Malacandra.me

Home Solar Project Blogging: Strength

So here we are, on the verge of completion of The Great Big DIY Project to put solar panels on our roof.  And look at how far we've come. And by "we", I'm mostly talking about my housemate and best friend George.

  • First we established that, given our copious electrical needs (and commensurate electrical bills), it's economically sound.
  • We determined our requirements in terms of solar generation capacity given our geography and the topology of our roof surfaces.  The number of panels, and their wattage. Their placement on our roof, avoiding the skylight, the many vents and other impediments – in keeping with new fire codes that place restrictions on where panels can be located on a residential roof.
  • We removed a tree and privet that shaded parts of the roof. OK, we hired a guy. But still, it got done.
  • We assessed the available technology, selected appropriate hardware, found sources and evaluated competetive bids.
  • We secured financing.
  • We developed detailed plans to submit for permitting, including engineering diagrams of the installation plans and elevation diagrams of our home.  We secured the permits.
  • With the help of a Professional Electrician (Hi Emmett!) we replaced the circuit breaker box on our house, supplanting it with one that can handle the new circuits that our solar panels will require.  And with his help, installed new grounding, conduits to run wires (and grounding) to two circuits on the roof.
  • After finding the rafters - largely by echolocation - we bolted mounts to the roof, with flashing to keep them watertight. And fastened aluminum rails to those rafters. And mounted upon those rails a series of Enphase micro-inverters that will convert the DC output of the solar panels into AC  power that'll be usable by our household wiring.
  • And all those inverters and rails have been electrically grounded. And the inverters are wired together.

All they are waiting for… are the panels. 
And we have them ready, stacked up in our garage, a series of lovely lapis monoliths.

There's just one problem: we have to get them onto the roof. 

What do you suppose is the likelihood that a couple of nerds capable of all of the engineering required above have the upper body strength to loft close to 1500 lbs. of solar panels onto the roof?

I've seen YouTube™ video of Real Men who can climb a ladder with one hand, holding a panel across their back with the other.  We are not those men.

So, that's the problem.  Right now, we're about to go into the third round of production and testing of a frame that is meant to coast over an aluminum ladder, using it as a rail to slide these goddamn panels up.  The top rung of the ladder will have brackets holding several pulleys with rope threaded up and down from a wooden frame that'll hold a panel - and back up and down - and back up and down again. There'll be another pully with a rope and a counterweight to largely eliminate the added weight of the frame itself.  All in the interest of making it possible for me to pull those panels up to the roof high enough so that someone can grab them, without leaning over and losing his own center of gravity.

A lot of thought and energy is going into just building this contraption that we'll only use for a single day – with any luck.

Right now, the prevailing opinion is that we're going to continue experimenting with levers and pullies and wheels and such for about a week, at which time we have a few stout-hearted neighbors who have volunteered to help us.  We figure we need at least a couple of people on the roof and a couple on the ground to make this happen.

Stay tuned.