I’ve never studied solar systems, but I knew I wanted one once I heard the power company would allow them to be used (as the production source). I wanted a big enough system to cover my usage. Since I use around 15,000 kWh a year, I called around to get pricing and to understand what was available nowadays. One thing I did know was I wanted a ground mount system. I have room for it and I’ve worked carefully to get shading on the house with tree planting, so that left the house out of the equation – and roofs aren’t made for walking on. I found a company (Energy Sage) that helps people with info on solar and to help connect you to installers. I got a lot of emails and found out how big a system I needed along with pricing. The price was OK because of you paying for electricity anyway, but I didn’t like how long the payback was. I started asking if the installers could reduce the price if I did some of the work. Most of them wanted to work with me but none of them were knocking off enough (to make a difference). That’s when I started to call around to wholesalers to find what the cost would be. I ran into Renee Donaldson at Eco Direct. I got the best price and a willingness to help me with the permits I needed. She came through on that promise, never skirted any questions. Now I’ve never installed a solar system, but I know electricity, and I’m a handyman. Being 65 years old and hobbled up some didn’t stop me.
The ground mount shipped in first, at the end of October. In Michigan that means snow and freezing weather soon. Eco Direct sent me all of the documents I needed for permitting. While that was going on, I spent an afternoon installing the posts and framing. Then the next day a friend helped with the long bars (aluminum rails) that the panels mount to. I spent an afternoon putting the optimizers on and getting the spacing right. I set the system up so all of the wiring would be at standing height and put the wiring down the 2 center bars. The lower panel would go up then the top one turned around to put the panel wiring in line with the optimizers. The next day, 2 friends came out an we installed all 32 panels. These were the Canadian Solar CS3U, 370 watt, split cell panels measuring 3.5 x 6.5 ft. Not heavy. Panels went up easy. I rented a trench-digger and dug the 300 ft trench I needed and then pulled the wire to a conduit and dropped it in. I couldn’t cover it up yet since the inspector had to see it. It snowed 8 inches, but no big deal. Most of the work was done. Another 4 hrs and it was wired up and in to the meter. The next week the inspector gave me the OK and by then the snow had melted so I filled the ditch in,completing the install.
With the completion of the necessary tests on the running system, and working with my local power company, I was given the go ahead to turn it on. From start to finish, 30 days, 3 days of work, a lot of thinking, preparing and electronic time (researching) with lots of questions, and Eco Direct contact (Renee), it all came together. Even after it’s up and running she helped me register and set up the monitoring portal. Way beyond their commitment. Highly recommended for any one. Thank you, Eco Direct!