Install of the Month – July 2017

Install of the Month – July 2017

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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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6 Replies to “Install of the Month – July 2017”

  1. Im building a 60×40 south facing garage. What pitch roof is ideal. And is there a better roof dimension for a 15kw system? Is 300 feet from the house if I put the inverters and battery banks in the barn?

    1. Hey Matt – We don’t generally like to give specific advice until we know all the details of the project, but we’re happy to give you some rough estimates to give you an idea. Please take this info with a grain of salt; we don’t want you building your garage based on these answers without talking to a solar technician first! We also offer free quotes if you’d like to request one: Request a Quote.

      Your ideal roof pitch is based on the latitude of your home, which you can calculate here, but we recommend factoring in what makes sense for your home’s garage instead of taking it as literally as creating a roof pitch of 41 degrees if your home is at a latitude of 41. You don’t want it to be too steep or it will be hard to install on, etc. If you need to make up for the production, you can always add more panels but grid-tied systems are already pretty efficient.

      A 15kW system will probably need around 15,000 watts / 340 watts per panel, which comes out to 44 panels. If we take the SolarWorld 340 watt panels as an example, they’re roughly 79″ x 39″ so your roof would need to accommodate two rows of 22 panels, or maybe three rows of 15.

      300 feet is a pretty long distance, but it’s certainly doable. You could also put your inverter etc. at your home, and just run the panel leads to your system.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Thanks Matt great information, but I was curious, I live off the grid and want to build a larger array of panels then I have, but was wondering the cost of the materials to do what you did no labor.

    1. Hey Frank! Are you looking to expand your off-grid system to handle a similar size electrical load to Matt’s? If so, you might need some system upgrades beyond just panels, but it will depend a lot on what your current system looks like and what you’re looking to accomplish by expanding. Sizing an off-grid system can be complicated, so the easiest thing to do is give us a ring and pick our solar tech’s brains about your project idea (call us at 1-800-472-1142) and they’ll get you started. But if you’d rather do a little research on your own, you can use our Off-Grid System Sizing Calculator, or take a look at our complete Off-Grid Packages, or our Complete Products List to get an idea of pricing if you know what you want already.

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