Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Panels Are Up!

When you get something done that you didn't have planned? Always a great feeling.

Over the holiday weekend, Dan and I very much enjoyed the rainy 4th. Why, you ask? Well, when it rains one has less guilt about the long list of projects staring one in the face. One can say, "Oh gee, well would you look at that, I can't work in this rain! Guess I will just sit back, relax, and catch a movie or something equally passive." haha



And that we did! --At home. Apparently we weren't the only ones who thought it would be a good day for a movie. We went, saw the the massive line, and after waiting just 3 minutes we heard a staff member call out, "Maleficent is sold out!" So, we headed off to do some other errands that had been adding up, then enjoyed a movie at home. 

We didn't set our sights too high for the weekend. We have both been feeling the burn out set in. It's been over a solid year of working almost every last weekend and several, several weekdays of putting in the full 8.5 then coming home and putting in another 3-4. It's beginning to catch up with us! I'll admit, I've had more than one semi-melt down day in the last month or two. A break is much needed. But the end is in sight!



Neither of us expected we would get the panels up over the weekend. There was a lot to be discussed and figured still. Or at least we seemed to think so. But on Saturday, as we puttered around, unpacking this, tidying up that, we kept staring at that stack of panels. Finally, we made our way over and started to discuss the strategy we had for mounting them. We leaped from one alternative to another, only to end up back at the same idea. The truth is, you can talk in circles all day long or you can just DO IT. Then learn from the doing. 




"Let's just try putting up one and see how it goes," I said nonchalantly, and thus the panel mounting began. We opted to use flat brackets, about 3 inches long with four different holes. There are only 4 holes to choose from on either side of the panel itself, so we had made our racking according to those lengths. 

First we secured the brackets to the back of the panel racking with the bolt and nut facing up into the gap created by the frame of the panel- that way, when placed onto the racking, that bolt head was flush with the panel's frame. Once we had the panel in place, we used large wood screws to secure the bracket to the racking. The first one went up rather easily, as did the second, so we just kept going!



Due to our method of securing the panel, we had to have about 3-4 inches of space between each panel, so there was space to screw down the brackets. We alternated the height of the panels as well so the brackets of two adjacent panels could set under or above one another- otherwise the gap would have been larger if we kept them all at the same height and had brackets butting together.

Our two rows of racking are not symmetrical by any means either. We had to dig our post holes where we could manage to make holes period. So, we opted to leave a larger gap in the center of the back row, so as to sort of center the panels on the rack and also provide a nice opening for wind to come through- thereby reducing it's impact on the panels. The front row of racking is shorter, so we kept the same spacing all the way across.



We had all but two of the panels up by the end of Saturday. We needed more hardware to finish the job, so we called it a day. We stood back and admired our work. No, they aren't the picture perfect solar arrays you see in magazines where every last panel is immaculately lined up, centered, and even every which way. They are a little off here and there, like their owners. :) Last I checked, the sun still shines just as well on panels that aren't perfectly pretty in a row- as long as they are pointing at the sun!



One thing I would mention to anyone who is yet to set up solar panels. We learned about z-feet, which are, as it turns out, a very specific piece of mounting hardware that can make life easier when mounting. We searched high and low locally, but could not find what we needed. We could only order online from a solar or RV store. We weren't about to wait another couple weeks to do this, so we went with the brackets. 

On Sunday, we finished putting up the panels and also started spreading wood chips. Deb had a connection with the local electric company, so we got a great big heaping pile of wood chips made from trees that had to be removed for power lines and such. Thanks, Deb!! :)



We spread them around the solar array to help prevent plants from growing and interfering with the panels, and we spread a bunch leading up to the Pod and around the front side. Dan plans to finish spreading around the back as well. 



Now, we just need to starting hooking up our entire system. Eeep! I am certain we can do this, and it's all just a step by step process like anything else, but now I don't have the excuse of, "Oh, well we still have to get the panels up"- dang our productive natures!

I plan to dive into the manual tonight and start slowly over the course of this week and the coming weekend. 

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