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Is it safe to DIY solar?
Feb04

Is it safe to DIY solar?

Solar saves you money. Installing it yourself is a great way to save even more money. But that only works if you don’t end up with an emergency room bill because you weren’t careful. There is a reason that solar contractors pay higher workers’ compensation rates than any other construction trade. So let’s talk about the dangers and how to avoid them. First, let’s tackle the most obvious hazard which is falling. If you are installing your solar panels on a ground mount, you can skip this part but most solar installations are on a roof and therein lies the danger. The angle of the ladder is important, too steep of an angle and you can go over backwards when you are at the top of the ladder, too shallow of an angle and the ladder can slide out from under you. Before you get onto the roof, you should be aware of ladder safety.  The angle of the ladder is important, too steep of an angle and you can go over backwards when you are at the top of the ladder, too shallow of an angle and the ladder can slide out from under you. The way to get the right angle it to make sure the distance between the wall and the bottom of your ladder is 1/4 the height of the surface you are climbing to. For example, if the edge of your roof is 12 feet high, the bottom of your ladder should be 3 feet out from the wall. If the edge of your roof is 20 feet high, the ladder should be 5 feet from the wall. Once you have the ladder in the right place, you should tie it off. Once you have the ladder in the right place, the first time you climb it you should tie it off. If there isn’t already something to anchor it to, a big eye hook screwed firmly into a rafter in the eave will do it. Generally gutters aren’t sturdy enough so using them to hold the ladder will only give you a false sense of security which could be more dangerous than no tie off at all. Okay, now that we have you safely on the roof the best way to mitigate the risk of falling is a harness, rope and anchor set up. These can be a bit pricey, but your life is worth it. There are also safety concerns to address for getting things besides yourself on the roof. Climbing the ladder while carrying things is not the best idea, so let’s look at other options. Tools and smaller racking parts...

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Planning Your DIY Solar Installation
Jan15

Planning Your DIY Solar Installation

Whether you are a professional installer or a Do-It-Yourselfer, planning ahead is the key to a hassle-free solar installation. The planning should start with system sizing. Before you purchase your system, you should make sure it is the right size for your home. With a grid-tied system this means checking the estimated system output and comparing that to your electric bills. This process may be more complicated than it sounds, but if you start by calling Go Green Solar (866-798-4435), a knowledgeable solar consultant will help you with the calculations. Though the labor to install the solar equipment can be a DIY project, the generation of plans for a permit is NOT a DIY project. The National Electrical Code (NEC) has had numerous significant changes in the last few years. We keep track of which ones apply to your project. Go Green Solar offers a permitting service, that is mandatory.  If the building department has questions on the plans we generate, we will respond and revise the plans to meet their requirements. Solar Plan Set The plans will have the setbacks required for your local fire codes so you know how much roof area can be dedicated for solar and will show exactly where the solar panels will be so you can follow our layout when it is time to install. Keep in mind that you need to add the spaces between the panels in your measurements and that many solar racking types require 2” of rail past the last solar panel frame to support the end clamps. During the development of your plans, Go Green Solar will work with you to make sure that your main service panel can accommodate the system. NEC code section 705.12 limits how much solar can be installed based on the main service panel busbar rating and main breaker rating. The solar system will also need its own dedicated circuit breaker installed as far as possible from the main service breaker so you may have to move some loads or replace some of your breakers with slimmer ones to make room. Solar Conduit Run Another thing to plan ahead is your conduit run. The wires have to get from the solar panels to the ground level equipment. You can transition from the roof by running conduit through the attic, through the eave or around the eave. Each of these choices come with their own set of challenges. Going through the attic or eave will require flashing and weatherproofing that roof penetration. Running conduit around the eave can be awkward, especially considering that the NEC code only allows for 360 degrees of conduit bends between...

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The Go Green Solar Difference
Dec13

The Go Green Solar Difference

Everyone is selling the same solar equipment, but which distributor you choose can make a world of difference. If you have doubts about that, ask Tony Panos in Desert Haven, Texas. Tony could not find a contractor to quote a turn-key solar installation for him so he went the do-it-yourself route. Tony purchased his solar kit from Go Green Solar who was there to help him every step of the way. Go Green Solar prepared the permit documents that Tony used to pull the permit for his DIY project. Every time Tony had a question during his installation, he contacted Go Green Solar and got an answer right away. These things would have been enough to make Tony a happy customer, but it turned out that building his ground mount, racking his 45 solar panels and making the electrical hook-up to his home was the easy part. The real difficulty for Tony came after he had completed his installation and applied to his utility company, Rio Grande Electric Cooperative, for permission to operate his new grid-tied solar system. The co-op refused to grant permission unless Tony provided proof that he had a $500,000 commercial liability insurance policy for connecting his solar to their grid. Tony called several insurance agencies and because he did not own a business, none of them were able to provide him with a commercial policy that met the requirements. Tony tried to get help from the co-op. According to Tony, “Rio Grande Electric claimed they had other residential customers that installed solar and provided the required insurance, but they would not give me any info on what insurance companies they used. I literally had my system up for two months and could not use it.” This is where Go Green Solar stepped in to save the day. They worked directly with Rio Grande Electric and their own insurance company to solve the problem. In the end, Go Green Solar added the required insurance for Tony’s system to their own insurance policy and gave Tony the insurance certificate that satisfied Rio Grande. Tony was finally able to turn on the solar system he had worked so hard to install. Tony said it best, “I am extremely happy with Go Green Solar’s performance and I am so thankful I chose them. If I had bought my solar system from someone else, it would have been delivered with a message saying ‘good luck’ and that’s it. Dealing with the co-op was a huge headache and I don’t see how I could have accomplished it without Go Green Solar’s help. They really went above and beyond.” If you are...

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Tale of Two Ground Mounts
Nov27

Tale of Two Ground Mounts

It could save you money or it could cost you more. It could be easy or it could be hard. Do it yourself solar is more than just strapping on a tool belt and swinging a hammer. There’s technical paper work that often gets overlooked in the excitement of building your own solar power system, which can be more arduous a task than the physical labor. When roofing contractor Ray Ragsdale decided to take his energy destiny into his own hands and build a 9.3kW solar ground mount at his home, he quickly discovered that the most challenging part of the project was getting the system approved for interconnection with PG&E’s energy grid. Ragsdale was surprised to discover that his neighbor, who purchased a similar system from GoGreenSolar, already had his system fully up and running even though Ray installed his system first. The neighbor informed us of Ray’s challenges and we stepped in to lend a hand with what many consider to be the most complicated part of the job — the paperwork.  “If it wasn’t for GoGreen I’d probably still be battling PG&E to get everything approved” said Ragsdale. An experienced roofing contractor, Ragsdale had installed solar power systems before. Much like his neighbor, his property was in a rural area and more suited for a ground mount install. The appeal of not having to climb around on a roof made the project appear easier. Ragsdale would soon learn that the paperwork for ground mount units would be an unexpected hurdle to surmount. “I’ve pulled plenty of permits as a contractor, but this was more complicated than I initially thought,” Mr. Ragsdale recalled. Purchasing 32 290W Solarworld panels with Enphase Microinverters from a “wholesale” solar company seemed like a good deal to Ragsdale on the surface. A freight truck delivered the items to his door on time, dropping everything off on a pallet rack. For Ragsdale, the plans and install were paint-by-the-numbers. When it came time to connect the system to PG&E’s grid to get his net metering rebate, the real challenge began. “PG&E rejected my application if there were any minor mistakes in the paperwork,” Ragsdale said. “For example, a missing dash in a part number didn’t match what was in their system so I got rejected and had to wait for their delayed response.” The vendor he had purchased the system off was a one and done deal, so he contacted the experts at GoGreenSolar to help interconnect his system to the grid. Details such as the proper signature, annual electrical usage, and a proper list of dated modifications were all squared away properly and submitted...

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These Tools Are Needed for Do-It-Yourself Solar
Nov13

These Tools Are Needed for Do-It-Yourself Solar

You have decided to install your own solar power system. The job will go much smoother if you have all the right tools on hand. First, you will need some things on the roof and having them all up there before you start will make you much happier. Power tools for the roof work will include a drill/driver for drilling the pilot holes, driving in lags screws and tightening racking bolts. Make you use a driver with a torque setting and not an impact driver when tightening down the module clamps. If the clamps are too tight, the module glass can crack. Also make sure you have the right size drill bit and sockets in your tool belt. Be aware that not all the racking pieces will use the same size socket and some may need deep well sockets. Check everything while you are at ground level to avoid extra trips up and down that ladder. The first one is easy, but by ladder climb number ten, you will be cursing your lack of planning. You will also want a power saw for cutting the rails. A portable band saw is great for this, but you can make do with almost any saw. Most installers cut the rails after the modules are installed so choose a saw that will give you enough control to cut the rails without harming the roof. Don’t forget a fully charged battery or an extension cord for your power tools. A less common tool that is extremely helpful is a flat pry bar for breaking the shingle seal so you can slide the flashing under it.  You will also want a caulk gun for roof sealant and a basic set of hand tools up there with you; screwdriver for tightening grounding lugs, something sharp to open the tubes of roof sealant (unless you have the fancy caulk gun with the slicer), screwdriver for tightening grounding lugs, pliers to help manipulate the solid bare copper grounding wire and a hammer which works better than a standard stud finder when it comes to finding the roof rafters. Some rags for wiping up extra glops of roof sealant will also come in handy. You and your neighbors will both appreciate it if your solar panels are installed square and level which means you want a measuring tape, chalk line, string line, level and squaring tool on the roof to make that happen. Now let’s talk about the electrical work. The same drill/driver, measuring tape and level that you used on the roof will get you through mounting all the enclosures on the wall. EMT is the most...

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What Skills Are Needed for DIY Solar?
Oct22

What Skills Are Needed for DIY Solar?

Solar is a great idea. But is it a great idea to install it yourself? That depends on your skills. The first set of skills that should be discussed are safety skills. There is a reason why solar contractors pay some of the highest workers’ compensation insurance rates in the construction industry. You will be working on the roof. Be sure to wear a fall protection safety harness to protect you from slipping off the roof! You will need to transport all your tools and materials to the roof (including the 3.5’ x 5.5’ solar panels that weigh 45 pounds each), which can be tricky if the roof isn’t flat. Plus there is live DC electricity and power tools involved. If you know and understand all the safety requirements of these things, you are past the first hurdle. Next, some roofing skills would come in handy for a do-it-yourself solar installer. In order to install solar panels on a typical residential roof, you will be drilling a lot of holes in it. Knowing the basic construction of your roof and how to seal those holes is a key factor in a successful solar installation. Electrician skills are needed if you want to do the whole job by yourself. EMT conduit is commonly used for solar in most parts of the country so you will need to bend that conduit as it goes over the roof ridge or routes around the eave. For most residential jobs the conduit will only be ¾”, maybe 1” if the system is fairly large or you want the wire pull to be very easy. If conduit bending is not a skill you currently have, the key to learning it is practice. So, buy a few more sticks of conduit than you think you need and learn as you go. Most stores also carry conduit bends ready-made with the perfect radius. You can use pull boxes or LBs to get around the corners without being a master conduit bender. Wiring is other electrician skill you will need. Having experience pulling wires through conduit is very useful. Knowledge of details like marking the wires before you pull them through the conduit, making sure all the strands of the wire are in the terminal and how to properly torque the terminal so those wires stay put would also be essential. The more important part of the electrician skills is understanding basic electrical safety. You can do things to make it safer like turning off your main service breaker when you are installing the PV breaker, but you also need to know that the wires from the meter...

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