Expansion options for smaller systems

I recently got a blog post regarding expanding small systems and how it was prohibitively expensive. There was a lot of misinformation, so I thought I’d let you all know the options. If you’re putting in a “grid tied” system to supplement your power and reduce your electric bill, the minimum size system to make a difference is about 12 panels. You can put in fewer, and expand later at minimal cost if you use the Enphase M190 micro-inverters. These units DAISY CHAIN – i.e. they connect in series, one to the other until you reach a maximum of 15 per BRANCH CIRCUIT. So, you can start with say, 5 panels, and then add as many as you like, as often as you like, till you hit 15. Then, you have to run another branch circuit (Romex 3 conductor with ground) to your breaker box. I’ve actually taken this approach with my little house in the woods. Started with 5, then added 3, then 2 more, then 1 and I plan on just 1 more very soon for a total of 12 panels. The racking system can be extended by using “splice kits” and it takes about 20 minutes to add a panel, start to finish. With excellent 235 and 240 watt panels now selling for $1.09/watt plus shipping, it doesn’t really take a lot of money to add a panel and micro-inverter to an existing array. And the best part of all, you DON’T need to be a licensed electrician to plug in the 2 DC connectors from the panel, or the 240VAC connector to the last micro-inverter in your chain!

If you want your system to be BACKED UP BY BATTERIES when the grid goes down, your micro-inverter style GRID-TIED system can still be used!! Using a technique called “AC COUPLING” you can connect a Magnum MPS4024 inverter/charger and 24 volts worth of 700 AmpHour Rolls batteries and have 4KW of backup power at your disposal when the next storm takes out the power. It’s not cheap, but it CAN be done, and you have the best of both worlds, without getting stuck with a STRING/CENTRAL INVERTER that MUST have a FIXED NUMBER of solar panels for best performance, and involves handling HIGH DC VOLTAGES.

Since this original blog post, Enphase has introduced the M215 series. It is a more powerful microinverter, and it is NOT compatible with the older M190.  The M190 is still available though, to those system owners who have them and want to easily expand! My original setup with 5 panels, has expanded 3 times. 1st to 8, then 10, and finally 12 total! The old system can daisy chain up to 15 inverters on one circuit, so  still have room for 3 more! Gotta love that Enphase system. Perfect for folks on a budget!!

Washington Courthouse Solar Install

Photo taken from position of last panel on DIY solar install...

Sun sets on another successful DIY Solar project in Ohio.weeks without problems…

DIY Solar install in Washington Courthouse OH

26 panels with almost no leftover space! DIY Solar project on a garage/workshop in Ohio.

Here are two photos from a recent install. Corrugated metal roofing required special feet to bridge the corrugations. Also needed a little extra backing under the roof to ensure the lag bolts had enough MEAT to assure they would not pull out in 90MPH winds. Customer had 27 panels, but we could only fit 26 on the roof with two rows of portrait and one of landscape with just 12 inches space between the two sections. Much like painting yourself into a corner, we laid down panels, till the last one forced us off the roof onto a ladder… Excellent “helper” crew allowed the ENTIRE INSTALLATION to be executed in 1 day – 8AM til 6PM with 20 minutes for lunch! System used Canadian Solar CS6P-225 panels and Enphase M215 inverters. Powered up without a hitch and has been running for a couple weeks without any problems. Here’s a solar performance link for this installation if you’re interested! https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public/systems/kEHV51259

DIY Solar Heaven

Perfect Day for DIY Solar!

Perfect Day for DIY Solar in Cincinnati!!

Today in Cincinnati is a DIY Solar enthusiasts dream day. Blue Skies, and not a cloud as far as the eye can see. Temps below 20F mean HIGH EFFICIENCY for solar panels! I added panel #19 to a planned 20 panel layout last week, and if you have panels on your roof, you know it’s all about checking the power output every 30 minutes to see if you’re hitting a new peak!! I know, I know, that sounds silly, but that’s how it starts, and I’m still not tired of checking, and my array has been up since July of last year! Here’s a picture of my place in Cincinnati, and a link to the Enphase performance page so you can see for yourself!! What makes this week even better is that I signed a contract to sell my four 2011 SRECs for $315 each this past week! 5 year payback is right on schedule!! Here’s that link: Enphase Performance Link for my house in Newtown

SRECS exceed demand in New Jersey

The incentives and high SREC prices have resulted in a surprise SURPLUS of SRECs, causing the buy price to drop down to the $200 range in New Jersey. So far no chance of this happening in PA or OH, so if you’re on the fence about solar, NOW is the time to make the decision to buy while panel pricing is at an all time low!