Category: Install of the Month

Install of the Month – February 2019

Install of the Month – February 2019

Our February Install of the Month winner is Greg R., a gentleman from New York who was engaged in his solar project from start to finish and truly a delight to work with!

Greg started exploring the possibility of going solar to offset the astronomical cost of electricity in New York (which is a whopping 50% higher than the national average). The prospect of helping the environment by switching to clean energy was an added bonus for him.

After local solar installers quoted him prices that were far higher than he was willing to pay, Greg came to Wholesale Solar looking to source the equipment directly. As a handyman with a penchant for DIY projects, he figured he stood to save some money by building his system himself.

In the end, by completing the entire installation himself (including the electrical hookup), Greg got his system built for less than half the price he was quoted by the local installers.

Greg’s background as a seasoned DIYer really shines through in the photos he sent us. Everything about this build is crisp and clean.

The panels are expertly racked on his roof without any wasted space. He also did an amazing job installing the conduit for the wires that connect the panels to the SMA inverters, PV rapid shutdown switch, breaker box and electricity meter that ties the whole system into the grid.

Here’s our full interview with Greg about what it was like to build his own system:

What solar system type did you install?

Grid-Tied

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

I was thinking about installing this system for a long time because it saves a lot of money and it is clean energy. I think it is more convenient.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

Yes, I’ve done handyman projects and have DIY experience. For example, I built a gazebo in my backyard. I will attach pictures for you.

(Editor’s note: the gazebo is really well done, here are some pictures he was kind enough to share with us!)

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

I think running the wires from the roof down into one tube. Even though the installation was difficult, in the end I feel accomplished and happy.

How many helpers did you have?

I had my friend to help me because it is always good to have another hand around because I needed help with carrying the panels onto the roof.

Did you hire a contractor?

No I didn’t.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

I got MC4 connectors and an MC4 crimper for the hookup.

How long was the full installation process?

This took 6 working days. I spent two weeks (on the project) from delivery to turning the system on.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

I am happy that I did the job myself and I am saving money and energy. I am also happy because this is one of the hardest projects I have accomplished.

Who else did you consider before choosing Wholesale Solar?

I spoke with a few local companies. I chose Wholesale Solar because I saved more than half on the project. If I would’ve chose the other local company it would’ve been too much money.

What was your total solar install costs? (Ball Park)

$26,500

How much did you save on your taxes?

30% on federal. I don’t know about state this needs to be checked with my accountant.

Components in Greg’s system:

Greg's Solar Breakdown:

  • System Cost: $26,500
  • Yearly System Output: 20,624 kWh per year
  • Total time to install: 6 working days
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $7,950 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility Rates: 18 cents/kWh

It’s Your Turn

Thinking about making the switch to solar? Download our Getting Started Guide. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about buying a solar energy system that covers your needs.

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Install of the Month – January 2019

Install of the Month – January 2019

Our latest Install of the Month comes from Darryl P. in Boerne, TX. Darryl came into this build with plenty of DIY experience, having flipped a few houses prior to this project, though this was his first time working with solar.

His aptitude for these kinds of projects was evident from the start, as he had clearly put plenty of research into his system design before connecting with Wholesale Solar to work out the kinks and put the finishing touches on his plans. That made life easy for Wil, his design tech:

“Darryl was a really nice client to work with. He basically came to me already knowing what he wanted to purchase and install. After some back and forth technical emails, Darryl was ready to hit the ground running. I appreciate the opportunity to work with DIY customers like Darryl, and help them navigate the technical aspects of system design and installation.”

Darryl spent over a year researching and building the system, balancing his first solar installation with other work that needed to be done on his properties. The project was not without its challenges and delays. He had to design a hybrid roof/ground mount to accommodate a large 34-panel system, and to anchor the posts in the ground, he needed a jackhammer to drill holes in the solid rock on his property. All in all, he estimates it took 140 hours to complete the highly-customized build.

One thing we love about this project is the clean wiring into the Enphase combiner with IQ envoy, which protects the system from the elements and simplifies the interconnection process. Here’s what Darryl had to say about the decision to go with the pre-wired envoy:

“Purchasing the combiner box with the envoy pre-assembled made bringing all the components together in a very professional & easy to use package. Even the utility coop inspector was impressed with the look of the combiner box & it’s plexiglass cover so he could review wiring without having to remove a cover exposing potential live wiring. Without this I probably would have ended up having to purchase a few junction boxes from a local home improvement store and it would have made for more work. Very pleased with the ease of access, quality construction & weatherproofing.”

Here’s the full interview with Darryl about the build process.

What type of solar system did you install?

Grid-tied

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

Staging a design to eventually be net zero and possibly off-grid.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I have flipped 2 houses prior to this project. A little experience in electrical, but no solar experience at all before this.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Digging post holes for ground mount racks, some places were solid rock and required use of an electric jack-hammer.

How many helpers did you have?

None, I installed the entire project solo, but after several months of research, planning and lots of questions to staff at Wholesale Solar, which was very helpful.

Did you hire a contractor?

No

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

None

How long was the full installation process?

This took over a year, but was not able to work solely on this project. I was working on other projects on a property we purchased. All said and done it probably took me 140 hours to do roof rack, ground rack, trench wiring back to service panel, wire everything per local coop requirements, mount inverters & panels.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

Great, especially on the 1st day it hit 55KWH and I only used 36, (with using heater too). Looking forward to the long days of summer to build up a credit for use next winter with my coop.

Why did you choose to work with Wholesale Solar?

Customer service, online reviews, staff knowledge and willingness to answer questions. If they didn’t know the answer, they were really good about stating that and getting back when they did get an answer.

Darryl's production in the first month of owning his system.
A snapshot of the production from Darryl's array in the first 27 days after he turned the system on.

What was your total cost to install solar?

16k before tax credit

How much did you save on your taxes?

$4,700

Components in Darryl’s custom system:

Darryl's Solar Breakdown:

  • System Cost: $13,660
  • Yearly System Output: 13,922 kWh per year
  • Total time to install: 140 hours
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $4,700 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility Rates: 9.87 cents/kWh

It’s Your Turn

Thinking about making the switch to solar? Download our Getting Started Guide. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about buying a solar energy system that covers your needs.

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Install of the Month – October 2018

Install of the Month – October 2018

October’s Install of the Month feature comes with a little bonus: video! This month’s winner Ryder M was kind enough to give us a quick tour of the 4.2 kW grid-tied system he built out in Petaluma, CA. Take a look:

Ryder started to consider solar because it “felt like the right thing to do,” and the financial incentives were enough to get him to take the leap. With local electricity rates a good 30% above the national average, Ryder’s system is sized to knock $988 off his electric bill on a yearly basis.

After taking the value of the federal tax credit into account, he’s looking at a 7-8 year payback period to recoup the up-front cost of his system. Since his panels are warrantied for 25 years, he’s got plenty of time to profit from his investment into solar.

Ryder had some past DIY experience remodeling his home, so he was more than comfortable hooking up his system himself. In spite of some complications during the inspection, he completed the build in one day and said it was one of the easiest (and most rewarding) DIY projects he has worked on to date.

With local electricity rates a good 30% above the national average, Ryder’s system is sized to knock $988 off his electric bill on a yearly basis.

Here’s what Ryder had to say about his project:

What type of solar system did you install?

Grid-tied

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

It felt like the right thing to do to as well as financially beneficial.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I’ve done a few DIY projects with varying degrees of success, kitchen and bathroom remodel as well as an addition that was a bit more involved. Installing this solar system was one of the easiest (& most rewarding) projects.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

When installing the roof racks, I used a high powered stud finder to locate the roof joists, however, the accuracy through the composite shingles was not as accurate as I’d hoped. I had much better results using the bottom of my fist to tap and listen/feel for the joist.

Not sure if this should be shared…I did have some difficulty with the SMA rapid shutdown device, and although I’m certain it was wired correctly, it did not start working properly until it had gone through a hard reset (removed power completely and then brought power to it). The main challenge was my inspector, who was certain that the SMA Sunny Boy 5.0 was made of plastic and therefore my metal conduit was not properly grounded. I lobbied and lost so I had to put ring grounding nuts on the conduit penetrations.

How many helpers did you have?

I had one helper which was more than enough.

Did you hire a contractor?

No, I did not hire a contractor.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

A chalk line was helpful in installing the IronRidge mounting system.

How long was the full installation process?

One day and the system was up and running offsetting 100% of my power usage.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

I was extremely happy with the installation process. Wholesale Solar made the permitting and installation process easy by being there to answer any questions I had.

Who else did you consider before choosing Wholesale Solar?

I considered using Tesla, however, I really liked the package designs from Wholesale Solar and feeling like I was part of the process.

What was your total cost to install solar?

I installed a 4.2KW system for less than $12,000.

How much did you save on your taxes?

$4,000.

Components in Ryder’s custom system:

Ryder's Solar Breakdown:

  • System Cost: $12,000
  • Yearly System Output: 6,338 kWh per year
  • Total time to install: 1 day
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $4,000 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility Rates: 15.59 cents/kWh

It’s Your Turn

Thinking about making the switch to solar? Download our Getting Started Guide for a crash course on how to buy a solar energy system that covers your needs.

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Install of the Month – September 2018

Install of the Month – September 2018

Congratulations to our September Install of the Month winner Luis M! Luis first got in touch with us back in the middle of 2017 to build a grid-tied system on his Spanish tile roof.

Luis lives in Covina, CA (near Los Angeles) where the cost of electricity is nearly 35% higher than the national average. Facing electric bills well over $250 during the sweltering summer months in Southern California, he was eager to run the math on solar energy to find out whether it was worth the investment in the long run.

When he did the math, he found that he would save $3,000 a year in electricity costs alone. After claiming the 30% Federal Tax Credit for investing in renewable energy, he knew it would cost around $12,000 to get a system built and installed.

That meant his investment would pay for itself in less than 4 years—pretty appealing, given the 25-year wararnty on the solar panels.

“At a 7% return, he figured that money was worth about $1,050 per year on the stock market. But it would return over $3,000 a year in energy savings. Even with the penalty for cashing out from the retirement fund early, it was worth it.”

Luis didn’t have the budget to buy the system outright, and he didn’t want to be on the hook for loan payments. So he did something a bit unusual: he pulled $15,000 from his retirement fund.

At a 7% return, he figured that money was worth about $1,050 per year on the stock market. But it would return over $3,000 a year in energy savings. Even with the penalty for cashing out from the retirement fund early, it was worth it.

Once he decided to pull the trigger, he had to figure out how to mount the system on his beautiful Spanish tile roof. For that, we set him up with the Quick Mount flashing system. Rather than cutting tiles to fit them for hooks, the entire tile is replaced with the fitted Quick Mount base.

Luis took a slow and steady approach to installation, working around the unbearable summer heat (made worse by his tile roof retaining heat). He was determined to complete the installation with his family members, which saved him about $4,000 in labor on the project. 

Once it was completed, the payoff was immediate: his first electric bill came out to negative $4.40, with the utility company owing him a credit for the surplus electricity he produced.

“[Finishing the project] felt good, but not as good until you get the first electrical bill: -$4.40. That was back in February. By the time it gets full sunlight hours, it should produce an extra 10% of electricity close to 950Kw this month.”

-Luis M.

Here’s what Luis had to say about his project:

What type of solar system did you install?

Grid-tied

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

It made a lot of sense to install a solar system by my self, not only for the savings in the electricity bill but it’s also great for the environment.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

Yes, but not in solar installations. I learned everything from the how-to videos on the wholesalesolar.com website.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

The summer heat, it was very hot on my tile roof.

I was also a little worried for the Santa Ana winds. I solved that worry by keeping the post separation to no more than three feet. Not that it was required, but just for peace of mind.

How many helpers did you have?

I only needed two people (family) on the actual panel installation. I didn’t want to drop one.

Did you hire a contractor?

Only for the actual final electrical connection from the inverter to the main panel. I did run all the conduit.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

At the end, I wanted to make sure I could monitor the whole system on the web, and I added a wireless link myself. Now I can check and monitor the solar system on my iPad.

How long was the full installation process?

Well, I added extra posts, I was in no rush. It took me six months for a 22-panel system. Let’s break it down: it took an average of 1 hour to install a post, times 48 post. Rails took about a couple of days, and panels two days this time with two people helping. Conduit and wires took a couple of days by my self. Then the final electrical was the electrician and their assistant.

The reason it took so long it was because of the summer temperatures and the tile roof. I had to replace the tiles I broke on the process. No big deal.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

It felt good, but not as good until you get the first electrical bill: -$4.40. That was back in February. By the time it gets full sunlight hours, it should produce an extra 10% of electricity close to 950Kw this month.

Who else did you consider before choosing Wholesale Solar?

I couldn’t afford to have my panels installed by a solar panel company. ( I had three estimates done). I also did not have any cash available.

What I did was, I took $15,000 from my Roth IRA. Let me break it down for you: that money makes an average of 7% a year on the stock market = $1,050. With my $15,000 solar system, it is going to create at least $250 a month, that’s $3,000.00 per year cash savings. I get $5,000 back from the government, that put the system at a cost of $10,000. Plus let’s add the penalty for cashing money out of your retirement, $1,500.00 in this case. Now the cost is $11,500, divided by $3000 a year of electricity savings. In 3 years 9 months, the system will pay for itself. In other words my investment of $15,000 is producing a 20% return on my money as I write this. By the way, after 3 years 9 months my system is going to give me net $3000 a year to put back in my IRA.

What was your total cost to install solar?

The solar system cost me around $13,000 at Wholesale Solar and around $2,000 for the extra help. That is $15,000. I calculated I did save about $4,000 worth of work myself.

How much did you save on your taxes?

A third, about $5,000.

Components in Luis’s custom system:

Luis's Solar Breakdown:

  • System Cost: $13,000
  • Cost of Labor: $2,000
  • Yearly System Output: 9,807 kWh per year
  • Total time to install: Estimated 80-100 hours over a 6-month timeframe
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $5,000 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility Rates: 16 cents/kWh

It’s Your Turn

Thinking about making the switch to solar? Download our Getting Started Guide for a crash course on how to buy a solar energy system that covers your needs.

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Install of the Month – July 2018

Install of the Month – July 2018

Albert “Stoney” Douglas first got in touch with us back in March to plan out a grid-tied system in Boulder City, Nevada.

Stoney is a seasoned DIY vet. Thanks to his experience with auto repair and home improvement projects, he felt confident he could take on a solar system installation as his next DIY project.

With the help of his wife Diana – and a creative pulley rig – they hoisted the panels onto their roof and put together the array themselves. The only outside help they needed for their solar project was an electrician to swap out the main electrical panel, which was built in 1975 and wasn’t fitted with a PV hookup.

Once the materials arrived, it took just 5 days of work (with breaks to avoid the sweltering midday heat) to install the system.

From the start, we got the feeling that Stoney was the type of guy who likes to do his research and come prepared. DIYers have an innate desire to understand their whole project inside and out, and Stoney is a perfect example of that. He clearly had a desire to learn the ropes of the solar industry, and had a great idea of how the project would shape up from the start.

So it’s no surprise that Mike, his system designer at Wholesale Solar, said he was super sharp and easy to work with:

“Stoney was a great customer from the start. He had a lot of great questions which I was happy to answer. Stoney was able to tell me how the panels needed to be placed on the roof to accommodate his A/C and roof vents. This was very helpful in designing the right system for them. He and his wife did a great job installing the system in only a few days. I am very proud to have been part of their project.”

They finally decided to take the leap when we ran our 15% off sale in April. Paired with the 30% federal tax credit, the system cost was feasible with their budget.

In total, they spent just over $20,000 on equipment and installation expenses, and received a credit of more than $7,000 to apply to their taxes this year.

Here’s some more info about the system, in Stoney’s own words:

What solar system type did you install?

Grid-Tied

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

Reduce electric bill and environmental impact.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

Home improvement, auto repair, will try almost any project.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Permitting and inspection.

How many helpers did you have?

My wife helped hoist and install the panels.

Did you hire a contractor?

Contractors were hired to replace the 1975 vintage main service panel which did not have breaker locations for the solar breaker. The roof was replaced before the solar installation as well.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Conduit, junction box and home run wiring from the roof to the inverter were not anticipated, my lack of understanding.

How long was the full installation process?

1 day running home run conduit and wiring, 1 day installing Flashfoot system and racking, 3 days optimizer and panel installation.

Days were largely early mornings and late afternoons as the temps in southern Nevada in June are over 100 degrees.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

Pretty neat to see the system producing energy.

Who else did you consider before choosing Wholesale Solar?

Checked several commercial installers and other online vendors. The April 2018 15% off sale and the Federal 30% total installation tax credit made the system feasible.

What was your total solar install costs? (Ball Park)

$20,123

How much did you save on your taxes?

estimated at $7387

Components in Albert and Diana’s custom system:

Albert's Solar Breakdown:

  • Time to install: 5 days, mostly mornings and evenings
  • Daily kWh output: 16-32 kWh per day, depending on season
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $7,000+ U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: Varies: different rate plan options and TOU rates in place
  • Average Monthly Utility cost: Varies: different rate plan options and TOU rates in place

It’s Your Turn

Thinking about making the switch to solar? Download our Getting Started Guide for a crash course on how to buy a solar energy system that covers your needs.

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Install of the Month – June 2018

Install of the Month – June 2018

Our June install of the month comes from Stacy M. He built a beastly off-grid system with 24 panels and 16 batteries to power his barn in Washington.

Mother Nature did her best to stall the project. After a snowfall, the cement truck got stuck in the snow, and he had to make trips back and forth with the backhoe to haul the wet cement. But with some perseverance (and maybe a little time off for some fishing while the snow cleared), Stacy got the system up and running like a dream.

All told, Stacy built a beautiful off-grid system and pocketed over $9000 in savings with his federal tax credit. Wil, our solar tech who helped guide Stacy through the process, had nothing but positive things to say about working with him:

“Stacy was one of the coolest customers I have ever worked with. We hit it off right away and it felt like talking to an old friend. We talked about his trip to go fishing in Alaska, and I told him about our local fly fishing scene. It’s awesome to see his system turned out so well.”

Here’s some more info about the system, in Stacy’s own words:

What solar system type did you install?

Off-Grid

How or why did you choose to go off-grid?

Power was too expensive to bring in 3/8 of a mile underground.

What kind of battery bank did you get?

This Crown battery bank with 16 Crown 6CRV390 batteries.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

No never.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Putting in the rack system in the middle of winter.

How many helpers did you have?

2 people sometimes, one at others, and sometimes just me.

Did you hire a contractor?

No.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

System parts were all there, I just had to borrow a torque wrench.

How long was the full installation process?

I started the rack in the middle of winter so it took the longest since I worked on weekends only and snow and 15-degree weather made it quite challenging while driving from Seattle to Spokane too.

Once racking got welded up, the panel insulation took only 4 hours to put up.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

It was a fantastic feeling to start up the inverter and charge controller and have everything work so smoothly, quite easy after watching the video on wholesalesolar.com.

Who else did you consider before choosing Wholesale Solar?

I searched several sites but liked the customer service I got from Wil and all the follow-up afterwards was great.

What was your total solar install costs? (Ball Park)

The system itself was right at $25,000, and probably $3,000 in mud and pipe and wiring.

How much did you save on your taxes?

I saved $9,000+ which was fantastic.

Components in Stacy’s custom system:

 

Stacy's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • Total Hours to install: 10+ hours, with delays due to winter weather
  • Daily kWh output: 16-32 kWh per day, depending on season
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $9,000 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: Varies: different rate plan options and TOU rates in place
  • Average Monthly Utility cost: Varies: different rate plan options and TOU rates in place

It’s Your Turn

Thinking about making the switch to solar? Download our Getting Started Guide for a crash course on how to buy a solar energy system that covers your needs.

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Install of the Month – May 2018

Install of the Month – May 2018

Defying Expectations with Tom M.

It feels great to prove your doubters wrong. Just ask our May Install of the Month recipient, Tom M.! He installed his DIY system for two and a half times less than what other solar companies wanted to charge him. Now, he’s free from the power company’s ever-increasing rates.

This month’s Install of the Month goes to Tom M and his large grid-tied installation in Albuquerque, NM.

When Tom started to tell people he wanted to go solar, they looked at him sideways. Albequerque has a long permitting process and strict electrical requirements. And he would face push-back from his Homeowner’s Association. But he knew the long-term rewards were worth the effort.

Tom didn’t plan on going the DIY route at first. He contacted a few local companies for quotes. But they tried to nickel-and-dime him on installation charges and wouldn’t customize the system to his liking. He soon got to the point where he knew that he would rather do it himself.

Tom contacted Wil at Wholesale Solar, who is also a New Mexico resident and familiar with local regulations. 9 days after he got his equipment, Tom had installed his own solar PV system.

When it came time for inspection, his HOA had to admit Tom’s work well exceeded their expectations. And the electrical inspector? They said it was the largest self-installed system they’d ever seen, and they’d never seen one done so professionally.

Interview with Tom

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

Saving money because of constantly increasing rates from the local electric company.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I am a self taught DIY’r. I have a great workshop and lots of experience in home repair and other projects.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

The most difficult part was getting the proper permits through the city. The building permit was just a payment, but the electrical permit required passing a city electrical test, following NEC 2014 rules, to allow work on my personal residence. I was also required to get a reroof permit due to the type of installation that I performed. The HOA also only provided a conditional approval since they didn’t feel it was possible for a self install to meet their requirements. However, it exceeded their standards and received compliments from all the neighbors.

How many helpers did you have?

Family helped by handing tools up to me on the roof, otherwise no additional assistance.

Did you hire a contractor?

I did not hire a contractor for any part of the installation

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

I needed engraved placards for outside labeling of the equipment. Due to removal of 9 pallets of concrete tile and lifting 34 panels up, a forklift was a helpful tool in getting equipment and parts up and down from the roof.

How long was the full installation process?

Total installation time was 9 days. The permitting process was over a period of 3 months. This time included removing concrete tile then re-roofing with asphalt shingles to protect the house under the panels. Due to the HOA requirements that no more than one foot of conduit be exposed, I put all penetrations under the panels to protect them. I also installed chicken wire around all 4 sides of both arrays to keep the birds out. Concrete tile was then replaced up to the edge of the arrays to make it look like the roof was tile. The arrays are embedded at a level no higher than the concrete tiles.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

A true sense of accomplishment, and a great feeling when the electrical inspector stated that he had not seen a self install system that large and one that had been done so professionally.

Who else did you consider before choosing Wholesale Solar?

CST Solar and Positive Energy in my city. But when they started charging for every little item and when they refused to install the way I wanted, I got fed up with them and decided to install myself. Their cost was two and a half times as much as what I spent.

What was your total solar install costs? (Ball Park)

$24,000

How much did you save on your taxes

$8,000

Components in Tom’s custom system:

Tom's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • Total Hours to install: 9 hours
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 19,200 kWh
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $8,000 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: Varies: different rate plan options and TOU rates in place
  • Average Monthly Utility cost: Varies: different rate plan options and TOU rates in place

The Full Story in Tom's Words:

We wanted to be the first in our neighborhood to have solar…

We started thinking about solar when we bought a nice 50 acre piece of property in eastern Arizona in 1998. The closest power was 9 miles away and cost prohibitive, so solar became the answer. Well, as with all things in life, the only constant is change. Having children, and a change in career that moved us overseas put the whole project on the back burner.

Over the years, the power companies continue to increase their costs, and our increasing need for more and more power has made us reevaluate things. 

Fast-forward to 2016, and life has started to settle down. Over the years, the power companies continue to increase their costs, and our increasing need for more and more power has made us reevaluate things. We still have the property in Arizona, but we are focused on daily life in our home in Albuquerque, NM.

One day while shopping in Home Depot, there was a sales representative from a local solar company. Out of curiosity I asked them to come out to the house for an evaluation and quote. I knew that we were going to be one of the larger residential systems that they would design to install.

COMPLICATIONS… AND A SURPRISE EXTRA $20,000 

We ran into complications. There were limitations from the power company, the city mandated that our system could be no larger than a 10kW grid-tied system and our the Home Owners Association said that the panels would have to be parallel mounted to the roof and be within 4 inches of the existing roof. Also we should have less than one foot of conduit exposed on the roof, and that there should be limited additional equipment installed on the outside of our house.

After taking some measurements, they came back to us with a quote of $32,000 to have a fully installed and completed system. We were also informed that Nusenda Credit Union was the only financial institution in our area that would provide loans for solar. It is refreshing to think that they see the potential and return on investment when this cutting edge technology is done properly. However, we did not need this service because we chose instead to pay cash. Our return on investment would be immediate for us.

We signed a contract from the solar company, and then came the change orders and additions. Because we were splitting the arrays between two buildings, they wanted to charge almost $5,000 for trenching and putting conduit in the ground. Additionally, the 75 foot run between buildings would cost almost $500 dollars for the two 10 gauge DC wires to be connected to the system. We were told that they would be unable to tie into the existing power panel, as it would need to be upgraded to a 200 Amp service. Our service at the time was 100 Amps. Finally, they said that they would need to outsource any roof issues to a roofing company.

The system that they designed for us would be 14 panels that would be pointed due south on the workshop, and 20 panels that would face due west on the house. The workshop was one string, and the house would have two strings of 10 each. In the garage, we installed two SMA grid tie inverters. By having 3.8k for the workshop, and 6k for the house, we would be below the 10k maximum imposed by the power company.

We originally had wanted a system that was enough for our total needs. When we showed them a one line drawing of how we wanted the system, they said they couldn’t do it that way because it would take too much effort to install and be cost prohibitive. I was sensing that we didn’t fit into their cookie cutter design and that they may not have installers that were skilled for this type of work. As the customer, we wanted it our way and were willing to pay the cost differential. After consulting with their designers, managers and technicians for 6 months of design, they gave us a new estimate for almost $52,000. Imagine the look on our faces when we saw the new cost and the return of investment changing to about 15 to 17 years. We politely asked them to leave after deciding it was time to pull the plug due to the cost and inability to work to our specifications.

After consulting with their designers, managers and technicians for 6 months of design, they gave us a new estimate for almost $52,000. Imagine the look on our faces when we saw the new cost and the return of investment changing to about 15 to 17 years.

At dinner that evening, we discussed the events of the previous months, and decided that I was handy enough, and should consider doing the install myself. The next day I began the long process of obtaining permits, and making drawings and designs. We looked for suppliers of equipment, and found Wholesale Solar. We had an idea of what we wanted, and with the expert assistance from Wil Burlin, we started the process on our own. It took two years to find a contractor that would agree upgrade the power panel to the house. Due to construction changes, a new underground feeder, meter can, main disconnect would need to be installed. While we were at it, we had them move the service panel into the garage so that we could have better access and would not have to go outside at night in the rain to check a breaker.

At dinner that evening, we discussed the events of the previous months, and decided that I was handy enough, and should consider doing the install myself.

 

CHOOSING DIY 

Now to the good part…. We contacted Wil again, and he still had our original specifications. With a few changes, we finalized the order. Within 3 weeks, we received our shipment. During those three weeks, we ordered all the additional items we would need for our custom install, and I also started the permit process. For several weeks we would be receiving packages containing heavy duty switches, wire, breakers, conduit, ground lugs, labels, roof flashings, and waterproof boxes, from UPS, FedEx and USPS. It was like Christmas in April.

Also during the time that we were waiting for delivery, we worked on prepping the roof. We didn’t want the panels to be installed on top of our tile roof, so we removed the roof tiles. We found that the underlayment had water damage. If the local solar company contractors would have installed their system on top of the tile, we wouldn’t have known how much damage we had underneath.. Once the tiles were removed, we placed new underlayment, and installed a good 30-year shingle with all the proper flashings for a weatherproof roof. We also had our local roofer come out and reseal all the skylights, roof penetrations and other problem areas.

Next, we installed the Flashfoot 2 mounts and weather tight conduit flashings. We cannot say thank you enough for the Flashfoots as they were simple to install, and provided a weather tight and sound foundation for the rail system. Then we installed of the rails, and made sure they were all level and true. This is probably the most important step! Make sure they are straight, level and tight, as it will make the rest of the process go extremely quick. It is amazing how much a simple string line can do to help make everything square, true, level and straight. Hint… Don’t skimp on the roof mounts, penetrations or the amount of sealant. Spend the time and money on it now so that you don’t have to take it off later.

When submitted, my design approval with the power company was flawless, and only took about 4 days. 

When submitted, my design approval with the power company was flawless, and only took about 4 days. The approval process with the city was a little more in-depth, and it took me four trips to the city’s planning office to get the drawings approved. We paid for the building permit, but we were not informed that we needed an electrical permit. Because we were doing a self-install, they could not provide us with a permit unless I took, and passed, the city electrical test which would allow me work on my own home. I passed, so we were then almost legal. Reroofing, due to the damaged underlayment, caused the need for a reroof permit. It seemed like the city was reaching deeper and deeper into our pockets. After paying $700, we finally had the permits we needed to start the actual work.

Installation of the panels came next, and it went very fast. We actually had 14 panels on the workshop in less than an hour and then 16 of 20 on the house in about the same amount of time. Connections were easy and the final connections to THHN wire were in junction boxes already located in the attics. Panels were connected to the equipment in the garage through wires in ¾ inch conduits. Inverters, switches, production meter, fire department disconnect, a Generator disconnect relay, and to make it look good, we used no flex conduits. It took a bit longer, but all electrical (even in the attics) was run through ¾ inch EMT conduit that was bent to give it that professional and industrial look. EMT conduit also allows for easier pulling of wire on long runs versus flex conduit that the contractors wanted to use. This all took a bit longer, but in the end made it look and function much better.

For the runs from the workshop to the house, we dug a trench, 6 inches wide 16 inches deep and put multiple runs of one-inch schedule 80 PVC conduits. We would then backfill the trench, and then lay 6 inches of concrete sidewalk over the trenched area

The electric wall in the garage also had extensive work and upgrades. The drywall was removed, and some conduits were hidden in the wall with a few junction boxes for access. Plywood was hung on the wall, and it was textured and painted. Equipment was then hung on the exterior of the plywood. How many times you’ve tried to hang something on drywall only to have it sag or fall off. By using the plywood, you cannot tell any difference from the other garage walls, but you are able to mount anything anywhere and know that it is secure.

The inverters, switches and conduits all looked great. We added more than the normal number of disconnects so that we can have an AC disconnect both inside and outside. We also added a DC disconnect for each string, before each inverter so that we can perform maintenance on part of the system without shutting the entire system down.

GETTING IT APPROVED

Once everything was complete, we called for an inspection of the three permits (City electrical, city reroof, and building. The reroof and building permits were passed, but the electrical inspector was going to fail the install because the paint had not been removed from behind the ground lugs in the disconnect switches, even though the grounding screws had good contact. Unfortunately, the inspector couldn’t come back that day. But he did say that if we sent him a photo of the modifications before 3:00PM, that he would approve it and put it into the city’s computer. We ended up receiving a full approval. 

Next, we called the power company. They came out about 5 days later to install the production meter and to turn the system on. We didn’t even have to be home for this. When we came home, we found the system was working, and that it had immediately started producing power. Better yet, our meter was running backwards.

Because we use SMA inverters, we have programmed them to connect to the Sunny Portal application on our phones where we can monitor the power from anywhere that we have an Internet connection. It sends daily reports to our phone at the end of each day. Our average power usage in April is 65kWh per day, and we expect more in July and August.

In the beginning of this installation, and the many approvals and inspections, our Home Owners Association only gave use a conditional approval for installation. It seems like they wanted control of our project, and since it was a major project, they gave only a conditional approval because they didn’t know if we could actually do the install to their standards. We didn’t want to hurt their feelings by telling them that our standards are higher than theirs. We do understand their concern that not everyone is skilled enough to complete this monumental task. 

Another stipulation they had is that you can only have tile or metal roofing material in our neighborhood, and since we put shingles on the house, it wouldn’t pass their standards. To get around that, we protected our roof with the shingles, installed the solar system on top of that, and then replaced the tile right up to the edge of the panels. This way the panels are recessed in-between the tiles and no one can see the shingles. We also get some very strong winds during the year, and believe that the lower profile of the panels compared with the rise of the tiles will put less stress on the panels.

We have not heard of any protests from the HOA, but have heard praises from from our neighbors.

The shingles will last for a longer time because the panels are protecting them, just as the panels are protecting the production and ground wires and roof penetrations. We have not heard of any protests from the HOA, but have heard praises from from our neighbors.

EASIER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

To regress a bit, we talked with many others that have solar systems, and many complain that they have birds making nests under the panels. Think of that, a dry, protected, and warm place to build a nest to raise youngin’s? We would think the same. However, not wanting to encourage the birds, we spent a little extra on bird proofing them by installing chicken wire to the panels, then down to the roof and under the tiles. Once the roofing tiles were replaced, the chicken wire almost disappeared, and now we have no worries about birds. All power and ground wires are protected under the panels and all the electrical controls are in a nice protected garage. The only thing you see on the outside of our home is the production meter and a single fire department disconnect. Due to city regulations, engraved placards are required to be placed on the equipment. Through PV Labels on line, they were easy to work with, and they completed custom labels that should outlast the life of the system.

Although this was a family project, I performed most all of the work. My wife, and daughters would occasionally help by helping to move and stack the panels, handing up tools, light up parts in the dark, keeping me fed, or filling up my water cup to keep me hydrated. I’m glad we did it in April, and not in July. It was warm, but July would have been a lot more uncomfortable. I also made use of a used forklift that we had purchased last year for other projects. I was grateful to have it while lifting the panels and lowering the excess roof tiles. Without the forklift, I would have seriously thought about hiring a younger helper to help me move the 9 pallets of tiles from the roofs to the ground.

In summary, this all sounds like an unthinkable self install project. However, it looks great, and it was easier than you might think. The system from Wholesale Solar works great. Our total cost was about $25,000 along with some sweat equity. After federal rebates of $7500, the total price out of our pocket is about $17,500.

After federal rebates of $7500, the total price out of our pocket is about $17,500.

If we had financed this project, the return on investment would have worked out to about 4 years. But instead we are free and clear from payments. The total time invested was about two weeks for permits, and 9 actual days of installation.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. Do I recommend this to others? Absolutely.

The best thing about all of this is the freedom from increasing electrical costs. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Do I recommend this to others? Absolutely. It is a part of the house that just works for us and for our environment in a positive way. I guess the only thing that I have left to do is to spray the dust off of the panels from time to time.

Install of the Month – March 2018

Install of the Month – March 2018

“I prefer to do it myself.” with Garland C.

Our Install of the Month for March is Arizona customer Garland C’s well-researched and fully planned out grid-tied solar system. Garland installed his system himself, with help from one friend, during the construction of his new home.

Garland was after a sound return on investment and an eco-conscious home. He wanted DIY convenience and the ability to monitor his system, so he chose Enphase microinverters. Getting American-made panels was also important to Garland and he opted for high-end, high-efficiency Suniva panels.

Garland came into this with a lot of information. He had been studying different types of inverters like Solaredge, but eventually decided on Enphase microinverters.  – Solar Tech Wil Burlin

Garland reports that the most difficult part of his project was actually getting the panels up on his roof. Normally this task isn’t so tough, but with a 8/12 pitch roof, safety while installing on such a steep roof became a number one priority. Knowing he’d still be paying far less than hiring an installer, he sprang for some roof racks to make it easier to walk on his roof, and he also made sure to always wear a safety harness.

In the end, Garland had a beautiful self-installed system on his brand new home. The moment his new home was hooked up to the grid, he saw that meter start moving backward!

Interview with Garland

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

To save money.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

Generally speaking, I do everything I can myself. I have basic knowledge of house wiring and roof construction. This was my first solar system.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Everything was pretty simple. Physically, the most challenging part was placing the panels on my 8/12 pitch roof.

How many helpers did you have?

One.

Did you hire a contractor?

No.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Purchased some roof racks to make it easier to walk on my roof.

As soon as they hooked my house up to the grid, my meter started moving backward, which was pretty cool! – Garland C.

How long was the full installation process?

With my house being a new construction project, I did the solar system installation in phases. Because of this approach, I don’t have a good idea of the total length of time needed to do the installation.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

It was several months after I completed the installation that my power company hooked my house to the grid. As soon as they did, my meter started moving backward, which was pretty cool!

Who else did you consider before choosing Wholesale Solar?

I looked at two other contractors to install my system. But I never really considered paying someone else to do it. I prefer to do things myself.

What’s your ballpark estimate of your total solar install costs?

$22,000.00

How much did you save on your taxes?

$6,600

Garland’s System:

Garland's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 12,220 kWh
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $6,600 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: Fluctuates based on local utility as Garland lives in a TOU area.
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: None reported
Install of the Month – February 2018

Install of the Month – February 2018

Carbon Negative with Chuck W.

We LOVE this install from New Mexico customer Chuck W! It’s not only a beautiful install, but Chuck was also able to maximize his roof space perfectly allowing him to reach carbon negative. We’re also excited that this is our first ever Install of the Month featuring SolarEdge’s HD Wave inverter. Its compact size fits just right on Chuck’s small structure.

His personal solar technician Wil B. reported that working with Chuck was a joy:

Chuck already knew he wanted high end panels and the Solaredge inverter. I just had to broker the deal to find him the best Solarworld options. We went with a combination of black panels on one building and silver on the other, mostly for aesthetics. He knew he wanted the new HD Wave inverter so he ended up having to wait a few months for it to be released.  – Solar Tech Wil Burlin

Chuck received his shipment from the freight delivery service, recruited a few friends, family, and solar veterans, and got his racking and panels up himself, no installer required.

His story is pretty inspiring and he tells it better than we could, so we highly recommend reading our interview with Chuck below!

Interview with Chuck

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

I feel it’s important that I support combating climate change as much as I can. The low cost of a DIY PV system made it possible for me to “max out” in terms of the system size allowed under our rules for simple approval. This system will produce a substantial surplus, even after converting all of my propane usage to electricity. I expect to be “carbon negative”, including travel, from here on out.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I’ve been doing it myself for as long as I can remember. – Chuck W.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

The hardest part was dealing with the electric code. Our local authority requires taking a test for DIY solar, my installation had a couple of minor irregularities related to putting the PV juice back into my existing AC system, and in general, it was quite a lot of study to make sure it was completely by the book. Even though I’ve had a career as a design engineer, the electric code is a whole different world!

How many helpers did you have?

My friend Art from NY, a former solar installer, offered some good, practical advice (especially on dealing with inspectors) and helped put the rails up on the first structure. My friend Gene helped raise the first set of panels, and my partner Miya helped install the rails and raise the panels on the second structure.

Did you hire a contractor?

No, I didn’t hire anyone.

I feel it’s important that I support combating climate change as much as I can. The low cost of a DIY PV system made it possible for me to “max out” in terms of the system size allowed under our rules for simple approval. – Chuck W.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

The kit from Wholesale Solar was complete and accurate for everything up through the inverter. Getting everything from there to the AC connection was full of missteps in getting the myriad little pieces and fittings. I made quite a few extra trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot.

How long was the full installation process?

Overall, it’s been going on for about 4 months, with lots of off time in the middle. Doing it again, if I focused, I could probably do it in a week.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

FANTASTIC!

Who else did you consider before choosing Wholesale Solar?

I looked at various other companies on the web, liked what I saw with Wholesale Solar (especially the employee ownership part), exchanged a few emails with Wil Burlin, liked how that worked, decided to buy from WS.

What was your total solar install costs? (Ball Park)

For the 10 kW system (essentially two 5 kW SolarEdge systems on separate structures), about $19,500.

How much did you save on your taxes

Here in NM, there’s only the Federal 30% credit remaining, which should be worth a bit under $6,000.

Chuck has a 10kW Grid-Tied System including:

Chuck's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • Total Hours to install: 40 hours
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 17,668 kWh
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for ~$6,000 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: 14.5 cents/kWh
  • Average Monthly Utility cost before solar: ~$200
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: Local AHJ Requires Test for DIY
Install of the Month – December 2017 Round Two

Install of the Month – December 2017 Round Two

Worth the Wait With Jason S.

Our second DIY hero this month is Jason S., who installed a Grid-Tied system on his Indiana home to save money on his power bill. Jason is the kind of guy who knows research, planning, and striking while the iron is hot will often pay off in a big way.

After his initial phone call to solar tech Jeremy A., Jason took two years before he decided to pull the trigger. He called Jeremy to answer his questions, and he gained the confidence to install himself.

Over two years working together, Jason was able to learn more about the specific system he wanted and was able to watch the market to purchase at the perfect time.
– Solar Tech Jeremy A.

Once he was confident DIY was right for him, and that quick ROI was attainable, it was just a waiting game: Jason watched the solar market closely and picked the time when he projected he’d save the most before giving Jeremy the go-ahead on Jason’s project.

But you know what they say about mice and men… Once Jason received his system parts and was ready to get to work installing it, mother nature decided his wait wasn’t over just yet. He was hit with a big rainstorm, making the space where he planned to put his ground-mounted system too muddy for a stable installation. But Jason wasn’t daunted. He just sat back, waited for the ground to dry, and soldiered on, finally completing his system in about a week. Now he only has one more wait… by the mailbox to see the big fat zeroes on his next power bill!

Interview with Jason

What type of solar power system did you install?

Grid-tied, but I had a lot of land to do a ground-mounted system so I could zero out my monthly power bill. 

What was your primary reason for going solar?

I had always wanted to become more energy independent and solar power made the most sense for us. It also made financial sense, especially since I had the means to install the system myself and save more money.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I am a locomotive engineer but I had a remodeling/construction business for a few years. I don’t like paying people to do anything, so I always tackle projects on my own and learn as I go. 

I don’t like paying people to do anything, so I always tackle projects on my own and learn as I go.
– Jason S.

What was the most challenging part of the installation?

The wiring and panel installation was a little technical, but easily manageable with patience. The most difficult part we faced was battling the weather and mud to get the pipes and concrete piers set in place for our ground install.

How many helpers did you have?

It was just my wife and me. To her credit, she is quite handy herself and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. 

Did you hire a contractor?

Nope! We did everything ourselves from start to finish.

 Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

No additional parts. As for tools, I did have a construction business, so I do have more tools than the average person. I didn’t need to go out and buy anything special.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

It was spread out over the course of 2 weeks due to my work schedule and the weather. If I had more time and good weather I could have completeled in less than a week. I saved myself about $11,000 in costs from my efforts.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

It was a great feeling to get the project completed…and an even better feeling once the power company swapped out our meter, put the system online and started generating our own power!

Who else did you consider before going with Wholesale Solar?

Wholesale Solar was the first company I found. I looked elsewhere, and the price and customer service couldn’t be matched! 

What was the total cost of your solar installation project?

Total cost for me was around $18,000. $13,300 or so was the price of the solar system, while the rest covered the cost of equipment rentals and materials such as pipes, wiring, and concrete.

How much did going solar save you on your taxes?

We will be saving around $5,000 when we file taxes for this year thanks to the Federal Tax Credit. We live in Indiana, so we’re lucky to have no sales tax on our purchase or added property tax from the install.

Components in Jason’s System:

Tips:

Write off Sales Tax. You can include your system’s sales tax as part of your expenditures for installing solar. (30% Solar Federal Tax Credit). Learn more.

Pay less in property tax. Most states have a renewable energy property tax exemption. This means the value that a solar system adds to a home does not increase the property taxes you pay! In other words, you only pay property taxes against $200,000, and not the new appraised value of $256,000 with the additional solar system added—unlike a new kitchen where you have to pay more taxes for that additional value, you added to the property.

Jason's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Solar Components From Wholesale Solar: $13,300
  • All Other Expenses: $4,700
  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • How Much Going DIY Saved Him: $11,000
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $5,400 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Total time to install: ~1 week
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 13,000-14,000 kWh
  • Utility rates per kWh: 11.64¢/kWh
  • Average Monthly Utility cost: was $130
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: None