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Sticks & Bricks Solar Panel System Kit - Opinions


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http://www.solar-electric.com/solar-panels-mounts-kits-accessories/prsy/grsokiforho/4wagrsoposyw.html

 

-- or --

 

http://www.wholesalesolar.com/system/solaredge-15-astronergy-panel-gridtie-system.html

 

We're going to make a decision in the few months, on whether or not to do a grid tie in Solar Panel system for our vacation home, and possibly a rental house too. For planning purposes, I'm targeting the 4K Watt range for now. May bump that up, but using that for the pricing exercises.

 

My wife found this kit (the first link), and asked me if this might be an easier way of approaching this. (I believe this is a defensive movement on her part. So that I won't sit down with spread sheets of components and then need to 'explain it to her'... :)!).

 

I think we'd plan for the flexibility of adding back up battery at a later time, if desired. So I figure this 'kit' would be about $3500 less then the $12K + list price.

 

The second link is with another well known group.

 

Opinions please, on the components (all well known and respected from what I can see), and 'kit price'.

 

Other sources to consider for a kit approach?

TIA,

Smitty

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The only complexities to a grid-tie solar system is calculating current flows and sizing the cables. Everything else is pretty much just put it up. The panels connect like batteries (+ to - for series connections, + to + and - to - for parallel connections). The grid-tie inverter will be pretty much out of your control as most utilities require that you use their pre-approved inverters. So one of your first chores will be to find out what your particular utility says you'll have to use.

 

In my state I can do my own electrical work but it has to be inspected (just like an electrician's work would have to be) and I have to take out a permit. Yours might be the same.

 

Putting the panels in place physically will need a building permit and a subsequent inspection but you should be able to do that yourself, too.

 

There are some issues regarding current and voltage when trying to match panels so you have to give this some thought; you want to make sure that if you expand the installation for more capacity that they will work well together.

 

You don't need a solar charge controller unless you have batteries. And, in fact, if you add batteries later you can put them AFTER the inverter; just plug an appropriate charger into the AC circuits. (Edit: if you do it this way you'll need another inverter for the appropriate inside circuits.)

 

You should be able to save quite a lot buying your panels yourself.

 

WDR

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I have never built or been involved with a grid-tie system but have always been interested. It is my understanding that the inverter you use (approved by the local power provider) MUST have power coming FROM the local utility before it will actively invert. It has to be this way so they can sync the "line" and your inverter together. What this results in is when the utility company goes down so do you. The big wind farms work this way also - no power from the utility company and the farms shuts down.

 

WDR suggestion of placing a battery bank independent of the solar array solves this issue IF you have another inverter powered by the battery bank that can power your house through a transfer switch.

 

I could be wrong on this but believe it to be true.

 

Lenp

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I have never built or been involved with a grid-tie system but have always been interested. It is my understanding that the inverter you use (approved by the local power provider) MUST have power coming FROM the local utility before it will actively invert. It has to be this way so they can sync the "line" and your inverter together. What this results in is when the utility company goes down so do you. The big wind farms work this way also - no power from the utility company and the farms shuts down.

 

WDR suggestion of placing a battery bank independent of the solar array solves this issue IF you have another inverter powered by the battery bank that can power your house through a transfer switch.

 

I could be wrong on this but believe it to be true.

 

Lenp

That was my experience also when I considered this for our S&B a few years ago. Perhaps it is different now?

I would be more interested in a combo system that is grid tied for $ savings but also has the capability to power my house when the grid is down which happened a few weeks ago. Luckily we were out for only 8 hours but some nearby areas went up to a week without power!

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Most grid-tied inverters lose all AC output when the grid power goes down. This, of course, means that even on a nice sunny day, if the grid is down so are you. But there are grid-tie inverters that can do what is called "islanding". This effectively shunts AC power from a powered-down grid to the house system which would, at least, give you daytime power (and the ability to charge a backup battery bank).

 

This is almost certainly going to be the direction for rooftop solar systems in the future. Solar panels tied to a charging system for a battery bank but also connected to an islanding grid-tied inverter. A combination of power from the solar array and/or the grid keeps the battery bank charged. If the grid goes down the inverter shunts power from the grid but keeps power on to the house system.

 

Here's an article about some grid-tied inverters that do this now: https://www2.buildinggreen.com/blogs/beating-achilles-heel-grid-tied-solar-electric-systems

 

WDR

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Thanks for the other sites, and input. I'll need to do some home work with our local utility on what is the rules from their perspective. As that way I can ensure the 'Kit's' inverter is approved.

 

I was planning to have the house wired to the hooking up of a generator source at this time, for times of long power outages. At this time, I doubt I'd go ahead with he battery bank, but want to have it setup/open ended to add one in at a later time. (May never do it, but with the utilities having the California PUC in their hip pocket, who knows how charging rates may change in the years ahead. Usually off peak usage rates are lower, like overnight, but if they want to get after those Solar Panel people - that could change.

 

I've done some very quick math on adding two of the 7.5K Tesla's - and at current rates, it does not seem to pencil out. Moving a payback period range of 50-70 months to about 130-145 months. But, with things changing in the battery market, things could change:)!

 

Exercise continues!!

 

Best to all,

Smitty

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The problem in grid-tie systems is that politics is involved. Islanding systems are not permitted some places because the utilities resist it. In practice, they have resisted the entire concept of grid interactive solar entirely (or almost so), and have been forced to allow it.

 

While my experience with residential systems is limited, it has not been a good experience. Many inspectors do not understand it, and do not know the NEC codes related to solar. Many places will not issue permits without considerable "persuasion". Many electricians are "challenged" considerably by it.

 

Hopefully things have improved in the last couple of years.....

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Yes to the politics vs what is technically safely capable of being accomplished!! When in the Vacation Home, we probably get 4-6 calls per week (And we're on the Do Not Call List!!) from solar related businesses. Very hard to drive thru any neighborhood without seeing solar panels on roofs, and usually one or two installs in progress. Solar City hit this region heavily for about 18 months. Still here today, but for sure not alone, as I'd bet probably 20 other businesses are advertising for Solar. And yes to some questions about quality and knowledge, as several of these were large local plumbing firms, that now have a Solar install group too:)! (And to be fair, they may have good staff - just seem strange to see a company that advertised for 40 years for stopped drains, now advertising for Solar install (panels, not heating of water).)

 

And my talk with the local utility about 14 months ago, was frankly lots of miss direction. How much credit per KW hour will we be given? Seem like an easy question, but never a straight forward answer. I'm fortunate, that a now higher ranking City Planning Department Manger - was the City Planning Inspector on two or three home and remodeling project that I had going almost 25 years ago. We've remained professional friends, and I can call him to be put in contact with someone within the City Planning department to get some straight answers on both the permit process, as well as 'Off the record.' cations and considerations.

 

Kind of strange world we've (us who vote people in) allowed officials to create for us...

 

Should be able to get some homework going more formally next week. We'll see:)!

Smitty

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The problem in grid-tie systems is that politics is involved. Islanding systems are not permitted some places because the utilities resist it. In practice, they have resisted the entire concept of grid interactive solar entirely (or almost so), and have been forced to allow it.

 

While my experience with residential systems is limited, it has not been a good experience. Many inspectors do not understand it, and do not know the NEC codes related to solar. Many places will not issue permits without considerable "persuasion". Many electricians are "challenged" considerably by it.

 

Hopefully things have improved in the last couple of years.....

Your experience mirrors mine exactly. Putting solar on my motor home was a cinch because there is little interplay between me and any "official" bureaucracy.

 

Once you start working with Stix'N'Brix, however, it's a whole 'nother story. There is always a good reason why they are interfering and "safety" is the primary one we're give. But, in many case, the real reason is "roadblock". There are many local businesses with incomes dependent upon you doing things the way the bureaucracy has decided it will be done and swerving from these ruffles a lot of feathers.

 

Which is one reason I am planning to keep the "apartment" side of the shop off the grid. Whether this will actually work remains to be seen. I know it will "work" electrically. Whether it will "work" without bureaucratic interference is the issue.

 

For one thing, our utility is a Public Utility District; a municipality under state law (just like a city or county) and they have proven to be perfectly willing to break the law in order to get things done their way. Including state and federal law. But there are so many of them in this state that there is great fear on the part of elected law enforcement (auditors, for instance) of them because of their political power.

 

A municipality cannot be guilty of RICO violations or anti-competitive practices under a ruling by the 9th appellate court in San Francisco. Don't ask me how I know this. And thanks to the vagaries of the court system that is ONLY in the 9th. In the 6th they can be sued over this sort of activity. Just not in the 9th. Unless you first vacate that decision. Which can only be done by the Supreme Court.

 

So what we do on our RVs is far simpler than what we might try to do on our SnBs.

 

WDR

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Each state and local jurisdiction has it's own rules on who can do what. We have built 3 homes and remodeled many more. In Colorado and Arizona we did most of the work ourselves but it needed to pass inspection. I have always done my own electrical, plumbing and heating. The hard part is the code is not the same everywhere. What is required in one area may not be acceptable in another. Additionally the water and power companies each have extensive say in the connections and required apparatus that needed. Just as an example when we wired the service for a house in Colorado we followed the requirements for service with the local power company. We have not seen another location even in Colorado that will accept that design. Neighbors less than a mile away could not do what we were required to do. I can only imagine how complicated grid tie solar is. Every jurisdiction and utility will have it's own rules that MUST be followed. And many require only licensed contractors can do the work. We always start by asking locals about what is required to get some ideas then we visit the local building departments for the details. If possible we also try to visit new installs in the area. We put in solar hot water and use it to heat our hotwater and in floor heat. The system is complicated and when the inspector came out to check he just kinda stood there with a blank look on his face. Finally he checked a few obvious things then asked me if everything else met code. So sometimes even the inspectors don't know.

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When talking to the local inspector you are probably going to be happy, if it is local inspectors you'd best hope the one you talked to is the one doing the inspection. We got all balled up over a window placement on our house, inspector #1 had no issues with the plan and no problem with how we built it. Inspector #2 hung a red tag that was expensive to get pulled.

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