Phase 8, Two More 135 Watt Kyocera Solar Panels

 

It's been a while since I purchased solar panels, so did a little surfing online to see who had the best deals.  First issue, Kyocera has discontinued the popular 130W panels.  Second issue, the company I had been buying from, Sun Electronics out of Miami, has jacked up their shipping prices to an outrageous price.  I contacted the company to find out why the $40 fee for shipping two panels 200 miles has now increased to $244.  I know prices have increased in 2 years, but that's not reasonable.  I contacted the company in case their online shipping calculator was hosed up.  They gave me the run around.  A friend on a forum plugged in shipping to other states, including Alaska.  Same $244 shipping fee.  So I bought from a company called Alt-E.  Their panels were on sale, so the prices were close to Sun Electronic, but I saved $160 in shipping, despite them shipping from NH to FL.

The two panels arrived in about a week.  One panel was fine, the other was destroyed in shipment.  Crap.  But the folks at Alt-E were very responsive.  They got back with me quickly, and had UPS pick up the damaged panel the first weekday after the complaint.  They had UPS pick it up at my front door, didn't have to haul it to a depot across town.  The next day, I received confirmation that a new panel is being shipped.  Excellent customer service.  They'll be getting more business from me.  I am in no way affiliated with any company!

 

The Good Panel

 

A quick short circuit test showed the panel was supplying a tad over 10 Amps.  My meter is rated at 20Amps, many are only rated at 10 Amps.  If you blow a fuse in your meter, don't fuss at me!

The specification decal on the back of the panel.

With my application, I like using the Z-brackets.  Keeps the panels fairly close to the roof, making them less likely to fly off during a storm.  Each panel is secured to the roof with 16 stainless steel lag bolts.  This is far cheaper than buying a rail mount system.

Each bracket is secured to the panel frame with a couple 1/4-20 stainless hardware.  A drop of Loctite on each bolt keeps all the hardware secure.

I use one of the existing holes in each corner of the frame, but have to drill a second hole since there isn't one available where I need it.  I HIGHLY recommend using a Uni-Bit rather than a standard drill bit.  A standard drill bit can catch, and pull its way into the back of the solar panel, probably quicker than you can react.  A Uni-Bit hesitates at each step, allowing time to react.

Tighten up the hardware, and the mechanical portion is done, other than some clean-up of the metal filings.

This version has a junction box.  The terminals are clearly marked + and -.  Kyocera now includes the fitting for the wire to pass through, which clamps down on the wires when finished.

These types of wire clamps don't require a lug on the wire.  Guess I'm old fashioned.  I like using a good quality lug under the clamp.  These panels are expensive, don't skimp on the wire, or you're wasting electrons before you can use them.  Per one of the online wire calculators, 10 gauge wire gave me ~ a 3% loss at the distance I needed.

Here you can see that fitting sealing tightly against the wires.

All wired up, junction box screwed shut.  Ready to install.  FWIW, I have no splices on the roof.  Each panel has a separate cable leading into the attic.  All terminations are inside the attic, keeping the connections dry and corrosion free.

The new 135W Kyocera is tad bigger (physically) than the slightly older 130W Kyocera panels.  No great surprise.  The new frames are also a little taller, and painted black.

Same array from the other end.  Four 15W Harbor Freight panels, followed by three 15W Northern Tool panels, then four 130W Kyocera panels, and a single 135W Kyocera panel.  Hopefully the replacement panel will arrive in a few days, and I'll put it up on the weekend.  Oh, there's still a small 5W Harbor Freight panel on the North side.

That'll give me a total of 900 Watts of panels.

 

The Broken Panel

 

No kidding!

The back of the box had a large gash in it.

Not good...

Turns out the gash was on the glass side, which completely shattered the safety glass on the panel.

I wish companies that pack solar panels would spend an extra buck or two, and protect the glass side a little better.  A few pieces of cardboard isn't effective.

Hard to tell from the thumbnail image, but the panel on the right is shattered.  Click for a larger view.

A close-up of the panel glass.

Repackaged, ready for UPS pickup.

 

The Replacement Panel Arrived

 

A week later, the replacement panel arrived.  No damage this time.

A quick short circuit current test shows it's working fine.

I install all my own hardware.  Consequently, the size/weight of the panels is an important consideration.  I can comfortably carry a 135W panel with one hand, while climbing up the ladder.

 

Actually climbing up the ladder, is easier than getting back down.  Sure you want to do this yourself?

 

I do use a tool belt, but I had already pre-staged the drill, caulk tube, etc, on the roof.  Didn't want to try and carry it all at once.

The feet were already installed on the panel, and the panel has already been wired.  It's hot up there, and awkward to work on the sloped roof.  I tried to get as much work done in the garage before heading up the ladder.

Sixteen holes, bolts, and washers, and it's not going anywhere.  Finally have 900 Watts of solar panels on the roof.

The UV rays are harsh here in FL.  I'm using split loom to protect the wiring.

The ridge vent has drip holes about every foot.  Perfect to secure the wiring with tie wraps.

A view from the other end of the roof.

 

I contacted Alt-E regarding the broken panel.  They quickly responded with an email, letting me know UPS would pick it up the next business day, which they did.  The replacement panel arrived a week later, and was installed today.  I had ordered some 6 gauge welding cable (black & red), and another 30 Amp ProStar charge controller.  I hope to have these two panels wired into the new charge controller in the next day or so.

 

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Last updated 05/14/11    All rights reserved.