My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

نوشته شده در موضوع تولید انرژی رایگان در 05 ژوئن 2018

It is flattering good famous during this indicate that Mr. Money Mustache is smitten with solar power. Besides a apparent Sci-Fi poise of it (Electricity, Satellites, Futuristic Robots!) and a eco-friendliness of it (energy with 0 sound or pollution), in a final 5 years the money side of things has finally matured, so that solar appetite is now a cheapest approach to make electricity – even before we comment for a combined reward of any accessible subsidies and a advantages of pollution-free living.

f1884 solar price installation chart My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

A Watt of Solar Panels: From $100+ to underneath fifty cents (2017) in reduction than my lifetime (image source cleantechnica). And a 2017 array for a blue side of a graph strike over 95,000 MW.

It works for individuals: In many cases, if we can get a good shelve of solar panels on your roof, your monthly assets will be homogeneous to creation an investment that performs improved than a batch market. But a numbers demeanour even improved as your solar setup becomes larger, like if you’re regulating a solar appetite focus or a village solar farm.

Related: In new Colorado Energy Bids, Solar appetite is a cheapest option, even when corroborated by battery storage (Vox).

The fun prejudiced of this for me has always been a physics. Ever given we schooled how many appetite a Sun shines onto a planet’s aspect (about 16,000 times some-more energy than all of amiability consumes, even with a stream magisterial habits), we have been certain that a mostly-solar-electric universe was inevitable. The customarily obstructions were tellurian sluggishness and politics, that are temporary. Physics is forever.

For example, cruise a following map display a tiny volume of a deserts we would need to cover with solar panels to replace all energy expenditure (electricity, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, etc)

f1884 solar land area My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

Fig. 1: Tiny land area compulsory to appetite all of humanity. (image source)

And it’s indeed even improved than that: a design above assumes an old-school solar quarrel potency of 8%, given 18% is now a customary rate. So we can cut a black dots in half again, and afterwards clout a few some-more times to comment for a other existent purify appetite sources.

And of course, we don’t have to combine a panels and run hulk appetite lines everywhere as pragmatic by a map. You can hang solar panels substantially anywhere and they will start operative like tiny employees for you, tirelessly cranking out appetite (which is homogeneous to money) and automatically.

Which is of march a genuine theme of this article.

My DIY Solar Project

f1884 leaf charging 1024x768 My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

The new solar array during a MMM HQ seminar generates some-more than adequate appetite to run a whole skill year-round, and assign a electric cars of a several members.

So naturally, we have always wanted to have my possess solar appetite farm. Until now, several excuses kept me from removing it done: no good places to put panels on a roof of my categorical house, somewhat adverse internal regulations, though generally a miss of believe of accurately what to buy and how to implement it.

I vowed that whenever we finally got this plan done, I’d write adult a news to you, to gangling we some of a investigate and time expenditure that we had to go through.

So let’s get into it!

Part One: Show me a Money

As we can see from a design above, I’ve started by building a comparatively tiny solar array. There are twelve panels, any about 40 x 60 inches. Each one generates 300 watts of electricity when a object shines, and when we run a numbers for my climate, a whole setup will holder out about 6100 kWh/year of electricity, a cube that is value about $732 per year during normal US appetite prices.

Pretty extraordinary – adequate appetite to run my coworking space and Mrs. MM’s adjacent sell store… from a cube of flattering black potion that is about a same distance as a singular automobile parking space!

Meanwhile, a wholesale cost of this apparatus pennyless down roughly like this:

  • 12 solar panels during $130 each: $1656 (a sum of 3600 watts during 46 cents per watt)
  • 12 Optimizer modules (which boost appetite outlay during prejudiced shade): $650
  • One SolarEdge 6 kW Inverter (converts a DC from a panels to AC for a grid): $1102
  • Various brackets, ascent racks, bolts, and wiring stuff: $460

So my sum cost, due to a unequivocally good fitness of carrying a crony who is both a dedicated Mustachian and a owners of a sepulchral solar company, was $3900.

That’s a best case, though even after we supplement normal distinction margins and a 30% tariff that The Donald recently levied on solar panels (and remember a panels are thankfully customarily half a cost of a system), we can still buy a similar Complete pack for $5000 or so.

When you’re measuring a annual lapse on your investment (or “payback period”), there’s customarily one thing that matters on a cost side: cost per watt. we finished adult building this complement during about $1.08 per watt, that is low by today’s standards though will shortly sound high.

And remember, there are customarily taxation incentives to cut this cost further  – we can take 30% off a tip of this cost due to a US Federal “Investment Tax Credit (ITC)“, and presumably some-more from your state and internal supervision or utility.

The Great Solar Journey to Durango

Last year, we met a badass Mustachian businessman named John. He was in Longmont to revisit some family here, though his genuine home bottom is in Durango, Colorado where he runs a successful solar designation association called Shaw Solar. There are a million stories that need to be told about this man, though for now we’ll start with this one.

Knowing how prolonged we had been meddlesome in a do-it-yourself solar project, John motionless to step adult and assistance me get it finished during last. We went over technical details, calculations, strategies, and costs. All of this culminated in me holding a fantastic roadtrip to Durango along with another internal friend, in May of 2017.

f1884 durango roadtrip 1024x513 My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

It was utterly a trip, for many some-more than a merger of solar panels and advice. Durango is a overwhelming tiny town, and it incited out that John lives in a village of equally considerable siblings and friends – for instance his hermit Charles who DIY-renovated a 50,000 block feet school over a 20-year period, that has now turn a valuables of Durango’s downtown.

Time For a Build

I gathering behind from this outing full of certainty and energy… customarily to finish adult storing a solar panels for months in my studio building as we worked to finish higher-priority tools of a Headquarters building, afterwards waited for a time and proclivity to plow by a building assent application.

It took another revisit from John to unequivocally kickstart a project, and once we worked by it we satisfied my worry was totally ungrounded – if we know what you’re doing, a elementary solar array can be totally installed by dual people in a reduction than a day’s work. Here’s what we finished adult doing.

Step Zero: Research and Permit

f1884 LPC connection My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

Begin with a finish in mind. The extraordinary Kari Spotts (LPC’s lead of renewable appetite metering) helps me barter in a new dual-flow electric scale during a successful execution of this project.

This is a prejudiced that stops many people before they even begin. The quickest by-pass is that if you’re not meddlesome in these details, find someone who is, to mortar we by it. But if we have adequate oddity to learn a details, here they are:

How vast a complement should we build? In general, a bigger, a better. The cost per watt goes down as your complement grows, creation it a aloft annual furnish on a investment.

“I don’t live in Colorado. How many extract will we get out of it where I live?” This prejudiced is fun: The National Renewable Energy Lab runs a great, giveaway calculator called PVWatts that does it all for you: factoring in normal continue and solar angles in your area, even permitting we to mention solar panels placed during any crazy angle we like. (In other words, your residence doesn’t have to have a ideal South-facing roof).

“Do we need some of those Tesla Powerwall Batteries too?” No. Unless you’re building an off-the-grid cabin, in roughly all cases we will wish to “grid-tie” your solar array, so we can effectively sell your over-abundance electricity behind to a appetite association (and thus, other circuitously customers), cleaning adult your whole city and saving a outrageous cost of batteries. The Powerwall works good if we wish insurance from appetite outages, however, and can even compensate for itself if we live somewhere with a intelligent grid that allows day/night cost arbitrage.

“How do we get a assent to build this thing?” Your city’s building dialect substantially has a page describing how to apply. For example, here’s a one for Longmont. The trickiest prejudiced is generating a “one-line diagram”, though we cheated by usually photoshopping my possess sum into a example supposing with my city, heading to this result, that they authorized but question.

Step One: Layout

I had a nice, elementary roof that was already confronting South, slanted adult during a 30 grade angle, that is usually about ideal for solar panels. But we can also put them on other slopes or prosaic roofs, and they still work surprisingly well.

I indispensable dual rails for any quarrel of panels, and a rails get upheld by “L”-shaped brackets bolted into a roof. So we finished adult with this configuration:

f1884 initial roofinverter layout 1024x563 My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

Laying out support brackets, rails, panels, and appetite inverter.

Important consideration: Because we was putting this on a garage roof (technically “unoccupied space”), we was means to fist them all a approach to a roof edge. If we are installing on a house, your city’s glow formula competence need that we leave a 3 feet walking access around a edges. Sometimes it’s correct to consider outward a box: a garage roof, a standalone ground-mounted shelve if we have lots of new land, or formulating a new workshop/carport/garden strew you’ve always wanted in a sunniest prejudiced of your yard.

2: Install your Brackets and Rails

Once we figure out where to put a prolonged “lines” shown above, we magnitude them out and snap marker lines right over tip of your existent roof material. Then, use some stout 2.5″ loiter bolts and washers to reason down a L-shaped brackets that come with a solar racking kit. Pre-drill any hole, and inject in some “Through a Roof” sealant with a normal caulk gun before pushing in those bolts – this creates a permanent watertight seal. (There are also special brackets to accommodate opposite roof styles like tile and metal).

Once a brackets are in, we simply use a granted slide-in bolts and nuts to insert a prolonged rails, straighten them adult nicely, and close it down. Doing all of this with a cordless impact motorist creates it discerning and clean.

3: Bolt down and bond a Optimizers if you’ve Got ‘Em

These are usually tiny prosaic boxes that we bond to a tip of any span of rails, about 6″ from a contingent right dilemma of any solar panel. There’s one optimizer for any panel, and it acts like a babysitter – monitoring outlay from a panel, compensating for voltage changes when compulsory (such as when shade hits that panel). You’ll notice that any optimizer has 4 wires extending from it, and there’s one optimizer for any panel. This will make clarity in a subsequent step.

f1884 optimizers 1024x768 My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

Optimizer ascent (face down), and a good shot of a connectors between roof, brackets, and rails. Note – a solar installer saw this and pronounced he suggests we use flashings like this for additional insurance on those L-feet.


Once all a optimizers are in place, we bond any span of longer wires together with a impossibly accessible fast-click connectors. The certain and disastrous wires have differently finished connectors so we can’t incidentally retreat them.

You finish adult joining optimizers to any other, and any quarrel customarily to a horde optimizer, like this:

f1884 inverter panel connections 1024x673 My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

Inverter to quarrel connections

If we have dual lines of panels as we do, bond a distant finish of one line to a distant finish of a subsequent line, so we finish adult with a prolonged array of optimizers where both ends cancel with a lax handle on a finish closest to your inverter.

Grounding is Important: Using a granted education screw terminals, bond all a rails together with unclothed 10AWG copper wire. From that final terminal, you’ll be regulating a length of a same distance handle down to a inverter.

4: Install a Solar Panels!

f1884 panel bottom 1024x768 My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

The bottom of any quarrel has dual prolonged outlay wires. Use clips and/or zip ties to keep a cables neat so they don’t hook onto a roof too much.

This step is improved with dual people, generally on a high roof. Starting during a farthest dilemma from a plcae of your inverter, bond any a panel’s wires to a relating ones on a horde inverter. Set a panels down straight, and use a click-in clamps that come with a racking complement to clamp down a quarrel regulating your cordless drill/driver.

By a finish of this step, you’ll have one or some-more neat lines of panels with just two powerful-looking DC wires poking out a end, with connectors prepared to go.

You’re now prepared to build a final run of wire, that will enter a steel passage and transport by your roof, down a side of your house, and into a inverter.

5: The Home Run:

Drill a 1″ hole in your roof and put a roof foot over tip of it, tucked underneath a top march of shingles. From there, your idea is to yield a stable trail to get a high voltage DC wires from a panels, down to a inverter.

My city compulsory 3/4″ steel conduit, that gave me a event to learn about a several fittings and connectors that are prejudiced of operative with conduit. we also bought a passage bending tool, given there are many some-more outside electrical projects still on a calendar for a MMM HQ building.

b0a0b through the roof My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

I ran a length of steel passage adult from a inverter and usually over a roof boot, afterwards transitioned to a downward-facing connector to some flexible conduit, usually to keep a wires lonesome until they get underneath a panels. All 3 conductors including a belligerent are regulating by this tube. If doing it again, I’d advise regulating a different passage box for that transition. Also, we can switch from a unclothed belligerent handle to a stranded, insulated belligerent during that indicate – many easier to lift through!

6: Mounting The Inverter and Connecting it all to a Grid:

The prejudiced that sounds a many puzzling is indeed one of a many simple:

  • Hang a inverter on a wall regulating a granted joint and a few screws
  • Connect a passage and lift in a DC wires from a solar panels into a inverter’s tie box. On this Solaredge unit, there are good open shave terminals.
  • Do a same on a other side of a tie box, regulating a length of 8/3 domicile wiring (for outputs adult to 40 amps) right into a breaker box, as if we were hooking adult any other 240 volt circuit.

b0a0b inverter in out 769x1024 My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

Inverter mounting, including a passage going adult by a roof (left), out to a categorical breaker box (right), compulsory warning stickers (red), and how it’s bending adult inside (bottom)

7: Get it all Inspected and Power it Up!

The examiner will substantially have a nitpick or dual with your work. Stay clever and make any compulsory corrections, and pass that inspection. Then we flip on a AC breaker, a DC appetite switch, a inverter’s categorical appetite switch, and poke by a menu systems to make certain all is set to run a approach we like it.

For this Solaredge system, we had to run a “Pairing” step with a appetite optimizers (see manual), and supplement a TP-Link Wireless Repeater/Bridge to concede a inverter’s connected Ethernet tie to join my existent property-wide Wi-Fi network. Which happens to be a a spectacularly good Google Mesh Wi-fi system.

So What’s Next?

From this indicate on, it’s all on involuntary pilot. The complement generates electricity any day, that reduces a Headquarters appetite check down to zero. In winter, a days are shorter so we competence devour some-more than we produce. But in summer, a vast over-abundance will some-more than make adult for it.

b0a0b solaredge monitoring 1024x786 My DIY Solar Power Setup – Free Energy for Life

My inverter from Solaredge comes with a unequivocally good monitoring features, accessible from both a phone app and any browser. Plus, we can share a open chronicle of your page with anyone. Here’s one we finished for the MMM-HQ array.

At a time of writing, I’ve had a complement online for 27 mostly-January days, including a integrate of writeoffs where a panels were lonesome in snow. It has still averaged about 10 kWh of electricity prolongation per day, that is some-more than a normal expenditure of a whole facility. Put another way, a 265 kWh of electricity is adequate to appetite an electric automobile for roughly 1000 miles of driving.

The monitoring apparatus also estimates about 410 lbs of CO2 emissions prevented, that is 0.2 tons or about $4.00 value during stream CO cleanup rates. If we occur to caring about regulating a carbon-neutral life (or business) as we do, this means a CO equivalent creates your solar electricity about 15% some-more valuable in your mental accounting.

I can also double or triple a array of panels on this sold complement (once we confirm on a good place to put them) without changing a inverter or any of a grid-tie connections, that will severely urge my annual lapse on investment. It’s usually a LEGO-like block and play to bond some-more panels to an existent shelve of them, and a inverter has a second set of inputs if we are regulating in some wires from a fibre of panels we have placed somewhere else.

My appetite association pays out a check for any altogether over-abundance during a finish of any year, purchasing a appetite during a indiscriminate rate. But many regions are some-more solar-friendly than this, giving we a full sell or even aloft rate for solar-generated electricity as an inducement to go green.

The Final Word:

Solar appetite is strangely fun to furnish – many people news compensation distant over usually a financial benefits. It gets we out there rooting for a Sun, and for your associate humankind to follow fit and start harvesting it alongside you. So if you’ve been deliberation removing it done, a time is good.

Thanks again to John Shaw ( for all a assistance with this project. If we have questions about a sum or a attention in general, greatfully put them in a comments and both John and we should be means to import in.

And if we occur to possess a home or business around Durango, CO, hit Shaw Solar directly and tell ’em who sent you!

I also recruited some rarely profitable assistance from an glorious some-more internal electrician : Derek Miller who runs Omni Electric – rarely endorsed for projects in a Longmont/Boulder/Evans areas.

Rough Edges Alert: I’ve started by edition this essay in an inapt form, so if we see improper details, greatfully let me know and I’ll purify it adult over time after publication.

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