Solar profile: Arthur Tanner

Bowie co-op member Arthur Tanner recently had a 29 panel, 8.1 kW solar system installed at his home. Below is his telling of the installation process.

The four-person installation team showed up early in the morning, each with specialized work to do. Chris handled the AC work on the side of the house. He installed a breaker box next to our main power panel inside, and a knife switch outside leading to the inverter. He then wired the AC lines from the inverter directly into the main power panel. This required drilling a hole through the wall, which he then filled.

Sam handled the wiring work on the roof while Daniel and Otori laid down the rails for the racking system. They then bolted the racks into the rafters, using long stainless steel bolts and heavy duty flashing panels. These are designed to seal out water.

This work took all of one day.

The team came back the next day with more to be done on all fronts. When came time to unwrap the panels, we found the installers did not have the 285-watt rated panels I had contracted for. Rather, they only had 280-watt panels. After discussion with the installers, I opted to go with the lower-rated panels.

Their black color matched the color of my roof better than the silver panels I’d initially ordered. They make my roof look like it is clothed in a pinstriped suit! While my system’s overall production would drop by 145 watts of rated power, the cost of my installation dropped $449.

The panel installation went quickly, as all of the other components were in place. The next step was getting the system inspected and my meter connected so I could start producing power.

A few days later, a new crewmember, Ben, connected an internet-connected system monitor unit. This provides real-time performance data. The monitor was connected to my inverter, allowing Ben to test system performance. Once we found that my system was working, my system was ready to be inspected.

The electrical inspector from the county took about 20 minutes to review my system, which passed with no problems. Ben came back the next week to put some cosmetic finishing touches on the installation and provide me the paperwork I need to qualify for Maryland’s solar rebate.

All that was left was getting my smart meter connected. I had heard that getting the net meter installed was the slowest part of the process, taking from one to three months. I reached out to my utility, BG&E. They responded the next day letting me know I would receive a scheduling email. A week later, a BG&E technician came by to connect the meter. I received confirmation to turn the system on a few days later. I can now watch as my system produces power and saves me money on my electricity bill.

A few observations for folks getting solar installed on their homes. My installation crew was skilled and efficient. You will be pleased with the work they do. One of their objectives is to make sure you are pleased. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions. They usually have good answers, and if they can’t answer, they will find the answer.

Also, keep in mind the installers are working up on a roof, usually in a hot sun. They can suffer from the heat. If you are at home during their work, please consider providing them iced beverages periodically. They enjoyed water and sports drinks.

Good luck to you if you are scheduled for an installation. I have every reason to believe that you will be able to have the same type of good experience.