For several years, I have toyed with the idea of installing my own solar array. In that time, I have done a lot of reading and research. I have eyed systems on Amazon, Wholesalesolar, and Ecodirect. I finally purchased 4 panels after getting bids from several places and installed them on my roof. This was my "pilot" project. A proof-of-concept to show my wife that it wasn't that difficult, I could do it, and it would save money.

I finally convinced her it would be a worthwhile project to add 24 ground-mount panels in late fall of 2016 because 1) The $2000 state tax credit has a high likelihood of getting phased out in 2017, 2) I found a very reasonably priced source for panels and inverter, and 3) February is close, so the tax credits would be received with the tax return in just a few months.

I outline the steps I followed here in case others can benefit from lessons learned.

This kind of project is not for everyone. You are dealing with high voltages and/or currents. Things have to be designed and installed correctly as there is a risk of damage to property and lives. I am an electrical engineer and I have a brother-in-law, co-workers, and a beekeeper friend who are electricians. This is not a requirement, but was very helpful. The equipment used must be UL-listed and meet building code requirements. The power company requires a building permit to ensure everything is done correctly. For example, a back-feeding inverter could electrocute a power company employee working to repair downed power lines. If you are a DIYer, have your plans reviewed by someone who knows what they are doing!

Another excellent Instructable on the basics (a little more generic than mine) is located at https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Home-Solar-Pl...

If you like my project, please Vote for it!

If you are interested in pursuing a project and would like to speak to my "solar guy", send me a private message through Instructables and I will pass on his contact info.

Step 1: Planning

I had considered adding more panels to my roof. I even laid out how many and where my panels would go. But there are disadvantages to filling up your roof with panels (replacing shingles). There are advantages to a ground-mount system -- snow removal is easy and by utilizing a manual tilting system, my "solar guy" says I can produce 1 MegaWatt more per year than a similar roof-mounted system. This would require manually changing the angle several times a year - 0 degrees in summer, ~30 degrees in spring and fall, and 60 degrees in the winter (for Utah).

The disadvantages to a ground mount system as I saw at the time were the distance involved, which increased the voltage drop and required larger wires and additional cost. I would also need to trench ~400 feet.

<p>Excellent instructable, one of the best I've read. I have 60 230w panels sitting in my garage and was trying to figure out if they should go on the roof or ground and I think you've just helped make that decision for me! How is the voltage drop effecting your system? I would also have about a 400' run and that was a big concern for me. Thanks for this great write-up!</p>
<p>My 24 255W panels have a combined output of 6120 watts. I regularly reach 6100 watts on a sunny but cold day. The voltage drop so far has been minimal. The larger the cable, the lower the drop. My 4 gauge aluminum wire is working great. I was worried once that I would break the cable when I was pulling it. But I got through that and have had no problems. If you use aluminum cable, just be careful working with it and be sure to use the antioxidant paste on it.</p>
<p>I was confused that Unistrut wouldn't meet the &quot;grounding&quot; requirement, being steel and all; but I suspect it's more complicated than that. I see a copy of the UL code would cost $502 in PDF format, so I wasn't interested enough to find out. </p><p>In Germany all this red tape has been standardized, and it costs much less to put in systems there. </p>
<p>Unistrut is UL467 certified. But the 2014 electrical code requires solar power systems to meet UL2703. But someone's roof isn't UL2703 certified. Someone's garage or barn surely isn't. What is the difference between that and a Unistrut structure? I was going to use UL2703 certified Iron Ridge racking. Still, it would have required additional cost for the engineering. The cost difference wasn't going to be that much. Rather than argue about it, I just moved on.</p>
<p>What you have is simply an AHJ who doesn't really fully understand the meaning of the code requirement. He is simply covering his rear end. This is common, because most AHJ's are just former electricians. They know how to be an electrician and wire a house or a motor, but they don't know the basics of how electricity really works, and so are unwilling to allow anything outside of code even when the code is irrelevant. Frankly, the grounding requirement was probably inserted into the code by a company representative working for a company that provides racking as a way to ensure people had to buy their racking to meet code rather than just cobble together their own rack however they saw fit. About 3/4 (and this is probably low) of the people who get together to write the code are either academics who have never wired anything, or special interests of some sort with something to sell. This is why we have the arc fault requirement on new wiring, even though if it is really useful anywhere it is on really old wiring where the insulation is degrading over time, and a ground is not even present as a safety measure. At any rate, it is best to never argue with the AHJ, just nod politely and say &quot;yes sir&quot; and do what he wants. I've been told by more than one contractor to do something bone headed to get it past the inspector, and the &quot;go back and make it right later&quot;.</p>
<p>Very nice article. Thanks so much for the behind the scenes details. Also the article about solar making the grid go negative was very insightful. Can you imagine making 99% solar power and only 1% from a generation plant. If a surge on the grid were to cause a frequency shift by 0.5hz, all the solar inverters would go off line all at once. Loads would be shed, cities cut off... and once the grid was stable again, bam all the solar inverters come back on line 5 minutes later all at the exactly same time, exactly the same cycle and the grid trips out. From there it's a nasty repeating event. It would seem prudent for the manufacturers of the grid tie inverters to randomize the time they wait for a grid OK signal.</p>
<p>You are not wrong. Currently those big fossil plants have a ton of what is called &quot;spinning reserve&quot; which can resist frequency fluctuations. Without significant storage penetration the practical limit of solar that can be absorbed is maybe 20-25% before thing start to go haywire really quickly.</p>
Absolutely great article did business with solar, found hybrid inverters most economical, power suppliers will go bankrupt once every home begins stotage, companies biggest worry is that
<p>I install Solar for a living, and this is a damn good write up.. I personally would have gone with a 4x4 instead of a 2x6 layout as the SnR ground mount rails are made for 4 panels and that would have resulted with less holes. I also would have gone with a SolarEdge inverter over SMA (or enphase as 240v x 450' = huge wire), as the code requirement for rapid shutdown is built in (thought not required on ground mounts), not an extra piece of equipment.</p><p>SnapNRack is some good stuff, we use it on every ground mount.</p><p>I do not see a knifeblade (firesafety) disconnect, does your AHJ not require that?Our AHJ's don't allow for breakered disconnects.</p><p>Please forgive the shading, as this picture was taken about 5:30pm long after the solar window..</p>
<p>Thanks for the positive comments. Micro-inverters are a great product. But the string inverter was a better choice in my case because of the distance involved and I got a great deal.</p><p>It was pretty frustrating trying to deal with the AHJ on the rapid shutdown, because I did a ground-mount and I don't think it should have been required for my ground-mount system. But mounting it on the outside of the house was an OK compromise.</p><p>The circuit breakers do count as the disconnect. No knifeblade required from my AHJ. I did have to label the breaker as a rapid shutdown disconnect.</p><p>The neighbors behind me wouldn't have appreciated the height of the structure if I had done a 4x4. And I like my neighbors. I want them to like me. So 2x12 worked fine, even if more holes was a pain. The SnR is a nifty design. It went together easy. I just wish I wouldn't have had the ordering issues with them. A lot of that wouldn't have been an issue if I built these things regularly and knew what I was dealing with. </p>
Solar Edge with DC Optimizers is what I meant, keep that high voltage DC. Instead of optimizing the 2 strings you have, it optimizes at the module level with still (in your case) 2 strings running back to the inverter.<br><br>Yeah the Rapid shutdown isn't required at the array for ground mounts by my AHJ, only if high voltage DC goes INTO the house, needless to say we mount outside with ground mounts. The Rapid Shutdown is for DC wires only, your breaker box is acting as the Fire Safety Disconnect. If they flip the breaker you still have high voltage (+50VDC) DC to the inverter (of course that DC disconnect is right there as well), only leaving high voltage DC underground to the array, which is no big deal.. <br><br>Ya know, I didn't think about that. Where I am is most likely much further south, as we aim for 22 degree's tilt. You seem to be closer to maybe 30 degrees?<br><br>Again, awesome job, certainly not for most DIY'ers. We spend a lot of time going behind DIY'er arrays to bring up to code since AHJ's fail it, and lock out/tag out it.
<p>Also, as a side note.. Do you have any kind of monitoring system with that? Like an eguage, SMA still hasn't built one into the inverters. Or are you just looking at the screen everyday to see production?</p><p>And for anyone else interested in Solar please use dsire to make sure you take advantage of all incentives you can.</p><p>http://www.dsireusa.org/</p>
<p>I did buy the data logger card for the inverter. It is installed, but I have yet to run an ethernet cable to it. It hasn't been a priority. I've been too busy at home and at work. One method of monitoring is the monthly electric bill. I'm still waiting for January's. I can also look at the net meter each day.</p>
<p>Excellent!</p><p>This is the most detailed and informative treatment for installing solar panels. I was in the process of getting bids for an installation but the article convinced me that it would not be appropriate.</p><p>Thanks.</p>
<p>What is appropriate for one person would not for another. For me, it wasn't worth going through the process unless the system paid for itself. But if you believe in human-caused global warming, then you might be able to argue that the cost is a secondary factor in deciding to install solar.</p>
<p>Very good article ! Actually we can <a href="http://batteryrecover.com" rel="nofollow">recondition batteris at home </a></p><p>Thank you Kyle and Jennifer ! :)</p>
<p>I can sell you a 26kWh battery pack</p><p>Its from a crashed 2015 Fiat 500e</p><p>Battery pack is made by Bosch</p><p>gdrozd@gmail dot com</p>
<p>The timing isn't right for me. I'll look at doing something in a year or so. Thanks for the offer.</p>
No problem. Ill probably still have it :)
<p>I can be reached at theaton1@yahoo.com</p>
<p>How much are you asking for those batteries?</p>
<p>Do they need to be &quot;excercised&quot; regularly?</p>
They are happily charged at 65%<br>Thats what they like
I will definitely do it here in Zimbabwe where we sometimes have electricity.
<p>wow, what a project for a DIYer. However, would it have been affordable without the tax breaks? My sister makes a load of money from a roofload of panels, great, but in reality everybody elses taxes are paying her that money so it's not fair.</p>
<p>With an $11,300 cost, if it saves me $1500/year in electricity, that is a 7.5 year payback without the tax credits. I think that is still reasonable. I would still have ~20 years of free power. Your sister probably pays interest on the loan she took out to pay for the panels and had an expensive install because she didn't install the panels herself. Certainly without the tax credits, her project wouldn't be economically viable (and may not be with the tax credits). I have gone back and forth personally about whether or not I should take the tax credits. Personally, I don't think the government should subsidize solar. But then again, I pay a lot of taxes myself. And I will still pay a lot of taxes even with the tax credits. The Cabela's up the road from me received a very generous tax incentive to build. Is that fair? No. Many internet-based vendors don't require the payment of state sales tax. Very unfair to brick-and-mortar stores. There are many more examples of unfair tax policy. I think the government subsidies should probably go away for solar and a whole host of other things. But while they are there, I do plan to take them.</p>
<p>Good points. I like to think that the government propping up solar, at least for a while will be helpful in the long run. It pumped a lot of money into the solar industry to allow for more efficient/cheaper panels to be developed. This moves the solar industry closer to being self sufficient when the government finally does decide to stop helping. It also has the effect of getting many more people to reduce their demand for oil and allows us to buy less oil from other countries, and/or save our own oil resources for a longer period of time. I also like the fact that it allows people like you, to have more control over certain aspects of their lives if they choose to. It feels good to know you don't need the utility company to survive. You may need them for extra comfort and security, but that's about it. Nice instructable!</p>
<p>I am all for solar, but this misconception that solar somehow replaces oil needs to stop. Unless you live on a small island in the Caribbean, the South Pacific, in a remote cabin somewhere with a generator, or somewhere in Southeast Asia, electricity is not generated with oil. Solar does nearly nothing to reduce the demand for oil, which is a necessary raw material used to make components of a solar system and is not used to generate electricity. The idea that solar will allow us to import less oil is pure fallacy until the day that electric cars, electric trains, electric airplanes, electric ships, and electric trucks exist and are a significant portion of the transportation fleet (where these do exist they depend on fossil fuels or nuclear power to generate electricity today). </p>
<p>The primary motivation for my project was not environmental, but economic and self-sufficiency. The particular model of Sunny Boy I have has &quot;backup&quot; power capability. It has a separate outlet (not connected to my home) that will produce up to 1500 Watts of electricity I can use to power things during the day. But what you say is quite true. Here we get most of our electricity from coal and natural gas, so rooftop solar does reduce some CO2 production.</p>
<p>lets get back on subject...what should a person pay forpanelor flexible panels and where to buy How about buying from china?</p>
<p>The guy I bought from was pretty reasonable cost-wise. The price trend seems to be on the decline. Many of the panels on the market are made in Asian countries. Where are you located? Are you thinking about installing a solar system?</p>
<p>I don't remember reading anything here about anyone thinking solar is the end-all be-all. But I'm not sure how you can argue that the author of this post isn't personally going to be reducing his own demand for oil for about the next 20 or so years. Heck, just look at his story about his &quot;solar guy&quot; using it for just about everything, including his car. Solar is currently only a tiny fraction of our energy generation. But the longer it continues to improve, the better chance it has of becoming a bigger piece of the energy market.</p>
<p>You said this, which is what I replied to: &quot;getting many more people to reduce their demand for oil and allows us to buy less oil from other countries&quot;</p><p>You do not seem to get that oil is not used to generate electricity except in minor and exceptional situations. Solar should be a bigger piece of the energy market, but its presence is irrelevant to the need for oil. I did not argue that the author was not making a valuable contribution, but did argue with your mischaracterization and misunderstanding of the energy market. </p>
<p>Not sure where you live, but where I'm from we use giant tanks of oil to heat our homes. I literally burn oil for heat and hot water every day. So whether or not the oil is used to generate electricity, I can stop using oil if I heat with solar instead. So my &quot;misconception that solar somehow replaces oil&quot; is not as much of a misconception as you'd like to think.</p>
<p>carbonates, You are right, little baseload electricity is generated using oil. Thus most solar comparisons cite # of homes powered, not oil offset. But since solar is the <strong>cheapest</strong> source of energy in a growing number of US locations, you might like more up to date info. A reliable site for all things solar worldwide is <a href="http://www.solarwakeup.com" rel="nofollow">www.solarwakeup.com</a>. Also, since we are now hearing a lot about cars, buses, trucks, cities, and even countries power by renewable electricity. A great and reliable site about all that is <a href="https://cleantechnica.com" rel="nofollow">https://cleantechnica.com</a>, including cars, HVAC and others.</p><p></p><p></p>
<p>electric cars, electric trains, electric airplanes, electric ships, and electric trucks DO exist and hydroelectric and solar power are significant sources of energy.</p>
<p>My primary motivation was economic. As you say, I love having a little bit of extra comfort and security.</p>
<p>The government also gives the oil industry huge tax subsidies. I really don't like my tax dollars going to prop up companies like Exxon Mobil etc. The vast majority of US tax subsidies go to very large corporations. I find it only fair that the government should offer subsidies to average citizens like us. This is especially true when reducing our use of fossil fuels is vital to our very survival. I realize that locally produced, point of use solar is only a partial solution, but it is still a valuable one. Particularly in area's like the northeast. We live in NH and with the high electric rates that we have here, our 8.2 KW solar system that we installed in 2015 generates closer to $3,000 per year. This includes our ability to sell renewable energy credits (REC's) through a regional broker who &quot;collects&quot; the combined total of power generated from individual solar producers, like us, and sells the REC's quarterly in a regional market. We then receive a check from the broker for our share based on our total, not net, production. We have a separate REC meter that keeps a running total of our solar production prior to going into the net meter from the power company. I don't know if they have programs like this in the west but it might be worth looking into. </p>
<p>You are so right about subsidies -- </p><p>www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/oil-subsidies-renewable-energy-tax-breaks https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-12/fossil-fuels-with-550-billion-in-subsidy-hurt-renewables</p>
<p>Very interesting. Nothing like that here.</p>
<p>It would be nice if you posted specifics of panels and components used in the project. Thank you.</p>
<p>I added the models of the panels and inverter in the building permit step.</p>
<p>Getting a tax incentive for having a PV array is not unfair to others. If anything there should be more incentives for people who spare others having to breathe in the CO2 that it takes to create the energy they spend. While you may think its not fair for those who pay taxes, its not fair that those who strive to save the air still have to breathe other's pollution.</p>
<p>I figure everyone has the same opportunity to take the tax credit. They could all install a system just like me. It is fair in that sense. I don't really want to get into a political discussion, and Instructables has a nice comment policy, so I want to be positive and constructive. I don't personally feel like CO2 is a pollutant. If you could ask the plants, they would argue it is an essential nutrient.</p><p>Anyway, thanks for the comments and discussion.</p>
<p>what is the batteries up keep like ,how long do they last , how much do they cost. ive been trying to get solar for ever something always gets in the way , im disabled from a motor cycle crash and can seem to hold a job im slower then other people and depressed most of the time needless to say its hard to get moneys saved up to get solar.i need to find the best way to do this myself ,people just dont gave a dam about sucking the planet dry it seems to me .solar energy ..i feel.. should be at the top of the list and truning salt water into freash water lol another story.the govt should have kicking free solar stuff ,now and a long time ago!geuss what im asking is whats the best way to get hooked up for a guy like me.YOU AND YOUR WIFE ARE GREAT PEOPLE...gary thornton</p>
<p>I haven't researched batteries much. If you want to get hooked up with solar, do the research and move ahead if it is worth it to you.</p>
<p>p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 18.0px Helvetica}<br>span.s1 {font: 16.0px Georgia; font-kerning: none; color: #323333}</p><p>I live in the Canaria Islands where the sun always shine. As an engineer I might copy this project. However I have enemies, politicians. The bureaucracy level is high and we have to pay a &rdquo;solar tax&rdquo;. If we don&acute;t do the things according to the book, there is a fine up to 60 million Euros. </p>
<p>I don't doubt that there could be fines here if someone is caught doing something they weren't supposed to. Some cities and towns or counties are more lax than others. Good luck if you decide to move ahead.</p>
<p>Dude, you RULE!</p>
<p>In my house, my wife rules. Seriously though, it was a fun project and even though it was a lot of work, there is some cool factor to the whole thing.</p>

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Bio: We have 3 boys and homestead a whole acre. We grow a big garden each year and have ~3 dozen fruit trees.
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