I use several software tools to help design solar energy systems. One of the important tools is Bing Maps. Bing offers aerial views that are not just satellite overhead plan views, but angled views of most homes in Southwest Florida. Aerial views can help determine suitability of a home or roof surface for solar energy products. I can see potential shading issues, and estimate roof sizes (I can get more accurate size information using other tools, which I will highlight in later posts). Sometimes we can see vents, satellite dishes, power lines, and other roof obstructions that may pose problems. Google Maps also recently startedRead More →

The job at Naples Botanical Garden is nearing completion, and one of the best features of this project is the use of S-5! clamps. These clamps attach to the seam of many types of metal roof. If you have this type of roof, and it is installed with adequate strength, one of the best options is to use this clamp to avoid roof penetrations. My colleagues are masters at roof penetrations, having installed hundreds of thousands of leak-free roof attachments over the years. Every once in a blue moon a roof leak may show up in one of our jobs, usually very small, and alwaysRead More →

A very smart friend asked me today how much power a solar panel makes. He was looking at a picture of a large commercial solar electric system in Naples, FL. I told him 230 watts. He asked if that was each panel or the whole system. The system was over 40,000 watts! It really strikes me that the typical person has no concept about how much power solar panels produce. That is the power production side of things, but the bigger picture is our understanding of energy use. All we really pay attention to is the dollar amount in the bottom right corner of ourRead More →

The law is clear in Florida. A homeowner association cannot prevent you from installing solar energy products. This is governed by Section 163.04, Florida Statutes. You have a right to obtain energy from renewable resources on your property Condo associations similarly cannot prevent you from installing solar energy products on your property. Unfortunately, the roof of a condo and the areas outside your walls are rarely considered your property. Courts have upheld this law in favor of homeowners to a great extent. The law event extends to clotheslines that use the sun and wind to dry clothing, again, as long as it is on yourRead More →

So many people ask how much it costs to run a solar pool heater. The answer is zero! It costs nothing to operate a solar pool heating system other than the cost of pumping water, which you already do! You do not need a new or additional pump. Your existing pump is normally just fine. Solar pool heating panels heat water from your pool by circulating water using your existing pump and pool plumbing. We install a “solar loop” that brings water up to the roof from your pump and back down to your pool return jets. Since you need to circulate and filter yourRead More →

Today was frustrating. I visited the site of a solar electric installation that we narrowly lost to a competitor earlier this year. I’m not going to mention the competitor, nor the job. When I first approached the system, I was quite impressed by the outward appearance. The design concept was actually better than I had proposed. The products used were high quality. But upon closer inspection, there we so many things wrong! The details are where this competitor failed, and the details are where competitors start to differ. In today’s solar electric market, installing the major components has become easier. Modules have snap together connectors,Read More →

Today was an exciting day at Naples Botanical Garden. Fafco Solar started installing the photovoltaic modules on the roof in a phase that is expected to take about three days. The guys were “treated” to a light breeze to cool things down despite the sunny weather. It’s still hard work and very hot up there… I’m very impressed with these SolarWorld SW245 Monocystalline modules. These have the Version 2.0 frame at just 31mm thick for a sleek appearance. The new glass coating is gorgeous! This job is a great opportunity to cross-train employees who are normally assigned to Solar Pool Heat installation or the serviceRead More →

With Hurricane Irene approaching Florida, we are naturally getting lots of questions about hurricane preparedness for solar panels. Here are a few tips: Solar Electric: If utility power fails, your inverter(s) will cease to produce power and your system will shut down automatically. For an added layer of safety you may wish to shut your system off manually by turning off the main photovoltaic disconnect switch(es). This switch should be near you utility meter. If not, a sign near the meter should show its location. If your system was installed in the last few years, it is likely installed per Florida Building Code 2007, whichRead More →

Do solar panels need to be cleaned? Here are some tips: Solar Pool Heating Panels Solar pool heating panels do not need to be cleaned. Rain does the work for you. They operate efficiently even if there is a little dust on them. The one thing that you should look out for is leaves, pine needles, and branches. These can build up above the top header and occasionally under the panels. There is really no impact on performance or longevity of the panels, but decaying plant matter could discolor your roof or cause some algae or mold growth. If you are comfortable on the roof,Read More →

You don’t want one. Well, maybe you do, but I’m going to try to talk you out of it. I’ll still sell you one if you want it, but you are going to have to convince me, first. You can have a grid-interactive solar photovoltaic system, the ability to sell energy back to the utility company, and the luxury of battery backup. They make equipment for that. It’s nicely integrated and seamless. These have been around for off-grid applications for quite a long time, and many of the first and most popular grid interactive inverters were capable of battery backup. My contention is that itRead More →

The SW Florida Affordable Housing Choice Foundation had the foresight to ask for solar water heating systems on three local apartment renovation projects. My employer was awarded the jobs, and I can’t wait to get started on the roof! Solar panels will heat water and supplement an electric water heater in individual apartment units. The largest installations will include 40 solar panels on a single building serving 20 apartments. Each system will have an Integrated Circulation Module (ICM) that senses when hot water is available on the roof, and circulates it to heat the tank. The ICM operates with a small photovoltaic panel to powerRead More →

The FGCU Naples Botanical Garden Photovoltaic System installation is progressing well ahead of schedule. Decent weather has allowed this exciting solar installation to progress through the mounting system and microinverter installation in under one week! Solar modules will begin to be installed on Monday, and this 40+ kilowatt solar array should be substantially complete by the end of next week. I can’t say enough about the guys on the roof. They are working in extremely hot and humid conditions on a very reflective roof, but they want to impress the owner (FGCU), facility operators, and prime contractor (Manhattan-Kraft Construction). Of course, there was lots ofRead More →

I had my first taste of solar energy living off-grid in the Caribbean in 2000. This old system still exists in some form, and it brings back great memories. It’s mounted on the roof of a farm building in which I had an “apartment.” In the Caribbean, solar water heating tanks are integrated with the collector. Storage is minimal. Production is great. The two larger photovoltaic modules are Astropower 110w modules used to charge four Trojan T-105 batteries which provided power for a pump to pressurize the water system. I think there was also a small Trace 1200w inverter for lighting. The other module looksRead More →