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Off the grid

Started with a solar water heater installation - the company that installed it quoted solar panels as well, but that seemed like something we could do. We installed 14x230W panels with Enphase micro inverters on an aluminum rack system. Pretty much screw and bolt everything down with a drill, finishing off the rack with a reciprocating saw. 2 drills are handy as the feet of the rack system have to be drilled into the rafters, and a 3/8 inch lag bolt to hold it down. The most time consuming part was making sure we knew where each rafter was – turns out that 24 inch spacing cannot be guaranteed over the length of the house, or not even from an eave to the ridge. You need a master electrician for the permit - but after that expanding the system is very easy. 5 stages later we have 44 panels (mixture of 230, 345, and 250W). The entire project is documented at ( By doing the installation our return on investment will be quick, especially if you catch the incentives. The first stage Florida State offered $4/watt (not guaranteed and $1.60 was paid out), the 3rd stage (and this is more common) our utility provider offered guaranteed $2/watt, and ALL stages are eligible for %30 back on taxes. The website documented all the permitting requirements, when I started it seemed like the permit office was not really sure what was needed. There are at least 4 more installations attributed people visiting the web site. The panels supply 60%-80% of our power usage, which is good considering our car is electric (leased Volt), and we live in very hot mid Florida, not to mention we did away with all gas powered lawn tools and replaced the gas grill with electric.

Comments (10)

Small 8e713153 8571 440e a287 4a48600f1a9b

This looks awesome! The cost savings alone make me wish I was living in my own home! Where did you get the panels from?

Small c7d51094 0028 496e 869c a85dd6014d28

5 stages - 5 different online stores - prices flucuate but some places offer unbelievable deals if you can catch them. Homes loans cant get any lower - jump in!!

Small c7d51094 0028 496e 869c a85dd6014d28

Good thing about going solar - you find that all the yard tools gradually go from gas to battery, I am even eyeing my gas mower now that there is a battery powered one.

Small no avatar

Colin you are brilliant. Thanks for sharing and leading by example. We have been wanting to do something like this for years. Great to see it in reality and the results you are getting

Small no avatar

I have always been interested in going solar or wind energy. I've always thought that solar would be 2 fold...1 replace electric & 2 provide some shade from the sun beating directly down on the shingles. I just don't know that much about the wattage on the panels and where and how to install them.

Small no avatar

I would love to save money in anyway possible. The solar panels would be a fantastic way to save!!

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I would have liked to do a project like this myself, but I lacked the know how and required licenses to do it so I had Solar City install mine for FREE and a 20 year lease that is lower than utility rates with NO increases ever! They have a tremendous track record and professional staff to handle all the aspects of the project. Email me for more info and a money saving referral. solarnow at

Small no avatar
Rusty Trombone

Looks great! Must have been hot up there during the install. Might I suggest that next time you try a Ryobi 18v li-ion Impact Driver for driving in the lag screws? A beautiful tool for driving in most any type of screw fastener using the proper bit. Once you try one, you'll never grab a drill again unless you need a pilot hole!

Small no avatar

Colin, that was a really impressive project, and the information you shared was about it was fantastic. I hope that more people will be inspired by your efforts, and will install their own solar systems. I has to pass the Link to your WEB sight on to friends to read about. Great job, enjoyed reading about all the details you provided. (retired engineer)


Small c7d51094 0028 496e 869c a85dd6014d28

Thanks, There has been 1 install I can say was done partly because the steps listed on the web site cleared up some questions - and at least another 3 people from work have expressed interest. I had my grounding questions answered from another self-installer's web site - so any little help I can give back. And yes - an impact driver is on the list - those lag bolts wore down a few batteries.

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Project Information

Difficulty: Intermediate
Category: Construction, Other

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