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  • Starter Post, Researching DIY install in Bay Area

    Welcome everyone. Great site. Thanks for not selling me anything. Information is the most valuable thing in my search and not selling me goes a long way in helping me trust the information I read here. I like it. It isn't exactly spoon fed, but really great information is here.

    The posts I've really liked are:

    http://www.solarpaneltalk.com/showth...not-to-attempt

    and

    http://www.solarpaneltalk.com/showth...em-in-Bay-Area

    While I have aspirations of installing and turning on a ~4.5kW system before winter is over, I'm currently drinking from the fire hose. So much to learn.
    I'm committed to proper permits/etc, including whatever is required for calcs, Single Line Drawings, etc. Sounds like there are services out there to help with plans. I've already mapped out the roof (to the closest inch) and where I think panels can fit.

    Some Very newbie questions:

    I tried the sticky Glossary of terms link and didn't find the obvious answers to my newbie questions.
    http://www.solarpaneltalk.com/showth...ssary-of-terms

    Can you define these?
    TOU - This didn't help--> http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/TOU. I think it has something to do with cheapest power I pay for from PG&E - 1st Tier
    AHJ - Is this shorthand for the City/Co Inspector - Authority Having Jurisdiction?? http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/AHJ

    I installed my own Whole House fan with extra circular vents in the roof, plus we just finished a remodel which added sky lights, sun tunnel and 1/2 bath vents through my south facing roof. So my south face will only fit about 13 panels in 2 rows. I think I need more like 15 total for ~4.5kW system.

    I'm keeping 3' on peak and sides. City codes/sample dwgs didn't specify keeping 3ft from gutter edges. Is that typical?
    City docs to require 3' between arrays across valleys.
    But to get to my desired size I'll need at least 1 or 2 panels not on the aligned grid. Off set but near by. Is that ok?

    Homework I'm still working on. Don't laugh.
    1) How does the DC get off the roof? Meaning when do the DC or AC wires start entering the conduits? I envision a 3/4 or 1" conduit (or larger) coming from the array to the new 200A service panel we had installed for the remodel. But where is it coming from, meaning is there a junction box on the roof where the wires go in, terminate and then the conduit wires start at the TB (terminal block)?
    2) Should I go with a DIY Kit or not?
    3) Which flange racking is best?
    4) Array grounding (probably related to the question above)
    5) Future extensions (if needed) Our usage has grown (5 growing kids). Last 4 years - 6860, 7100, 7100, 8030, and this year on track for 8100kWhrs. So I figure design for ~90%. I'm afraid I'll need to branch out onto my west face to meet that need.

    Thanks in advance for the help. I'm sure I'll have lots more questions. But it's time for bed!

  • #2
    Hello Nephi and welcome to Solar Panel Talk!

    TOU = TIme Of Use, where the cost per kWH of power from the utility varies on a daily schedule according to the peak needs for power.

    The reason for the setback is to allow firefighter access to the roof area including access to chop a ventilation hole in the roof to clear smoke and heat from the attic space.
    So there is no need for access to the gutter edge, but open space at the ridge (high point) is important as well as a way to walk to that point from a ladder leaning against the gutter edge.
    Usually if you have free access to the far side of the roof ridge and the attic underneath is continuous space the fire officials will issue a waiver for the space on the side of the roof where the PV is located.
    SunnyBoy 3000 US, 18 BP Solar 175B panels.

    Comment


    • #3
      Nephi:

      Check out the solar for dummies series. a couple of the tomes (older versions) are free for download on the net. Do yourself a favor. a lot of the answers to your questions are there.

      Also, get a handle on your use, how your POCO ( POwer COmpany) charges you, and how that billing and the billing methods are currently changing. In spite of seeming intuitive, a 100 % bill offset, may not be your most cost effective long term choice. Also, know that the current sweetheart net metering is staring to wind down. Check something called the net metering cap.

      Welcome to the neighborhood and the forum of few illusions.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Nephi View Post
        Homework I'm still working on. Don't laugh.
        1) How does the DC get off the roof? Meaning when do the DC or AC wires start entering the conduits? I envision a 3/4 or 1" conduit (or larger) coming from the array to the new 200A service panel we had installed for the remodel. But where is it coming from, meaning is there a junction box on the roof where the wires go in, terminate and then the conduit wires start at the TB (terminal block)?
        Depends on the system
        There's "Soladeck" if you want to come up from the attic and change wire types there. (And I think they also have fuse blocks so you can do combining function)

        I ran conduit up through the edge of the roof on the exterior, and have conduit flashing around the conduit where the conduit penetrates the roof. The conduit ends in a J-box where connections to the PV wire are made.

        I've seen installs where they ran PV wire all the way to the inverter and the conduit came up through the roof and just had a fitting to keep the rain from falling down into the conduit.

        I would figure out # of panels, inverter system you'll use, placement of the inverter(s) and panels and THEN determine solution for this.

        2) Should I go with a DIY Kit or not?
        At least look at the equipment included in one and make sure you're buying everything included with it. (or equivalent parts)
        I would get all the equipment from 1 vendor (shipping costs as well as one person to talk to if there's an issue)
        But I think the 'kits' always wind up being modified, (add this, subtract that) so I wouldn't worry about it being a pre-packaged kit listed on their website.

        4) Array grounding (probably related to the question above)
        I would choose a racking with 'grounding midclamps' and pick an inverter which is an "ungrounded" system (I think almost all are now)
        That simplifies grounding - you will need to bring a ground to the racks, the racks will ground the panels through the grounding midclamps
        If you do optimizers or microinverters, those also need to be grounded (I had optimizers on ironridge, and it's essentially a serrated washer that makes the connection between the rack and the optimizer casing)

        FWIW, the supplier I used for my solar system is in Mt View right off 237. They are probably only ~10 minutes from you in Milpitas.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks all

          I checked out Solar Power Your Home for Dummies, 2010, UPC 9780470596784 from the library.
          Lots of concepts and small project stuff. Just getting into the major PV array chapter.
          Thanks for your recommendations. Home work contunuing....

          Comment


          • #6
            Local Supplier

            Originally posted by foo1bar View Post
            Depends on the system

            FWIW, the supplier I used for my solar system is in Mt View right off 237. They are probably only ~10 minutes from you in Milpitas.
            Who was your supplier? Sounds like they are recommended? Or are you not supposed to name names? I see advantages of someone that close to home.

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