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BusinessIamA Former Solar Panel Installer In Utah! Ask Me Anything!!!

Mar 15th 2018 by Demonofz • 9 Questions • 1768 Points

I used to work for one of the largest solar providers in Utah, seen all the ins and outs from the bottom of the top. Proof: https://imgur.com/a/hfcRq https://imgur.com/a/T0QiQ

Q:

I used to be a solar installer, I still am, but I used to too. -mitch hedberg

A:

They hours were pretty relentless. Wasn’t surprising to work 16 hours a day - 6 days a week. Took a lot of toll on me and my wife’s relationship, as well as me never seeing my kids.


Q:

What's it like installing solar panels in Utah?

A:

In the spring and the fall it is very nice! In the summer though... The shingles reach temperatures of 160 degrees and you start melting your shoes. In the winter you have to shovel a few feet of snow off of the roof, and then use a blow torch to take off the underlying ice. Usually this is a 2-3 hour process before you can even begin. I remember working in Grantsville in 2016, and it was -9 degrees outside. Just builds character ;)


Q:

Did you ever have to deal with historic homes and what did you think of the regulation process?

A:

Worked on many historic homes... and let me tell you... They were a pain! In the state of Utah, any electrical that you touch MUST be brought up to current code. This sometimes means rewiring an entire home. This doesn't even include dealing with the roof conditions. Wood shingles? Suck. Cement Shingles? Suck. It was really interesting to see the architecture that went into building these homes, but so many things were not up to code, that it was almost like building a new home in its entirety.


Q:

Interesting. Did you ever need to go before a history board to get approval or did the city need to approve a design or something?

A:

Essentially we had a design team that would use a very intricate system that would show 3D models of the shade of the trees, the weight per square foot on the roof, and what weight rating the trusses in the home had. If everything checked out, we would get a permit from the city. If it did not, we would have to essentially go build them a new roof to make it structurally sound.


Q:

In your experience, are we at the point yet where the "average person" (let's say, average salary in the US, being ~ $50k per annum) can afford to go completely off-grid (taking into account not just the cost of PV cells but also the wiring, battery storage, etc.)? If not, when (if ever) does this look like happening?

A:

Prior to the tariffs set by trump on solar panels, I would say that you absolutely could accomplish this. The average system that we put on a "normal" sized home cost the owner ~$25k. We also offered payment plans to pay off over time. The only downside of living in Utah is that there are laws in place so you can never be totally "off grid". Always have to be tied into Rocky Mountain power meters one way or another.


Q:

Not op, but I work in the solar field. On aggregate, as long as the installation was done at a high quality, the maintenance costs are relatively low. Barring monster windstorms or damaging hail, mods are designed to work for decades. They do degrade over time in terms of output, but replacing mods is relatively easy and inexpensive compared to the rest of the cost of building a system.

A:

With a quality install on a fairly new roof, upkeep costs are very minimal. Inverters and panels are rated for ~25 years.


Q:

What kind of training did you have for this job? Do you need to be an electrician?

A:

No training required. They train you on the job. Technically not supposed to touch any wiring, unless you are a certified electrician. Which they will pay for you to school to become


Q:

I've watched a lot of youtube videos on solar. How difficult do you think it would be for an average home owner to install their own systems?

A:

Aside from the electrical wiring to the main panel, the actual act of installing a system on a roof is dead simple


Q:

Where I live composite shingle roofs get replaced every 5-10 years because of hail. Does the solar panel system have to be removed & re-installed by a solar tech when a shingle roof is being replaced?

A:

Absolutely. One of the biggest problems in my side of the industry. That will cost you another 30k for uninstalling/reinstalling