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  • oh crap another newbie

    Well as the title suggests here comes some dumb questions. First a little background. I have a serious tree hugger wife that has always dreamed of having a solar array. I am a union carpenter by trade and fairly mechanically inclined. I also like to tinker and do "the impossible" ( use to race karts and turned 5 hp lawn mower moters into 20 hp race engines) I do have a simi grasp on electricity (my questions will prove diffrent).

    To make my dear wifes wish come true after 26 years marriage I will be building my first panels in the next week or 2. My land lord is a bit of a slum lord but gives me free reign to do just about what ever I want to the house and has given me the green light to do solar. The roof is crap and I will probably be putting a steel roof on in 2 years. This initial project is mainly to learn hands on the dos and don'ts of panels. I do live in Pa so the white stuff can be an issue. My true south roof space is about 20 by 35 and may just go crazy and fill it all 6 1/2 12 pich. Here goes the questions.

    1) read the top post about snow. Would intergrating heat tape into construction be viable or would the heat be to much for the solar cells? Also crazy idea if heat tape is bad. Home heat is boiler type I could plumb a branch line and secondary pump to run say a 3/8 pipe behind the panels for thaw/melt. Then again roof insulation sucks and a 6-8 inch snow dump over night is usually melted by noon the next day at 20 degrees with that kind of roof heat loss am I worrying about nothing?

    2) for my initial set up plan on using a basic inverted (maybe up to a $200 unit) with the intent of getting a full fledged metering tie in down the road. Any sugestion on a basic inverter and which metering tie ins do you guys recomend me looking into? ( I know harbor freight is not a real option lol)

    3) with panels is it better to focus on total watt production, getting a system up to at least 15 amp or wire up a happy medium? What amp target do you suggest before ramping up watts? Also 12, 24, or 36 volts?

    4) mounting brackets on shingle I am thinking 6 inch off the roof. When I convert to metal can/should I mount closer?

    Got 1000 more questions floating in my head but lets start there. Thanks in advance for telling me I am an idiot and schooling me on reality. BTW great site and great info

  • #2
    invest your money in an IRA would be a better use of it. Why bother improving your slumlord's house? Since you do not own the home it's probably illegal for you to modify the electricity anyways. What if your little solar panels start a fire? You would be liable and out on the street as well. Tell your wife it's not worth the risk.


    • #3
      The $200 plug and play inverters are not legal to use in the US. Amazon sells them anyway.
      Making your own solar panels from cells is an interesting exercise and can be enjoyable to the hard core DIYer, but will not produce a panel that will last more than few years because you do not have the production equipment to remove and seal out all moisture from the inside of the panel.
      SunnyBoy 3000 US, 18 BP Solar 175B panels.


      • #4
        Making Wife happy might over ride all other reasoning. Consider just what you want to
        accomplish. Put some lights in the garden? Eliminate all of your heat and electricity
        purchases? The easiest way to accomplish such things is with a ground mounted
        system on your own property. I endorse first trying something small to get the feel of
        how it all fits together. Horrible Fright has a simple, affordable, and expendable kit
        that just needs a battery. It will not do much, but it might be quite educational.

        Snow occurs here in northern IL, read the sticky on my ways to deal with it. Heating
        panels has never been worked out in practice, they have so much exposed surface
        and so little mass. My own attempts to melt snow electrically were a bust.

        For any substantial system (with net metering) you will need a contract with the
        PoCo. Plug in inverters are a dangerous and illegal idea. No doubt someone
        could be contracted to set you up quickly when you are ready, including contract
        and permits. A battery system such as used off grid has SO MANY difficulties, I
        would never recommend them when the grid is available.
        good luck, Bruce Roe


        • #5
          Same thing, building a small panel is a fun experiment. It's doubtful DIY panels can be legally installed on a house, since they are not UL certified.

          For 3+ year lifetime, here's a DIY guide to building a panel from scratch
          Last edited by Mike90250; 09-04-2019, 02:18 AM.
          Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
          || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
          || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

          solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
          gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister


          • #6
            Thanks for the initial replies. As for the investing advice. With 14 years to retirement I am on target to retire with 3.5 mill so adding another one is kind of over kill. Fire is always a posibility though I have had some luck not burning down the house after totally rewireing my current house to include 200 amp service. Being in construction all my electrical tinkering is inspected and certified by certified electricians for the cost of a few cases of beer.

            Did not know about the cheepo converters being illegal. What would you suggest to be legal for initial small scale?

            The UL tag is a serious snag. When I said I tinker I may have given you guys a picture of lower than the quality I plan on producing. The panels I will be putting together will be tig welded aluminum frame and vacuum sealed with argon injected (similar to double pain window prosess) there is not much I do not have access to when it comes to fabrication tooling

            Why don't I own a house? I did own out right but lost it due to fire several years ago and current rental situation is such any fixes I do are in lue of rent and much of the material I use comes from job site for free or very major discount (don't tell my land lord because I report cost at retail lol)

            As far as actual power production if the final system ends up cutting $10 of my ellectric bill then it is a win. Aside from "the wife wants it" reason I really am a how does this work kind of guy and take plesure in doing it completely so a plug and play approach does not intrest me.

            So bottom line are you guys saying don't bother?


            • #7
              one can buy used sunelec or santan "brand" panels for $0.25 a watt, they will likley last 10x longer than your DIY panels which will cost double or more that cost. . no one has ever made argon filled solar panels that I know of, chances of them leaking and letting in moisture after a few years close to 100%. none of the commercial panels use tig welding either. how is one going to weld the last 2 corners without destroying the corners ? lets say you ignore my advice install it anyways and house burns down and insurace comany denies claim due to amature installation, non UL, etc???

              pick up a book, solar power for dummies seems to be recommended. The fees to pull a permit for a Solar install and the fees to pay to the power company in Charlotte NC are $200 and $300 respectively, so you are $500 in the hole just to start. a 3kw system might save you $40-$50 a month and cost $1/watt if you DIY install it (with used panels) so $3500 total with a 5 to 7 year pay off.

              Used to be a landlord, and I never had tenants staying for 5-7 years . Renters on average do not stay that long. conclusion do not bother.


              • #8
                I built more than half a dozen panels and saw the cells crack and be useless the first time
                a really intense sun hit them. Connecting cells is quite difficult and special test equipment
                was built here to find problems. Mounting on anything short of expensive glass is doomed.
                In the end I think one modest size panel was built that actually worked, at least for a while.

                Realizing that commercial panels actually worked for much less expense and no wasted time,
                I bought a lot of them and mounted them on ground supports I built. Ground mounts mostly
                eliminate fire hazard and are DIY friendly. good luck, Bruce Roe


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Wrecit View Post
                  So bottom line are you guys saying don't bother?
                  Not without a lot more information about the solar resource and how POV works.

                  Do it for the tinkering/hobby/learning value and enjoyment, but from what you write, you'll be a lot further ahead with more self education before you buy/build anything.

                  Start with the Dummies book. A slightly dated but still useful version is a free online download. Print copies are ~ $20-$25 at bookstores/Amazon.

                  Welcome to the neighborhood.


                  • #10
                    If $10 a month is considered a win, why not pick a single item and run it on solar? You got lots of battery powered tools? Charge them on a small solar system. Renogy makes kits with everything but a battery. Relatively small investment that will give you some experience and keep it small enough that it does not need to be mounted on the house.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BoloMKXXVIII View Post
                      If $10 a month is considered a win, why not pick a single item and run it on solar? You got lots of battery powered tools? Charge them on a small solar system. Renogy makes kits with everything but a battery. Relatively small investment that will give you some experience and keep it small enough that it does not need to be mounted on the house.
                      an off grid system is not going to save money or pay for itself.
                      Solar also does not scale well.
                      OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ButchDeal View Post

                        an off grid system is not going to save money or pay for itself.
                        Solar also does not scale well.
                        Agreed. Making the wife happy and learning with "hands on" has its own rewards.


                        • #13
                          Just to make this abundantly clear, it doesn't matter how professional or high quality diy panels that you can make, they will never be approved through the poco during the permitting process unless you just flat out lie on the application documents. Even if you do that the electric company has the right to come and do their own inspection.

                          I cant believe this hasn't been said already but if the roof is crap, replace that 1st. There is no point in putting up panels just to take them off again in a year or 2, just an exercise in futility.

                          I think a good project for someone that wants to get their feet wet in solar is to make like a pv assisted hotwater tank. if your house is boiler heat you could even make that solar assisted using water heater heating elements and a couple of panels. These small setups wouldn't be grid tied so shouldnt require a permit, are relatively cheap and you could actually see some monthly savings right away. I'm actually kicking around the idea of doing one or both of these projects in the future.

                          As far as melting snow off your roof.... I cant imagine a scenario where the energy required to do this would be less than the potential for energy gained. What part of pa are you from? I live in western pa.