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Old 10-14-16, 12:07 PM   #11
Roostre
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We are in northern Utah and up against some beautiful mountains; that is why I spent some time looking at the historical data from my neighbors. Sunrise takes a little longer coming up over a 10,000 foot wall of granite. (Due east of our place)

This weekend I am taking out 2 trees and trimming back a few more. Have a lift rented and hoping I can get them down safely. I'm 47, but my Son-in-Law is helping so it shouldn't be too bad. Great kid who is always eager to help me with projects. He is already on-board to help with the Solar.


Last edited by Roostre; 10-14-16 at 12:07 PM.. Reason: spelling error
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Old 10-14-16, 12:07 PM   #12
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One more PS:

What is great about this site are helpful pros like Steve: If you went to someplace like HVAC-talk.com for heat pump advice, all you would get from the 'pros' is a statement like: "you are too dumb to know how to DIY a heat pump (or solar), so better hire a pro".
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Old 10-14-16, 12:08 PM   #13
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My system went live 04/12/2013 9.2 Kw shortly after that I added more panels 12.5 kw.
I have done nothing at all except one time we had a freak snow storm and I pushed some snow off to get them producing faster. (This was not necessary)

I probably should clean them off but production is still strong. It just works.


Flynns Arcade 12.560kW | Yearly
I look at my online production at least once a day but I am on a computer/phone many hours a day.
I do keep an extra microinverter on hand just in case. But I have not needed it yet.

I told my neighbor I was installing solar they laughed at me and said good luck with that working out.
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Old 10-14-16, 12:10 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roostre View Post
We are in northern Utah ..... Son-in-Law is helping so it shouldn't be too bad. Great kid who is always eager to help me with projects. He is already on-board to help with the Solar.
Just gets better and better, that bonding with a SIL doing constructive work is worth it all by itself !!!!
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Old 10-14-16, 12:30 PM   #15
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Grip 4-Head Suction Cup Dent Puller | Auto Body Tools| Northern Tool + Equipment
You can get it other places.




If you install solar get this tool.
You put the lock the cups on the glass on the panel. Then one person can carry the panel under your arm like a briefcase. I carried every one of a panels with this tool.
It works so well.

Knowing you are driving your EV using the sun’s power is such an amazing felling. I know you can’t take a felling to the bank it is still priceless.
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Old 10-14-16, 12:55 PM   #16
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Roostre,

Read pinball's entire posting - yes, all the pages. I really like the IronRidge set of rails that mount to the roof. There are three strengths. Depending on your snow load, you may need one of the two heavier ones; I have only used the XR-10. You can buy these from Renvu as well.

What type of roof do you have, what is the roof pitch and how much is exposed to the south? Don't worry about the early morning sun (coming over the far horizon granite) - it is not a huge contribution. Any roof pitch from 2/12 to 6/12 is fine. Steeper pitch's (> 6/12) need a lift basket as you can't walk on them. You don't need a perfect solar south orientation either. Anything within 25-30 degrees of solar south is fine.

You can get the roof pitch from an iPhone as degrees. You need roof pitch in degrees to input data into PVWATTS anyway. The iPhone also has a great compass that can be set to either magnetic or true north. I set mine to true north and use the iPhone for both roof pitch and for solar south orientation in degrees. Hint - to get roof pitch, you go to the compass and then move the slider at the bottom of the screen. Then put the iPhone on edge and it reads out degrees of pitch! Really, really handy. Is this on Android type cell phones?

Maintenance? Huh? What? There is none. Maybe some dust decreasing the output by a few %, but you can use a home type sprayer washer to hose the PV panels down if you get anal compulsive (I don't do it; it rains enough to keep them clean).

Lots of people say you can't do this stuff unless you are some engineer - but the people on this site can talk you through ANY of the minor issues. Mostly nuts and bolts . . . .

Great idea for the suction cup device that pinball suggested (above).

Plan on some 40 hours planning and layout, then 40 hours putting it up. Every hour of planning saves two when you are up in the air.

Why not send us some pictures of the proposed roof area?

Lastly, find someone with climbing harnesses that you can borrow for safety.


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Old 10-15-16, 01:04 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roostre View Post
Have you experienced any issues? How often do you need to clean them?
Power Generation Issues: NONE since system went live 8/1/2013.
Cleaning: More than a dozen of my panels have never been cleaned in 3+ years! I cleaned two at year 1, four more at year 2. I used a Mr Clean Magic Eraser mop and hand washing dish soap and cleaned just a few to determine if any appreciable energy was available from cleaning. For me, the answer was NO. When comparing them in my energy production graph, after year one and year two it was nearly impossible to tell the panels I washed from the panels I didn't. At year 3, I'm sure they could all benefit from a wash since I saw some minor mildew growth on the glass when I was on the roof installing an anemometer a few weeks ago (just before the tropical storm called Hurricane Matthew). Cleaning my panels on the second floor stone coated metal tile roof is not for the faint of heart. I did all the work installing the PV system myself, but I still respect the second floor fall potential working on the roof. If I don't need to wash them, I don't! I live in a nearly sub-tropical climate where I get heavy rain, frequently. Dust is never a problem. Oak pollen is a minor issue certain times a year, but a good rain washes that away without human intervention.

As others have mentioned, there are literally enough of us with Enphase systems to explain anything you need to know.


My System: Self-installed, self-designed, self-permitted documentation(other than the structural engineering to survive a 3-second gust of 170mph, and I picked out the specific parts for the engineer to choose from to perform his wind load analysis calculations)
Panels: 4.4kW (20 panels, 220W Evergreen [after bankruptcy] Black frames)
Inverters: Enphase M215 (with MC4 connectors, Qty: 20)
Mounts: Unirac Creotecc Tile Hooks (qty: 102)
Racking: Unirac Solarmount (bronze, three rails per panel to achieve wind load rating)
End Splices: Unirack Solarmount Splice (bronze, one between every end butted rail, Qty:6)
Trunk cable: Enphase landscape, (26 drops)
Enphase Trunk End Caps: 2
Wire Mounting clips: Stainless Tie-wraps 11" (found them on clearance, cheaper than any solar track wire clips I could buy)

Roof Junction Panel: Hubbell-Wiegmann HW-80604CHSC (fiberglass)
Panel Subpanel: Hubbel-Wiegmann HW-MP806FG (fiberglass)
Terminal Blocks: Automation Direct DN-T10-A (qty:8)
Terminal Block Brackets: Automation Direct DN-EB35 (qty:2)
PVC Cable Glands: qty:4 (sized appropriately for Trunk/TC-ER cable.)

Tray Cable: General Cable 279910 (UL TC-ER rating 12awg-4cond, runs between roof junction panel, down a weatherhead, and to the attic junction panel)

Attic Junction Panel: Carlon 8x8x4 PVC junction box (qty:1)
Terminal blocks: Automation Direct DN-T10-A (qty:8)
Terminal Block Brackets: Automation Direct DN-EB35 (qty:2)
Terminal Block Rail: Automation Direct DN-R35SAL1-2 (qty:1)

Attic to PV Combiner Wire: UF 10/3+G
Rack Ground Wire: Bare 6AWG (solid)

PV Combiner Panel: Square-D QO QO816L100RBCP (8 space 100A)
PV Combiner Breakers: Square-D QO 15A (two pole, qty 2)
Wire PV Combiner to Main Breaker Panel: 6AWG (bulk, in three distinct colors, Qty: 6 ft per color)

PV Main Breaker: Square-D Homeline 30A (two pole, qty 1)

Rack Grounding:
WEEB 6.7 Grounding Lug (one for every rail)
WEEB Bonding Jumper (one between every end butted rail)
WEEB DMC Grounding Clips (one under every other panel pair attached with one mount)

System Monitoring: Enphase Envoy
Monitoring Wifi Connection: TP-Link TL-WN721N

Three-Line Wiring Diagrams: I drew those in AutoCAD, submitted as 11x17 paper copies. (at the time I designed my system, I worked for a company that designed A/V systems and integrated A/V gear all over the world. I was always drawing wiring diagrams, so drawing a PV system wiring diagram wasn't much different.)

Permits: My local AHJ required structural and electrical permits and multiple inspections. They also allow homeowners to do their own work on their own house, so long as the work meets applicable codes. I studied up on the applicable codes, asked questions where I didn't quite understand how the AHJ preferred to have things: like labels. I studied the appropriate version of the NEC being used, and designed the entire system to be NEC 2011 compliant. As a result, I can explain how the whole system works, top to bottom, Sunshine to 220Vac in my meter sub-panel.

I wrapped all the stainless tie-wraps with black heat shrink tubing to avoid electrolysis (separate the stainless from the aluminum mounting rails) and to limit potential wire chafing. It also disguises the tie-wraps from standing out like a sore thumb on the black rails. I painted the lowest visible tile hooks so the silver hooks don't stand out against the black track, black panel frames, and arctic blue stone coated metal roof.

When I assembled my components to build my system, I acquired things piecemeal as budgeting allowed and pricing seemed right. (my employment was in a bit of a downturn at that time, so I had to be frugal, but when I had second income from my part-time job I could put toward the project, I did!) My parts came from combinations of Civic Solar, AltE Store, Solarpanelstore, Automation Direct, and others. I had no bad experiences with any of the vendors I used.

If you look closely at the list I made above, you'll see some panel components I borrowed from my work experience behind the scenes in world renowned theme parks. UL Listed, NEMA 4x rated, weatherproof fiberglass panel enclosures by Hubbell-Wiegmann . Even my AHJ inspectors hadn't experienced those before. I simply opened the panel, showed them the UL Listing, the NEMA ratings, and the weather seal. They responded: You know your equipment. The terminal blocks I used in two of the panels: Attic and Roof, are also borrowed from commercial applications. They're UL listed, 30A, 600V rated and any AHJ inspector who has inspected heavy commercial work has probably seen them before. They beat the pants off trying to wire nut a 12AWG stranded to a 10AWG solid wire, sitting on the roof. Sure, a wire nut is cheaper, but I tend to use the best device for the application, not always the cheapest. I can trouble shoot my terminal blocks on the roof without disconnecting the wires to get a meter probe in them.

Occasionally people ask about my Evergreen panels and "why did you buy from a bankrupt manufacturer, aren't you worried about warranty down the road?". My response remains: I have no guarantee any PV panel company will still be in business should I have a claim down the road. At $0.78/W in 2011, I was willing to take a gamble with panels from what appeared to be a quality manufacturer who couldn't compete with cheaper competition. I consider myself self-insured with the money I kept in my pocket the day I ordered those panels.

Last edited by where2; 10-15-16 at 09:35 AM.. Reason: include qty for parts missing qty values
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Old 10-15-16, 05:12 AM   #18
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where2

Great post. I like some additional info on the fiberglass enclosures and the terminal blocks. I have used the 6" x 6" x 4" plastic Carlon boxes (Home Depot) as I can drill in holes for waterproof connectors. The Weigman boxes on their web site look better - any particular part number?

Like you, I never wire nut stuff together and am always looking for better terminal blocks. Any specifics there?

edit - just reread your post where you identified each of the above! Arrrgh, me stupid!
THANK YOU for the specifics!





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Old 10-15-16, 05:27 AM   #19
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Where,

The only thing that I would change on the panels is the connector, the MC-4 which is now the standard.

Have you seen any age degradation with your panels (lower peak power or lower peak daily energy)?

Whew - those Weigman fiberglass boxes are pricey! Take a look at this Carlon box from Home Depot at ~ $12

6 in. x 4 in. Junction Box-E987RR - The Home Depot


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Old 10-15-16, 06:30 AM   #20
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Here is another advantage of Enphase . . . .

A customer had an Enphase 6 kW system (I installed) where the Envoy (power and energy recording box) was acting abnormally. This box gets house wired digital signals from each roof mounted Enphase microinverter, converts them and sends info via Wifi or USB cable to the standard home internet router box. Then the Enphase Enlighten internet site allows you to see system total power, daily energy, each microinverter parameter (voltage, current, power, temperature, etc, etc). Very nice for geeky people like me.

Anyway, instead of the nice smooth parabolic power output that you should get over the day, there was nothing and then large square wave jumps in power output. Then all would be OK. The daily power output was appropriate, but the output curve was screwy.

I checked all my electrical connectors in roof junction boxes, at the circuit breaker and nothing was wrong. 120 V on L1, 120 V on L2, all OK. This is stuff I know - what was going on?

Called Enphase . . . They are able to look at FAR more data that I can see on their site. They have the means to see data, and where there is a fault, to capture all kinds of information (voltage, current, frequency, phase angle, etc) down to the msec on each microinverter. Turns out there was a transient L1 L2 imbalance. Normally L1 should be ~ 120 V and L2 ~120 V for a total for ~ 240 V across L1 and L2.

For a brief moment (a hundred msec, sometimes much longer, but always transient), these potentials became ~ 80V on L1 and 160 V on L2. The microinverters will accept some imbalance (5 V or so), but not this big. Note that the total potential is still 240 V - so the inverters are still sending out power. But the inverter was not sending it out to the internet in real time.

Both the Enphase tech and I immediately recognized this as a bad neutral. If the neutral is flaky or floating, then the ground is uncertain and you get odd split voltages on L1 and L2. The worst of this is that it was INTERMITTENT and incredibly short lived!

Enphase sent me the data by e-mail and I called the electrical utility company to come out and check the homeowners voltages - especially the neutral. They arrived and there was no imbalance at that moment.

The head lineman insisted that it was the customer's fault and a "capacitor was bad" on some 240 V appliance. He and a helper spent the afternoon looking and found nothing. Meanwhile I am looking at the electrical box behind their meter. This box has a wire "security" tag so that only utility people have access to that panel. This is a place that I cannot check.

Nothing in house - no issue with any 240 V appliance - and still no imbalance seen.

At this point, we are talking about having a voltage recorder put on the system and THAT is paid for by customer ($100 per day!!). The lineman also kept blaming the PV system and me (as I was installer) as the cause.

After they found nothing, and as a compromise, I suggested they look in "their" panel, the one the meter is mounted on to check those connections. "No, it can't be there" was the response. I persisted and said it would only take a couple more minutes.

Reluctantly, the panel was opened and each of the three lugs, L1, L2 and neutral were tightened (with insulated tools and rubber gloves on lineman). L1 was tight, L2 was a bit loose (took 1/2 turn to tighten), but the neutral was completely loose (3 full turns to tighten).

The utility repair person and helper were incredibly embarrassed, but I thanked them in front of customer and told them they did a GREAT job (never, ever piss off a utility person).

Now we had to wait to see if the problem came back. No it didn't and hasn't for months now. But here is the kicker . . . .

Turns out the customer had been having "odd problems" at times with appliances. Some lights would suddenly brighten, others would dim and some kitchen appliances would not work - then two minutes later they would work. Eeee gads! This had been going on for years (long before my PV install) and they just got "used to it" as it would go away. The imbalance was on a lot of the 120 V lines and it was lucky that nothing burned out.

Scary . . .

I called Enphase back and thanked them. They said they "see it all the time".

Bottom line - make sure your neutrals on your big junction boxes coming in from the utility are tight to the lug . . . .


Steve

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