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Solar Installers

 
Posts: 17
Location: Kansas City Area
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I'm just grumpy I hired out a grid tied system instead of diy. At this point I think a person with might be able to get a better product doing it them selves.

Had a 6 KW grid tied, ground mount, micro inverter system put in. The company(third largest residential installer in the us they say) was accommodating during the sales and design part of the job,
but did not execute the work very well.  The seemed to want to make me happy but now it seems like they where in over their heads.

Said they would get to the job in three months. and now its 6 months later, said they would follow the code.

They let it snow inside all of the microinverter connectors. I asked them about this and they said it was fine and they would dry out. They failed to properly land grounds inside of a new panel and then mounted the new panel and combiner box directly to an out side concrete wall. I tried to explain that there would be a condensation issue inside of the panels on the wall, but they just griped about it. The microinverters faulted out when they first tested the system so I did a little trouble shooting and discovered they installed the wrong micro inverters(60 cell instead of 72 cell). Their supplier shipped the wrong ones, but it seems to me if they cared about their work they would have noticed as they touched these things multiple times by multiple installers on multiple days. I a"m paid in full as they wanted to hold back on the net metering if i did not.

The installers are likeable, but I do not think they are doing their customers any favors operating like this.
For right now I am waiting to hear back from them. Its been a couple of weeks since I talked to them. Getting tired of always having to reach out to them, but still waiting on them to update me on when they will finish the installation.
Should I start getting noisy now or should I give them some more time to complete the job.
I think I would rather just remount the breaker box and combiner box myself as I don't trust them and when the day comes to install the new inverters I might pull up a lawn chair instead of going to work.
Sorry about the rant.
Still think the solar is neat though, but buyer beware.

 
gardener
Posts: 525
Location: Beavercreek, OR
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Alex - sorry to hear your story.  Its not an uncommon story, sadly.

My sister has had a host of post-installation headaches with her roof-top installation - all customer service, nothing technical or electrical.

I dodged at least two bad companies in my selection process, went with a local installer.  They made a very good pitch - they were already an electrical contractor who also did solar work.  The solar market goes up and down with incentives, etc and they made the excellent point that with dips in the market they would just go back to being electricians, and thus would still be there.  This has proven to be true.  Also, going with an electrician instead of a salesman was a good idea.

I considered doing it myself ... possible!  But my state incentives made it a wash.  The cost might have been lower (excepting my labor...) but the incentives required I use an approved installer.  So I did that.

As to what next ... I do a lot of my own electrical, but I was surprised how complicated the install became.  A problem with one of the inverters also pointed to a DIY problem - the manufacturer simply won't talk to non-qualified homeowners.  So unless the whole system is designed to be DIY friendly you may find further problems.

Good luck!
 
pollinator
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Yup, sounds very familiar. Solar is undergoing exponential growth so there is a chronic shortage of people who know the gear. I think going with an electrician that is familiar with solar is the way to go. Solar only companies all too often sub out physical install then sub out electrical install seperately. It's a recipe for disaster in detail... so get intense.
Cheers,  David
 
Eliot Mason
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David Baillie wrote:Solar only companies all too often sub out physical install then sub out electrical install seperately.  



Ain't that true - my electrician is often the sub on some other big jobs.  Those companies sell the job and then figure out how, who and when to install.
 
Alex Kosmicki
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Location: Kansas City Area
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I think you guys might be right on using some one that also does regular electrical work.

The grid tie solar stuff can be fairly plug and play, but then with the tax credit, tool rentals, and tool purchases it starts to make sense to hire it out.
I suspect that the residential solar customer can be hard to work with too and wages for solar installers might be lower than what an electrician would get paid.

 
Eliot Mason
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Alex - I found that much of the wiring work was very different from normal household wiring and the local utility makes it VERY clear that they will NOT deal with non-electricians AT ALL.  So if I had done it myself I would have needed to have done the work, convinced an electrician it was good and to represent me to the utility - and electrician's aren't happy about guaranteeing someone else's work.

There's also all the lightning protectors, the rapid shut-off, the double set of breaker boxes between the main panel and the inverters and ... just a million little code things I wouldn't have known about.

Now, doing an off-grid installation... I would totally take that on by myself!

BTW my electrician and I get along well and we've got an arrangement of sorts now.  I've done enough work next to him that he can now accept my statement that I did something right (e.g. dug the trench deeply enough, grounded the box, etc).  He likes it because I can pay him to come and do the complicated & interesting stuff while I handle the mundane.
 
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Location: Ontario
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By micro converters, are these just pwm charge controllers with built-in inverters for each individual panel? Why not just run all the panels into an mppt grid tie inverter? I feel like an mppt string inverter would be more efficient than a bunch of pwm inverters, unless the panels are subject to partial shade at times, but if not the mppt string would be the way to go for simplicity and efficiency.

Did they mess up the voltage or amperage for the micro's and install them without knowing what the equipment was rated for, if so I would kick them to the curb for not checking what devices they were hooking up, who knows what else they aren't checking.
 
David Baillie
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Location: North central Ontario
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Steve Harvey wrote:By micro converters, are these just pwm charge controllers with built-in inverters for each individual panel? Why not just run all the panels into an mppt grid tie inverter? I feel like an mppt string inverter would be more efficient than a bunch of pwm inverters, unless the panels are subject to partial shade at times, but if not the mppt string would be the way to go for simplicity and efficiency.

Did they mess up the voltage or amperage for the micro's and install them without knowing what the equipment was rated for, if so I would kick them to the curb for not checking what devices they were hooking up, who knows what else they aren't checking.

Steve, each micro inverter is an mppt charge controller and converts to AC at source so you get a panel by panel maximization. Strings of them are then daisy chained together and fed into an ac junction box then to the panel. There are a lot of rules about rapid shut down and arc fault protection that are making it very hard to run long strings of panels on roofs and feed them to a single inverter. You have to use maximisers on each panel at this point so you might as well go micro inverters right off the bat.
 
Alex Kosmicki
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Location: Kansas City Area
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The micro inverters do seem safer. I have noticed some of the panels might have snow on them and some not so much. The individual inverters can help increase efficiency there. The smaller inverters are supposed to be more reliable, but who knows. Replacing one here and there seems nicer than forking up thousands for a new main inverter later on, more likely the system stays functional as the years go on if repairs are reasonable. A big warranty comes with this stuff, but ultimately most big warranty’s end early so the responsibility to maintain it will be on me or whoever comes after.

I am not sharp on it but there are efficiency’s created simply by moving Alternating Current around instead of Direct Current.

I took a picture of the pack slip when the equipment showed up. The pack slip listed the correct micro inverters. The day the installers where “finishing” they had over voltage fault codes from a couple of the inverters, so being curious I went out to count the LED flashes and realized the inverters where too small for the panels, wrong ones. It’s funny because some other parts shipped to the job were wrong causing the installers to correct them as the job happened, but they did not apparently verify that the other parts where OK.
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Location: Gulf of Mexico cajun zone 8
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They let it snow inside all of the microinverter connectors. I asked them about this and they said it was fine and they would dry out.  



Danger, danger Will Robinson ... that's a big red flag. Water & electricity don't play together well. Sooner or later it will end poorly.
 
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