Category: Grid-tie Solar

Install of the Month – September 2017

Install of the Month – September 2017

A Long Install With a Big Payoff, with Larry E.

This month we get a look at an install that took a little while, but paid off in a big way for Larry E. Working for three months on-and-off (weather permitting), he was able to build a stellar ground-mounted solar power system on his property, with 24 solar modules providing plenty of power to his home.

Larry was great to work with. Easy going, confident and comfortable with DIY with good previous knowledge of grid tied solar.
- Solar tech Salesperson Zach S.

Larry had a little help for a day or so, but after that he was on his own, installing his system one panel at a time over the course of the project - although he also hired an electrician to help out towards the end. Larry has been a general contractor for 45 years, so installing on his own was no problem and he was no stranger to DIY projects!

Interview with Larry

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

The project took me 3 months, but it was only "part time" - working on my solar installation when I had the free time to do so. It took a bit of time to finish since I wasn't able to commit full days of work to the project.

How many people did it take?

I had two people helping with the installation for one day, but after that, I was on my own. Towards the end, I hired an electrician to help me with the wiring and final testing before we flipped the system on.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I've worked as a general contractor for 45 years, so a DIY project such as this was right up my alley.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Permitting my solar system and dealing with the utility company was the hardest part of the process. Getting my paperwork in order and checking everything off with my local AHJ was a difficult step that took a lot longer than I expected it to.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

There were a couple of tools I didn't have in my toolbox: a 10-150 in/lb torque wrench, a DC disconnect, and a Kwh meter. The torque wrench I could pick up at my hardware store, but the other two items were a bit more difficult to find. 

How/Why did you choose to self-install and add solar to your home?

Primarily to save money on my monthly utility bills, the choice to install solar was an easy one once I realized how much I could save each month, and with the size of the array I installed, I expect my decision to pay off very quickly.

Larry's primary objective was to save money and make a solid investment. We collaborated on components for the system, with the Suniva sale, and it being a ground mount I recommended the 340's as it is all ground work so easier to handle bigger panels, and there were no space constraints
- Solar tech Salesperson Zach S.

Components in Larry's System:

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Questions about Larry's install? Ask us in the comments below.

Install of the Month – August 2017

Install of the Month – August 2017

A Real Contender of an Installation with Rocky H.

This month’s install is a real contender, with a difficult project that took three hard, 12-hour-long days of work to complete, proving that with a little patience, anyone can be a champion.

Rocky H., the champion in question, rose to the challenge and ended up with an exceptional solar array for his home!

An “extreme DIY’er,” Rocky H. had no professional construction background but built his own house, garage, and workshop by himself.

“There was a large learning curve as I didn’t know anything about solar or DC wiring/properties, but it wasn’t anything that can’t be learned.  You don’t have to be a licensed electrician to complete a solar system.  Willingness to learn and research what you don’t know will get you there.”
– Rocky H.

Rocky had the help of a little manpower from friends and family, as well as a 60ft. man-lift to help reach the rooftop a bit easier – with an 8/12 pitched roof, a ladder wouldn’t be quite as simple!

Interview with Rocky

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

I ordered my equipment in May, but didn’t start installing until June. I had some things to install on my existing electrical systems before starting on the solar system. The actual installation took 3 twelve hour days. I installed the disconnect and inverter before starting on the roof. It took about 4 hours. The electrical inspection was two days later, and the system test with my utility company was two days after the electrical inspection. I will admit I had all my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed!

How many people did it take?

The first two days, it was just my father in law and I. We installed all the anchor points for the racking and then the racking itself. The second day we installed all the optimizers, optimizer cabling, grounded the racking system and starting running wiring to the inverter. The third day I had two more friends help. Finished up wiring to the inverter first thing in the morning and then installed all the panels. The 36 panels took us about 6 hours.  It probably would have taken twice as long if we didn’t use a man-lift. I used a 60 ft. man-lift as I have an 8/12 pitched roof and the peak is about 40 ft high. I would recommend one if you can get one. It’s much easier than hauling everything on a ladder. Unless you have a big crew.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I have never worked in construction, but I built my house, garage, and workshop.  I’ve also helped my friends with their projects, etc. I’m 37 years old. I’m an extreme DIYer. I would say my working knowledge is probably better than most. There was a large learning curve as I didn’t know anything about solar or DC wiring/properties, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be learned. You don’t have to be a licensed electrician to complete a solar system. Willingness to learn and research what you don’t know will get you there. Will Burlin at Wholesale Solar was a big help. I probably came in thinking I knew more than I did, but he helped me bridge the gap on things I didn’t have experience with — like derating a panel to land a large enough breaker for my system. Trying to wrap my head around that one was interesting.

“Will Burlin at wholesale solar was a big help. I probably came in thinking I knew more than I did, but he helped me bridge the gap on things I didn’t have experience with like derating a panel to land a large enough breaker for my system. Trying to wrap my head around that one was interesting.”
– Rocky H.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

This may sound lame, but I stressed a ton about locating the center of my trusses. You can try to measure from the end of your roof, but that isn’t always accurate. I couldn’t find them using a stud finder, so I ended up doing it the old fashioned way and used a hammer and my ear just like finding a stud in the wall. It was pretty dang accurate. Within 3/8’’. Pounded a nail where the sound was more solid. If it was off, the flashing from the anchor would cover it easily. Overthought that part 100 times over. Also stressed about handling the DC wires coming from the optimizers. Was afraid of getting shocked, etc. After a little research, I found out that each panel in the string would carry approximately 1V until activated by the inverter. The system comes in many parts and seeing it sitting in my garage for a month before I attempted the install was intimidating. I just hoped it would all fall together once I began… and it did! The way they piece the system together makes it easier. I didn’t have to cut any of the rails. They come in lengths that seem to go together for any number of panel rows. All the paperwork they gave me had all the answers I would need. There were several attachments emailed to me that I had to read a couple of time before they were clear.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

There really weren’t any tools. Like I said before, I over-researched the process. I have most tools a general contractor would have, so I was ready. The one tool I’d recommend if you have a shingled roof is a Dasco shingle ripper pry bar. $20 on Amazon. It worked way better than a regular pry bar, saving me a ton of time. I found a guy using it for his panels via YouTube. You’ll have to supply the AC wiring and the breaker from the inverter to the disconnect and then to wherever you connect to the utility (meter socket, sub-panel). Any conduit needed. Metal conduit for DC/strings to inverter and metal or PVC conduit for AC wiring. I think labels now come with Wholesale Solar packages, I didn’t get any with mine (Our solar packages now come with a 55 piece pack of labels designed to meet 2017 NEC – Ed.) . I also had to supply some engraved plastic labels required from the electrical inspector and a couple from the local utility. pvlabels.com got them to me in 3 days and cheap!

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

My neighbor had a system installed by a contractor. I started asking him questions and we both thought we could install it ourselves and save a bunch of money. We were right! I have a 4,000 sq ft home and also a 2,000 sq ft home and was tired of high utility bills! Plus there are great rebates and tax savings. I’ll get 30-45% of my money back in tax credits and rebates.

“Rocky was on top of all the technical aspects of his project, he had clearly done his research and was asking all the right questions. Besides a little advice here and there, and a quick revision of the diagram, everything was smooth sailing”
– Wil Burlin, Solar Technician

What was your primary reason for adding a DIY Solar Kit to your home?

To save money.  After all my expenses it only came to $15,000. Another neighbor had a similar size system installed for over $26,000.(my system is a little larger too). I will be saving hundreds per month!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I will say I was a little skeptical to work with any solar company. I was afraid that after giving them money that I would be left in the wind if I ran into problems. Wholesale Solar really helped with everything. Everything from ordering to shipping was pretty easy. They provided all the engineering required for permitting and required by my local utility. I had a couple questions about grounding and some other minor things that were answered within a day if not the same day. At the end I needed my line diagram changed for my final inspection. My rep was on vacation, but another rep stepped in an handled it the same day. My rep came back the next day and made sure I had what I needed. There was a point were I got really frustrated with my rep because I couldn’t understand some of the technical aspect (derating I mentioned earlier) and my rep was very patient with me. I will be honest, I’m not the easiest person to deal with. My patience is really short when dealing with salespeople. But these guys aren’t pushy. They are really laid back. They don’t seem like they are pushing for a sale. They must really love solar! (We do! – Ed.) I’m now thinking about installing a system on my business office!

Components in Rocky’s 11.16 kW Grid-Tied System

Questions about Rocky’s install? Ask us in the comments below.

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Install of the Month – July 2017

Install of the Month – July 2017

A Group Effort With Great Results - Install of the Month with Matt M.

"Do It Yourself" doesn't mean you have to go it alone: this month's install proves that a lot of friends and a little foreknowledge can go a long way. Matt M. knew what he wanted - to offset his power bill, and he knew exactly what he needed to install to get the job done. Six friends and 20 or so hours later and Matt has a fully functional grid-tied system that looks fantastic.

"The moment I got on the phone with Matt I could tell that not only was he knowledgeable, but he also had the confidence of a do it yourself installer. He came to me with the usage he was looking to offset, and we were able to easily design a system to fit his needs. He knew he was planning to build a structure to mount the panels on which gave us nice flexibility for panel layout, and allowed for ideal panel orientation. Matt's knowledge of construction and familiarity with solar made him an ideal customer for this DIY project. "
- Solar tech Ian S.

Matt's install was done on his 6/12 pitch metal roof, which proved a bit fiddly, but worked extremely well for racking the system. S-5! brand racking clamps allowed him to secure his IronRidge roof racks and mount his solar panels with ease.

A union sheet metal worker for over 20 years, Matt is no stranger to hard work and hands-on projects like this. His neighbor, a professional electrician, installed a solar array 5 years ago, which inspired him to install his own solar power system now. Matt knew he had to act fast, however, as Indiana just passed a law that drastically alters their solar incentives!

Indiana's new incentives pay back solar customers for over-wattage power (the power produced that exceeds what they use, and is then sold back to the utility companies) at wholesale rates rather than the past retail rate, drastically lowering ROI for solar-powered homeowners. For new customers, this goes into effect in 2022. For customers looking to replace or expand their systems, this goes into effect at the end of 2017. By installing his entirely new system now, Matt manages to slip in under the deadline and gets a solid 5 years of ROI before the payoff rate drops. Now, the rate lowers to an amount that's on par with most of the rest of the country, but what Matt M. found frustrating is that Indiana already has relatively cheap electricity - so the incentive to go solar needs to be as high as it has been in the past to make renewable energy worthwhile.

Interview with Matt

How long was the full installation process receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

It took 10 hours to install the racking and panels with 6 friends helping me, then it took another 10 hrs to pull the main feed and wire everything together with 3 friends helping me.

How many people did it take?

7 people installing the racking and panels and 3-4 people to wire up the inverter.

 Did you have any previous construction experience?

I am a union sheet metal worker with 20 years in, and my neighbor is a union electrician with 20 +years.

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

The most difficult part was installing the racking and panels on the 6/12 pitch metal roof.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Working with Ian was great, he was very helpful and answered every question I had. Thanks Ian! The only thing I was missing were two grounding lugs for the racking which was not a big deal: I made two out of 1/4-20 s.s. bolts w/ a button head that slid in the top of the racking perfectly.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I installed myself because I had great friends that took the time to help me out, I couldn't have done it without their help.

"Matt knew what he was doing, he never once called in for technical support, he already had himself an install crew and was ready to go! "
- Solar tech Ian S.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

I installed solar because our neighbors had done it 5 years ago and Indiana just passed a law to start shutting down net metering, which doesn't make any sense to me.

Components in Matt's 11.16 kW Grid-Tied System

Questions about Matt's install? Ask us in the comments below.

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Install of the Month – June 2017

Install of the Month – June 2017

“Making it Look Easy” with Bryan W.

Sometimes installation is a breeze! With Bryan W., the recipient of our Install of the Month, it was just so. Our customer was familiar with DIY projects and decided to install a  grid-tied solar power system to save some money. After a few conversations with our techs he got set up with the right equipment and was able to install an amazing solar array in a short time frame, a high quality one that would help him get a return on investment.

“Bryan was great to work with. He came to the table with a good understanding of what he wanted, and after a few conversations we had his system designed and quoted. It took about a month from start to finish.
– Solar tech Wil B.

Bryan W. built his own home and did all of the wiring himself, so a solar installation project was no problem. His past expertise came in handy with installing his grid-tied solar system, with few problems to get in the way. This kind of experience isn’t necessary for a DIY solar installation, but comes in very handy all the same. With his experience, Bryan knew how to wire his system, determine wattage requirements, and was familiar with the ins and outs of the permitting process before he got started.

“I enjoy the satisfaction of completing my own projects and, of course, there was a significant cost savings vs. having a contractor perform the installation. I did receive an estimate for having someone else perform the installation before making the decision to do it myself” – Bryan W.

The layout was among the first steps in installing Bryan’s grid-tied system. Bryan found this part slightly difficult, remarking that “a stud finder didn’t work for locating the roof rafters,” so he was forced to use different means in finding them, so he could figure out the space between rails to mount his racking on. With projects of this scale, especially on an 8/12 pitched roof, it can often be handy to have a second pair of hands in the form of a friend or neighbor to help you out.

Although we strive to provide a complete DIY kit with all of the components necessary, planned out and customized to fit each customer’s needs, Bryan W. found himself needing one additional piece – a pass-thru enclosure for bringing the wiring into his attic space. After a little research, he found a SolaDeck enclosure made by RSTC Enterprises, which flashed under the roof shingles and met all UL approvals. It made for a very clean pass-thru and Bryan was able to locate it beneath the panels.

As you can see, this installation project looks fantastic now that it’s complete, and Bryan W. is the proud owner of a working grid-tied solar power system.

Interview with Bryan W.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

The installation took two weeks, including inspection and final approval. I installed all of the racking and wiring myself and had a friend help with setting the panels.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I built my house and installed all of the wiring myself.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Laying out and snapping the chalk lines for the racking was challenging. A stud finder didn’t work for locating the roof rafters, so I used a hammer to tap along each one to make sure I was on it and figuring out the spacing between rails was a difficult task to perform by myself. I would definitely recommend having a second person. Everything is challenging when working on an 8/12 pitch!

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

The only additional component that I had to research and purchase separately was the pass-thru enclosure for bringing the wiring into my attic space. I used a SolaDeck enclosure made by RSTC Enterprises, which flashed under my shingles and met all UL approvals. It made for a very clean pass-thru and I was able to locate it beneath the panels. I would definitely recommend their product.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I enjoy the satisfaction of completing my own projects and, of course, there was a significant cost savings vs. having a contractor perform the installation. I did receive an estimate for having someone else perform the installation before making the decision to do it myself.

“This was one of the smoothest sales and installations I have been involved with. I did not have to provide any technical support for Bryan, I am very proud of his “get r’ done” mentality.”
– Wil B.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

The primary reason was for saving money on our electric costs, but I also take pride in knowing that we are producing our own clean power and reducing our carbon footprint.

Components in Bryan’s 8.97kW Grid-Tied System

If you want to save money on your electric costs with a grid-tied system like Bryan’s, now is a great time to start because through June 21st 2017 we’re offering free shipping on grid-tied systems! Learn more here.

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Install of the Month – May 2017

Install of the Month – May 2017

“Racking Up The Challenges” with Eddy K.

A Tough DIY Solar Project in LA County

We love Eddy K’s install because, even though it wasn’t a walk in the park, he did it all for mom. And with Mother’s Day coming up, everyone knows that mom is the most important person in the world! What everyone may not know however, is just how difficult it is to install a solar power system in LA county. With some of the strictest permitting and fire codes in the country, it’s a real challenge to install new systems that meet regulation standards. These codes are very good for safety, but can be exacting for someone who is new to solar, wants to DIY, and wants everything to be 100% perfect for the system they’re planning to install on their mom’s roof! But Eddy stuck with it because he wanted to make sure his mom never had to worry about a steep power bill again.

And guess what? With a lot of hard work and some guidance from the DIY solar experts, he ended up with a flawless system and aced those LA safety inspections.

Racking like Eddy’s is free this month during our IronRidge racking sale! Click to learn more.

For overcoming these seemingly overwhelming obstacles, Eddy more than earns our May Install of the Month!

“I passed the DWP and Building and Safety Inspections with flying colors. And they were highly impressed that I had never done a PV system installation before!” Eddy shared.

Eddy had more than just the LA fire codes to overcome, however: the house in question had a hipped roof, making placement of solar panels and the IronRidge racking a real challenge.

But not to worry, Alden S., one of our resident design techs here at Wholesale Solar, was up to the task. Alden helped him get the perfect code-compliant system that would work on his mom’s hipped roof, all the way from the initial planning phase up to his system passing inspection.

“Eddy really did an amazing job with his install. It’s really impressive that he accomplished this by himself and with such accuracy,” Alden shared. “Working with him, it was very apparent he wanted to cover every little detail before drilling a hole.”

“This was Eddy’s first solar installation, so naturally he had a lot of questions,” Alden continued. “The way I see it, that’s one of the big values in working with us; our customers know they can ask us a question, and, even if it’s an unknown at the time, we’ll find the answer. But it was Eddy’s persistence that lead him to this success story. If he hadn’t called me to check in and get each of his questions answered, this process would have taken much longer and would not have looked this great!”

It was Eddy’s persistence that lead him to this success story. If he hadn’t called me to check in and get his questions answered, this process would have taken much long and would not have looked this great!
– Design Tech Alden S.

The first challenge was helping Eddy design a system that would be as efficient as possible on this style of roof. As you can see in the gallery above, there aren’t a lot of large flat spaces on his mom’s roof, so this involved making four code-compliant subarrays, each with their own measurements and specifications. And to add to that, one of the codes required the conduit connecting the four subarrays be on the outside of the roof, a certain number of inches above it. Usually you don’t see this conduit at all; it’s generally installed under the roof in the attic. For our purposes, it’s actually a really great visual example of how subarrays connect in one string, but for Eddy and Alden, it added to the difficulty of getting this system right.

It took some intense calculations and careful measuring to get the most out of the space available, and Alden even remarked “You know your job is great when you use the Pythagorean Theorem during a day of work!”

Working together, they decided on an IronRidge XR100 racking system. This racking system allowed for easy installation with durable mounting that was flexible enough to adjust to the limited space available.

After all this planning and learning, Eddy was finally ready to start the install itself! He worked 7 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for four weeks to get this system up and running. The very first step was drilling holes for the QuickMount flashings that would attach to the roof and support the IronRidge rails the solar panels were mounted on. Eddy cites this as hands down the most difficult part of the installation, since he had to find the center on every rafter for each QuickMount penetration, and every single rafter had different measurements by an inch or more. The next challenge was making sure the setback on his panels was between 18” and 36” from the edges of the roof, which wasn’t as difficult as finding the center of the rafters, but took some time and close attention to detail.

Eddy also chose not to hire an electrician, opting to go the full DIY route. You can learn a lot about electrical by wiring your own solar system, an opportunity he wasn’t going to give up. But figuring out how his particular system had to be grounded wasn’t easy, and was what the building inspectors were going to be looking at the closest.

But in the end, after every piece of hardware was attached, every rail cut to size, every nut torqued, all components properly wired, every conduit in place, and every panel mounted, it was worth it. The challenge was real, but seeing the price difference between DIY and working with a large solar company made it a no-brainer. Not to mention knowing his system was perfectly installed according to the strictest codes out there, and knowing that his mom no longer had to worry about a steep power bill.

The racking he used in his system that was able to accommodate the demands of this project was an IronRidge roof mounted racking system. We recommend IronRidge for most installations, and now through May 26th, IronRidge roof mounted racking like Eddy used is free as part of our biggest deal of the year. Click here to learn more about IronRidge, racking in general, and talk to a solar expert like Alden now. And if you have the space in your yard, you might consider our IronRidge ground mounting options, which are half off right now.

Read on to learn about this project from Eddy’s point of view.

Interview with Eddy

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

When I received the equipment I was still in the permitting process and schooling myself on a few things, so it took a little extra time to get started with the actual physical install. Once I did start, it took four weeks from the first hole drilled for the very first QuickMount flashing to flipping the switch. That was working 7 hours a day, Monday through Friday, and I did the work 100% on my own.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

Yes, but nothing even close to this! I’ve done a lot of carpentry and structural-type builds, and I built a race engine for my ’69 Mustang years ago. The extent of my electrical knowledge was basic in-home stuff, the most complex of which was having custom-built and wired a wooden chandelier.

What was the most difficult or confusing part of the installation?

The most confusing part by far was learning how my specific system had to be grounded. From the technical aspects like how it had to be routed and grounded through conduit, to making sure it was code compliant with all the strict Los Angeles building codes. All I can say is… wow! The most difficult part was hands down finding center on every rafter for the QuickMount penetrations. Every single rafter had its own measurement, and all of them were different by an inch or more. Very Fun.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Nope, everyone was awesome about knowing my project and everything it was going to take to complete.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

To save heaps of money! Because of the four separate subarrays and needing to de-rate the main panel, this system would have cost $22,000.00 to $24,000 if I went with Solar City. I did it for just under $11,000.00 with you guys.

Because of the four separate subarrays and needing to de-rate the main panel, this system would have cost $22,000.00 to $24,000 if I went with Solar City. I did it for just under $11,000.00 with you guys.
– Eddy K.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

To offset my mom’s power bill by as close to 100% as possible.

Components in Eddy’s 4.56 kW Grid-Tied System

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Install of the Month – March 2017

Install of the Month – March 2017

“Beginning to See the Light” with Tom D.

Welcome solar friends! It’s that time of year again: as winter begins to melt away into spring and the sun pokes its head out from behind the clouds, we welcome in the prime months for solar. The extra spark of energy in the air makes us feel like anything’s possible!

To celebrate, we’re sharing our March Install of the Month. It goes to Tom D., who installed his own grid-tied system. This is a great one, since Tom is an example of someone who didn’t even know DIY solar was an option. But after he talked to us, he saw the light.

In his own words…

After I talked to Brent on the phone, I felt confident that I could readily do the installation myself while getting a better system with an optimized ground mount, and save a bunch of money too.
– Tom D.

A better, optimized system that saves you a bunch of money? That’s what DIY solar with Wholesale Solar is all about! Right on, Tom!

Like Tom’s installation? Right now we’re having a sale on systems just like it! Systems with Suniva solar panels and SolarEdge inverters ship free in the month of March. Check out systems with Suniva and SolarEdge, or see all systems that qualify for free shipping here. Free shipping can mean you save 10% off the total cost of your system, so make sure you at least call us and get your free quote to see how much you’d save on your system. We want to help you see the light too!

Interview with Tom

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

When I received my system I actually didn’t get started right away. Instead I took my time to plan things out (find the perfect location, etc.), get my documentation and plot plan together for permit, and purchase the additional materials I would need.

After receiving my equipment, it was six weeks before I finally visited my county building department to apply for my permit. I walked out with my permit, which only took 35 minutes, and three days later I had the foundation holes dug for my ground mount piers.

I was working on the installation in my spare time, so it took roughly four weeks from getting my permit to turning the system on. I was surprised how easy the permit and inspection process was here in California, in my county anyway, and how easy it is to complete the PG&E online interconnection application.

How many people did it take?

Four people including myself. My neighbor who owns a small excavator dug my pier foundation holes and the 200 foot trench. Another friend who owns a small tractor with a front-end loader backfilled the trench and also helped me place the horizontal 3” pipe rails onto the vertical piers. My wife helped with feeding the wire into the conduit as I pulled it through from the other end. Everything else I was able to easily do myself.

Brent and his associates at Wholesale Solar were fantastic in providing any assistance I needed via telephone and email, as well as providing informative online videos.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

No, not really. I have had very little construction experience and absolutely no electrical experience.

[A solar install company] did a very nice presentation, but when I was shown the price breakdown in the quote, I was quite surprised. The cost of the installation represented 2/3 of the overall cost of the complete system. That was when I got online and found Wholesale Solar.
– Tom D.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

There were a few unknowns up front, especially the mystery of the permit and inspection process. If only I would have known it would go so smoothly!

Another mystery for me, as a non-electrical person, was understanding how the electrical connections would be made at the inverter site and getting another breaker in my heavily populated electrical panel as I was already maxed out. But once I had a clear perspective on these things, it all came together nicely.

Another challenge was trying to come up with a suitable support structure for holding the 3” diameter steel pipe posts in place prior to filling the foundation with concrete. Once I came up with a viable solution for my particular setup, it was a piece of cake. (See the wooden braces in Tom’s install gallery above! – Ed.)

Also, the soil where I live is both rocky and hardpan, making for poor soil conditions to dig into. When I got my first IronRidge project report that specified a 60” hole depth for my foundation and piers, I called Brent and shared my concerns regarding what I expected with my horrible soil. In minutes, Brent produced a revised plan to allow me to dig only 36 inches deep, and the holes would have a wider diameter.

As expected, it was very hard work digging down to 36 inches, so I can only imagine what it would have been like if I had to go to 60 inches! This quick revision on the specification was one of the big advantages of working with Wholesale Solar.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

It was the communication component of the system that I forgot to address up front. This is the feature that allows me to monitor the output of each individual PV Module via phone app or computer. I probably should have ran CAT 5 cable in my trench out to the inverter from my house but now I am ordering the SolarEdge Wi-Fi kit instead and that should do the trick nicely anyway.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I had solicited a quote from a company that had a kiosk setup in Costco. They did a very nice presentation, but when I was shown the price breakdown in the quote, I was quite surprised. The cost of the installation represented 2/3 of the overall cost of the complete system. That was when I got online and found Wholesale Solar.

When I talked to Brent on the phone, I felt confident that I could readily do the installation myself while getting a better system with an optimized ground mount, and save a bunch of money too. It turns out that there is quite a bit of satisfaction in doing a D.I.Y. project like this; my friends and family are all impressed … but I know that it really wasn’t all that hard to do.

It turns out that there is quite a bit of satisfaction in doing a D.I.Y. project like this: my friends and family are all impressed… but I know that it really wasn’t all that hard to do.
– Tom D.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

It’s really easily justified when you do the math. Based on my average monthly electric bills for the last twelve months and adding up all equipment and installation costs (then subtract the tax credit), the payback should be only about 48 months. Purchasing solar is also a sure hedge against the future hikes in utility company electric rates.

Components in Tom’s System

Questions about Tom’s install? Ask us in the comments below.

Install of the Month: February 2017

Install of the Month: February 2017

“Days of Wine and Solar” with Jorgen O.

For Jorgen, the decision to convert his home in California wine country to solar power was an easy one. Inspired by the lowest panel prices ever and wanting to be 100% certain he got the 30% federal tax credit, Jorgen decided to use his ample days of sun for more than ripening the grapes in his vineyard. He decided it was time to harvest another of the sun’s many fruits: photovoltaic power.

And so, Jorgen began his research. Like many, he sought quotes from large solar installers before finding Wholesale Solar. Not being afraid of planning, research, and getting his hands dirty, once Jorgen saw the price difference between installing himself and hiring the big guys to do it for him, he called us up, got his quote, and never looked back.

“The system I purchased from Wholesale Solar cost about $20,000. I’d received bids from $86,000 to $46,000 for the exact same system. That got my attention!
– Jorgen O.

When he called, Solar tech Todd E. was there to help design his system. The first step for Todd was designing a system based on Jorgen’s monthly energy needs so he could tie into the local electrical grid and reach net zero. Next, the two worked together to figure out the best placement for Jorgen’s system.

Todd advised that Jorgen’s system should be ground mounted and split into three arrays: “The system was fairly large, so it would have taken up too much space and been too much work to install on his curved tile roof,” Todd shared, and added that “Jorgen didn’t have the room going left to right for one big south facing array, so we split his panels up to fit the space and still get the optimal south-facing sun.” The result was a gorgeous system tucked in behind the trellises; a crop of solar panels soaking up sun long after the last grape has been harvested and only dried leaves and cane are left.

Jorgen’s installation was “A perfect example of how the DIY process of designing and installation should go,” Todd noted, adding, “It was a seamless path from purchase to installation.” And luckily for those of us who love to see the step-by-step process of DIY solar installations, especially seamless ones, Jorgen documented the entire procedure from start to finish. Do yourself a favor and read his solar installation log below for a detailed account of what it’s like to install a system like this yourself:

Jorgen’s Installation Log

Day 1 Received the building permit.
Days 2-5 It rained, and I had to wait a week for the ground to dry.
Days 3-5 Installed wiring for internet, inverters, sub panel, and disconnect switch up to the main power panel.
Day 7 My electrician replaced 200 amp CB with 150 amp CB, rearranged existing circuit breakers, and installed the 80 amp solar panel CB at the bottom of the power bus. The labor cost was $200.
Day 13 Rented Ditch Witch with auger and trencher attachments. It was very handy and easy to operate.
Day 14 Passed trench and pier inspection.
Days 15-16 Poured concrete and set 20 steel posts. I had one helper for two days. Mixing concrete using a $182 Harbor Freight cement mixer.
Day 18 System freight delivery from Wholesale Solar arrived.
Days 19-21 Installed steel pipes and rails.
Day 22 Pulled wires.
Days 23-24 Installed solar panels, optimizers and connected wiring. It took two days with some help from my wife.
Days 25-26 Installed the two inverters, finished the wiring, and tested the system with SolarEdge support via the internet connection.
Day 27 Passed final inspection and applied online for permission to connect to the power company.
Day 28 2pm received email permit to connect the solar system. Turned on the switch – everything worked as advertised!

Interview with Jorgen

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

It was a total of 28 days, and I had help from an electrician, one helper, and my wife. I used two weeks of vacation, and several days were wasted due to rain and muddy soil.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

Some remodeling to my home and backyard projects.

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

It took two months to research pricing, evaluate the system, find parts not included in the kit, deal with power company connections and local and electrical regulations. That was the most time-consuming part. The most difficult part was drilling the holes accurately due to rocks, but I managed to get the posts lined up with bigger holes and extra concrete.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Planned for and purchased most parts at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and a few online. The only thing I missed were the warning labels and decals for all the electrical panels and boxes.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I’d received bids from $86,000 to $46,000 for the exact same system. That got my attention! Found a similar system package at Wholesale Solar for about $20,000 not including all of the additional costs like wiring, permits, conduits, CBs, rental equipment, miscellaneous parts, tools, steel pipes and concrete. All of those combined came to about $5,000 for a total cost of about $25,000.

Components in Jorgen’s System

Questions about Jorgen’s install? Ask us in the comments below.

Install of the Month – January 2017

Install of the Month – January 2017

“The Best of Both Worlds” with Sully B.

Welcome to the first Install of the Month of 2017! To start the year off, we chose Sully B’s great-looking grid tied system.

Sully wanted two things: the quickest return on investment, and a system that wouldn’t look out of place in his gorgeous yard. Of course, purchasing wholesale is always going to have the quickest ROI. Not only do you save outright, there’s also no paying interest on a loan or pressure to finance your system. It’s just the price of the equipment and contract work if you choose it.  But… can a system like this also look phenomenal? We feel that Sully’s system answers this question with a big yes, showing that it’s possible to get the best of both worlds.

“Sully was different than most customers,” shared solar design tech Isaac A.  “He was very interested in the aesthetics of his solar array.” Because he saved so much choosing to purchase his equipment through Wholesale Solar and hire a local contractor to install it, he was able to modify his system so it looked the way he liked.

The modifications Sully decided on included:

  • Black on black USA-made SolarWorld modules.
  • A symmetrically balanced array that required some custom design from solar tech Isaac A. In most cases, racking is engineered to pack as many modules into an area as possible without consideration for the way it looks.
  • Extra IronRidge XR1000 rails to accommodate the custom design.
  • The black steel pipes and black IronRidge rails that the black on black panels are installed on to give it its sleek, state-of-the-art look.

It was the first time installing solar for the local contractor Sully hired, so naturally the contractor had some questions. He spoke with Isaac several times, who was able to answer his concerns about the custom design and electrical design options that would meet the requirements of his local AHJ (Authorities Having Jurisdiction).

Read on for Sully’s take on his new system!

Interview with Sully B.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

From the time of placing my order with Wholesale Solar, to receiving the equipment, to having my contractor install the system, it took approximately 5 weeks. On an average day there were two people working on the project.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

Neither myself, nor my contractor had any experience with solar installation. My contractor handled 100% of the installation.

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

There was a learning curve for my contractor early in the project. However, Isaac with Wholesale Solar was very helpful with this aspect of things. I’m not sure anything was too difficult, but, this being my contractor’s first solar project, it naturally caused a little anxiety. At the end of the day, any anxiety was unwarranted as the project went very smoothly.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

No. My contractor constructed the support system out of 3” steel pipe and Isaac referred him to IronRidge for design ideas and support.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

Before I decided to hire an independent contractor and order my equipment through Wholesale Solar, I had a reputable solar company come out and give me an estimate. The young man was very knowledgeable and professional, however he seemed more focused on trying to get me to finance my project rather than paying cash.

I wanted the shortest return on my investment and was not interested in paying interest on a loan. To me, that defeated the purpose.
– Sully B.

The initial estimate through them was in the neighborhood of $52,000 for an 11 kilowatt system with 36 panels.

After having the salesman remove all the “inflationary” projections, I quickly realized I was going to need a larger system for my 4,600 square foot home. Instead of signing up that evening, I decided to do a little more research. I ended up contacting Wholesale Solar and was introduced to Isaac. He was very knowledgeable and provided me with the facts about solar and how to maximize it. Based on the information I provided him, along with the available space in my back yard, Isaac designed a 50 panel system with 2 inverters. The cost for the equipment was $26K and my contractor charged me $12K to install it for a total of $38K before tax incentives. Bottom line, I got a lot more for my money using Wholesale Solar!

Bottom line, I got a lot more for my money by using Wholesale Solar!
– Sully B.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

To save money on my power bill.

Components in Sully’s Grid-Tied System

Thanks Sully, and congratulations on your new system and your switch to solar power!

Install of the Month – December 2016

Install of the Month – December 2016

 

“Best Decision Ever!” with Martin S.

Can you believe it’s already time for our December Install of the Month? To cap off the year, we chose a really great DIY installation: Martin S.’s grid-tied solar system that he mounted on his roof. Martin’s project is really special because it took some doing. He had quite a few curveballs along the way to deciding to go the DIY route, but once he did his homework, the decision became obvious.

Martin became interested in adding solar to his suburban California home simply because it made sense. His roof space, combined with all of California’s sunny days and the allure of not having to pay the utility company their ever-rising rates, had him asking himself why he hadn’t gone solar yet.

Like many people, Martin’s first instinct was to contact a local contractor to install his system. Despite having some home improvement-related DIY experience under his belt, he considered the project too risky to do himself because of the scope of the project. It seemed like a lot to tackle, considering he wanted four solar arrays to get the most out of his roof space!

But when he contacted a local installer, he learned that before he could add solar, his roof was due for a lot of work. In fact, if he added solar now, he’d end up just having to uninstall it within a year. And so replacing the roof became a prerequisite for solar. After the cost of the roof work, he was over budget for his solar project. Martin was considering what to do next when a friend suggested he go the DIY route with a company he recommended called Wholesale Solar.

Still unsure of whether or not DIY was even possible for his goals, he decided to take his friend’s advice and did a little research. “After watching the videos and reading the reviews on their website, it didn’t seem so daunting anymore,” Martin said. So he decided to take the next step, and called us up for a free quote. And once he saw the quote, he was convinced: DIY was the way to go. “I never looked back,” Martin revealed. “Best decision ever!”

“I never looked back. Best decision ever!”
– Martin S.

The upsides to going the DIY route soon became very clear. Not only would it be a much lower cost to install his system himself, Martin says “I honestly think we ended up with a better system than what professional installers would have been willing to provide, just because we took the time to maximize the use of south-facing roof slopes and unshaded areas of our roof.” Not only was the layout optimized under sales tech Jeremy A’s expert guidance, but since it took four separate panel arrays, Martin suspected that “The professional installers probably would have balked at that effort.” Even Jeremy admitted, “There was a learning curve for everyone involved.” But working together, they figured out a great layout. “Jeremy went the extra mile, answering countless emails before I was ready to place my order,” said Martin.

After the planning phase was complete and all of Martin’s equipment was shipped to him, it was time to actually install the system. And although Martin was doing it himself, he wasn’t alone. “Jeremy continued to provide invaluable advice every step of the way throughout the whole process,” Martin shared. Martin worked on weekends to get the initial prep work done, but when he was finally ready to install all 37 panels, he had a little help from his wife and a friend. Together, they got the four panel arrays installed in just four days!

So, was going DIY worth it? Just ask Martin:

“There is nothing more satisfying than powering up a system that you completely installed yourself and then watch as your electric meter runs backwards for the first time!”
– Martin S.

Interview with Martin S.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

The progress was slow on my installation since I was only able to work weekends. It took me eight weeks from the time I took delivery of the parts to flipping the switch on our system. Of those eight weeks, the final two were mainly jumping through hoops for the building department and the power company. This was because my install included a utility service change that required some adjustments and reinspection.

Aside from that, most of the time went into the nitty-gritty prep work. Before my system could go in, I had to install the mounts. That included finding rafters, separating shingles, and pulling nails. I had to do conduit penetrations, run the conduit inside the attic, and make structural provisions to hang the 88 pound inverter, and so on. The 37 panels went up within just four days because I had two helpers: my wife and a friend of mine. The rest I did by myself with Jeremy’s invaluable remote assistance.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I’ve done several DIY projects in the past: my kitchen and bathrooms, flooring, radiant heat, building fences. I’m also pretty comfortable with electrical work. But I was new to solar and Jeremy’s advice was definitely much needed and appreciated!

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

I’d say the most difficult part was the planning process, before I ever even placed the order. It took several revisions of our panel layout before we settled on the final design. Our ranch-style house is oriented in a north-south direction with limited south-facing roof space. Since south-facing is the most energy efficient, I definitely wanted to pack that roof area with as many panels as possible. On top of planning that, to be able to get sign-off on my setbacks from the fire department, I had to use two different panel sizes.

Once that was done and I got my building permit, I placed the order and Wholesale Solar made sure all the required parts were included: the brackets, screws, fittings, end caps, and so on. I only had to order two minor additional things during the project: some conduit penetration flashings since I had misplaced mine, and one additional MC4 cable since I had changed the panel grouping from our initial design.

In terms of labor, I think the hardest work was preparing my roof for the installation of about 65 PV mounts. We had just recently gotten our roof redone, and those new shingles really stuck together like they never wanted to come apart! I found that it actually went easier the hotter it was. But of course, working on the roof in the heat of the day does take its toll on the installer!

Lastly, I think I had the most fun with the cabling and electrical connections. Luckily, or maybe due to thorough planning, everything worked as planned. After we had the green light from the building inspector, all we had to do to activate the system was follow the SolarEdge manual. And a half hour later we were watching the meter run backwards. Fun!

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

I did buy a high-end wall scanner, a Bosch D-Tect150. Street price is around seven or eight hundred dollars, but I found one for about half that on eBay. It really came in handy for locating the position of the rafters through the roof shingles and sheathing. I just didn’t feel comfortable with the proposed test drilling that some of the installation videos mentioned. Especially not in a brand new roof. Sure, the flashing would cover them up, but it felt better to avoid guesswork. With the help of the D-Tect150, I only missed one rafter on all 65 PV mounts!

Of course, there were other parts, like conduit, caulking, and everything to get the solar power from the inverter to my breaker box. But none of that was a surprise.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

It all started with a brief conversation with a sales rep from a large solar company at our local hardware store. After having them over at our house and listening to their pitch, I did some more research and quickly realized that their “low price per kilowatt hour” proposal, a proposal in which I would not actually own the system, was not for us. I got four more quotes for an installed system and arranged for a second mortgage to pay for it. We were ready to pull the trigger with a local installer, when a roofer explained to me that we have maybe one more year left, at most, in the life of our shingles before they’d start leaking. That would mean I’d end up removing my solar system to redo the roof. That’s how the roof became a prerequisite for the solar installation.

During the re-roofing project, we discovered significant damage to the sheathing perimeter and about half of the rafter tails. And just like that, we blew right through the initial roofing estimate by several thousand dollars. Now we didn’t have enough line of credit on my HELOC and couldn’t afford buying the solar system from the chosen installer. And that’s when the idea of DIY became very interesting. Knowing what I know now, I would still do it myself even if we didn’t have to replace the roof.

“Knowing what I know now, I would still do it myself even if we didn’t have to replace the roof.”
– Martin S.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

It just makes sense. Especially with as many sunny days as we get here in California. Why continue to pay the utility company with their ever-rising rates, if you can use the same money to pay off a solar system in about a quarter or a third of the expected life span of the system?

Components in Martin’s Grid-Tied Solar System

Install of the Month – November 2016

Install of the Month – November 2016

 

DIY Not? with Bill L.

Hello friends, it’s that time again for Wholesale Solar’s Install of the Month!

Each day, we get to see our customers go from solar beginners with basic questions to solar aficionados who are capable of installing their own systems. For us, seeing this transformation is one of the best parts of the job. We are all about empowering regular folks to take the DIY solar route, so when we get to see our customers’ plans go from an idea to a completed installation, it makes us very happy indeed. Not only are these installations cool for us to see, we think they’re also valuable to share here on our blog. We want to show you that solar is for everyone, that anyone can do it, and that everyone should do it!

That’s why we’re happy to announce that Bill L. is our Install of the Month recipient for November. Bill’s home is in upstate New York and features plenty of beautiful, wide open land to put toward his goal of using solar to eliminate his power bill. Bill came to us after every installer he talked to told him homeowners can’t install solar themselves, especially a large 50 panel system like the one he had planned. But Bill, like most of our customers, is not your average homeowner: he’s a DIYer who’s not afraid of a challenge. So when Bill talked to Sales Tech Brent H. and was told our homeowner customers install their own systems with our guidance all the time, and in fact that Brent had done so himself, Bill knew who he wanted to work with.

“Bill had questions along the way like all of my customers, but we worked through each one of them to ensure everything was done properly.  “
– Sales Tech Brent H.

The installers didn’t deter Bill, and they weren’t his only obstacle. He has a full-time job and a new kid and he STILL found time to do the installation himself (okay, with help from his father in law!). He excavated the ground for the pipes in his ground mount. He backfilled the cement. He built wooden forms for the pipes and a wooden box for his inverters. Then, finally, he installed every panel on his array. It was all Bill! That is no small feat.

All of his hard work, research, and planning paid off in a big way. “I would call this project a complete success,” says Brent. “The end result is a perfectly constructed ground mount that will provide Bill and his family with clean power for at least the next 25 years, not to mention accomplishing his goal of eliminating his power bill.”

Bill’s system is tied into his local electrical grid. This is called a grid-tied system, and it’s one of the most popular solar options. Having a grid-tied system covers his entire home’s energy needs and saves him money. You can read more about how grid-tied solar works here, and about the advantages of putting your solar panel array in your yard versus on your roof here.

 

Components in Bill’s System

 

Interview with Bill L.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch? How many people did it take?

I received all of my equipment in May. However, due to the fact that I have a newborn at home, I didn’t get to work on this on all of my days off from work. That said, I did end up tracking my hours: my father-in-law and myself had about 45 hours invested each. That includes the excavating, building forms, backfilling, and the solar installation itself.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

Some. I’m an avid DIYer and I’ll attempt to do anything I can on my own. I’ve wired my entire home for electrical. I also spent eight years doing underground utility work and rewiring apartment buildings with coax and data.

What was the most confusing or difficult part of the installation?

The wiring diagram. It’s quite vague because it needs to fit so many customers’ applications, but I think it could be more specific to state code.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

I needed to install a five minute time delay fuse to be up to code, and I was required to use red PV wire for my DC positive connections. No tools were needed, other than your common hand tools.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I’m an avid DIYer and I was looking for a different type of challenge. Working as a corrections officer is one of the least rewarding jobs. I look forward to a good challenge, and this definitely met my needs. The cost savings from having solar installed was also a strong factor. Every solar installer that came to my home to give me a quote said it’s impossible for a homeowner to install solar themselves. Well… folks who shop at wholesalesolar.com are not your ordinary homeowners. Never tell me I can’t do something!

“Never tell me I can’t do something!”
– Bill L.

What was your primary reason for adding solar to your home?

My home has a geothermal pump that provides heat, air conditioning, and domestic hot water. Geothermal pumps run off electricity to circulate a glycol and water mixture through the ground. We have full sun all day long and no trees surrounding our house, so it’s a no-brainer for me: when I can produce my own electricity that gives me free heat, AC, and domestic hot water, it’s a win-win.