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Tesla Solar Panel - My experience in Los Angeles

M3SRdude

Member
May 16, 2019
33
12
Los Angeles
Hi all,

After reading the responses in the my other thread, I bit the bullet and ordered the panels, on 9/15/20 evening. I ordered a 4kW system, when I really wanted a 6.8kW system (20 panels). The next day I sent in all the photo requested. Tesla generated a panel layout within an hour of my submission, and having been warned about bad experiences, I was not surprised when the layout was had half of the panels in the NORTH facing roof. Arghh.

So, I emailed my advisor saying I'd like to have this layout below where the majority of the panels would be facing west (8 panels) and South (7 panels), although the panel is spread out and need to be installed on multiple planes of roof.

Solar Layout Tesla 4.png

I know the west facing roof planes should be able to hold 4 panels each (for a total of 8 west facing panels) because Sunpower came by and did an actual walk through and proposed this:

Solar Layout Green Convergence.png
also, the sunpower panels are only maybe 1 inch longer than the Qcell ones that Tesla uses, so I don't think that should be that big of an issues.

So then Tesla came back with this proposal (see below), where they only bothered to put 3 panels facing west, 6 facing south, and the rest on the East facing roof.

Solar Layout Tesla proposed 2.PNG

I've tried to call my advisor a few times, and I cannot get a hold of him or a call back. Only very brief email responses.

Have you guys have any luck in trying to reach someone to talk to and get the panel layout you want?

Also, they keep on wanting me to sign off and move forward to permitting already? What the heck? Is this because there is a software automated process or are they actually that pushy?

They also wanted me to sign off a form saying that the HOA would be okay with everything, and it is up to me to deal with the HOA. I just found out my HOA won't meet again until 10/12 to review the solar plan. Does that mean I have to put off installation until I get an approval from my HOA? This is a single family home that I own and the entrance of the door is on the North side so the panels are really hard to see from the street anyway.

I would appreciate any and all opinions and suggestions
 

SoCal Dave

Member
Jul 30, 2020
414
311
California
Different installers go by different setback policies. Tesla seems to have stricter setback rules than other installers I spoke with. How does the estimated solar production compare between the different versions Tesla created?

You need to have HOA approval prior to install. Since you are in California, there isn't much the HOA can say other than suggest location of the panels and conduit as long as it doesn't significantly increase the cost or lower output. Since your panels are on the backside of your house, they probably won't say anything at all.

When I requested approval from the HOA, I included a drawing with the wording that it was a proposed placement and would possibly change by the city or onsite conditions. This avoided me having to go back to the HOA if things moved around. Our Architecture Review Board signed off without issue including the proposed placement wording.
 

M3SRdude

Member
May 16, 2019
33
12
Los Angeles
Different installers go by different setback policies. Tesla seems to have stricter setback rules than other installers I spoke with. How does the estimated solar production compare between the different versions Tesla created?

You need to have HOA approval prior to install. Since you are in California, there isn't much the HOA can say other than suggest location of the panels and conduit as long as it doesn't significantly increase the cost or lower output. Since your panels are on the backside of your house, they probably won't say anything at all.

When I requested approval from the HOA, I included a drawing with the wording that it was a proposed placement and would possibly change by the city or onsite conditions. This avoided me having to go back to the HOA if things moved around. Our Architecture Review Board signed off without issue including the proposed placement wording.

Thanks Dave, that's a great idea. I'll make sure I include that disclaimer in my drawing.
 

GHTech

Member
Jun 28, 2020
92
33
Granada Hills, CA
Hi M3SRdude,

If you want a bigger system, you can tell them so, and they will try. I really needed only a 6 - 6.5 kW system. I ordered the 8.16 kW system, and asked them to reduce. They did. But, I thereafter decided that paying the $2K extra to get the bigger system (8.16 kW) at this time makes more sense and much cheaper than trying to add later on. They made the change, and I also added the 2 Powerwalls. My 8.16 kW PV and 2 PW were installed on Sep 1st. LADBS has approved the permit, and am waiting for LADWP to issue the PTO.

Regards,

GHTech
 

kennyb03

Member
Sep 11, 2020
19
8
Southern California
M3SRdude,

Did they actually send you an updated layout the same day you asked for a change??

I asked for a change (moving 6 panels) and my advisor told me it would take 2-3 weeks. Currently 10 days and counting...
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Nov 28, 2018
8,115
8,975
Riverside Co. CA
They also wanted me to sign off a form saying that the HOA would be okay with everything, and it is up to me to deal with the HOA. I just found out my HOA won't meet again until 10/12 to review the solar plan. Does that mean I have to put off installation until I get an approval from my HOA? This is a single family home that I own and the entrance of the door is on the North side so the panels are really hard to see from the street anyway.

I would appreciate any and all opinions and suggestions

If you want to do things "correctly" you will need to wait not only till 10/12 for your HOA to review the plan, but also until they give you approval, which could be up to 30-45 days later, depending on the HOA. They cant tell you "no" but they can request changes if they dont like something... and if you install before they approve, they could theoretically fine you etc. Might want to read your HOA CCR documents (covenants, conditions and restrictions I think it stands for). Its basically a big packet of information from your HoA that says what you agreed to when you bought the home in that HoA.

Most dont read the, but I read mine completely a couple different times so I would know exactly what it said. It normally also has the defined process for fines ,etc in there as well.

I wouldnt recommend taking action before you have HoA approval, although people do stuff without HoA approval all the time.
 
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trautmane2

Member
Jul 13, 2019
226
153
Leesburg, VA
Hi all,
Does that mean I have to put off installation until I get an approval from my HOA?

As others have mentioned, it's safest to wait for HOA approval before installing anything. However in many cases, other upstream parts of the process can continue without HOA approval. It took me 6 weeks to get HOA approval for my solar glass install. I wondered if that delay might have caused delays in scheduling my install, but the install scheduler explained that the HOA paperwork did not hold anything else up in my case. He said that the only time HOA approval becomes an obstacle is in districts that require it as part of the permitting process. I'm guessing it is safe to let things move forward until you actually get called to schedule your install - then you can determine whether the timing will work.
 

mnsweeps

Member
Aug 3, 2019
555
135
Los Angeles
yes you need HOA approval for the plan. Tesla does ask you for the approval letter. You want to handle these initially during the process else you may be stuck or project delayed for weeks just for this letter.
 

SMAlset

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2017
8,971
9,612
SF Bay Area
My HOA doesn't meet that often (guessing quarterly or every other month maybe?) but we have an architectural committee that our managment office sent our application to and they were able to approve it for the HOA within a week or so and get quick board approval. Everyone is WFH and guess they email back and forth a lot inbetween the regular meetings. A number of people in our association have solar on their homes so sure they have been through it before and probably don't want to hold up homeowners with this unless there is something that really catches their attention that needs further review. A bit different than making other architectural changes that they would want to review and discuss first. Call your management company if you have one if you haven't already and maybe you'll get lucky with timing like we were. BTW we had just missed our HOA meeting so were afraid it was going to take a while for approval.
 
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SoCal Dave

Member
Jul 30, 2020
414
311
California
My HOA doesn't meet that often (guessing quarterly or every other month maybe?) but we have an architectural committee that our managment office sent our application to and they were able to approve it for the HOA within a week or so and get quick board approval. Everyone is WFH and guess they email back and forth a lot inbetween the regular meetings. A number of people in our association have solar on their homes so sure they have been through it before and probably don't want to hold up homeowners with this unless there is something that really catches their attention that needs further review. A bit different than making other architectural changes that they would want to review and discuss first. Call your management company if you have one if you haven't already and maybe you'll get lucky with timing like we were. BTW we had just missed our HOA meeting so were afraid it was going to take a while for approval.

Ours was a similar process. Took about 3 days to get the approval on solar, new paint colors and removing a wall.
 

M3SRdude

Member
May 16, 2019
33
12
Los Angeles
Hi M3SRdude,

If you want a bigger system, you can tell them so, and they will try. I really needed only a 6 - 6.5 kW system. I ordered the 8.16 kW system, and asked them to reduce. They did. But, I thereafter decided that paying the $2K extra to get the bigger system (8.16 kW) at this time makes more sense and much cheaper than trying to add later on. They made the change, and I also added the 2 Powerwalls. My 8.16 kW PV and 2 PW were installed on Sep 1st. LADBS has approved the permit, and am waiting for LADWP to issue the PTO.

Regards,

GHTech

Hi GHTech,

I asked them to change to a 6.8 kW system, and they did. Supposedly this produced 9600kWh per year. Last year I used only 7600kWh. However, I just installed a heat pump to replace my old AC with gas furnace. I only replaced one of my two systems though (one for each floor). I made an estimate how much natural gas I used during the winter (that would be the natural gas used by both upstairs and downstairs furnace), then converted to kWh I would consume using the heat pump, and that came out to be 1700kWh. I hope SCE would be okay with that, because they may only allow a system smaller than 6.8kWh. I think there's a rule where they allow only up to 120% of trailing 12 month usage. We'll see.
 

M3SRdude

Member
May 16, 2019
33
12
Los Angeles
M3SRdude,

Did they actually send you an updated layout the same day you asked for a change??

I asked for a change (moving 6 panels) and my advisor told me it would take 2-3 weeks. Currently 10 days and counting...

Hi Kennyb03,

Within hours of my submitting the initial info they requested, the made a Customer Layout. It's pretty fast, and it's also a really poor layout with half of the panels facing north. I initially asked for a 4kW system, and on the same day I asked to increase the size of system to 6.8 kW, and asked them to move all the panels to facing east, west, or south, and they actually did it the next day.

However, they only put 3 panels facing west, as opposed to 8 panels facing west. So I asked to have them redo the layout, and I emailed my advisor. But they didn't change the layout. However, my advisor keeps asking me to sign the customer layout, so I did, because of this phrase that says "At the beginning of installation, the Tesla crew lead will discuss with you the exact location based on your preference and install feasibility."

Is it a mistake to assume that I can change the layout again?

The crazy thing is, the same day I signed the layout, I got a text saying the permit is issued!? That doesn't make any sense because I haven't even signed that HOA form that Tesla wants me to sign yet.

I still haven't been able to actually talk to my advisor. He does respond to email, very succinctly though.
 

M3SRdude

Member
May 16, 2019
33
12
Los Angeles
yes you need HOA approval for the plan. Tesla does ask you for the approval letter. You want to handle these initially during the process else you may be stuck or project delayed for weeks just for this letter.
Hi mnsweeps,

Yeah I haven't signed the HOA letter from Tesla yet until I get an approval from my HOA.

I too live in the SCV, and I've been reading about your install experience.

Did you have any luck changing the layout AFTER you signed the initial customer layout document? I emailed my advisor multiple times about my preferred panel layout, when he responds he just keeps telling me to sign it as is. I just really hope I didn't commit myself to that layout I signed. That document also stated "At the beginning of installation, the Tesla crew lead will discuss with you the exact location based on your preference and install feasibility," so I'm hoping I can change again later.

I think you also mentioned in your other threads that they didn't submit for permit until an actual site inspection right?

It's weird. I haven't even signed my HOA letter, and I got a text saying they got the permit. Although when I went to the Tesla website, it says they're still in the process of obtaining the permit.
 

SoCal Dave

Member
Jul 30, 2020
414
311
California
I discussed changing my layout when the install team arrived. My lead was fine making changes, but wanted the plans updated. So they would pull off, have to get the plans redrawn and resubmitted to the city. As the changes were to make the installation easier, I didn't bother and had them move forward.

Others have had installers make field changes with them not reflected on the plans. Just depends on the lead you get

My installer did tell me you can ask to have the lead walk the job in advance. That might be a good time to propose changes. Before 5 guys show up with two trucks filled with gear.
 
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GHTech

Member
Jun 28, 2020
92
33
Granada Hills, CA
Hi Kennyb03,

Within hours of my submitting the initial info they requested, the made a Customer Layout. It's pretty fast, and it's also a really poor layout with half of the panels facing north. I initially asked for a 4kW system, and on the same day I asked to increase the size of system to 6.8 kW, and asked them to move all the panels to facing east, west, or south, and they actually did it the next day.

However, they only put 3 panels facing west, as opposed to 8 panels facing west. So I asked to have them redo the layout, and I emailed my advisor. But they didn't change the layout. However, my advisor keeps asking me to sign the customer layout, so I did, because of this phrase that says "At the beginning of installation, the Tesla crew lead will discuss with you the exact location based on your preference and install feasibility."

Is it a mistake to assume that I can change the layout again?

Hi M3SRdude,

Based on the final design I was supposed to have 7 south, 4 west and 13 east facing. When they came to do the install I asked the lead if he could move more panels from the east facing to the south or the west facing. He said that he will try. But, when the crew started to measure things out, they found the roof overhang wider than anticipated. The lead discussed with me, and the only way was the reduce some on the south and west facing. So, the final design was 5 south, 3 west, and 16 east facing. They called it in, and the plans were updated to reflect the final change while they did the install.

As I am with LADWP, the new layout still works fine for me.

Regards,

GHTech
 
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BrettS

Active Member
Mar 28, 2017
2,109
2,512
Orlando, FL
However, they only put 3 panels facing west, as opposed to 8 panels facing west. So I asked to have them redo the layout, and I emailed my advisor. But they didn't change the layout. However, my advisor keeps asking me to sign the customer layout, so I did, because of this phrase that says "At the beginning of installation, the Tesla crew lead will discuss with you the exact location based on your preference and install feasibility."

I think the exact location quote is more about electrical panels and inverters than solar panels on the roof.

I don’t think it’s likely that will be likely to easily change the location of multiple solar panels on the roof on install day. If you really want the panels in a different location you need to get them to update the drawings before the install happens.

I know that some jurisdictions (like mine) require the panel layout to be shown in the permit application, so if they have already applied for and received the permit with that particular panel layout that might be one reason why they could be hesitant to change it. It is still possible to change it and update the permit though.

There are also some jurisdictions that don’t care about the panel layout for the permit, so it’s easier to get things changed after the fact in those locations.

Additionally, it’s also worth noting that there are a lot of rules and restrictions on panel layouts in some jurisdictions. For example, much (or maybe all) of California has fire code setbacks for panels that prevent panels from being placed within 3 feet of some of the roof edges and rooflines. So even though when you’re looking at the panel layout it looks like they could fit more panels in a certain spot it’s possible that the panels can’t go there because they won’t meet code. I haven’t seen your drawings, so I don’t know if that’s something you’re running in to here, but it is a possibility.
 

mnsweeps

Member
Aug 3, 2019
555
135
Los Angeles
Hi mnsweeps,

Yeah I haven't signed the HOA letter from Tesla yet until I get an approval from my HOA.

I too live in the SCV, and I've been reading about your install experience.

Did you have any luck changing the layout AFTER you signed the initial customer layout document? I emailed my advisor multiple times about my preferred panel layout, when he responds he just keeps telling me to sign it as is. I just really hope I didn't commit myself to that layout I signed. That document also stated "At the beginning of installation, the Tesla crew lead will discuss with you the exact location based on your preference and install feasibility," so I'm hoping I can change again later.

I think you also mentioned in your other threads that they didn't submit for permit until an actual site inspection right?

It's weird. I haven't even signed my HOA letter, and I got a text saying they got the permit. Although when I went to the Tesla website, it says they're still in the process of obtaining the permit.


I did make one layout change initially during first week of my order and surprisingly that went quickly. I ordered on 7/28. Everything else went downhill after that. The first permit they applied with L.A County was rejected 3 times. In fact the first permit didn't even have the 2 powerwalls I ordered so Tesla cancelled it and applied a second permit with all details on 9/11. LA county rejected the second one also and now waiting for Tesla to submit the corrections. Its been frustrating .. I will PM you my cell number as you live in SCV too. I am surprised you got a text saying permit approved. Not sure how thats possible when you have not submitted esigned documents including the changes you want in layout. Must have been an error.
 
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brucet999

Active Member
Mar 12, 2015
2,679
1,489
Huntington Beach, CA
Hi all,

After reading the responses in the my other thread, I bit the bullet and ordered the panels, on 9/15/20 evening. I ordered a 4kW system, when I really wanted a 6.8kW system (20 panels). The next day I sent in all the photo requested. Tesla generated a panel layout within an hour of my submission, and having been warned about bad experiences, I was not surprised when the layout was had half of the panels in the NORTH facing roof. Arghh.

So, I emailed my advisor saying I'd like to have this layout below where the majority of the panels would be facing west (8 panels) and South (7 panels), although the panel is spread out and need to be installed on multiple planes of roof.

View attachment 589347

I know the west facing roof planes should be able to hold 4 panels each (for a total of 8 west facing panels) because Sunpower came by and did an actual walk through and proposed this:

View attachment 589346
also, the sunpower panels are only maybe 1 inch longer than the Qcell ones that Tesla uses, so I don't think that should be that big of an issues.

So then Tesla came back with this proposal (see below), where they only bothered to put 3 panels facing west, 6 facing south, and the rest on the East facing roof.

View attachment 589349

I've tried to call my advisor a few times, and I cannot get a hold of him or a call back. Only very brief email responses.

Have you guys have any luck in trying to reach someone to talk to and get the panel layout you want?

Also, they keep on wanting me to sign off and move forward to permitting already? What the heck? Is this because there is a software automated process or are they actually that pushy?

They also wanted me to sign off a form saying that the HOA would be okay with everything, and it is up to me to deal with the HOA. I just found out my HOA won't meet again until 10/12 to review the solar plan. Does that mean I have to put off installation until I get an approval from my HOA? This is a single family home that I own and the entrance of the door is on the North side so the panels are really hard to see from the street anyway.

I would appreciate any and all opinions and suggestions
Is it too late to cancel?
This stupid layout of theirs sounds like what Solar City proposed for me; all panels on east-facing roof in an area well known for marine layer fog/overcast half of mornings of the year.

I got SunPower panels from Semper Solaris. SunPower panels offer highest efficiency, least degradation, and their Mexico and Philippines factories are certified environmentally conscious operations, so I knew I would not be reducing pollution locally by increasing pollution somewhere else in the world.
 

SMAlset

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2017
8,971
9,612
SF Bay Area
If there are deviations from your filed plans at time of install, they will do a final permit submission before inspection. That’s where we are now, app says permitting once again, and we received an email indicating this.

When the install team arrived my husband had asked if our southwest panel layout could be slightly modified (this was suggested as time to ask the lead installer when he was up on the roof). They were able to make the change. Not sure if they did it exactly as my husband asked but we were able to get I think one panel moved from southeast to southwest roof section and my husband was happy about that. The lead did confirm the change with home base prior to making it. I could see how changes might affect the wiring of optimizers for our panels and while we only had one inverter for our layout some people I know have theirs split among two or more.

We also expect changes to our 3-line diagrams such as the removal of our NGOM after receiving waiver for it. Not sure if our ultimate placement of equipment on the opposite side of our garage will affect the filed plans due to length of wiring, conduit etc used. That’s all specified on your line diagrams as well. Would be the same with increase or decrease of number of solar panels and parts needed. Guess we’ll find out the changes made when we get the final diagrams. But I can see why there might be some delay in updating the plans after install and wrapping up everything prior to the utility reviewing everything with their engineers before issuing the PTO.

If you are just in the pre-layout design phase, I'd suggest starting off by asking your advisor to ask the design team to maximize the number of panels in your desired roof orientation to cut down on requesting a redesign, but know there are other factors in play than just fitting panels on the roof section.
 
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SMAlset

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2017
8,971
9,612
SF Bay Area
I don’t know all the considerations that go into placement of panels but would think the amount of year-round solar production would be a consideration especially with back up batteries available. If you’ve been on battery power overnight, you’ll probably want to start charging as soon as possible I would think come daylight. Depending on your roof pitch and house’s N/S orientation wouldn’t it be somewhat desirable to have some power being generated earlier in the morning as well?

I know from studying the actual sun and shadows cast by our house over a number of months when planning our landscaping that the NE side of our yard gets sun early on until mid-afternoon. On our diagrams this NE side was considered as well as it was marked on the plans with pitch etc info but ultimately not used. Since we went with a 24-panel purchase and the panels were all able to be placed on the SE and SW roofs, it likely would have only been used if we increased our panel quantity. Our house orientation did give us some morning sun production.
 
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