Going Solar at Home: Inspection, Activation, Monitoring and Performance
Photos: Harry Strharsky
This blog post is the third in a series on how to research, contract, install, activate and monitor clean, renewable, rooftop solar panels on your home. You can read the first two posts in this series at:
Once your solar panels are installed, you still have more objectives to achieve before they can be activated. We were told that since configuration changes were made on-the-spot during installation, it was likely to take two weeks to receive a Fort Collins Building Department as-built approval for the revisions.
Our home installation failed its first inspection. We needed an additional 200-amp circuit-breaker put into our main electrical panel. This protects the connecting wiring to the new solar generation panel mounted on the outside of our garage. Not familiar with this Fort Collins city requirement, our install team was caught off-guard and surprised. To their credit, they installed the breaker within two days. Meanwhile, other technicians installed a “critter guard” around the base of the solar panel arrays and placed a “snow guard” between the upper and lower panels on the west side of our roof.
This guard prevents snow accumulated on the panels from sliding off in one sheet, spilling over the gutters and covering one of our cars parked in the driveway.
After passing final inspection from both the city and the utility we received a “Letter of Completion” from the city of Fort Collins dated February 22, 2021. We were also granted a “Permit to Operate Parallel Generation” on February 24. A technician returned to “flip the switch” and our solar panels began generating electric power one day short of 16 weeks since we signed our installation contract.
SOLAR MONITORING AND PERFORMANCE
Yet one more obstacle to overcome. Freedom Solar, our contractor, gave me a web address to create a login and password for access to the SunPower Home Monitoring Software. My attempts to access this site were denied several times before I began to inquire, Why? Apparently, they were in the midst of experiencing difficulties with a software upgrade and all access was denied – not my problem. Surprisingly, this took a full week to fix. Finally on March 3, I was in the business of documenting our electric utility energy bill savings from our rooftop solar generation.
During the first full week of operation our solar panels produced 121% or 23.5 kWh more electricity than we used for a savings of $11.56. After enduring the disappointments and obstacles to satisfactory installation over the previous 4-month period, these were very encouraging results. Examine the full chart following:
As I complete writing this third blog on our personal experience with the solar power industry, we are well into the third day of the largest March snowstorm in 18 years. Our roof is entirely covered – no further electrical generation until it melts later this week. With Spring on the way and Summer following, I look forward to being satisfied with our results in the coming months. Hopefully the conclusive gain will have been worth the pain in the process.