Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The first solar panels are installed

Why is it that doing any plumbing seems to result in a leak somewhere? On Monday I got everything ready to change out our water heater. This involved taking out the 30-gallon electric water heater and putting in our new on-demand heater. The new one is one that is supposed to be hooked up outside, but where I’m installing it there’s no problem venting it to the outside. That was part of having everything ready – have the vent pipe to go in.

Well, I successfully took out the old one and put in the new one. Only thing was that there were some leaks. Nothing major, just some drips. Still, it worked fine. I could take care of the leaks on Tuesday. And, I endeavored to do so, changing the supply lines from those semi-rigid 3/4 inch regular hot water heater things to some flexible hoses with 1/2” connectors on each end. I also put in a shut off on the incoming line, something that should have been added years ago. Again, the installation went well, but there are a couple of drips.

The hot water works fine, but I have to redo some of the connections. On the metal pipe pieces, I used Teflon tape on the threads. I think I should have used joint compound. In fact, I will. The threads seem to cut the tape and render it practically useless which allows water to seep out around the threads. From the backI replaced a section of 1/2” CPVC and it leaks around the coupling I put in to tie it to the existing line. So, I have to cut it and redo. Hopefully, I can get it all taken care of tomorrow since there were other things to do today. 

A good friend came over with his family today to help me with solar panel installation. It was a nice day for it. I even had to take off my jacket for a while. We worked and accomplished a lot while our children played here and there (they get along great) and the mommas talked and enjoyed themselves inside.

Frames with the first five solar panels

We secured the frames to the porch roof first. We had to make the 2x4 rails the feet of the frames attach to and pivot upon. This wasn’t difficult. These rails are securely attached to the 2x4 purlins of the porch roof with lag screws. Once we got the frames installed, I did some calculations for drilling holes for the adjustable legs. The frames are adjustable for the different seasons to maximize the amount of energy harvested. In this area, we are at 37 degrees latitude, meaning that 37 degrees is the fixed mounting angle. Another viewThey can be adjusted 15 degrees either way to face the sun at the winter and summer solstices. The calculations I did (using an online resource) was to determine where to drill the holes for the adjustment settings.

Once the frames were installed, we started installing the solar panels. We got the five 50 watt panels on but not the 100 watt panels (ten of them). We had to drill holes that matched the frames on the panels. I already had holes drilled, but they didn’t match. Their placement was based upon the measurements from the website where I ordered the panels The five with one odd paneland an assumption that since they are supposed to be half the size of the 100 watt panels the mounting holes would correspond to the larger panels. Not so.

That didn’t take long, though, but by the time we had the fifth panel attached, it was time to put tools away and wrap things up. You’ll notice from the photos that one of these five panels is different than the others. I’m not happy about this, but I think it will work fine. They were all five supposed to be the same, but for some reason a different 50 watt panel was substituted for one of them. The specs on it are close enough to the other panels that there shouldn’t be any problem.

Anyway, it was a pretty good day. We’re getting closer to actually being off the grid.



Very nice to see the progress!

Wish we were closer, as I would love to help with the rest of the panels.

Re the water connections, if you want to try the Teflon tape again, you can wrap the threads more than once to get a thicker build up and seal.


The help would be great, too. If you're ever in the neighborhood, let me know.

I actually did wrap the threads more than once with the Teflon tape. I've had good success with it before, but I've not really used it on galvanized or black pipe. The threads just seem to be too rough and cut the tape. Might be because it was a little cool. The joint compound worked great today, though.

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