Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
Hi there, I am thinking about getting a 5kw solar system for my house. I have a few questions though.

1. Should I do it my self? I can get all of the panels for my house 1/2 the price the companies sell.
2. Would I still get rebates from the government, electric company? Probably not...
3. What would you pay for a 5 kw system if you where doing it through a company?
4.Would I still get rebates using the micro-inverters?
If I think of more I will ask.



Thanks in advance.

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,053 admin
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..
    1. Should I do it my self? I can get all of the panels for my house 1/2 the price the companies sell.
    If you have construction/electrical experience, you can probably do it yourself.

    Assuming this is a grid-tied system, you will still need building permits and utility approval--so you will probably need a licensed civil/structural engineering (for racking) and a licensed electrician (for final sign off).

    If this is your first system--May want to watch/help on another installation before you do one by yourself. It is a lot to absorb / get right without any practical experience from prior installs.
    2. Would I still get rebates from the government, electric company? Probably not...
    You probably would get the Federal tax rebate (only for out of pocket expenses--nothing for your time/labor). And no rebates/credits from other sources.
    3. What would you pay for a 5 kw system if you where doing it through a company?
    A range of $7-$10 per Watt Installed before rebates/credits. (sounds like a few people her are getting $7 per watt--I am not in the solar business--take it with a pinch of salt).
    4.Would I still get rebates using the micro-inverters?

    Don't see any reason why it would be an issue--Unless your building deparment or electrical utility refuses the sign off / connection (by the way, utilities do refuse/slow walk connections--So, make sure you have all your agreements signed and fulfilled to the letter before you lay out the cash.)

    NAWS (our host) is in Flagstaff--I don't know if they do installs in your area--but it would be worth calling them about local issues with permits and utilities. And possibly getting a quote. They have a few generic quotes posted on-line so you can see what to expect from them.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    1 & 2

    federal maybe for self install, but many state and local programs require a certified person to do the install. this can be anywhere from a licensed electrician to state certified and tested personnel. it could even be possible they may allow you to do some or all of the work and they inspect it, but it will vary depending upon where you are. check here for more details or how to contact for specifics,
    http://www.dsireusa.org/

    3

    last i heard it was between $5 and $10 a watt. many will say $5 is too low and you need to be suspicious of them, but pv prices have gone down too so maybe it is now ok. i have not heard much current feedback on this to say for sure and maybe others have.

    4

    i would think yes.
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..
    NAWS (our host) is in Flagstaff--I don't know if they do installs in your area--but it would be worth calling them about local issues with permits and utilities. And possibly getting a quote. They have a few generic quotes posted on-line so you can see what to expect from them.



    There quotes are much cheaper, though how much would labor cost?

    NAWS is only doing around $6/ watt without instalation fees. I got a recent quote from a solar company and there saying it will be around $30K for a 5kw system.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,053 admin
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    Again, get a few quotes from local installers... I don't live near you to know local labor rates and I am not in the business.

    The NAWS quote is from March 2010, so it should be pretty close... However prices change pretty quickly for panels (and copper wire, batteries, etc.)--You should contact them directly--NAWS does not monitor this forum for business related questions.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,348 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    I got my system in Phoenix for less than $6.50 a watt installed. Here $6-$7 seems about the norm.
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..
    solar_dave wrote: »
    I got my system in Phoenix for less than $6.50 a watt installed. Here $6-$7 seems about the norm.

    What company did you use?
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,348 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..
    What company did you use?

    You got a PM. Would not prefer to advertise for them.
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    I have a question about the Enphase micro inverter, Living in tucson where it gets very hot, Are these inverters affected at all by heat?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,053 admin
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    Everything is affected by heat.. The engineering rule of thumb is a 1/2 decrease in service life for every 10C (18F) increase in operating temperature.

    And, conversely, there is a 2x improvement in life for every 10C drop in operating temperature.

    Also, a huge killer of electronics and mechanical assemblies is temperature cycling. On a roof, you may have 32 F (or less) at night, and over 150 F during the day (solar radiation, internal heat loss from operation, etc.)...

    We had a big discussion about life of Enphase inverters on the roof:

    Enphase

    From one of my early posts on Enphase:
    n3qik wrote: »
    ...My jeep has 3 computers in the engine compartment. They see 10 to 200+ F, heat, water and vibration. Most of them will last 10+ years. If the, we need a handout, car makers can make durable electronics, the anyone can, if they plan on doing it right and not cut corners.

    Actually, while automotive designing and building reliable automotive electronics is not a walk in the park--The actual life is not nearly as long as one would think...

    For example, you can use ~35 MPH as the long term average to convert to run time hours (I have over 50,000 miles on a GPS, and the moving average is ~31 MPH for a car that spends much of its time in the SF Peninsula and local freeway driving).

    Assume 15,000 miles per year * 10 years = 150,000 miles

    150,000 miles / 35 mph = 4,286 hours of operation

    4,286 hours / 10 hours per day (rough average "on time" for my GT System) = 429 days

    429 days--I would not be too happy if my inverter lasted 1-2 years. I probably would be thrilled if my car's computers/wiring lasted 300,000 miles.

    Or another way to look at aging, I see thermal cycles as a major factor for failures... Assume that a car starts/stops ~2 times per day and a solar inverter cycles 1 times per day

    That could be, roughly, equivalent to 20 years of GT inverter life vs a 10 year car life--not bad at all.

    Which is the correct way to look at GT Inverter vs Car Electronics in terms of lifetime? Not sure, both have valid points.

    Nigtomdaw's observation that not many electronics live bolted to the motor, but in the passenger department instead is a good point.

    Using that observation, then the GT Roof Top Inverter environment is probably a tougher one that a car (excluding vibration).

    Everyone will have to make their own decision on the micro/central inverter question... Certainly big money has been bet on both sides of the issue.

    Me--I tend towards whichever can keep the electronics cooler and have less thermal cycling. For me, I have a shaded / insulated garage and my central inverter sits in a very mild "climate".

    I do also like not having to climb on a 2nd story roof to change out an inverter... Of course, that is a $200 inverter vs $2,300.

    Are my central inverter reasons better than somebody else's reasoning for micro inverters. Take your pick. I don't have any special knowledge about Enphase than the little I have read to date.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    Another Question,



    Should I go Monocrystalline or polycrystalline?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,053 admin
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    They are both fine...
    1. Mono crystalline are a bit more efficient, so for a limited space, you can get a few more watts output,
    2. Mono crystalline has a more "black/uniform" look vs the "shattered blue glass" of poly crystalline
    3. Mono crystalline tend to be quite a bit more expensive--Always look at the $$$/Watt pricing and make sure you are not paying for something you don't need.
    4. Look at vendor history too--You are looking for a vendor with a good track record as you are expecting these panels to last 25-40+ years. Company stability for warranty claims is nice--but I am not sure which companies will survived the next decade (crystal ball anyone?).
    5. Also, look for UL or other NRTL Listing for panels. There are quite a few out there that are not listed--and a few have already had problems. Listing would be required for any US/Canada Grid Tied application.
    My two cents...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    I just found out from my nieghbor that you need city permits, and such before you install them, is this true? I really don't want to wait 3-6 months....

    any one going to the solar convention in pheonix this week?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,053 admin
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    All depends on where you live--But, typically you need both city (or county) building permits and utility pre-approval (sometimes a utility inspection and/or new meter too).

    I am still assuming that this is for a Grid Tied system (connected to utility power).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,962 ✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..
    I just found out from my nieghbor that you need city permits, and such before you install them, is this true? I really don't want to wait 3-6 months....

    any one going to the solar convention in pheonix this week?

    Where did you come up with 3-6 months? , You show up at the building department with the proper documentation and stamped engineering plans and get a permit an hour later. The Design and review needs to happen regardless and should be more than a week to get that done. Ordering and receiving all the equipment will take longer than all of the paper work
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..
    Where did you come up with 3-6 months? , You show up at the building department with the proper documentation and stamped engineering plans and get a permit an hour later. The Design and review needs to happen regardless and should be more than a week to get that done. Ordering and receiving all the equipment will take longer than all of the paper work

    Really??? Wow, Well I got the 3-6 months from Tucson Electrical's website, I guess thats the maximum time it will take. Yes it is a grid tied Solar System.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,348 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..
    Really??? Wow, Well I got the 3-6 months from Tucson Electrical's website, I guess thats the maximum time it will take. Yes it is a grid tied Solar System.

    Well last year mine in Glendale, AZ took several red lines before it was approved, the locals were much stricter than NEC. Granted is was the largest Grid tie they had seen for a residence, but they required a service entrance upgrade to meet the loading on the buss bar in the service panel, fought the grounding plan ....

    The upgrade I just did took about 2 days extra and a long letter to the code department to explain none of the AC side was changing, just a DC mod was in the works.

    I think most electric inspection departments in AZ are pretty aware of the requirements and if it meets the minimums they should fly pretty easily.
  • CaptTurboCaptTurbo Solar Expert Posts: 66 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    Solar Source and Lee County did a Tango that was well over a month long including three or four denials of the permit. I thought it would be quick and easy but at least for me it just ain't so.

    I suspect that the problems might have been because of the hybrid design and large size. The inspector said that this was the only advanced designed residential system in the county to date though there are a few commercial systems like it.
    Where did you come up with 3-6 months? , You show up at the building department with the proper documentation and stamped engineering plans and get a permit an hour later. The Design and review needs to happen regardless and should be more than a week to get that done. Ordering and receiving all the equipment will take longer than all of the paper work
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    Yeah, I am still getting quotes from companies, NAWS never replied back to me, I dont think it would take long for getting a permit, since our neighbor has Panels, and he has a slanted roof, as for I, i have a flat roof.
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    I got a question, I was recently at a solar convention in phoenix, and got a idea.

    So there was a Tracking System that was very impressive. I am woundering if a tracking system is worth it, and if it can be roof mounted. It looks like it can be, the price for the tracking system is ~$7/watt or so.

    Here is the link to there website...

    http://www.sedonaenergylabs.com/

    Thanks in advance for the feed back.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,053 admin
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    Run the costs for fixed array + extra panels vs a tracking array with fewer panels. figure out the $$$/kWH generated and see which works out best for your setup.

    I have seen a few trackers, and many have failed actuators--potentially extra maintenance costs.

    Dave Sparks does a lot of off-grid installs in the California Seirra Mountains and very much likes tracking (longer hours to charge battery bank). He has said in times past, that with good hardware he and his clients are very happy with tracking.

    Solar Trackers for PV -- Worth it ?

    My guess is any larger tracking solar array is going to have so much wind loading, that unless you are doing single axis (tilt up/down)--that a full two axis tracker will require much more structural support than you can obtain with a typical roof mount.

    The PV Watts program has tracker support (one and two axis)--so you can pretty quickly figure out what each type of mounting/tracking will gain you.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • silent wolfsilent wolf Solar Expert Posts: 92 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Getting a Solar intallation and have a few questions..

    Well, I will do that tomorrow, also, talked to 12 manufactures at the convention, they said they will start installing the twin enphase D380 micro inverter in 2 weeks. I got to see in person, they are very nice in person, nice and thin, with easy connections.
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