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  • 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
    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.

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    • #3
      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.

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      • #4
        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.

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        • #5
          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.

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          • #6
            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.
            [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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            • #7
              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?

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              • #8
                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, 02:28 AM.
                [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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                • #9
                  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.

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                  • #10
                    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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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SkywaveTDR View Post
                      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.
                      But that does not make you qualified to do any electrical work, nor could you pass a simple code test. I am a licensed Professional Engineer, Electrical, but that does not qualify me to do electrical contractor work. I also hold an FCC 1st Class License with Broadcast and Radar endorsements plus an amateur radio General Class license. None of that allows me to do electrical work legally.

                      With that said if I was a licensed electrician, I still could not make a solar panel and install it in any home as part of the premisses wiring system. I would not be able to pull a permit to do so. That is a fact and no way around it.
                      MSEE, PE

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                      • #12
                        My suggestion to anyone who is considering a DIY install to do the following.
                        Use microinverters as they are pretty much fool proof and you will not be working with potentially high DC voltage. (generally only about 30-40V)
                        If you have the skills go ahead and bolt the racking to the roof and attach the trunk cable.
                        At this point it is advised to hire an electrician to supervise the grounding and bonding of the system and wire it from the roof junction box properly into the panel.
                        After that it is a matter of bolting the panels in place and connecting the bonding wire or proper use of Weeb clips if your AHJ allows their use.
                        Rich
                        WWW.solarsaves.net

                        NABCEP certified Technical Sales Professional

                        http://www.solarpaneltalk.com/showth...Battery-Design

                        http://www.calculator.net/voltage-drop-calculator.html (Voltage drop Calculator among others)

                        www.gaisma.com

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                        • #13
                          That is an excellent summary Rich!
                          [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Naptown View Post
                            My suggestion to anyone who is considering a DIY install to do the following.
                            Use microinverters as they are pretty much fool proof and you will not be working with potentially high DC voltage. (generally only about 30-40V)
                            If you have the skills go ahead and bolt the racking to the roof and attach the trunk cable.
                            At this point it is advised to hire an electrician to supervise the grounding and bonding of the system and wire it from the roof junction box properly into the panel.
                            After that it is a matter of bolting the panels in place and connecting the bonding wire or proper use of Weeb clips if your AHJ allows their use.
                            I was actually thinking about doing this as I would not have to do the majority of the electrical work, however I would save a good percentage of the cost of install by doing the roof array myself.

                            Any idea on how much these mind of electrical services usually cost?


                            THe other thing is I can't pay the electrician and still qualify for the incentives I would have to pay to him/her? Incentives would only be for the panels and other equipment purchased correct?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nezz621 View Post

                              Any idea on how much these mind of electrical services usually cost?
                              Incentives would only be for the panels and other equipment purchased correct?
                              Incentives are for the total cost of the project including labor and subcontracting expenses; some electrician quote per fixture some do T&M or for larger house re-wiring it is usually lump sum; It probably is not more than a couple of days of work to complete the wiring and connections to the main panel. Our local electrician is around $125/hour if we have him over for shorter visit; usually try to consolidate work so it is a full days of work for him in the area.

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