Rounding off the posts about my power setup, here is all the details on my solar install. I got 17kw of solar which consists of 45 x 380w Q CELLS Q.PEAK DUO Panels paired with Enphase IQ7+ Microinverters. These work out more efficient than the 400w panels I was originally going to get installed. All of this installed will cost less per month in electric even when you include the cost of the solar panels, and it shields me from rising electric costs. It also gets me completely ready for when I get batteries installed down the road.
The first thing I did was contact an installer. I originally wanted the Generac PWRCell solar and battery, but after looking through the quotes and specs I decided on going with Enphase Microinverters.
This is designed to cover 110% of my usage, however since I work from home now I expect that to change. So far we are net positive production, so we've made more than we've used. I do not have batteries, as at the time of installing they did not make financial sense. They are expensive, low capacity and have poor power output. In a hot summers day I'd need to spend over $50,000 in batteries just to make it between sun hours. That makes no sense, especially since here in Houston we have 1:1 net metering, meaning you can use the grid as a giant battery for free. Instead of batteries, I got a 27kw generator (Read below)
I got the solar quote, signed up for financing (0.5% over 30 years) and then just had to wait. There were material delays from COVID, delays from the city inspectors and delays from the utility approving the installation. By far the longest part of this is waiting for all the government agencies and utilities to give you the green light. At first I was frustrated by this, but it turned out to be very lucky.
They came out and measured my roof. If you're into roofs, you might already be able to tell what's wrong.
For the solar install they need to get the structure signed off by a structural engineer. The solar installers took pictures of my attic and sent it over to an engineer who signed it off as being fine. After this was done, I wanted to have some work done on my house which required me to get the opinion of a structural engineer. While he was at my house, I had him look at everything I could think of, since he's already here. As soon as he went into my attic, he told me I have major problems.
For reference, here is a picture of the front side of my house. This will have no solar panels on it. Notice all of the rafters are straight, and there are purlin supports half way. That's the wood that goes across, and then has supports coming off at an angle.
For my roof and the length/size of the rafters, these have to be there. If you remove them, the rafters will have too much weight on them, and could deflect/crack/fail completely.
Well, along the ENTIRE BACK of my roof where the solar panels are going, someone had removed them for some reason. And there were 14 cracked rafters
Notice the complete lack of support. And take a look at these rafters, they were all deflected 4-5 inches and cracked
Luckily, he was able to recommend a contractor to get it all fixed. They quoted me $3400 to fix it and bring the entire thing up to current code with a 10 year warranty. Since it was the height of summer and the attic would be very hot, and the price of lumber had skyrocketed, this sounded like a good deal. And what choice did I have after-all?
The current structure wasn't even holding up my roof properly, let alone 4-5 guys up there installing solar panels, and the panels themselves.
They installed 2x6 Purlins and Purlin supports throughout the entire attic, and jacked the roof up so it didn't sag anymore. They sistered the cracked rafters with new lumber and structural lags
Here are some shots of the work
This is on the side of the attic that was "good" and wasn't going to have solar panels on, here is a before shot of that same area for reference. You can see how much more beefy the supports are.
Here is a shot when they started working on the bad side. They had the new lumber up ready to attach to the old rafters once they jacked the roof up. Follow the edge of the new lumber and then you will see just how broken the old rafters are
For this part, there was no load bearing walls under for the new purlin supports to go to (Perhaps why they were removed, I suspect someone removed a wall they should not have)
So, they had to create a long beam in the attic to span across the gap, and sit on some load bearing wall. It was very tough to get it in the house, they ended up going through a window
Here are some shots of that beam installed
And here is a shot of the beam in place
They finished up and also left me all of the scrap wood that was removed. This is all really nice old growth 2x4's, and a bunch of new wood offcuts
Now, back to the solar!
While this was going on, my electric got updated ready for the solar and generator, more below
All of the permits finally came through, and they could start installing.
We finally got them all up, but there was a miscommunication. The layout had changed when we changed the model of solar panels (The other panels were back ordered) and now I have this horrible gap where the furnace exhaust is!
So I started working on getting quotes to relocate that, as well as the vent above the garage panels, which would let me add three extra solar panels.
They got the electrical all connected (even though it would all have to be reconfigured when the generator arrived)
Here you can see the electrical, as well as 4 more panels above it
But we did run into some issues. For some reason they used the worlds most kinked up (Old, used?) Romex for an inside run. See the only horrible cable! This is inside my garage.
And when the electrical inspector came, he failed us for having 70a fuses, when they should be 60a fuses in the disconnect. For some reason, the electrician doing the solar decided to swap out the whole disconnect instead of just the fuses, and I guess he forgot his level at home that day! And the guy in the Eaton factory also forgot his level when putting that sticker on too. This is not acceptable.
I was not very happy with this at all, so I brought up the issues. The solar installer sent out a different, much better electrician and corrected everything. This was also right around the time I had my generator installed, so they were also able to reconnect everything. This is the end outcome, which I am very pleased with.
The new electrician put the old disconnect back with the correct size fuses, and got everything hooked up
I specified to my solar installers I wanted a line side tap. That means instead of the solar coming into a breaker in my electrical panel, it taps into the line side of the electrical service right after it comes out the meter, and before it hits the Generac ATS, and before it hits my electrical panel.
This is good because it means I have more capacity in my panel in regards to spaces, and the total bus rating.
The main panel here is just an 8 space panel which then has feed through lugs that go to my home. I really don't want to use more of those spaces if I can help it.
The next point is that the panels bus has a max rating of 225a. If you have 60a of solar on a breaker, that then cuts you down to 165! I didn't want that. with it being a line side tap, I can add almost as much solar as I want, without running into issues.
If I had it coming in on a breaker in my main panel, it would also mean I have to rely on the rapid shutdown built into the microinverters to not damage my generator when the grid goes down. Because its now before the transfer switch, it doesn't matter. In fact, the solar can stay on when the generator is supplying the house with power.
During an outage this would gain nothing as the grid would be down anyway, but if I want to do a loaded test of my generator, I don't have to give up the solar production during that time.
Around this time I also got the vent moved by a roofing company (It took 5 visits for them to stop it leaking though...) and then added the extra solar panels.
I'm very happy with the install now, even if there were some problems along the way. The electrical inspector cleared everything, and then the structural inspector showed up. I figured he would need to go in the attic and check it out, but no. All he wanted was the stamped document from the structural engineer that said my roof was okay! (When it was not!) No inspection needed. I'm wondering how many homes out there have solar with completely messed up roofs...
Around the time the install finished, my electrical contract was about to expire. I did not want to move onto an expensive month to month plan, as it would cost a fortune, but I had to move somewhere has I had not yet got the permission to operate and turn the panels on, and I didn't want to sign up for another year contract.
At this time, Reliant Energy had the best electrical plan for solar. Its a 1:1 buyback rate, so you buy and the same price as you sell, and credits rollover forever. Perfect. I called them and asked if I could be put onto this plan, however they informed me because I didn't yet have the permission to operate from the utility, I could not. But they did suggest that I can choose ANY Reliant plan I want, and then just move into the solar plan later. Since its within the company, there would be no ETF. So I moved onto their cheapest plan, which happened to also be a 24 month contract.
2 months later I finally got the permission to operate from the utility. The first thing I did was call Reliant to be moved into the solar buyback plan. But then they informed me it had changed. I can no longer sell back more electric than I used in a month. So there is no way to ever get a credit as a bill. This means that if I overproduce power in a month, I'm giving the excess back to them for free. And I can't bank that money to use in lower solar production months. They told me they had been planning this for a while.
I sat on the phone with them for hours, as I felt that I should have been told this when I moved to Reliant. They knew they would scrap the plan, but they let me move there anyway. After at least 8 hours in total on the phone, they agreed to let me cancel and they would not charge me an ETF. Great!
I then moved to Rhythm who DOES have 1:1 net metering with infinite rollover. Here is my referral link if you want to sign up, it gets us both $100 credit
I thought everything was good, and then I got my final Reliant bill. And it had a $250 ETF applied.
I called them back, and after getting escalated 3 times I got someone who agreed to drop it, but they told me to do it on their end, I had to give them a new address so they could put it down on their system I moved. I made up an address and gave it to them. I thought it was over again.
A few days later I get a call asking for proof of this new address. I told them that I never moved, and they required me to give them a new address. They declined to refund the ETF.
So, I submitted a PUC Complaint with the state of Texas about the whole interaction. The very next week they called, and refunded the ETF...
with all that mess out the way, it has been very good. I've broken even or had a credit from the utility all but one month where I had a $10 bill. As you can see here, even in January which is not a very good solar month, I'm doing good
And the last bill I got was a $50 credit because I exported so much
Thats all - Please let me know any questions and thanks for reading.