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Installing Solar at Your Home

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by davecolene0606, May 20, 2014.

  1. davecolene0606

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    Hey all,
    Just upgraded our PV system to a SPWR 12KW system. Dual Inverters. We replaced our 6KW system (produced 63.2MW over 5 years) with the new one due to 2 MS and round 35k of driving and a 2700sqft home. So, system cost was 60k (hurricane standards in FL), so $5 pr kWh then FPL forked over 20k and another 20k from Fed tax credit and we donated the old system to a charitable organization for a deduction worth another 9k so 11k out of pocket. so $1.66 per watt for just the new system and adding back in costs for the old one we are still at $4.00 per watt.

    So last month, we drove our cars 3200miles and powered the house (FL 80degrees house temp 76) for $26.00 and this past month (85degrees,2950miles for $62.00).
    We are nothing short of thrilled, to say the least. The miles of the cars alone accounted for $420 in savings of what we would have spent on our former Toyota Highlander hybrid and Prius fuel bill alone.

    We you drive your car on the sun and power your home the numbers get very very compelling.

    Cheers!
     
  2. Lloyd

    Lloyd Active Member

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    Saw this today as new construction in Kauai. Photo does not do it justice..... The first is a panoramic view covering about 90 degrees from my vantage. This is about a 500+ acre solar farm done by Solar City. Very impressive!

    Solar city Kauai.jpg

    solar City.jpg
     
  3. ggies07

    ggies07 Active Member

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    damnit, I want to get solar panels for our home but the wife doesn't want to do a loan or get a long contract from SolarCity! Sorry, just had to vent. Anyone around the DFW area use someone local and get a great deal? Where should I start my search for local companies?
     
  4. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    What's your budget? Are you comfortable working on your roof? I've been fairly successful in the past mounting my own panels then hiring a electrician to pull the permit and do the final wiring. You should be able to do your own install for ~$2/w.
     
  5. ggies07

    ggies07 Active Member

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    #5 ggies07, Jun 25, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
    Well, we are pretty tight, but my wife has started getting bonuses every year between $5,000-7,000, so I thought with tax incentives from the utility and gov't, that it could be doable with one of her bonuses or save up two of them. She doesn't want to do a lease, so that's where my thinking is.

    I'm all about saving as much as possible on this, and would do it myself it I had exact details on panel and micro-inverter installation. I would not want the thing to fall off my roof. hahaha.

    SolarCity est. said I would need a 10KW system if I was getting an EV in the future to off set almost everything.

    Where would I look to buy the hardware from?
     
  6. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    For decent customer service and prices...
    http://www.civicsolar.com

    For a more "local" vendor to Texas...
    http://www.affordable-solar.com

    For ROCK BOTTOM prices on panels but kinda crappy customer service (helps if you speak spanish :wink:)
    http://sunelec.com

    I just installed a 10kW system on a friends house in Texas. The upfront cost was ~$18k. It's 13kW DC and uses an SMA 10000TL inverter. Went online March 4 and just hit 8000kWh a few days ago. Civicsolar has the best prices for inverters... I think you can get a 10kW SMA for ~$3k. Panels don't matter too much but if you're limited on roof space I'd go with higher efficiencies of ~16%.... and if you're worried about warranties go with BIG brands that have other divisions like LG or Hyundai. Racking is also easy... just don't try to use "uni-strut"... use racking designed for mounting solar. I think Iron Ridge is the cheapest these days. I didn't pay a lot of attention to grounding on my first install... BIG MISTAKE... even though the panels have aluminum frames and the rails are aluminum... there is almost ZERO electrical contact due to the oxide layer of the aluminum. Fortunately now there's grounding clamps you can buy. You definitely want a well grounded system especially in places where you get a lot of lightning.

    1941525_696515107066655_2106237050_o.jpg
     
  7. Theshadows

    Theshadows Active Member

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    Grounding isn't for lightning, it's so someone doesn't get killed with 400v dc if a ground fault occurs.

    If you are going to do your own system get some basic training. Heatspring is a decent site for online training.

    You also want top brand equipment. A well designed solar system will last 40-50 years. Don't try to go cheap.

    The extra you pay for a certified installer is worth it. Once you start dealing with the utility company and navigating their policies you will probably wish you had. You need to go through the paperwork process with the utility and the inspection process with your local permitting agencies. Many local permitting agencies are also requiring an engineer certification on your roof members to make sure they can support the extra weight too.
     
  8. drees

    drees Active Member

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    Yep, please, please, please make sure you have proper grounding installed. It's not clear that you went back and fixed the issue using either WEEBs or grounding lugs.
     
  9. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    #9 nwdiver, Jun 25, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
    Installing a PV system isn't rocket science... I agree 100% that you need quality components but the inverter is IMO the most critical. I've used Sovello, Suntec, Suniva, Evergreen and Astronergy modules... not much of a difference. They're all built to similar standards...

    When doing my research on grounding there's a lot of disagreement on lightning but one thing they have in common is the importance of having a common ground. I never said the ground wasn't also to protect you from 400vdc... but you would need several failures in the right or wrong areas (depending on perspective) for that to happen... lightning is an ever present threat in Texas.
    http://www.nmsu.edu/~tdi/pdf-resources/A%20Critical%20Look%20at%20PV%20Module%20Grounding2.pdf (page 5)
    http://www.civicsolar.com/resource/solar-arrays-and-lightning-protection

    From what I've seen and read Lightning protection is like wearing a seatbelt.... sometimes it just won't matter... but sometimes it does...

    I agree that the PROS do a better job but there are limits... when I installed my 8.4kW array in WA 3 years ago I got quotes of ~$50k. I hired an electrician and did most of the work myself for $26k. If you hire an electrician to advise, do the final wiring and inspection the quality may not be "Solar City" level... but it'll last as long and it's probably worth the $15k you'll save.

    Yep, all finished and inspected SAT... now I use these;
    7.IronRidge.jpg
     
  10. ggies07

    ggies07 Active Member

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    damn, there's a lot involved with picking the right hardware choices...I would hate to buy the wrong things. Since I'm in the IT field, I would love to take a course on solar because I like to know how things work and come together, but I just don't have the time. I guess I'll just have to wait it out a little longer and find a company to install some. Thanks for the input guys, I'll probably read up on all of this little by little as time goes on.
     
  11. JRP3

    JRP3 Hyperactive Member

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    I'm surprised no one offers a DIY kit with all needed components and instructions.
     
  12. bollar

    bollar Disgruntled Member

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    There are a few. Bluepacificsolar.com sold me my parts (17kW, 68 panels), engineered drawings and instructions. Roughly 33K, compared to the best responsible bid well in excess of $100K. Still, while its not rocket science, it is a big project. It took us 120 hours in labor over seven weeks to get it done. Because of the way my town issues permits, I was required to do the entire project myself -- I would have liked to have subbed out a couple of parts of the project (installing mounts on a 10/12 roof; final electrical connection, for example), but I was able to complete the project, exceed code, pass inspection, and actually look better than the less reputable bids.
     
  13. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    Agreed; The 10kW project on that shed was ~100 man-hours. The hardest part was drilling ~144 holes in the metal roof... HOLY CRAP THAT SUCKED!! I went through 3 or 4 drill bits. Composite roofs are SOOO much easier. Still, we saved nearly $20k... $20k/100hrs = $200/hr... I'll take that :) AND... call me crazy but I thought it was fun...

    Don't be too intimidated... go on a solar tour in your area... see how some of the other systems are installed, people that have solar LOVE to talk about their systems; Pick a good inverter (I like SMA);
     
  14. Cosmacelf

    Cosmacelf Active Member

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  15. lolachampcar

    lolachampcar Active Member

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    It MAY also be worth considering point inverters. I went this way because-
    (1) real time reporting on the performance of each panel. If there is a problem, I know where to look.
    (2) shading only takes out one panel (or the number actually exposed to shading).
    (3) voltages are kept low (DC).
    (4) I do not have to balance roof area with serial string requirements.
    (5) I can add to the system easily.
    (6) I only need one 220V junction box of which I had one on my roof from a previous package AC installation. Wiring was thus stupid simple.

    Down side is cost and the potential for reliability issues as you have more inverter points of failure.
     
  16. bollar

    bollar Disgruntled Member

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    #16 bollar, Jun 26, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2014
    You're just down the road. You're welcome to come by and check out our array. Or, DFW Solar Tour is October 4, and you'll have probably 50 homes around the metroplex to visit.

    We're on PVOutput, so you can see our real-time production & consumption. There are pictures there as well -- just look carefully at the line of options under the graph: House of Grue 17.000kW | Live Output

    You might also want to look at North Texas Renewable Energy Group -- there are several installers who are members and who participate on their mailing list. Otherwise, they are a good source for solar info up here.

    finsihedsw_med.jpe
     
  17. ggies07

    ggies07 Active Member

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    Awesome, much appreciated. Thanks! I might take you up on that....I'll def. check out those links.
     
  18. green1

    green1 Active Member

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    My understanding is that the other major disadvantage to this approach is that it makes energy storage systems very difficult if you want to do that in the future... (and considering that the majority of my electric bill is NOT from power I've actually consumed, finding ways to eventually get off grid is very appealing.)
     
  19. Theshadows

    Theshadows Active Member

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    The other thing you need to do if you are installing on a roof is to get two safety harness kits and trained on how to use them. You will have lots of little things sticking up out of your roof that are hard to see and tripping is a real concern. We have had 3 instances where safety harnesses have stopped someone from getting hurt. Never do roof work alone.

    Also please do not try to carry panels up a ladder. If it is two stories you will need safety training on how to use a lift and will need to rent one.
     
  20. green1

    green1 Active Member

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    While I agree that safety is paramount, and that you shouldn't just try to carry up a ladder, there are cheaper ways then getting training on a lift and renting one. two people and some rope can do wonders.
     

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