Just a quick post. I’ve mentioned my little house in the country many times… I finally found the energy hog!! It was my septic aerator pump. It’s a 3/4 horse air pump, and it was running far too often. Changed the timer settings and cut my biggest energy user by 70%. I added panel #13, and I think I’ve almost reached NET ZERO energy for this little house!! Thought I’d share this bill with my readers! Hope to see this happen about 6 months out of the year! Nothing makes me happier than seeing a ZERO or near ZERO electric bill. Keep in mind, the solar also covers the “fixed” portion of the bill that is NOT electric usage! It renews my belief that doing this is the Right thing, right now. Solar has never been more affordable, so if you’re 50 or younger, and plan on staying in your home for the next 20 years, CALL ME and I’ll show you how to do DIY SOLAR in a quick, effective and above all AFFORDABLE manner! It just makes good sense.
Missed this photo on the first part of this adventure. The owner had materials on hand, and made the posts of Steel L channel, the beams from Steel S-channel, and the barn support brackets from 2 inch steel L material. The owner (George) is a VERY resourceful fellow – some might call him a scrounger, but I call him SMART! I passed along a great vendor deal on the solar panels and he purchased them direct. The BOS (balance of system) materials was purchased through Cinci Home Solar at great pricing, bringing the whole project in at about $3/watt, and this includes the battery bank and backup power inverters in addition to the Enphase micro-inverters behind each panel. The work was spread over 4 full days, with the helper crew varying from 1 to 3 guys and myself. Plenty of manpower to get this rather large project done in a timely fashion. Winter is really variable in Cincinnati, and whenever the weather was predicted to be above 40 and sunny, George called and we got the job done. Fortunately, this job was a quick drive from my home, and it wasn’t a problem. Normally, these 3 or 4 days would have been all condensed into one extended visit! I aim to please, whenever possible…
After we finished the 32 panel array, George saw that some minor grading of the ground near the bottom would allow plenty of room for 2 more rows! A week later he called me and said “Hey Joe, come on out and lets get these 2 rows installed – tomorrow’s weather looks great. So we did! When I ordered the extra components, we also added 8 more rails – one under each of the 8 columns of the upper 4 rows. You can see them mid-panel in the picture to the right. This provided the extra strength and rigidity that the span required for both wind and snow loading. Splicing the extra rails that extend to the newly installed lower beam also provided a counterbalance to the free span above.
The two missing panels at the lower left were intentionally left off because of a stone access road to the hay barn that George didn’t want to move.
This is what the backside looks like after everything is in place. After the rails were set, the Enphase M215 Micro-inverters were mounted. Then the #6 bare copper ground wire was run in series to each inverter. We grounded BOTH ends of the #6 copper, just because we could. Next came the Enphase TRUNK Cable, mounted with stainless steel clips to the rails. Then the panels were added, the micros were plugged in to the trunk cable and the panel leads connected to the micros. One end of the trunk cable is sealed with a weather tight cap, and the other goes to a weatherproof junction box (white) to transition to standard exterior rated 12-3 with ground romex. The romex connects to a breaker box with a 20 amp 2 pole breaker for each string of 16 and 1 string of 14 panels. Then, the entire array is nicely dressed using tie wraps so that all the wiring is suspended between the panels and the bottom of the rails to keep it from whipping in the wind or getting snagged by anything.
Here’s the power panel. Public Utility Commission in Ohio says any array over 6Kw must be metered by a UTILITY GRADE meter. Got one on Ebay for $35. Breaker box on left contains the 3 solar breakers. That feeds through the meter to the master breaker box on the right. Master breaker box connects to the utility grid via a buried conduit over to the other barn that had power in it already. Below the utility grade meter is the Enphase ENVOY monitoring unit that ties all this to the internet so George can watch things from his home computer. He can share a link with his friends as well. I’ll post this link soon as I get it from George! The Utility voltage here is rather high – close to the limits for most inverters, at 254Vac. This causes a few of the inverters to occasionally shut down (to protect themselves). I’ll be looking into this further on my next visit to see how we might correct this…
Here’s the finished array. Still need to trim the excess rail length at the bottoms. If you look close, you might just spot some mis-alignment within the array. George got 2 pallets of panels. Same part number, same vendor, but one pallet was 1/2 inch shorter on the long side (out of spec…). We didn’t catch this till 5 were mounted in the top row. George, being a prudent and thrifty fellow, called the panel supplier and negotiated a compromise that didn’t require a return of the panels. The size only affects the esthetics slightly, and a cost reduction is pending! The Enphase ENVOY normally communicates over the power lines, but there’s a half mile of them back to the house and that’s too far for it to work, so I added an Engenius EOC-1650 at the house as an access point, and atop the array as a client/bridge. It works great – with 100% signal integrity, and also provides WIFI to his customers and visitors! The EOC-1650 is that little white gadget at the top right of the array.
I’ve never discussed this, but these devices are cheap insurance (not really, but you get the idea…) against all kinds of problems that can come about as a result of electrical storms. I’ve used the powered type in the past, and have one installed currently, but I came across a totally passive version that uses no power, is self resetting, and if it does fail, it fails OPEN, so it won’t cause problems. Best of all, you can get them for 30 bucks on ebay, brand new, including shipping. Just search for “LA302R”. It has 3 wires, and you simply install it in your electric box to a breaker connected to L1, L2 and Neutral. If you’re not an electrician, hire one to do this. It takes about 2 minutes. It takes longer to get the cover off your breaker box than it does to install one!!
Check out this 1 page report regarding current market interest in solar panels. Solar Panel Market Survey It shows the interest falling off slightly for this time of year, but it mentions that China is working to provide buyers with incentives (read that to be even better pricing!!). Just thought I’d share this with my followers. Now is a great time to buy panels. 235 to 245 watt mono and poly panels are selling between .80 and .90/watt in pallet quantities. Pallets usually hold between 24 and 29 panels, depending on supplier and brand of panel. Sellers don’t like to “break” pallets, since they don’t have a good way to store or keep track of loose panels in their warehouses. You can always sell extra panels (at a markup!!) on Craigs list, or partner with a neighbor and split the shipping costs. Shipping (truck freight) can run anywhere from $200 to $450, so don’t be afraid to ask for a BETTER DEAL on freight when you are making a purchase!
I had the good fortune of getting invited to the Solar Power International trade show in Orlando Florida a few weeks ago, and while there I did a few interviews with the great guys at Enphase. In my off-time, I was able to see the show, visit all the manufacturers of the products I use when helping my DIY customers, and get lots of questions answered. Specifically, I was researching GROUND MOUNTS which range from small and affordable to massive and huge for utility size jobs. There are an amazing number of ways to fasten an array to the ground!! More than I ever imagined! Anyway, here is a link to one of the interviews I did for Enphase. Enphase Interview with Joe
It’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been hesitant to make the investment, but recent power outages caused by the weather, combined with the state of affairs around the globe, have given me the motivation to finally make it happen. Please come back here at least twice a month to check my progress on this project! I’m doing this at my “bunker” in the mountains of Ohio. I’ve already got a 2400 watt system running using the older Enphase M190 micro-inverters along with 12 assorted PV Panels, and it’s covering 90 to 100% of the electric bill. But, I lost a refrigerator full of food when the power was down for too many days… so, I’m adding all the parts to keep the power flowing when the grid is down! Here’s a list of the parts I’ve got on the way:
- Magnum Distribution panel 250/30A-2P
- Magnum MS-PAE 4024AE 4kW 240VAC Pure Sine Inverter
- Magnum LCD Remote Panel (for programming and monitoring inverter status)
- Magnum BP-MMP Metal Mount for MMP enclosure and inverter
- ROLLS 6V 530AH Wet 40000S EKG Battery (X4=24 Vdc)
- Battery Box fan 24volt, 6 CFM
- ROLLS R+ Recombination Caps (X12) keeps battery watering to a minimum
- Outback Spill Control Tray for the batteries – in case of a case crack or acid spill
- #4/0 gauge flex wire with lugs for battery interconnections and inverter hookup
There’s also a whole house SMART SWITCH and some other parts to modify the incoming service wiring…
That pile of parts is worth about $4500 if you’re considering doing this. Well worth the price if the grid goes down for ANY reason! I’ll take pictures as I go and do updates to describe my trials and tribulations!
DIY Solar is affordable and reliable ( and a great way to prepare for Zombie Armageddon ) just kidding… and have a SUNNY day!
I’ve not been on the roof to clean my panels since I put them up last July. This past Spring, I had to wash my car twice to get rid of a sticky yellow buildup of pollen, but it didn’t occur to me that this same pollen could be on my panels. Imagine my surprise when I went up there and found the entire surface of all the panels to be COVERED with pollen – it was like 150 grit sandpaper! This most certainly caused the light to diffuse and reduce the amount of solar energy impacting directly on the solar panel glass!! About 15 minutes with a bucket of soapy water and a cleaner/squeegee made them good as new. Solar output increased immediately by about 5% compared the the day before (both days equally sunny with no clouds). Moral of the story: if you want max power, you need clean panels! If you can reach them with a stream of water from a hose, do this regularly to prevent buildup of dirt and pollen!
Oh my goodness!!! The pictures looked like a nice easy 6/12. When I got up on the roof I IMMEDIATELY realized it was more like 10/12. That’s JUST SHY OF 45 DEGREE SLOPE! Almost perfect for our 39 degree latitude in the Cincinnati area, but NOT MUCH FUN to get started.
We set 90 feet each with two 3 1/2 inch lag bolts and a 3 inch spacer (Unirac-I product) and that took from 8AM till 1:30 PM. The feet made navigating the roof much easier, since there were at least some footholds to stop from sliding. Of course, I had my OHSA approved harness and rope line on. It was like cliff climbing!! We managed to get two panels in two rows on a small shade room addition mounted as an instruction area before having all the helpers tackle the 10/12 pitch roof!!
I wasn’t about to go up/down any more than I needed to, so I didn’t get any pictures today, but I’ll be back to finish the job tomorrow, and I’ll come home with some spectacular pics to add to this section!!
17 panels on the 10/12 pitch; one row of five, one row of seven, and the bottom row is five in landscape style to fit the trapezoidal roof section. One row of five panels on each side of a 3/12 pitch shade room roof facing north south, but still exposed to LOTS of sun.
NOT A TREE BLOCKING THE SUN FROM ANY DIRECTION!! This guy will make MULTI-MEGAWATTS of solar power! See ya’ll tomorrow when I get back!
Here’s a real time performance link to this site. Pictures to come tomorrow! https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/f4vW80049
I’ve been getting great results with the system I installed on our home in Newtown, Ohio. Lately it’s been pretty cool and the days are getting longer. My 20 panel system generates a maximum of 4.3 kilowatts of power and the days are now long enough to pass 30KW Hours in a single day! Sometimes when LENTICULAR clouds go over and CONCENTRATE the sun’s energy, the panels have gone as high as 4,500 watts! No matter how you slice it though, the solar is doing it’s job nicely, as you can see from the info sheet that the power comnpany sent out… it’s funny, the paragraph below the one shown says “you can STILL lower your bill farther!” I don’t think that’s possible!!