We are at the last formal chapter in this solar panel tutorial. I want to congratulate you on making it this far. Good job!
I had a number of misgivings with this chapter. One, to fully explain this topic I also needed to explain basic carpentry which seemed like a waste of time since you can find that for free all over the internet. Two, everyone’s roof is different. Different slope angles, different materials, different climates, so how was I to cover it all?
Instead I decided to take a different approach. I’m not going to insult your intelligence. I’m going to assume you know basic carpentry, and I’m going to assume you know your own roof. If you don’t know the answers to the above questions, then just google the question and you’ll be knee deep in answers.
What I decided to do instead was give you a “Right Way” and “Wrong way” on how to correctly mount a solar panel installation.
In this manner you can see classic mistakes people make, as well as how to correct any mistakes you might make before making them. This is a moment when “Do it right the first time” really should be taken to heart. Your roof is an important part of your house. Untold problems are ahead if you don’t mount your solar panels correctly.
So let’s get started.
Always confirm that where you plan to mount your solar panels that the solar exposure is unobstructed. Shading is a critical flaw in a lot of solar panel installations.
Efficient roof placement of your solar panel installation minimizes pipe runs and keeps pipes sloping downward. Keep pipe runs should be less than 20 feet if possible.
Bolts used in mounting must be secured and the mount must be sealed.
If local water is corrosive to copper, use treatments or indirect systems.
Roof penetrations must be properly flashed and sealed and racks properly bolted.
All exposed wires, sensors, and insulation must be protected against ultraviolet sunlight and weather.
Insulation should be carefully applied to fit around corners, gauges, and valves.
All wires exposed to the weather should be jacketed with PVC pipe, or aluminum, or painted.
Install air vents in a true vertical position.
Attic wire penetrations must be secured. Insulation on right is glued and mitered. Note that insulation abuts roof decking and does not penetrate it. The hole through the deck must be caulked.
Seal and hide penetrations through interior ceilings and walls for fire protection and to block air leaks. In new construction, these types of penetrations should be minimal.
Wire connections must be properly installed. New “plug-and-play” wires systems help solve this problem.
Electrical materials (lugs, screws, wires) selection is critical for a safe and durable system. In the picture to the left, indoor rated materials were used for an outdoor grounding application.
Materials must be properly installed. Wires must fit lugs. Use lugs listed for proper environment
Testing as arrays are installed allows for isolating problem panels and troubleshooting the overall system. A non-functioning array might as well be constantly facing the night sky.
Service providers must be able to disconnect each piece of serviceable equipment in the solar panel installation, such as arrays and inverters. In simple systems there will be a DC disconnect between the modules and the inverters and an AC disconnect between the inverters and the panel. Components need to be placed in readily accessible locations.
Arrays must be protected from construction activities, including paint overspray.
As always if you’re unsure of your solar panel installation or how something works or is installed, you should get professional advice before continuing.
So that’s it. We’ve reached the end. I’ve enjoyed creating this tutorial. I hope you’ve gotten something out of it. Please take the time and rate this course. I always welcome suggestions on how to better the course as well.
I wish you the best of luck in building your solar panels as well as going off the grid. Many of us think it’s time to unplug from the current system and start creating localized solutions not only for energy, but food and social services as well. It’s time to move away from the corporate control of our food and energy. If you agree, come visit me at www.off-grid-living.com and learn how to live off the grid in urban and suburban America.
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