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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 solar DIY

Choose a saw that will give you enough control to cut the rails without harming the roof.

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.

Flat pry bar

Flat pry bar

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.

String Line

A measuring tape, chalk line, string line, level and squaring tool help ensure a clean solar install

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.

Conduit bender

Conduit bender

EMT is the most commonly used conduit in most parts of the country so you will want the right size EMT conduit bender. Sometimes you can get through an install without conduit bending by creative use of LBs and premade bends, but chances are you will need to make at least one little jog or odd angle and you won’t have a choice about bending it yourself. You will also need a set of channel locks for tightening all the conduit joints.

Wire cutter / Stripper

Once that conduit is all in place, a fish tape will be essential for making the wire pull. Then wire cutters, wire strippers and screwdrivers should get you through the rest of the electrical work.

So make your shopping list and head to the hardware store or the garage of your nice neighbor who lends out his good tools because your DIY solar project will be much easier if you get everything together before you start.

Author: Harold Tan

I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.

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1 Comment

  1. DIY solar structural mechanics: Prior to installing any solar array on any roof top it is essential that the roof’s structural design is sufficient to carry the load. That requires some knowledge of and the ability to apply principles of statics and dynamics as taught in mechanical engineering courses. Sadly current design trends with composite materials and use of under size lumber places significant limitations on how much weight a roof can withstand before it fails. The use of proper size screws, nuts/bolts/washers, and nails during assembly is also crucial for structural integrity.

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