. Not everyone gets so lucky, but it gets done with some patience. I wonder if the signage was due to changing up of some of the equipment and placement. Our solar panel changes were correctly reflected and they showed our equipment inside our garage but we wondered if it should have been shown on the opposite garage wall which is where we asked it to be placed and had more room.

Yes, they did install a hardwired heat sensor in the garage that is hooked up to the smoke alarms inside my house. If the sensor goes off, the smoke alarms inside the house start beeping too.

The labels thing was rather silly. The design that Tesla made had certain names for the various components shown in the circuit diagram. The design also had a separate section which listed all the labels that they would put on the equipment. The labels did not literally match the circuit diagram. For example, the circuit diagram labeled the Powerwall meter as "ESS Bi-directional Production Meter". The actual label they put on the meter was "Storage Meter". They are not a literal match, but they do mean the same thing. The utility wanted as close of a match as possible to avoid errors / risks.

Yes, I do feel that I got lucky with all the people involved, including the Tesla project advisor, the Tesla guy who submitted the permit requests, and everyone else. Despite having good people, few small errors and issues were not avoided. It is still not a 100% fool proof system.
 

Zerozep

New Member
Mar 28, 2021
2
0
Arizona
This was very helpful, I’m trying to get this done in Avondale with SRP, my question is where did they put your power walls? I understand once they reach 120 degrees they stop working so sometimes they go in the garage? My issue is I turned my garage into a game room and I’m not sure I want to huge batteries in there giving me cancer? lol i don’t know
 

aswami

Member
Feb 12, 2021
54
24
Phoenix
My Power Walls are in the garage. I did not even consider putting them outside. Like most garages in AZ, mine is not insulated. So, the temperature even inside the garage is going to be quite high in peak summer.
 

SMAlset

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2017
8,856
9,453
SF Bay Area
This was very helpful, I’m trying to get this done in Avondale with SRP, my question is where did they put your power walls? I understand once they reach 120 degrees they stop working so sometimes they go in the garage? My issue is I turned my garage into a game room and I’m not sure I want to huge batteries in there giving me cancer? lol i don’t know

if your City/Fire department consider your garage gameroom as “living space” you may not be getting any PWs installed there. Definitely against code where I’m at and a number of people on here have encountered the garage-living space issue.
 

Zerozep

New Member
Mar 28, 2021
2
0
Arizona
Thank you for the reply, I was afraid of that but yes my garage is very much insulated and walled off even. may have to just go with solar and skip on batteries. Have you read about what anyone else has done in phx?
 

lil12002

New Member
Apr 7, 2021
2
0
Santa Clara
My Power Walls are in the garage. I did not even consider putting them outside. Like most garages in AZ, mine is not insulated. So, the temperature even inside the garage is going to be quite high in peak summer.
Hows the batteries going? whats the savings on your power bill?
 

lil12002

New Member
Apr 7, 2021
2
0
Santa Clara
My Power Walls are in the garage. I did not even consider putting them outside. Like most garages in AZ, mine is not insulated. So, the temperature even inside the garage is going to be quite high in peak summer.
hows the power company savings after the battery install? I have a 5 KWH solar power setting in a 3 bedroom home but its just 2 people.
 

aswami

Member
Feb 12, 2021
54
24
Phoenix
Hows the batteries going? whats the savings on your power bill?

Not received the first bill yet, but I expect my utility credit to offset most of my solar loan payment! My per kWh cost from the grid is cheaper than what they pay me for excess solar generation. So, I am motivated to sell as much solar power as I can to the grid.

I have set my Powerwall to supply only 5% of stored energy to power the home. Most of my on-peak time is powered by solar. After solar generation stops, I pull in battery power until they are down to 95%. After that, I pull in from the grid.
 

Kcarver

Member
Aug 17, 2020
21
9
Gilbert AZ
I put my 3 PW in garage because I didn’t want them outside in direct sun. I received my first full month utility in March and it was $11.73. Only reason it wasn’t negative was due to the $32.44 monthly service fee SRP charges. I over produced enough to offset two thirds of fee. April may offset all of it unless need to start using AC more toward end of month.
 
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