Owner-Builder DIY, Enphase, Iron Ridge, Florida

WildLeg

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Dec 14, 2019
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1) Anyone interested in installing their own GRID-TIED Solar Photovoltaic system but are put off by the permitting process...it's not as difficult as you may think.

I have recently completed a permit packet for Southwestern Florida where "owner-builder permitting" is allowed. If you are unfamiliar with this term...It essentially means you as a homeowner can legally pull your own permit, act as general contractor for your project, and do all the work yourself. This process is not without risk and should only be pursued by individuals capable of accepting a degree of financial and physical risk. In my case i have previous experience with solar installations and electrical work in general. Also am willing to accept the risk because i will be doing the work myself without bringing in any outside personnel.

I recommend all people interested in solar PV get quotes from local contractors, even if you still decide to DIY. These contractors are great at their jobs and are probably the best solution for most people. They also have financial instruments that have zero down payment options or no out of pocket costs. Given the current economy; taking steps to reduce bills seem like a no brainer, especially if i can support the local economy and benefit the planet.

I chose the easiest products (for me) to work with: Enphase AC Modules, Iron Ridge racking.

2) We have been wanting to go solar (at this house) for a long time. Several years ago we got a quote for $25k for a 5kW system from a reputable contractor. We elected to wait. During that time we took some steps to reduce our bill. Led lighting, adjusting the thermostat, new refrigerator(consolidating from two old). Our average bill is now somewhere around $60/month with a low of around 25 and a high around 80. FPL are one of the utilities who are allowing customers to view almost live data from smart meters. Also we learned another solution was to check the meter reading while isolating specific loads.

They say for every dollar spent on efficiency (lowering load) is a savings of $3-5 on a solar array. Also in that time the component prices dropped dramatically. The above quote amounts to $5 per Watt. The final price per watt of our system was $2.14/W DC. The cost/Watt is directly related to the size of the array, the cost of components, and in this case zero cost of labor.

The combination of a lower power bill and decreasing equipment costs has brought us to a bit of a sweet spot. However, we didn't choose the cheapest panels/inverters. We chose what we thought to be the best panels with a very low temperature coefficient, a high efficiency and low annual degradation that are MADE IN THE USA. The Inverters are installed at the factory and perfectly matched to the specs of the panel. By electing a more expensive panel/inverter it meant we had less to spend on the total system with the hopes of producing more energy over time.

3) Part of the process was to consider future products from the inverter company. They are rolling out a product that will allow us to create a mini-grid/back-up power when the grid is down. A combination of Smart Switch and battery that seamlessly transitions between grid, solar, and battery has specific requirements. Namely the number of previous generation inverters that can be installed vs. the number of batteries installed. This will not be an inexpensive prospect but we wanted the option. So, all equipment will be installed such that the battery and smart switch can be added later.

4) Florida law requires the solar array have an engineers stamp or be certified by FSEC Florida Solar Energy Center. The process was straightforward and cost $150. The last part was to create drawings of the site plan and array layout, assemble permit application and data sheets, and submit to the county. Went off without a hitch. Permit Approved.

The following images were what i submitted with my permit packet (edited for confidentiality):

Site Plan.JPG

Array Layout.JPG


Line Diagram.jpg
 

WildLeg

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WildLeg

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Dec 14, 2019
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The following image is from first page of my permit packet and was what i used to guide me through the process. I was the most unsure of #5. Windload Calculations and Weight Limit. The Iron Ridge Design Tools were the most useful here along with guidance from the county permitting office. I was able to design the array for a wind speed greater than the minimum required standard for our area. The generated report from Iron Ridge satisfied the engineering requirement.

Permit pg.1.jpg
 

mjcother

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Jul 23, 2020
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Thank you for this post... In Clearwater and looking at same thing... I did like the iron Ridge tool also... who did you source racking from ?
 

WildLeg

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Dec 14, 2019
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Hi, CED Greentech was the distributor I worked with. Currently, Tesla is offering the lowest installed cost of solar. Not sure if they are in all states though. What i don’t like about Tesla is their preferred hardware is a string inverter. I am a die hard Enphase fan. $1.49 Per watt installed after incentives is amazing and a no brainer.
WL
 

mjcother

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Jul 23, 2020
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Thank you! They were also recommended by a friend in SoCal. I did not get a response from their branch in Sarasota when I reached out a few months ago, I will try again. I assuming that by 'tesla', you are referring to solarcity? Yes, I have friends that used them, an installed project at that price would be awesome, unfortunately, I am not a cookie-cutter roof mount and need 'carport' or 'pergola' style installation in my backyard, and the quotes from people like SEM and AGT come in at $10/watt or more (SEM was most recent, $41k for 4.2KW, $30k was the structure)... the best price I have so far for the IR racking is from gogreenmansolar.com

My best bet at this point to get the support structure down to a decent price is do the engineering and maybe the fabrication myself if farmed out quotes are ridiculous... Here is a nice one that costs $50k to duplicate... 1596315201081.png
 
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Haugen

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Mar 23, 2020
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Location
Florida
I have been shopping for solar in Central Florida. The best quote I have so far is 16,550 for 7.22kW system using Enphase everything but the Encharge battery mounted on my new standing seam metal roof.

I would love to read what different people have learned about different panels, inverters, and other components.
I really like the Enphase solution. I want grid tied with the ability to run the house from solar when the grid goes down.
 
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svetz

Works in theory! Practice? That's something else
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...The best quote I have so far is 16,550 for 7.22kW system using Enphase ...
$2.30/W sounds great for installed compared to what I paid... although didn't Tesla recently drop installed prices to under $2/w or a "guaranteed lowest price"? I don't believe they have Enphase though.
 

mjcother

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Jul 23, 2020
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Hi, CED Greentech was the distributor I worked with. Currently, Tesla is offering the lowest installed cost of solar. Not sure if they are in all states though. What i don’t like about Tesla is their preferred hardware is a string inverter. I am a die hard Enphase fan. $1.49 Per watt installed after incentives is amazing and a no brainer.
WL
OK, called the one I thought was in Tampa, it is in Sarasota now, but guy was super friendly, very happy!
 

taxil

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Aug 17, 2020
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@WildLeg I currently have 10.5kw of Enphase IQ7x installed at my home. Any idea when the Enphase smart switch will be released?
 

Nitr0

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Apr 10, 2020
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Do you know what grid profile you are using in your system? I installed a small system myself this weekend and it's working fine but that was my only outstanding question.
 

Haugen

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Mar 23, 2020
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Florida
After much research and consideration, I have moved away from the Enphase solution. Most of it stems from the expense of the Encharge batteries.
It was a very difficult decision because of all the positive things about their products. In the end, the science won out. The continual conversion back and forth between AC and DC adds up to significant losses at the system level.
My goal is not to feed power to the grid and use it later, but to be grid agnostic and to use the grid as a convenience while it is there. In the case of outage, I don't want to lack the ability to power much of my home day or night, which requires batteries.
The SolArk 12k maintains the batteries first using DC avoiding the conversion losses both directions. I have also become fond of the idea of keeping the equipment safe and cooler (than the roof) in the garage.
Back to the batteries... I can build my own 14.3kWh battery with 16 * 280Ah cells and the SolArk doesn't care. If I can get communication established, great, but it is not a requirement. It saves me $10k+ for each battery over the Tesla, Generac, and Enphase solutions.
 

mjcother

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Jul 23, 2020
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I finally got mine done and final inspection done, ended up using gezelmanpe.com for my engineering drawings to appease the city (if you want drawings and are in FL, I highly suggest them!) , cost me a couple hundred bucks for that, and another couple hundred for another engineer friend of a friend to write a 'this roof is strong enough for the additional 1.6psf and meets acse codes." Not big, pays for 45% in summer and 90% in winter, but planning to double the size with 8 panels on west slope(you can see by graph that afternoon power will help) and 8-12 on a backyard shade pergola... I am only using one breaker in the new combiner, I am not a big power user and these additions will give me enough excess to get a plug-in car.. and will likely get a couple 10kw batteries and wire in the EnPower next year when I do the panel add to get more rebate..... Total investment a bit over $5k, using used 250w panels I got for about $50 each, but have enough extra ironridge stuff, so adding another 4kw will only cost me about $2k

1627832991255.png

1627833188780.png
 

andrewlodge

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Sep 13, 2021
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Just wanted to say thank you to wildleg and mjcother - I've been debating whether to do this myself on my home in CA, and your experiences I think have pushed me over the edge to go DIY. Where I live they also allow homeowner permitting/installation, and it doesn't look like they require stamped PE structural drawings (I'm a mechanical engineer, so I will do these anyway, but I'm not structural or a PE).

I'm planning also for an Enphase microinverter system, mainly because I am surrounded by trees and so I get a lot of sporadic shading (I probably lose 30% from this, but it would be much worse with a string inverter). The plan is for a 5.2kW array (13 x 400w panels) with IQ7A microinverters, Enpower smart switch, and AC combiner with built in envoy. I'm going with REC Alpha panels, which pushes up the $/W a fair bit, but I've got limited 'good' roof space and so I'm just trying to maximize the use of this space.

I was also planning to get an Encharge 10, but it seems like Enphase do not warranty it if it is installed DIY, does anyone have any experience with this? It seems such a shame, because all the Enphase equipment is very well designed to be amenable to competent DIYers!
 

WildLeg

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Dec 14, 2019
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33
Update 9/24/2001
We are a year and a half into the 2kw pv install. We initially installed a system that met roughly half of our consumption needs.
First year we:
Produced 3400kWh
Consumed 6600kWh (consumption metering is awesome)

Consumption metering allowed us to see that our ac system wasn't performing great and were able to get it serviced.

In preparation for ensemble i wanted to get our energy consumption down farther. We insulated and air sealed the attic and ducting. Added a mini-split in the master bedroom. Added an EcoBee thermostat on the main central AC. And changed out a few windows.

The insulating and air sealing was the best $500 spent. The house temps are more consistent and comfortable.
Adding a mini-split has given us a sense of resiliency in case the main house AC(27 year old) fails. Also, a single Encharge 10 can easily handle the load of a 1 ton DC inverter driven mini-split.

We are on track for the 2kW PV to provide 85% of our energy consumption after above improvements.
 

WildLeg

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Dec 14, 2019
Messages
33
Ensemble Training:
I have recently been getting certified to install the Ensemble and Encharge battery backup system from Enphase University.
If you have an enlighten login you can sign in and request approval to enroll in any of the Enphase training courses.
So far i have taken the Enphase Storage Installation Certification Training and also Ensemble Design Certification Training. The design training seems to be getting an update and is on hold.
To initialize an ensemble system you must be certified to install the system and have one install under your belt. Your first install can be on your own system.
As part of the process they require you to submit all your documents to them for review.
I was able to work through the forms they provided(Field Fillable Diagram, FFD, and Site Survey Form) See attached:
More to come...
 

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