10 Ways to Speed Residential Solar Installations
Residential installations for $3/W? How can your company maintain profitability at these low prices? In Germany and the US mature installers can achieve these prices with lots of practice, careful planning and crew efficiency. Here’s some ideas how to reduce your costs and increase the speed of installations.
1. Staging: Bring your tools and parts onto the roof with you. A tote is great to store everything you might need – not the truck. Avoid commuting up and down the roof, so bring everything up at once. While the rails are being installed, get the panels ready and moved to a point for hoisting, or stack them on the roof. No one should be idle waiting for materials.
2. Division of Labour: Everyone knows their job, and are choreographed like a dance troupe. Minimize the movement on the roof, and have people complete tasks like L-Feet installation without changing position. One person could have the tools, and another is placing the equipment close to the installation location. While a panel is being install, a runner is bringing the next panel. 2 people with tools don’t have to move far.
3. Use a Bosch Wall Scanner or equivalent to find rafters. The glorified stud finders can see through 2 layers of shingles and sheathing – most of the time. Save time and repair of missed pilot holes with this $1000 investment.
4. Fast-Rack Talon: Skip the rafter finding step altogether with the Fast-rack Talon. With ten 1.25” wood screws, it secures the L-Foot base directly to the sheathing with the same pull out strength as a 4” lag screw. They have a peel and stick self-sealing gasket compound to prevent leaks, so they avoid the caulking step. Install your first Talon 1” above the shingle course, cover with the flashing. Then move over 48” and do it again. 3 minutes per flashing, no caulking mess and no rafter hunting – that saves a lot of time.
See the Fast-Rack Talon
5. Fast-Rack Rails: Rail installation and leveling take up half the roof time. Fast-Rack was designed with 2 things in mind: Installation speed and easy leveling. Aesthetics are important as the look of your installations may affect whether other people may buy from you. Fast-Rack rails have a serrated face that mates to the L-Feet, and allow you to finger tighten the L-Feet as you raise or lower the rails to take out the roof wows. See the Fast-Rack Mounting System
6. Keep a spares kit! All installers have sent hardware off the roof, into the garden and never to be seen again. Or someone snuck a roof vent into the project roof when you weren’t looking and now you have to cut and splice rails. The Fast-Rack Spares Kit is a parts tray full of things you may need. Buy one and keep it on the roof with you, and don’t forget to replenish what you used. Fast-Rack Spares Kit
7. SolaDecks: There are many ways to transition from rooftop wiring to home run cables. We like the SolaDeck – it looks like a roof vent, the flashing slides between course of shingles, but gives you a neat entrance to the attic space for the solar cable. Neat wiring and quick to install. SolaDeck Rooftop Combiners
8. Use 72 cell modules where you can. A 10kW system would have 38 265W modules, but only 32 320W modules. Less racking to install, fewer MicroInverters or Optimizers. Faster and cheaper overall. Hanwha 315W Modules
9. Use High Efficiency modules. This same 10kW would need only 30 340W modules. Again more savings with 2 less modules to handle, and the associated electronics.
10. Use APS MicroInverters. MicroInverters are back! With panel level MPPT, Rapid Shutdown, Arc Fault and no rodent protection required, they are one solution for residences. But if there were the same price as string and optimizers? They eliminate DC wire runs, have built in cabling, and only one Micro is needed per 2 panels. The time savings to install these Micros makes them the clear winner for residential projects. So you should call us for pricing on this game changing product line! New APS MicroInverters