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  • Existing Solar Panel installed - need help - options?

    Hello everybody! We purchased the house 4 years ago with an existing 8 solar panels. The previous owner I don't think got to use it, maybe from issues with the installer/dealer. It was disclosed on the seller notes that it's provided as-is. I tried doing some research, and I understood it now. There is a wire going from that array to my fuse box, but switched to off. I'm tempted to turn it on, but never did.
    3 years ago, I finally contacted one company that would work on an existing setup. I was quoted I think $3K ($4.5K minus tax credit) for the blueprint/plan/designs and the necessary permit/forms for my township, monitoring system/meter and one missing clip on one of the panel (BTW, no problems with them the 4 years we've been here - I've seen it up close and it's structurally sound). So with their calculations and mine. It MIGHT take 7 years to break even. I didn't want to do it. Recently, my son commented why not do it, at least we'll reap some benefits, and if we sell the home, it's a plus to buyers. We're assuming the array is working with the enphase micro inverters. I included additional info from their quote. So the main question - what can we do?

    Your Utility Company Total Annual kWh Usage: Approx. 10,000 kWhs Your Expected Total Annual Solar Electric Yield: Approx. 2,500 kWhs Your Current Average Rate of Electricity from Utility: .15/kWh Your Expected Electric Bill Offset: Approx. 25%

    *Since the array is built but not operational, we can only assume it will electrically function in the correct manner once connected. If, at the completion of our work, it is deemed that this is not the case, another quote will be drawn up for the work required to remedy this issue. It is visible that the flashings and attachments on the existing array are not installed correctly. At the customer

  • #2
    Did the original installer get a permit for the installation? It sounds like the company you contacted is expecting to do the engineering, drawings, obtain the permit, etc. as if it was a new installation.

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    • #3
      Even the previous home owner did not have any documentations regarding the panels. Yes, that sounds like it. I guess to save themselves, in case something happens. Has anybody tried to get permit themselves without any drawings and just buy the monitoring? What about the fact that it's been there for many years and it hasn't been a problem?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by wynn003 View Post
        Even the previous home owner did not have any documentations regarding the panels. Yes, that sounds like it. I guess to save themselves, in case something happens. Has anybody tried to get permit themselves without any drawings and just buy the monitoring? What about the fact that it's been there for many years and it hasn't been a problem?
        Have you tried to see whether permits were pulled when the thing was installed? In many localities, you can search permits online. And there is the possibility that the original installer is still in business - the permit would tell you who the installer was.

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        • #5
          Did the original installer get a permit for the installation?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by sdold View Post
            Did the original installer get a permit for the installation?
            Good question. Without assuming too much, until I saw documentation that proved otherwise, I'd bet not and go on the premise that it's an unpermitted improvement, and I sure as hell wouldn't finish or attempt hookup without first finding if there were permits pulled and also what, if anything, the POCO knows about it.

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            • #7
              An important aspect is if it was an un-permitted installation, the local AHJ is going to be within his rights to insist that the system be installed to the current code in place which most likely may require a Rapid Shutdown Device. Another potential is if adequate fire department access ways on the roof were maintained. But there may be a lot of other issues where code was not followed.

              Sadly it may make sense to list the components on craigslist and start from scratch. At least you would get the 30% solar rebate and maybe if you are lucky some other rebates on a new permitted system. Take look here for potential rebates and policies http://www.dsireusa.org/. Its likely that if you do decide to go legit you are paying someone to do it for you as doing it DIY although legal requires a much higher level of technical competence than a typical home owner. In some areas, there may be no option except to have a licensed contractor do the installation.

              Note that in some areas the state and local utilities do not want home solar systems installed and have rules and tariffs in place to make them uneconomical or outright illegal.

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              • #8
                It sounds like he has Enphase microinverters, so he might be OK as far as rapid shutdown, at least.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by peakbagger View Post
                  An important aspect is if it was an un-permitted installation, the local AHJ is going to be within his rights to insist that the system be installed to the current code in place which most likely may require a Rapid Shutdown Device. Another potential is if adequate fire department access ways on the roof were maintained. But there may be a lot of other issues where code was not followed.

                  Sadly it may make sense to list the components on craigslist and start from scratch. At least you would get the 30% solar rebate and maybe if you are lucky some other rebates on a new permitted system. Take look here for potential rebates and policies http://www.dsireusa.org/. Its likely that if you do decide to go legit you are paying someone to do it for you as doing it DIY although legal requires a much higher level of technical competence than a typical home owner. In some areas, there may be no option except to have a licensed contractor do the installation.

                  Note that in some areas the state and local utilities do not want home solar systems installed and have rules and tariffs in place to make them uneconomical or outright illegal.
                  Yikes! I was about to dig deeper, but if what you say is true, it'll have the opposite effect, then I'd have to spend money to get it down.
                  Which have now present these questions:

                  Solar rebate are rebate taken off tax owed right, not taxable income?
                  30% is probably not from the total of the job, but maybe from say, parts?
                  If I'm paying about $150/month for electricity, what kind of system would I get and ballpark how much?
                  I currently have 8 panels.... from say 8-10 years old so wattage is ???

                  Of course nobody can give me real numbers, but if somebody can ballpark it, I'll have an idea - I might just end up with the same result - do nothing.
                  I guess home inspectors only checked that it didn't appear to be leaking, rusting or decomposing.
                  I guess home insurance also do not worry about condition of the unit, as long as it doesn't physically look like it's going to cause fire?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by wynn003 View Post

                    Yikes! I was about to dig deeper, but if what you say is true, it'll have the opposite effect, then I'd have to spend money to get it down.
                    Which have now present these questions:

                    Solar rebate are rebate taken off tax owed right, not taxable income?
                    30% is probably not from the total of the job, but maybe from say, parts?
                    If I'm paying about $150/month for electricity, what kind of system would I get and ballpark how much?
                    I currently have 8 panels.... from say 8-10 years old so wattage is ???

                    Of course nobody can give me real numbers, but if somebody can ballpark it, I'll have an idea - I might just end up with the same result - do nothing.
                    I guess home inspectors only checked that it didn't appear to be leaking, rusting or decomposing.
                    I guess home insurance also do not worry about condition of the unit, as long as it doesn't physically look like it's going to cause fire?
                    First, yes, it's a tax credit, not a tax deduction.

                    Next, find out if it was ever a legit./permitted job. If not, you may have to jump over some after the fact hurdles. Since you have little choice in the matter, I'd level with the AHJ and ask for their assistance. No promises, and since you have little choice, but you may be surprised at how cooperative they can sometimes be, particularly if you act professionally, honestly and ask for their help.

                    You can get your own answers to your sizing questions about as good or better than a peddler or anyone here can give you, about as fast and probably better suited to your wants.

                    Do this: Spend 20 bucks or so on a copy of "Solar Power Your Home for Dummies". You need an education. While/after reading, figure out if PV is right for you at all (in more than a few situations - and in spite of what peddlers and the green hype media want to shove down everyone's throat - PV is not for everyone.) Then, after the read, download and run PVWatts. Read all the help screens a couple of times before you hit a keyboard, use a 10 % system loss parameter rather than the 14 % default value, get your orientations reasonably correct and make few runs. After you get your self education squared away, and some preliminary sizing based on what you think you need and want, fill in any knowledge blanks here and then, only if you are still positive about it, proceed with either making an honest array of what you have or taking it off the roof and live without PV, or, if removal, whether to start fresh with a new array.

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                    • #11
                      Whether you use them or remove them, there is too much cost involved to do anything without first determining whether the array was permitted and done by a professional. You can go to your city's permit desk and tell them you need to find whether the home's previous owner's solar panel installation was permitted. If a permit was pulled, then the file should include the one-line drawing.

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