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Rick, General Contractor
Category: Home Improvement
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Experience:  Licensed construction supervisor with 35+ yrs. experience.
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Install solar panels for our home... I live in Hawaii.

Resolved Question:

Install solar panels for our home...

I live in Hawaii. My husband recently got his electrical contractor's license. He has been an electrician for over 10 years and very experienced, but had never installed solar panels and is not that familiar with pillow permits yet, and we're very uncertain of the process (start to finish) for pulling permit for solar panels. He's confident to install te solar panels, but all the leg work and permits is the undersij part for us. First off, our roof needs to be replaced and we've already chosen a roofer but I guess we didn't want to replace the roof right away in case their was a certain criteria (for solar panel installation) for the way, or the material, or time of the roof replacement, etc... Could you please kind of guide me as to the sequence we should be doing this. We heard from friends that Costco has a good solar panel and extremely cheap online as well, as opposed to buying them in-store. If we choose to go ahead and install the solar panels ourselves, is there an extra step I should be aware of to ensure we can qualify for rebates and/or tax credits after installed? Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Home Improvement
Expert:  Rick replied 4 years ago.

I will do my best to help you with your issue

I am a retired solar contractor in NH while I can answer your other questions I have no idea what the permitting process is like in Hawaii and I don't think we have any Hawaiian experts. Let's start with the roof. You want a roof that will last as long as the panels which means 25 to 30 years. Actually the panels will still produce even after 30 years but their output will be significantly degraded. There are mounting systems for every type of roof so your husband needs to familairize himself with the mounting brackets for your type of roof. The racking systems are pretty much universal and work with all standard panels. Here in NH the preferred roof is a standing seam metal roof. There are advantages to this type of roof (it sheds snow) here in New England that don't carry over to where you live but it's still a good roof and is widely used down South in the hurricane zone because of its wind resistance. Even the best asphalt shingle roofs won't last as long as the panels but if you don't plan on being there 20 years from now it's not really an issue. I'm a bit skeptical about buying solar panels from a big box store without knowing the brand of the panel. But generally panels made in China (far and away the most panels come from China) are the least expensive and have perfectly acceptable quality. I have Chinese panels on my roof from Canadian Solar ( Canadian Solar panels are made in China). Panels made in the States or Europe tend to be better quality but the quailty difference doesn't typically justify the higher price.

There is no extra step re: the Federal tax credits you just need to keep the records (invoices) than prove your costs. You can't include your husbands labor costs unless he has his own company that is a corporation. Then the corporation needs to bill you and that becomes your proof of cost. Here is a link to a list of incentives available in your State.
The Dsireusa site is the most comprehensive and up to date source for available incentives.

If any part of the array will be shaded when some of the array is in the sun you might want to consider micro inverters instead of a single inverter for your system. Here is a link to Enphase . Their site explains the advantages of microinverters. The micro inverter system is a bit more expensive (and complicated) than a single inverter system but it's worth the extra expense if your site conditions have some shading.

As far as the permitting is concerned your best bet (and what we did when we installed in a new jurisduction) is to go to the local code enforcement official and ask what they want. I would hold off on doing any work until you've talked to the local code authority.

Rick and 2 other Home Improvement Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Your answers were very helpful. Thank you... I just thought of more questions if you don't mind... You talked about shading and inverters. Am I understanding correctly?... Do you mean if we know that there will be some shade over the panels (shadows from trees, power lines, etc), then we need to look into a particular inverter? I believe out house would not have any shading issues if that's what you meant.

We were actually thinking of getting a higher quality shingles roof. I understand what you're saying about putting on a roof of a different material to last longer. I guess I figure that the life of the panels will match (approximately) the life of our new shingles roof. I'm not opposed to getting a roof of a different material (metal, decra) and it's life lasting longer than a shingles roof is definitely enticing. However, I guess as far as design, you don't see a whole lot of different roofs especially in our area and I'm not sure if I would need to make alterations to our house to match the roof style. I know this isn't one of the more important issues of the whole project, but definitely an aspect to be considered. I guess with shingles, it's more inexpensive and can eliminate new design because I know it would already match and eliminate that one worry.
Expert:  Rick replied 4 years ago.
You don't need to make any alterations to your roof for most roofing materials other than asphalt shingles. The roofing life claims by asphalt shingle manufacturer's are worthless. Unless your entire Southern roof exposure is covered with solar panels you'll be doing very well if the roof lasts 20 years even with the longest rated shingles. I guess it depends on where you see yourself in 20 years. I'll be 80 and don't want to deal with taking down the panels re-roofing then putting them back up.
If your roof will not be shaded at all then a standard single inverter for the entire array is the way to go unlees your husband finds being able to monitor the output of each panel valuable and worth the extra cost and labor to install micro inverters.
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