Once all the optimizers are in place, you connect each pair of longer wires together with the incredibly convenient fast-click connectors. You end up connecting optimizers to each other, and each panel only to its host optimizer, like this:. If you have two lines of panels as I do, connect the far end of one line to the far end of the next line, so you end up with a long series of optimizers where both ends terminate with a loose wire on the end closest to your inverter.
Using the supplied grounding screw terminals, connect all the rails together with bare 10AWG copper wire. The bottom of each panel has two long output wires. This step is better with two people, especially on a steep roof. From there, your goal is to provide a protected path to get the high voltage DC wires from the panels, down to the inverter. I also bought a conduit bending tool , since there are many more outdoor electrical projects still on the docket for the MMM HQ building. I ran a length of metal conduit up from the inverter and just beyond the roof boot, then transitioned to a downward-facing connector to some flexible conduit , just to keep the wires covered until they get under the panels.
All three conductors including the ground are running through this tube. Also, you can switch from a bare ground wire to a stranded, insulated ground at that point — much easier to pull through! The inspector will probably have a nitpick or two with your work. Stay strong and make any required corrections, and pass that inspection.
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Which happens to be the the spectacularly good Google Mesh Wi-fi system. The system generates electricity every day, which reduces the Headquarters power bill down to zero. In winter, the days are shorter so we might consume more than we produce. But in summer, a large surplus will more than make up for it.
My inverter from Solaredge comes with a really nice monitoring features, available from both a phone app and any browser. Plus, you can share a public version of your page with anyone. It has still averaged about 10 kWh of electricity production per day, which is more than the average consumption of the whole facility. Put another way, the kWh of electricity is enough to power an electric car for roughly miles of driving. The monitoring tool also estimates about lbs of CO2 emissions prevented, which is 0. My power company pays out a check for any overall surplus at the end of each year, purchasing the power at a wholesale rate.
But many regions are more solar-friendly than this, giving you a full retail or even higher rate for solar-generated electricity as an incentive to go green. Solar energy is strangely fun to produce — most people report satisfaction far beyond just the monetary benefits. It gets you out there rooting for the Sun, and for your fellow humankind to follow suit and start harvesting it alongside you. Thanks again to John Shaw shawsolar.
If you have questions about the details or the industry in general, please put them in the comments and both John and I should be able to weigh in. I also recruited some highly valuable help from an excellent more local electrician: Tawcan February 7, , 6: Amazing stuff and thank you for the detailed run-down. From talking to a few co-workers from California that have solar panels installed, they claimed that the panels generate more electricity in the winter time due to better solar panel efficiency. I had no idea! A few of them said that they can be completely off the grid if they wanted to.
I have seen a few houses with solar panels here in metro-Vancouver but always wondered how effective it would be given the number of rainy days we get per year. Money Mustache February 8, , 9: The PVWatts tool mentioned in the article will answer your question about production in Vancouver for you exactly. Frugal Toque February 8, , Maybe this summer, while I have all this time off, we can put solar cells on my roof.
Need the patio doors replaced? MMM is on it. Need wheel bearings changed? Like almost to the week of me needing it. For the record, did the patio doors, passed on the bearings: Bobbylove February 13, , 6: I would be very interested in learning about your upcoming solar panel project. Tawcan February 8, , 9: Andrew Paliga February 26, , 1: Keep in mind that solar panels rely on daylight rather than sunlight. Chris March 3, , 9: That being said I bet each year the cost of the sytem goes down greatly around here for us as tech improves.
RainCity August 7, , 1: For those interested in Solar in Vancouver or for condo buildings a guy in Victoria blogged all steps from system design to getting approval, install and various post completion updates stating from I would absolutely love to copy this project in my 18 unit Vancouver building. Alas being so old it will be developed sooner than later i suspect.
Not sure why new buildings do not do this as mandatory if only for all the shared electricity of the building and not the actual apartments themselves. DS October 18, , 1: FYI — BC Hydro the government run electric monopoly in your area says that payback on a solar system is 23 years https: When I factor in a DIY install using info from this blog post the payback drops to about 15 years.
I am waiting for the payback to drop closer to 5 years, but in the meantime I am considering solar with this: Putting money into reduced electricity consumption usually has a quicker payback period than trying to generate your own electricity in my calculations since the Canadian utilities are stingy with the price they pay for your power compared to US or Europe.
SouthwestAnonymous February 8, , 3: I work in utility solar and during the summer we see curtailments during the summer where the systems runs too hot and we have to rack down the amount we are producing. That might explain why your friends see better winter production. Lou February 7, , 6: Love the map showing the areas needed to power the world.
Unfortunately, we use a lot of land to convert sunshine to ethanol, which is unbelievably inefficient. Stockbeard February 7, , 6: Ron Cameron February 7, , 6: I think Google Project Sunroof is a great tool to see how your actual location looks from a heat map perspective. I suppose the system will have value in the future for resale, but I have a hunch in ten years that setup will be laughably outdated. Not as outdated as no setup, however: It looks much more DIY than I thought. The pro bare shingle people will come in droves. RocDoc February 7, , 9: This post made it seem so easy and fun and fairly inexpensive too.
I agree with Ron, that in ten years it may be outdated, but I think the fun of having solar energy NOW is worth it. Frugal Asian Finance February 8, , 6: I might be able to save money, but at the same time we would have to put in a huge amount of cash. They said the system would finally start breaking after ten years or so. Must-Stash February 9, , 9: Maybe worth checking around and seeing if your state has something similar that will help over-rule this objection from your HOA?
Solar March 6, , Prices have come down a lot since 2 years ago — and you need to shop around and play the bids off each other. Unfortunately a lot of solar companies will bid what they think you can afford, not what they are willing to charge. Anonymous September 26, , 4: Agreed, there are a lot of bad companies just taking advantage of the state incentives. Find an installer that is honest and explains it until you fully understand everything.
A good installer will do that. I grew up in western MA, not exactly the sunniest place in the country. We had a solar hot water system with oil assist for cloudy days most of New England heats with oil. This is all anecdotal to you of course, but it was a win for our family. David February 8, , 4: When I built my house in Maine I did a lot of research and calculations on getting the best return for my investment in solar. Heating with the sun made more sense than making electricity. I have collectors that heat water which is pumped through radiant heat coils in the floor.
I recommend similar systems to anyone with a good southern exposure. The parts of the system which will look outdated in 10 years will be the parts that are easy to replace though, the infrastructure will be sound. Plus, the odds are that the cost of power will increase, or keep pace with inflation, so the asset value would be measured against this rising cost, not the installation cost. Mike Lomsky February 12, , There are 2 other problems that he has not mentioned, and should be.
The first is degradation. Solar panels will be less powerful over time. The second problem is that, for his carbon calculations, he does not consider the energy cost in making the panels. One also should consider what do do after the panels are done, and what to do with the toxic metals in them. My point here is that they are not perfect nor clean. For me, living in New England, I use air source heat pumps to offset home heating oil use during the times of the year when ambient air temperature is above 40F. That has saved me or so gallons of oil a year for the last few years, with a payback period of only 10 years.
I also get AC for the summer, but that is besides the point. My position is that solar is not good enough for places that are not sunny most of the year, and that includes most of the North East USA. In a few years, when the panel efficiency gets greater with the retail sale of dual-gate and possibly tri-gate or more gate solar panels, then we will have something. Folks should install what works right for their area, and in much of the US, solar is a good idea; just not all of it, not yet. Money Mustache February 12, , 1: Here in , panel manufacturing is far more optimized than that less glass, less plastic, streamlined cell factories.
On top of all this, buying solar panels is not like building a new power plant or buying a gas-powered car — with each purchase, you are advancing the entire industry, which will keep the costs and the embedded energy per watt dropping over time. Justin February 14, , It takes a huge amount of energy to bring the oil or natural gas to the point of generation. From manufacturing of the steel well casing and pipeline, drill rig operation, fracturing operations, transport, and refinement.
Not to mention the small army of oilfield workers driving around the field each day I Fs to maintain the equipment, gauge tanks, etc. Then you have to consider the inefficiencies of transporting the energy from fossil fuel generation from centralized locations long distances to the point of consumption; whereas distributed power i. Upstate Dad February 21, , New panels will of course be more efficient and you would have a smaller array to produce the same amount of power. No maintenance, no moving parts.
They are beautiful in their simplicity. Lily February 7, , 6: Despite the stereotype, there is sunlight in Seattle sorta and one side of our house gets a ridiculous amount of sunlight just blasting down on it every summer. We have considered solar panels before for our 3 story townhome. I believe installation would cost as much as we will save in energy savings if we use it for years.
Thanks for doing the research: Please keep us updated! Another Reader February 7, , 6: Not good enough to make me get out my check book. A neighbor a couple of blocks away works for Tesla, and he recently got a Tesla roof installed. I have seen the Solar City folks out a couple of times, so they are probably still working out the glitches.
One of my ideas for more cost effectiveness is if these systems became foolproof consumer products.
It would have a single volt extension cord that you plug into any dryer or range plug, or into the same circuit that your electric car charger in the garage uses, which presumably everybody will soon have. THAT would be a good way to boost solar adoption. Another Reader February 8, , 1: Good luck talking the utility companies into that. Foolproof when you are dealing with electricity would be defined as impossible to defeat safeguards. The liability issues would probably make it DOA.
The glass shingles look like, well, glass and appear very fragile. Tesla claims they are very strong and resistant to hail and wind damage. Not a lot of hail or high wind here, but it will be interesting to watch how the roof performs. February 9, , 1: Bakari Kafele February 12, , In MMMs idea above, it would be a stand alone system, which would mean the utility company had no say in the matter. Just like you can get a solar power pack to plug your phone or laptop in right now. It would be a bigger version of that, that just charged your car or ran the dryer, off grid. Of course, one could do that today, it just takes slightly more work and planning to design and build than a kit.
Nice Joy February 19, , 6: That is what I want to do. Run my air conditioner with solar. My bill will go up when I connect solar to utility company even if I make more KW than used…. This is the sad story from Arizona. TomTX February 18, , The Tesla shingles are tempered glass, and pass the highest standard for roof impact.
How to Install an Exterior Solar Panel
Tougher than tile or slate. RobDiesel March 2, , Interestingly, a company about 7 years ago was working on something that was easily digestable for consumers. The point was an easily transportable panel you could even hook up on your balcony if you rented an apartment etc. Another point people miss with solar panels on the roof is that they shade the roof, keeping the attic cooler.
This matters in places like AZ, TX etc. Cooling is a huge part of electricity cost for many people so keeping that cost down is a benefit too. Plus, a shaded roof lasts longer. It is a lot more cost effective to do it yourself. I purchased panels, inverters, and racks from ML Solar, right next to you in Campbell 60 miles from me, so I drove down rather than pay shipping. CoreyH February 7, , 6: Our DIY system is also Solaredge and has been in service for about one year now.
With two electric clown cars, it really makes sense for us. By going DIY we were able to install the same size system 7. Our returns as you described well are more than monetary, but the payback time will be around 63 months. People need to have at least a vague idea of the materials and labor involved, so they can judge what is a reasonable price to pay for something. Solar is cheap and easy — the regulations, fees, and fussy building permit rules are the biggest hurdle now, and I want to see those drastically trimmed back.
Tako February 7, , 6: Very cool project MMM! It sure looks like it! Really cool that you know someone in the industry to explain it all. Most people would be held hostage to a contractor or company to do it all for them. KMB February 7, , 7: How much does the panel output decline over time? How long does the inverter last and does its performance decline?
Cliff February 7, , The decline is usually expressed as 0. See the panel specs for the panel of interest. Similarly, inverter specs cite a 12 year warranty. I have not heard of a similar decline in performance. Chris Urbaniak February 7, , 7: Does the snow melt off due to excess heat from the panels, or does it need to be cleared manually? How do the panels hold up to inclement weather such as hail? I assume that you would want to have a reasonably new roof under the panels to avoid having to re-install them when the roof needs replacing; is that a correct assumption?
Check out YouTube for videos of hail impact tests. If your roof is less than 5 years old, an array will shield your shingles from hail, driving rain and UV. Nebin February 8, , 7: We installed solar on our degree metal roof last year. We previously had problems with ice sheets that would shoot off and put bystanders in danger.
The panels do not melt the snow, but seem to be advantageously working as snow and ice-guards. Interestingly we have noticed that the light passes right through the snow and we still get power. On a bright day it still seems to run just about full generation. But maybe I could do it on our separate low-pitch garage…. Sheryl Highsmith February 8, , 1: While the snow will definitely melt on its own, my husband makes a hobby of clearing it off with a ladder and a very long window-washing apparatus.
I imagine his snow-removal activities get the panels back into action hours earlier than Mother Nature would have done. Our panels have held up perfectly in even the most extreme hail. In fact, our roof was damaged to the point of needing replacement by a hail storm just a couple of years after the panels were installed. We took that opportunity to have another seven panels added when they went back up, since we had just gotten our electric car and needed more power.
Bohemiana February 7, , 7: You have a lot of solar needs with multiple facilities and autos using the juice. We are just a middle-aged couple working from home in a small house. Mrs PoP February 7, , 7: Welcome to the solar world, Pete! I really think this is the future, but we need to keep advocating for them in some areas because power companies are sometimes actively hostile towards residential solar and laws should change and open up to make it an even smarter investment for people and the environment.
Adam February 7, , 7: From there FAQ, they want permanent internet access for the Powerwall. Which really makes it viable for on-the-grid locations. I really like the idea of maintenance-free batteries, though. Which is what the Powerwall is. However, the one company that makes them in the US, filed for bankruptcy last year.
Which is a shame, as it was perfect for home setups. The weight kept it from being a player in any other market. So snow could be easily cleared, replacements easily setup, etc. There are plenty of offgrid options, and have been since long long before Tesla even existed. In between the extremes of a powerwall and salt-water is the good old standard 8D lead acid battery, the same kind semi-trucks use. Cheap, reliable, and barely manageable to move around by one reasonably strong person, and about amp hours each.
This is really amazing. Tesla solar roof is a cool thing and very forward-thinking, because it addresses the new construction market and the big-spender market, which are both very large! However, from a Mustachian perspective, a Tesla roof is like a Tesla car: But if you are still at a stage of life where cost is a consideration, you need to stick to bicycles and DIY solar panels.
Matt February 8, , 8: In a nutshell, prettier looking, higher cost, lower efficiency, unsure of lifespan, but probably comparable. I was researching this recently, seems like such a good idea. From what I understand — still in test and a year or two out. They are trying to make out it will cost not much more than a regular well a tile roof. They have two types of identical looking tiles, one that produces electricity and one that doesnt thinking being that entire roof particularly the N facing will not be photo-voltaic.
It also does not appear to lend itself to roofs that have hips, dormers, multi planes, etc. Who knows, when it finally comes to market cost may come down, but today its in the rich folks only bracket I believe. Ben Nelson February 7, , 7: Hi Friends, I was very excited to install my own solar this past summer! Faceplate power is 6. I did a pretty complete write-up on it with the hopes of as many people as possible learning from it.
That includes planning, installation, budget, troubleshooting, and more! You can see that at: Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can! TJ Schultz February 9, , 8: I live just about an hour north of you and I would also prefer to buy locally produced panels when I decide to install this type of setup on my garage. Ben Nelson March 10, , 6: Renard February 7, , 7: I was just getting my data together to send to you!
My wife and I did a DIY ground mount array of 6. We put it on the ground because our roof is 10yrs old. Using the PVWatts website our production thus far is beating expectations. It was relatively easy to install, with the ground supports and their concrete being the worst part.
Like when I cut the water lines with the trencher. The local power company was helpful but dubious of ability. If they go up, we make more money! In the two months since we got it up an running our electricity price has gone up. How the hell can he do that I thought. We average kW in sunny Florida in our 2 story sqft home. So digging even farther through your blog I discovered some hacks…. So I did, we did an experiment…killed the dryers one upstairs and one down …. Well we found a ton!
Water heater set too hot, 2 amps. Old dishwasher 12 amps, and the list goes on. Making a few easy changes we dropped the used not counting the solar to less than kW. Still too high, but on the right track. We keep the air at 80 in summer and 63 in winter so not that: Since wife is into historic preservation buy older homes to fix up and remodel for extra cash every few years so we have always been limited by the home as it was originally designed.
Well we are finally considering doing one for ourselves and with the kids finishing high school it can be much smaller. Reading your blog has given inspiration for many aspects of our lives, working less, living more and enjoying simple things. Of note, we went with the SMA inverter because it has an Aux power supply that you can lose when the grid is down.
Nice for the fridge. Holly February 7, , We use between to kWh per month. We replaced the furnace with a high efficiency one. Replacing all of the insulation in the home made the biggest difference for cutting our heating costs, both natural gas and electricity to run the furnace. So I open the windows at night to cool the house down, and then close them in the morning to keep the heat out. This works like a charm for the 80 to degree days. Having a gas cooktop probably saves us electricity. However, we also use a large toaster oven to do most of the oven-style cooking.
This uses much less electricity than the oven. And we also purchased an energy-efficient condo-sized washer and dryer set, and we only run them when we have full loads. My husband often hangs the clothes to dry. Changing light bulbs really does make a difference too. All the areas of the home where the lights are used the most have LED bulbs. John N February 8, , I use 48 kWh per month. TheHappyPhilosopher February 7, , 7: Curious, what would the cost be to install a similar system if you outsourced everything to a local solar installation company?
Mrs PoP February 8, , 3: Bruce A Johnson February 7, , 8: This time I know our side will win. You are absolutely correct that there is satisfaction beyond the monetary in solar energy.
This time I know our side will win! Ben Nelson February 9, , 8: One of the other commenters here, Bruce, was one of the many people who inspired me to do solar. The more solar including good DIY systems! Spread the good word!
How to Install an Exterior Solar Panel | how-tos | DIY
February 7, , 8: Congrats Pete and good work. Per the monitoring screenshot, it seems to be working nicely though. Are you still working with the Longmont elementary school to look into solar for them? Lemme answer all your damn questions! Shaw Solar looks like a great outfit, but Durango is far for periodic service visits.
Money Mustache February 8, , 8: I upsized the inverter because the extra cost was minimal and I really hope to add a LOT more panels to the system. My new strategy is avoiding bureaucracy when trying to do good around the city — either do the good without asking, or partner with people who are free from the burdens of lawyers, banks and overseers for now. February 8, , 2: Open offer to hit me up with solar questions in the future. All in the tribe I suppose. Jamie Costello February 9, , 7: Im curious if you have a link for those classy LED replacements you speak of.
Thanks for this article, it has inspired me to give solar panels on our personal home a harder look. Money Mustache February 10, , 3: Hey Jamie — sure: They were Philips brand in the T8 shape and the school required a K color temperature. Michael R February 10, , 7: TomTrottier February 17, , 1: For art you want coloujr accuracy. CRI — colour rendering index — is most important. It shows how balanced the spectrum is. Tony February 10, , That was going to be my question, whether or not you could add to the setup later.
So as long as the inverter can handle the input, you can add more panels? Considering solar on our garage but maybe starting with one side of the gable…. Be carefull how much good you do outside of the bureaucracy. You should just get famous too! Friends DO always pop over to help each other with projects.
Money Mustache to experience this phenomenon. And one of the big messages I try to share here is to work on this aspect of your life. Start a small business. Reach out to people who run companies in your area, and find ways to help them. Use Craigslist for most transactions, and meet the people in your community. These are things that help make you more pleasant to be around. Charming myself — I still have lots of work to do in this department.
But at least I know the general direction I want to take my life, and how to move in that direction. Colin February 8, , 3: In the last year my two best project-doing friends — who lived within walking distance — moved away. Marcia February 8, , 1: I have friends that pop over and help! I have helped other friends with sewing too. My neighbors have traded their skills with building and planting and growing. My other neighbor is a chiropractor with lots of friends who do landscaping, building, and are fishermen.
Lots of trading going on! I bought from ML Solar, which had the best prices I could find, and luckily just happened to be 60 miles from my home, so I went and picked them up for less than the shipping would have cost. Managed to get all the panels in the back of my Jetta wagon, and the racking on the roof.
Mount the solar panels just high enough to comfortably walk, drive, and park beneath then rake in the free solar. Same goes for parks in need of a little shade. This would make loads of sense, because parking lots are usually completely unshaded. Some cities already have large installations like this in place especially places like Phoenix where cars and summer sun are a super-unpleasant combination. The key to making it all work cost effectively is a really cost-effective system to bolt together over the existing parking spaces. If you can minimize the engineering, steel, concrete and building permit aspects, then things start looking much better.
The same argument applies to choosing small, lightweight bike infrastructure over the massive stuff we need to build to support cars! Almost all the County buildings here in Santa Clara County are doing that now. Even the Elmwood Jail has solar covered parking for the employees. Kris February 9, , 5: Michigan State University did this in the past year for some of their huge lots on the edges of campus.
February 10, , Ford did just that at HQ: Sarah February 24, , Maverick February 9, , 1: If you ever have the chance and are in north-central California, visit the Sierra Nevada brewery in Chico. The parking lot has about 11, panels mounted on racks about ten feet up. The racks also support hop bines growing up them, for an extra bonus. I bet it was generating nice returns on the blazing degree day I was there one summer. Wire the solar modules together and join them at a junction connector or fuse combiner box.
The modules should be stripped and wired in pairs before being connected to the fuse box mounted at the platform and connected to underground conduit output cables. When performing any electrical work, remember to take all safety precautions. Because of the danger involved, intricate electrical work is often best left to professionals. In the terminal box, the stripped wires must be connected properly.
In this instance, the red wires are connected to the positive terminal, and the black wires to the negative terminal. Once connected, the wires are fed up through the bottom of the junction box and connected to the corresponding positive and negative terminal blocks. With the solar array assembled, correctly angled and wired, it's time to connect the exterior wiring to the interior control panels.
The solar breaker will first be connected to a circuit breaker disconnect. The energy will flow from the disconnect to a charge controller and then to a battery bank to be stored. When needed, energy flows from the batteries back to the circuit breaker disconnect and from the disconnect to a power inverter this will change the power from DC to AC. Finally, this converted power will flow into an electric panel -- where it will provide electrical power for the home. In this instance, a back-up gas generator and well pump are also connected to the solar system. To handle all this, the solar installer recommends the installation of two volt power converters to the right of the main breakers.
All of the components -- including the new converters -- must be connected to the home's main electrical system to function. Run the electrical cable from the solar array into the house through the underground conduit. Connect the cables to nylon rope for easy threading, then pull through the conduit to inverter panels.
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Connect the cables at the fuse combiner box located at the base of the solar array. The green cables are first connected to the grounding strip. The red cables are connected to the PV out positive terminal block; and the black cables are connected to the PV out negative terminal block. To finish the exterior work, tap a grounding rod into the earth near the array.
Leave the long rod extending above the ground about 6". Run copper grounding wire from the rod to the fuse box and from the solar panels to the fuse box. After the grounding wire is run, make the proper electrical connections inside. Run the cables from the array to the inverter panel disconnect. Again the red wire is connected to the positive terminal; the green grounding wire is connected to the grounding terminal; and the black wire is connected to the negative terminal.
The team installs the battery bank in the loft area above the new control panels. First, run conduit through the ceiling into the inverter panel. Next, feed two heavy-duty battery cables into the panel disconnect. The other ends of the cables will be connected to the battery pack. The battery system must be installed in a series -- alternating positive and negatives -- and secured into place. Complete final tests and attach the component covers. Sign up for weekly project ideas and advice from experts. Bury Conduit and Build a Platform Bury conduit from the house or building that will receive the power to the area where the solar panel array will be located.
Mount the Panels Once the platform is finished, the experts are ready to get started. Secure the Rear Legs Use meteorological data to determine the proper angle for the array, then elevate and secure the rear legs. Wire the Solar Modules Wire the solar modules together and join them at a junction connector or fuse combiner box. Understand the Wire Connections With the solar array assembled, correctly angled and wired, it's time to connect the exterior wiring to the interior control panels.
Connect the Cables to the Control Panels Run the electrical cable from the solar array into the house through the underground conduit. Ground the System To finish the exterior work, tap a grounding rod into the earth near the array. Make the Electrical Connections Inside After the grounding wire is run, make the proper electrical connections inside.
Create a Solar Powered Shed 11 Steps.