Last time we went through my first adjustment to the original plan when we had to factor my Tesla into the needed power generation. It turns out that was the easy part as we got into the next stage of the design with Solar City.
I don’t claim to understand all the engineering that goes into planning for a solar installation but to the homeowner there are 3 things that really matter:
- How many panels will be installed and what will the configuration be? (aesthetics)
- Where will the inverters/ground/wall items be installed? (aesthetics & function)
- What will annual production be and what will I be charged for it? (value)
For each of these areas Solar City made mistakes. We were very clear when we started the process that we didn’t want partial roof coverage of the panels – i.e. right half of a single roof surface. This is our house and we want it to look good. They made this mistake multiple times as we had to adjust things and changing this each time was a month-long process.
In the end getting the layout right came down to me having to provide specific advice despite having no experience in this area and insufficient information to do that with. The communications path between the sales people you get to speak to and the mysterious engineering team back at headquarters is terrible.
Customer design input with Solar City is pretty flawed
On the farm side, they placed the inverters in front of doorways in the designs. When I pointed this out (note that they visited my property 3 times and took tons of pictures), they didn’t seem concerned and just said the installer would put them in a better location. So much for engineering design. It’s not clear what the point of the design was if they don’t end up following it.
Inverters were placed in front of doors in the design.
After multiple rounds with Solar City to get the designs where we wanted them to be we thought the hard part was done. It turns out that the hard part had yet to start – our power company wasn’t involved yet…
More on power company struggles in the next part of this series.
Mike Maloney said:
Having put in a solar system 3 years, I know some of the struggle you are going through. The main difference is I pick a local well known installer who was a little more expensive, but the job went smoothly, other than him having a few email skirmishes with the power company! I also paid up front for my 7.5kW system, so don’t have any experience with any of the leasing companies, although I have heard some horror stories about some of them. I’m very surprised you are having so much trouble with Solar City.
I’m a little worried that if you aren’t there watching them like a hawk, that the inverter will get installed in the wrong place or they will run conduit in an “easy” spot rather than out of the way. Also if the roof penetrations aren’t done right you can end up with leak. I hope you have a good view of the attic to check things after the first good rain/snow.
I am enjoying your posts immensely. I have been looking at Tesla for about a year now, but haven’t quite gotten the nerve to make the purchase. I took a mini step this February and leased a Smart Car electric. My wife and I fight over who gets to drive it. It is great for 90% of our driving but does not replace an ICE car like a Tesla S would.
Thanks again and good luck with your solar project. Mike
Thanks Mike. SolarCity does have all sorts of guarantees on roof conditions around leaks for the 20 year period. I did review the design/placement for the inverters for the house. For the barn they had it all wrong but they couldn’t do that project anyway. I’ll definitely be home for the 2 day install in December to make sure they’re solid. I don’t really think the install quality will be an issue, I think the main issues are between them and the power company and then just startup gaps/inefficiencies.
Glad to hear you like the blog. I love the Model S, its not perfect but I can say its the best car i’ve ever owned. Its also not cheap but if you didn’t see my cost justification entry it may be eye opening: