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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
Install of the Month – August 2017

Install of the Month – August 2017

A Real Contender of an Installation with Rocky H.

This month’s install is a real contender, with a difficult project that took three hard, 12-hour-long days of work to complete, proving that with a little patience, anyone can be a champion.

Rocky H., the champion in question, rose to the challenge and ended up with an exceptional solar array for his home!

An “extreme DIY’er,” Rocky H. had no professional construction background but built his own house, garage, and workshop by himself.

“There was a large learning curve as I didn’t know anything about solar or DC wiring/properties, but it wasn’t anything that can’t be learned.  You don’t have to be a licensed electrician to complete a solar system.  Willingness to learn and research what you don’t know will get you there.”
– Rocky H.

Rocky had the help of a little manpower from friends and family, as well as a 60ft. man-lift to help reach the rooftop a bit easier – with an 8/12 pitched roof, a ladder wouldn’t be quite as simple!

Interview with Rocky

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

I ordered my equipment in May, but didn’t start installing until June. I had some things to install on my existing electrical systems before starting on the solar system. The actual installation took 3 twelve hour days. I installed the disconnect and inverter before starting on the roof. It took about 4 hours. The electrical inspection was two days later, and the system test with my utility company was two days after the electrical inspection. I will admit I had all my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed!

How many people did it take?

The first two days, it was just my father in law and I. We installed all the anchor points for the racking and then the racking itself. The second day we installed all the optimizers, optimizer cabling, grounded the racking system and starting running wiring to the inverter. The third day I had two more friends help. Finished up wiring to the inverter first thing in the morning and then installed all the panels. The 36 panels took us about 6 hours.  It probably would have taken twice as long if we didn’t use a man-lift. I used a 60 ft. man-lift as I have an 8/12 pitched roof and the peak is about 40 ft high. I would recommend one if you can get one. It’s much easier than hauling everything on a ladder. Unless you have a big crew.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I have never worked in construction, but I built my house, garage, and workshop.  I’ve also helped my friends with their projects, etc. I’m 37 years old. I’m an extreme DIYer. I would say my working knowledge is probably better than most. There was a large learning curve as I didn’t know anything about solar or DC wiring/properties, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be learned. You don’t have to be a licensed electrician to complete a solar system. Willingness to learn and research what you don’t know will get you there. Will Burlin at Wholesale Solar was a big help. I probably came in thinking I knew more than I did, but he helped me bridge the gap on things I didn’t have experience with — like derating a panel to land a large enough breaker for my system. Trying to wrap my head around that one was interesting.

“Will Burlin at wholesale solar was a big help. I probably came in thinking I knew more than I did, but he helped me bridge the gap on things I didn’t have experience with like derating a panel to land a large enough breaker for my system. Trying to wrap my head around that one was interesting.”
– Rocky H.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

This may sound lame, but I stressed a ton about locating the center of my trusses. You can try to measure from the end of your roof, but that isn’t always accurate. I couldn’t find them using a stud finder, so I ended up doing it the old fashioned way and used a hammer and my ear just like finding a stud in the wall. It was pretty dang accurate. Within 3/8’’. Pounded a nail where the sound was more solid. If it was off, the flashing from the anchor would cover it easily. Overthought that part 100 times over. Also stressed about handling the DC wires coming from the optimizers. Was afraid of getting shocked, etc. After a little research, I found out that each panel in the string would carry approximately 1V until activated by the inverter. The system comes in many parts and seeing it sitting in my garage for a month before I attempted the install was intimidating. I just hoped it would all fall together once I began… and it did! The way they piece the system together makes it easier. I didn’t have to cut any of the rails. They come in lengths that seem to go together for any number of panel rows. All the paperwork they gave me had all the answers I would need. There were several attachments emailed to me that I had to read a couple of time before they were clear.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

There really weren’t any tools. Like I said before, I over-researched the process. I have most tools a general contractor would have, so I was ready. The one tool I’d recommend if you have a shingled roof is a Dasco shingle ripper pry bar. $20 on Amazon. It worked way better than a regular pry bar, saving me a ton of time. I found a guy using it for his panels via YouTube. You’ll have to supply the AC wiring and the breaker from the inverter to the disconnect and then to wherever you connect to the utility (meter socket, sub-panel). Any conduit needed. Metal conduit for DC/strings to inverter and metal or PVC conduit for AC wiring. I think labels now come with Wholesale Solar packages, I didn’t get any with mine (Our solar packages now come with a 55 piece pack of labels designed to meet 2017 NEC – Ed.) . I also had to supply some engraved plastic labels required from the electrical inspector and a couple from the local utility. pvlabels.com got them to me in 3 days and cheap!

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

My neighbor had a system installed by a contractor. I started asking him questions and we both thought we could install it ourselves and save a bunch of money. We were right! I have a 4,000 sq ft home and also a 2,000 sq ft home and was tired of high utility bills! Plus there are great rebates and tax savings. I’ll get 30-45% of my money back in tax credits and rebates.

“Rocky was on top of all the technical aspects of his project, he had clearly done his research and was asking all the right questions. Besides a little advice here and there, and a quick revision of the diagram, everything was smooth sailing”
– Wil Burlin, Solar Technician

What was your primary reason for adding a DIY Solar Kit to your home?

To save money.  After all my expenses it only came to $15,000. Another neighbor had a similar size system installed for over $26,000.(my system is a little larger too). I will be saving hundreds per month!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I will say I was a little skeptical to work with any solar company. I was afraid that after giving them money that I would be left in the wind if I ran into problems. Wholesale Solar really helped with everything. Everything from ordering to shipping was pretty easy. They provided all the engineering required for permitting and required by my local utility. I had a couple questions about grounding and some other minor things that were answered within a day if not the same day. At the end I needed my line diagram changed for my final inspection. My rep was on vacation, but another rep stepped in an handled it the same day. My rep came back the next day and made sure I had what I needed. There was a point were I got really frustrated with my rep because I couldn’t understand some of the technical aspect (derating I mentioned earlier) and my rep was very patient with me. I will be honest, I’m not the easiest person to deal with. My patience is really short when dealing with salespeople. But these guys aren’t pushy. They are really laid back. They don’t seem like they are pushing for a sale. They must really love solar! (We do! – Ed.) I’m now thinking about installing a system on my business office!

Components in Rocky’s 11.16 kW Grid-Tied System

Questions about Rocky’s install? Ask us in the comments below.

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Install of the Month – July 2017

Install of the Month – July 2017

A Group Effort With Great Results – Install of the Month with Matt M.

“Do It Yourself” doesn’t mean you have to go it alone: this month’s install proves that a lot of friends and a little foreknowledge can go a long way. Matt M. knew what he wanted – to offset his power bill, and he knew exactly what he needed to install to get the job done. Six friends and 20 or so hours later and Matt has a fully functional grid-tied system that looks fantastic.

“The moment I got on the phone with Matt I could tell that not only was he knowledgeable, but he also had the confidence of a do it yourself installer. He came to me with the usage he was looking to offset, and we were able to easily design a system to fit his needs. He knew he was planning to build a structure to mount the panels on which gave us nice flexibility for panel layout, and allowed for ideal panel orientation. Matt’s knowledge of construction and familiarity with solar made him an ideal customer for this DIY project. “
– Solar tech Ian S.

Matt’s install was done on his 6/12 pitch metal roof, which proved a bit fiddly, but worked extremely well for racking the system. S-5! brand racking clamps allowed him to secure his IronRidge roof racks and mount his solar panels with ease.

A union sheet metal worker for over 20 years, Matt is no stranger to hard work and hands-on projects like this. His neighbor, a professional electrician, installed a solar array 5 years ago, which inspired him to install his own solar power system now. Matt knew he had to act fast, however, as Indiana just passed a law that drastically alters their solar incentives!

Indiana’s new incentives pay back solar customers for over-wattage power (the power produced that exceeds what they use, and is then sold back to the utility companies) at wholesale rates rather than the past retail rate, drastically lowering ROI for solar-powered homeowners. For new customers, this goes into effect in 2022. For customers looking to replace or expand their systems, this goes into effect at the end of 2017. By installing his entirely new system now, Matt manages to slip in under the deadline and gets a solid 5 years of ROI before the payoff rate drops. Now, the rate lowers to an amount that’s on par with most of the rest of the country, but what Matt M. found frustrating is that Indiana already has relatively cheap electricity – so the incentive to go solar needs to be as high as it has been in the past to make renewable energy worthwhile.

Interview with Matt

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

It took 10 hours to install the racking and panels with 6 friends helping me, then it took another 10 hrs to pull the main feed and wire everything together with 3 friends helping me.

How many people did it take?

7 people installing the racking and panels and 3-4 people to wire up the inverter.

 Did you have any previous construction experience?

I am a union sheet metal worker with 20 years in, and my neighbor is a union electrician with 20 +years.

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

The most difficult part was installing the racking and panels on the 6/12 pitch metal roof.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Working with Ian was great, he was very helpful and answered every question I had. Thanks Ian! The only thing I was missing were two grounding lugs for the racking which was not a big deal: I made two out of 1/4-20 s.s. bolts w/ a button head that slid in the top of the racking perfectly.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I installed myself because I had great friends that took the time to help me out, I couldn’t have done it without their help.

“Matt knew what he was doing, he never once called in for technical support, he already had himself an install crew and was ready to go! “
– Solar tech Ian S.

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

I installed solar because our neighbors had done it 5 years ago and Indiana just passed a law to start shutting down net metering, which doesn’t make any sense to me.

Components in Matt’s 11.16 kW Grid-Tied System

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Install of the Month – April 2017

Install of the Month – April 2017

“You Don’t Have to Be An Electrical Engineer to DIY… But It Doesn’t Hurt” with Ned S.

Our April Install of the Month goes to Ned S.!

He installed his own grid-tied system in sunny Nevada, and did a beautiful job.

“Working with Ned was a joy,” shared Solar Tech Ian S. who helped him design his system, “He came to us with his electrical loads already calculated and a solid plan for where to mount his panels and inverter.” But this came as no surprise to Ian, since Ned is an electrical engineer.

Ned’s experience and problem-solving abilities became apparent very quickly, as Ned showed some impressive DIY ingenuity in his installation. Ned’s roof is flat tile, one of the more tricky kinds of roofs to install a solar array on. After some experimenting with the free trial Quick Mount tile hooks we sent him and finding they wouldn’t suit his roof, he found tile hooks that would work perfectly with the IronRidge racking system and hardware, and even came up with a plan to install them worthy of an electrical engineer. We’re grateful to Ned for teaching US a little something! After all, learning and growing is a big part of becoming the DIY solar experts: getting to hear great solutions for every solar project means we can help more people DIY.

His number one reason for installing his system was to zero out his power bill. And after assessing the current solar landscape, this analytical thinker was convinced this was the perfect time to get this safe investment with a quick ROI under way.

[Making sure Ned’s system was expandable] was no problem. It’s one of the huge draws of using the SolarEdge system’s power optimizer model: it’s cost effective and extremely adaptable, all the while increasing efficiency and output.
– Wholesale Solar Design Tech Ian S.

The second thing Ned was concerned about was being able to expand his system. He lives in Nevada after all, so he’s looking ahead to his electrical needs upping due to running AC in the summer months. He was also interested in keeping his system open to one day adding a backup power element in case of a long-term grid outage.  “This was no problem. It’s one of the huge draws of using the SolarEdge system’s power optimizer model: it’s cost effective and extremely adaptable, all the while increasing efficiency and output,” Ian pointed out, adding “And you’re able to monitor panels individually and pinpoint energy needs. And once you have your exact numbers, it’s easy to add to the system if your needs change down the line.” You can learn more about how SolarEdge works and how adaptable this kind of system is here on our website.

Check out Ned’s gallery above for some of his engineer-worthy tricks (including a simple way to get panels on your roof without the added expense of renting a boom lift!) and read his interview below for one of the best in-depth descriptions of installing a DIY grid-tied solar systems we’ve read.

Interview with Ned

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

I started working on installing my flat concrete tile solar roof mounts on March 8, 2017. I had to do a little experimenting on how to best remove the tiles to access my roof trusses below the plywood sheathing. It was rather slow going at first until I settled on a method that sped things up considerably. I found that, instead of attempting to slide the roof tiles up beneath the tiles above, it was easier to simply remove the tile where I needed to access the truss below. Sometimes I needed to remove two tiles in order to get full access to the truss below. I made myself a number of small wooden wedges that I could use to lift the surrounding tiles enough in order to allow me to slide the required tile(s) out. I also had to use my grinder to grind a slot in the tile so that the tile could lie back down flat on the roof surface where the SolarRoofHook extended out from beneath the tile. My trusses were located at two feet on center, and so it was fairly easy to measure from the first one, once I had its precise location. I mounted the attachments six feet apart, and staggered the second row up so as to avoid mounting all of the rails to the same trusses, so as not to load up the individual trusses more than was necessary. I attached the tile hooks using two 5/16” x 3 inch long heavy screws. I installed 40 attachment hooks – 5 hooks per row, 8 rows total. I mounted the first hook at one end of the rail row, and a second one at the far end of the row. I then stretched a string between the two end hooks and simply mounted the intervening three hooks in line with the string, making sure that the rows were parallel with the eave line. It took me about two days total to mount the 40 attachments. However, now that I know how to do it, it would probably only take me one day to do it. Also, I have a 3:12 pitch roof, which was pretty easy to work on, much steeper and it would be more difficult.

Once my roof attachments were in place, the IronRidge XR100 Rails were a piece of cake to install. It took me only about three hours to install all eight 28 ft. long rails. I made sure that they were all perfectly in line and square with each other. But again that was pretty easy considering the fact that it was simply a matter of sliding the individual rails along the mounts to square them up before tightening them into place.

My city recently raised our electric rates significantly, and I figured that it was time that I look at installing my own system to help offset some of the rate increase, and to help to lock in my savings into the future.
– Ned S.

I next attached the DC optimizers. That only took about five hours to mount them on the rack, plug them together, and secure the wiring, including the #6 Bare Copper ground wire.

I next ran the EMT thin wall conduit between the east and west facing arrays and down through the roof to the inverter down below. I mounted the inverter on the side of the garage. The AC disconnect was mounted next to the inverter and then I had to drill through the cinderblock wall of my garage and stub a piece of 3/4” EMT conduit from the disconnect into my 100 amp sub panel located inside the garage. I then had to run the #10 high voltage DC wiring from the panel arrays down to the inverter, and then the #8 copper wire from the inverter, through the AC disconnect, and then into the garage sub panel. This all took about eight hours.

At this point, I was pretty much ready to lift the panels up on my roof and secure them to the racking system. I had to wait until the upcoming Saturday until my son and three sons-in-law could give me a hand. I built a ramp by splicing some two-by-fours together to reach my eave, which was about 13 feet above my driveway below. I built the ramp out of some scrap two-by-fours and installed some light weight guide pieces on the sides of the ramp in order to keep the panels from sliding off of the ramp. We then had one person below who stood a panel up against the ramp and attached a couple of hooks into the panel side rails and then two guys pulled the panel up onto the roof with a rope. They made sure the panel was oriented in the right direction and then carried it over to me and my son where we then attached the panel to the IronRidge rails and plugged the module into the DC Optimizer. This operation took less than two hours to install all 32 panels.

I energized my system on the afternoon of March 23rd. All told, it took me a total of 15 days total from start to finish, working pretty much part time, and some days doing nothing at all. I needed to wait for some #6 Bare Copper wire, and a couple of circuit breakers to arrive from e-bay and a couple of MC4 connectors so I could finish up my DC run down to the inverter. I pretty much did everything myself, with the exception of lifting the panels up onto the roof, installing them and wiring them into the system. I had help from those four other family members to do this. I spent quite a bit of time watching YouTube videos about how to do all of the stuff.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I am actually an electrical engineer, but I have built a couple of houses and some other things in my spare time for myself, but that is not my day job.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Figuring out the best way to install the roof attachments. However, as I explained, once I had come up with a system, things went pretty smoothly. The IronRidge racking system is great and the MC4 connectors on the DC Optimizers and on the modules make the wiring fairly fool-proof and pretty much “plug and play”.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

I had to come up with my own roof attachments, because I have a concrete tile roof and that is a little different from most installations. Also, I needed to drill up through my soffit and through the garage roof, in order to run my 3/4” EMT conduit to bring the DC wires from the roof down to the inverter. This was a distance of about two feet. I needed a long drill bit with an extension, and a bit of luck to get the drill bit all of the way through to the top. But things went pretty well and turned out not to be much of an issue.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I enjoy do-it-yourself projects. As I indicated above I am an electrical engineer and this whole deal really fascinated me. I have never been a huge fan of solar, primarily because of its high cost, the fact that it didn’t really pencil out, and the problems with the older DC system where any shading on any of the panels could degrade the output of the entire array. But the price has come down considerably, and the reliability is much better than it was before, especially using these new DC Optimizers, linked with the SolarEdge inverter.

I had never been a huge fan of solar… But the price has come down considerably, and the reliability is much better than it was before, especially using these new DC Optimizers, linked with the SolarEdge inverter.
– Ned S.

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

My city recently raised our electric rates rather significantly, and I figured that it was time that I look at installing my own system to help offset some of the rate increase, and to help to lock in my savings into the future. Also, I would eventually like to be able to expand my system to provide for the possibility that I may someday be confronted with a long term extended grid outage.

Components in Ned’s 9.6 kW Grid-Tied System

Questions about Ned’s install? Ask us in the comments below.

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Install of the Month – August 2016

Install of the Month – August 2016

Coming directly from our System Design and Salesperson Todd E.:

“This month’s Install of the Month has to be my favorite yet! I really love the Craftsman styling of the home, it is not a Tiny Home, but has similar qualities with its efficient design aesthetics.”

“Gary had electrical needs very similar to my own home, so the system design was very easy. What is really the stand out feature of this system is the ability to run his mini split Panasonic Air Conditioner! Gary even sent a photo of his Magnum ME-ARC showing his system putting 24 amps into his battery bank while running that AC unit, and doing laundry. Amazing.”

“This system has 15 Astronergy 255 watt panels (current model 260 watt), a single Four Star Solar Magnum MS4448PAE power center, with a Midnite Classic 150 charge controller.
He has 16 Rolls Surrette L16 batteries for a total of 800 amp hours at 48 volts. That is roughly 12 kWh of power per “reasonable” cycle. The panels were mounted to his comp shingle roof using Quick Mount flashings and IronRidge XR100 racking.”

“Gary made his own battery box out of Hardieplank cement board siding. Smart choice, its fireproof! I reminded him that his battery cable conduit run should be lower than his battery box vents so that the hydrogen gas does not flow right up to the inverter. Hydrogen naturally rises and needs to exit the battery box, but you need to keep it away from your sensitive electronics. [Editorial Note: Lead acid batteries need to be vented because the chemical reaction releases gases as water molecules are split into hydrogen and oxygen. Read more about battery maintenance.]”

“This medium size system is the most popular one I sell. It will easily provide typical energy needs for a family of 2-4 people as long as you put the high energy demand items on propane, things like the water heater (on demand propane heaters are great!) clothes dryer, kitchen stove, and space heating. For an investment of under $20 grand, he now lives where he wants and is not tethered to the power company, does not have to worry about black outs, or disconnection notices for late payments. Once you go off grid, YOU are in charge. Off grid property is almost always a much better deal (read CHEAP LAND) and therefore leaves you money to build your house and buy your solar. Your property taxes are generally lower due to the low purchase price of the property. It’s a win win, as long as you don’t mind the lack of neighbors.”

“Thanks for sharing your project / vision with us Gary! Job well done!”

System Components in Gary W’s Solar Install:

We don’t get a lot of rain or cloudy days here, but I’ve only had to crank up the generator once since we got the solar system up and running, and that includes electric use by the contractors. – Gary W.

Interview with Gary W.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

Took a day to install the panels; two guys on the roof, two on the ground. I installed the power center and wired up the batteries, and the electricians did the hardwiring. One day and one guy each. Actual time from delivery to switch-on was a few months, but that was because we were building the house.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

Nothing like this. I had a million questions for Todd.

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

Now that I know how, it would be a snap. It was difficult because I had no experience or knowledge of the parts or connections. I wish systems came with a simple install manual, but Todd tells me that such an instruction set would be difficult to come up with since there are so many variables. So you just buy the stuff and ask questions, and before you know it, you’re an “expert!”

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Nope.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

Probably the same reason everyone does: money. Also, being out in the boondocks didn’t keep the delivery truck from coming, but it might have made it hard to get an installation company to come out here, 60 miles from the city.

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

No choice. No power lines nearby, and the electric company told me each pole would cost me $10,000. I’m so happy I went solar – with free energy handed out by the sun every day, it’s a no-brainer.

Living literally in the shadow of the Power Link, I am off the grid. No power lines, water, gas, or cable come to my property.

I read on the Wholesale Solar site that “To capture the maximum amount of solar radiation over the course of a year, a solar array should be tilted at an angle approximately equal to a site’s latitude, and facing 15 degrees of due south.” With this in mind, I oriented the house exactly south and specified an 8/12 pitch roof. The latitude of Campo California is 32.6°, and the 8/12 roof is 33.7°. That’s as close as I could get for a fixed roof mount array.

With just the AC running, I’m putting about 35 amps into the batteries, which are usually at 100 percent by about mid-day. I also have a one horse well pump and a one-horse pressure pump, but I have the well pump on a timer to only come on in the middle of the night to top off my 5000 storage tank. That’s to avoid an unexpected surge when I’m using a lot of power for other things. Too big a surge can shut down the system, but it only requires the push of a button to restart.

We don’t get a lot of rain or cloudy days here, but I’ve only had to crank up the generator once since we got the solar system up and running, and that includes electric use by the contractors. I couldn’t be happier with my system and the fact that all this free energy falls on my house every day. Thanks to Wholesale Solar and especially Todd for all the help, advice, and encouragement (not to mention great equipment) that made my little homestead possible.

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