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Thread: DIY install advice

  1. #1
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    Default DIY install advice

    So i've caught the bug and I'm interested in installing a roof mounted Solar array in Massachusetts. I called wholesale solar and they recommended the 245 watt Et solar array with microinverters. I think at most i could fit 16 of them to get roughly 4000Kw system. They recomend a DIY instal but installers ive talked to obviously advice against DIY. I know i could have someone install it for me, but i'm a bit of a DIYer and to make it seem financially worthwhile, I would probably have to install the system myself.

    My big concern is the electrical aspect of the install. It seems if i go with a microinverter setup ( I have some shade) the racks/panels and micro inverters seem fairly straight forward to install. However i don't know much about how to install the wiring from the roof down into my basement. Can i just run the wires down the side of my home and into the basement?

    Also not sure where I would install the disconnect switch and junction box.

    If anyone has a good video on how to install wiring that would be great.

    Also there is a question of whether my house is a good candidate for a solar array. I have a east/west facing home, and some shade (although i should be able to get rid of most of the shade). I'm told by solar city that i need to show i have 80 percent of the suns potential throughout the qualify for most of state and local incentives. So if i have the east west facing home and some shading i doubt ill meet the 80 percent minimum. I have someone coming to assess the home soon btw. Any thoughts on this?

    Last concern is the permit, did you guys find the permit process to be straight forward or was it a hassle?

    Thanks in advance for the help

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by nezz621 View Post
    Last concern is the permit, did you guys find the permit process to be straight forward or was it a hassle?
    I would say it depends 100% on your local building department, although some regulations like the NEC parts may be uniform statewide.
    SunnyBoy 3000 US, 18 BP Solar 175B panels.

  3. #3
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    It is my understanding that microinverters at the panels put out high voltage which then enters into the Electrical code. This most likely will need Conduit runs to allow it to pass inspection. Of course if you run DC it might be possible but when you go over 24 Vdc then it gets into another section of the electrical code. Best to consult someone who knows all this stuff before jumping in
    first. I am building my own panels as a emergency power system so may not be deployed so that inspectors can complain about it. However it will work.
    There are too many people here that give you only one choice and that is to call a contractor with union connections and that will cost plenty- there will be no savings there I'm sure. Doing it their way or the hiway does not seem to fit in with DIY panel subject too well. Well I was hoping for a better more helpful place.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by nezz621 View Post
    Also not sure where I would install the disconnect switch and junction box.
    The link below has very good installation guide for a micro inverter setup;

    http://www.westinghousesolar.com/ind...-diy-resources

    Our local building department encourages owner-builder projects and also always recommend a licensed electrician do the final wiring and connection to the main panel.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkywaveTDR View Post
    It is my understanding that microinverters at the panels put out high voltage which then enters into the Electrical code. This most likely will need Conduit runs to allow it to pass inspection. Of course if you run DC it might be possible but when you go over 24 Vdc then it gets into another section of the electrical code. Best to consult someone who knows all this stuff before jumping in
    first. I am building my own panels as a emergency power system so may not be deployed so that inspectors can complain about it. However it will work.
    There are too many people here that give you only one choice and that is to call a contractor with union connections and that will cost plenty- there will be no savings there I'm sure. Doing it their way or the hiway does not seem to fit in with DIY panel subject too well. Well I was hoping for a better more helpful place.
    As much as we all would like the ability to do things ourselves, these codes and rules were written because some people who decided they could do something had it end up causing harm to themselves or others.

    While I have always said you can't legislate common sense I believe there needs to be guidelines for people to follow to make sure they understand what they are getting into. No one can know everything which is why we have experts or contractors to do that type of work. It may feel like a freedom has been taken away but in the long run codes save people's lives.

    Try to enjoy the DIY part but on a smaller scale. Learn to do things so you can understand what is happening but then realize that it is a small learning project and not an infrastructure addition.

  6. #6
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    DIY rules:

    1) Start simple
    2) Start with some kind of training available

    After you aquire the skill sets necessary for a certain task then try it - on a simple basis and work your way up.

    If you have no electrical training then stay away from electrical installations.

    If you don't know what NEC is or what building codes are and what they are for then stay away form DIY.

  7. #7
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    Russ,
    This is good advice for a person approaching this with no idea of electronics.
    However, most of the people I have talked to are well versed in Electronics having worked in places like Fermi Lab or radio stations. Radio transmitters use plate voltages in their tubes that go up to 10KV. Filament currents of up to 450 amps.
    So far I have been Chief Engineer for 4 Radio Stations so at least I did not kill myself on these.
    You speak of solar panels requiring UL approval and being dangerous with regard to insurance companies. How are they that dangerous in that there are blocking diodes between panels and proper wiring and junction boxes would make them completely safe as long as you were not installing in a Tornado?

  8. #8
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    Some few prospective DIY types actually have the necessary skills and knowledge.

    Most don't even have an idea how to solder.

    Most have no idea what NEC stands for.

    The potential problem with DIY panels is in the multiple soldered connections - an overheated connection = problem

    Any item connected to your home is required to be listed by UL or an equivalent agency. If not then you may not have home owners insurance in the event of a problem. Any utility with a bit of brains will require the same for any equipment connected to their grid.

    What one thinks is safe and what the NEC/utility/insurance company considers as safe are not always the same and the homeowner will lose every time.
    Last edited by russ; 03-20-2013 at 02:28 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by russ View Post
    What one thinks is safe and what the NEC/utility/insurance company considers as safe are not always the same and the homeowner will lose every time.
    Well, the chances of anything actually happening are really slim, and besides those unlikely occurrences are just what I have insurance for... Wait a minute!
    SunnyBoy 3000 US, 18 BP Solar 175B panels.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by inetdog View Post
    Well, the chances of anything actually happening are really slim, and besides those unlikely occurrences are just what I have insurance for... Wait a minute!
    Catch 22. Need to comply if you want insurance but insurance will not cover me for issues that happen and don't comply. Sad but true.

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