Monday, December 13, 2010  Revised February 20, 2016

Building permits and Installing my Solar System

I have learned by experience whenever you are getting a building permit or having a building inspector come to check out your wiring, never disagree with what they have to say. And never, ever reveal that you are an Electrical Engineer and that you know more than they do about electricity. Just out of spite, they will make it that much more difficult for you to pass your inspection.

Just smile, say, “Thank you very much and have a nice day”.

Our house was the first in Kaysville to have a grid-tie system that would generate enough power to require a NET meter (a power meter that will roll forwards and backwards) to be installed. The city officials gave me a lot of extra requirements because they had a lot of questions too. Most of them were answered by the wholesaler that sold me my equipment.  

There was one question they asked me which was mine alone to answer. Why?
Why are you installing solar panels? Nobody else in Northern Utah does this. Why are you doing it? To which I answered, “Why climb a mountain?”.

I have pondered that question a lot lately. Why am I doing this?
Long-term cost savings, self sufficiency, energy independence, I want to be a good steward of this Earth on which God has placed me, and reduce my personal impact to the environment. If for nothing else, solar power is super awesome!! Dude.

HOA:  The HOA which rules over my neighborhood was kind of nervous about me installing a bunch of trashy looking panels on my roof. Can you blame them? Half of the solar panel videos on You-tube are of some backwoods, sprout selling, tree hugger, leaning his panels up against a rusted out 57 Chevy with weeds growing out of the engine compartment.

"If I am going to do this, I want the install to look clean, sleek and aesthetically pleasing."
I also went to great lengths to run the high voltage wiring and conduit through my attic instead of around the exterior of my house to the garage where the inverter is located. The most beautiful home theaters don’t reveal any wires. The same goes for solar panels.

Racking:  It’s amazing to me that the best solution tends to be the most simple one. Even Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. I was wondering how the solar panels were going to mount on to our roof. When I opened up the mounting rails and L-brackets, it was all clear to me. Using a simple lag screws and L-bracket, an extruded aluminum mounting rail can be fixed solidly to the roof. The panels then clamp to the mounting rails (or racking as they call it). It is a very strong, easy and fast way to install panels on the roof. It also looks very beautiful to have them mounted flush to the roof.

With just me (and my young kids helping at times), I was able to install all the racking in 1 ½ days. The solar panels all went up in a few hours. I averaged (6 minutes/panel). To my neighbors horror, By myself, I carried all 26 of the 50 lb solar panels (almost 1300 lbs in all) up the ladder and onto the roof.

The solar panel’s aluminum frame has a lip on the back side that makes it a cinch to grab hold with one hand over your shoulder and carry the panel resting slightly on your back. Just don’t try it with more than a 2 mph wind.

Here's a clip of the installation of our solar panel install, including a time-lapse portion (starting at 1:25).