Solar PV


My garage has 24 solar panels arranged in a grid of 8 wide by 3 tall.

Each solar panel is a Helios 260 watt poly-crystaline PV module. Behind each is an Enphase M215 micro-inverter. Each inverter individually converts direct current from the panel to alternating current. Wiring combines the output of each micro-inverter where it travels through wiring inside conduit down the side of the building to a Midnite Solar Combiner/Disconnect box.

That feeds to a 30A circuit breaker used as a load-side connection in the garage main power panel. From there, the electricity powers loads in the garage such as lights or charging my electric car. Any excess power simply runs back to the house to power that building. If there is still excess power, it runs back OUT through my main power meter to the grid where I get credited for it by my power company.

The system was designed to provide the average amount of electricity we use throughout the year. In the summer, we produce more power than we use (and get credited for it) and in the winter we produce less than we use. The goal was to produce what we use on average over a year, sometimes called “Annual Net-Zero”.

Total faceplate power capacity of the solar panels is 6,240 watts (at laboratory test conditions) but real-world power production is really 5,400 watts maximum.

On a clear, sunny summer day, I can charge my electric car, power my garage and house, and STILL have extra power I’m selling to the electric company!

My out of pocket expense to install the solar was $10,500, but the total was reduced to $6,500 after a number of tax and other incentives. The solar array produces about $1,000 worth of electricity per year, so it pays for itself in 6.5 years. After that, I’m getting PAID $1,000 per year!

Most solar panels generally have a 20-25 year warranty. I know people who installed solar panels 40 years ago, and those panels are still functioning just fine.

You can see the output of the solar anytime at SOLAR PRODUCTION LINK.

I have a whole series of videos about designing and installing the solar on YouTube. To see how much I save on my electric bill each month, please view

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aaron April 27, 2019 at 11:10 pm

What is your yearly production and your yearly consumption?

2 admin April 28, 2019 at 8:53 am

About yearly production and use. The system is new enough that I only have one complete calendar year of production data. Based on that and partial year data, I can also say that production varies a bit year to year (due to weather – an especially cloudy fall, hot summer, etc.)

In our first full year of production, we made 7,408 kWh of energy. My original goal was averaging 600 kWh per month, and that annual production averages out to 617 kWh per month.
However, we also did USE quite a bit more energy as well. Going through and adding up all my utility bills, it looks like we used 1,653 kWh more than we created, (9061.) I was also experimenting at the time with electric heat for some special events. (Hosting meetings in my garage in the winter, etc.) I logged that energy usage with an old-fashioned mechanical power meter, and it showed 1018 for electric heat use for the year.
If I deduct that from my total use (as I was never using electric for heat before the solar) I end up with an annual usage of 635 kWh more from the power company than I used. About a month’s electric use. (The U.S. National Average is right around 900 kWh/mo.)

Another way to look at it is that the solar covers all of our power use 11 months out of the year. I’d love to have it hit 12, but we have also increased the use of our electric car (which has also DECREASED use and cost of gasoline!) and have a school age child at home, which has changed electric use patterns.

Another way to look at this is that we went from 100% of our power coming from a utility down to about 8.5% coming from the utility!

3 Aaron April 29, 2019 at 8:49 pm

We are currently looking at 23 LG 330 panels. Is estimated that it will produce 13,231 Kwh a year. We’ve had our house about 9 months so we estimate we’ll have used 11,000 Kwh so we should do okay. I want to eventually have an electric car, but we’d have to update our breaker box to get a level 2 charger installed. Unless you know of another way to do it.

4 admin April 30, 2019 at 7:16 am

If you are installing solar anyways, you’ll have an electrician there. That’s a good time to upgrade your breaker panel. You can even install just the wiring to where you would plan to install an EVSE or have the electrician mount a NEMA 14-50 outlet, which is a great all-purpose high power outlet appropriate for electric car use.

5 Aaron April 30, 2019 at 3:53 pm

Unfortunately, I don’t have the cash right now and it week be a while before I can get an electric vehicle.

6 Aaron May 10, 2019 at 3:06 pm

Hey Ben,

Just to share, we signed contracts for our solar panels to be installed on Tuesday. We’re now waiting for permitting from the city and they should be installed in the next several weeks. We are very excited and hope that we save money. I’m also looking to trade my current car in for a Chevy Bolt. Some of this move is due to you.

Anyway, I do have a question. I am building a website in order to share my electricity bills and to share about the process of getting solar installed much like you do. Would you mind giving me some advice? What camera do you use to make your videos? More importantly, what program do you use to edit your videos? I’m planning on posting on YouTube. I’m hoping to have my site completed within the next two weeks, but the framework is slowly coming together. If you can give any advice, it would be greatly appreciated.

7 Ellen May 14, 2019 at 2:58 pm

Thank you for the excellent youtube videos. They have been an excellent resource.

We are preparing for a DIY solar panel installation on our barn (we are located in WI also). I noticed in your video that you stated you were eligible for the $1200 Focus on Energy rebate. After reviewing those guidelines it states:
Equipment is installed by a professional contractor with a valid Wisconsin State professional contractor’s license, appropriate insurance, and permits.
The application also requests the Trade Ally contractor contact information.

I’m curious how you handled this. Any insight would be appreciated.

8 Jacob Breder August 29, 2020 at 10:12 am

To whom it may concern.

I own a 1997 Mercury Sable (Station Wagon) which functions well for its age.
However, my parents have voiced concern about replacing it sooner rather than later, before it dies period.

I saw your videos on EV conversions and was impressed.
Before I seriously consider anything, I have a few questions about EV conversions.
For the record, I live in Ohio and do mostly residential driving with maybe 1 or 2 abnormally long trip per month (most of an hour in one direction.

How much did it cost to build your electric build (minus battery)?
How much time does it take to swap out the engine?
Are there any books or other sources I can or should go to you suggest?
And what should I know about getting it certified or re certified for road usage should I decide to do this?

Thank you for your time.

-Jacob Breder (age 22)

9 admin August 29, 2020 at 10:24 am

Hi Jacob!
Many of your questions will be answered by watching the entire Build Your Own Electric Car video series

When I built the Electric Geo Metro, it was about $1300 out of pocket. That was with a cheap car, and a lot of used parts and DIY.
The project is more work than simply swapping out an engine. I would say that a “summer project” is probably the minimum for somebody who hasn’t done a conversion before.

Yes, there are some books out there on conversions.

The following video touches on some of the things you need to do to have a legal conversion. Primarily, don’t change any safety systems, make sure you have a clean title, and make sure to take car of any emissions testings or other requirements you might have.

Good luck!

10 admin August 29, 2020 at 10:33 am

Hi Ellen,

Keep in mind that the budget for Focus on Energy changes every year, and that you need a reservation for the rebate.

When I did my project, I contacted Focus on Energy directly and asked about me installing the system myself and still getting the rebate. I was told that I could. I would need to track my receipts for my materials cost (which I was going to do anyways) and I would not be able to “charge” for my own labor, which I wouldn’t anyways.

I ended up having to send in the stack of receipts (which was a legitimate PILE by the time I was done!) and provide a whole bunch more information besides that. They actually DID read through all the receipts and DENIED me something like $4.50 because on one receipt, a particular item was considered a “tool”, rather than a “material”.

I wonder how many hours they spent on THEIR end looking through all this. Honestly, it was a bit of a pain.
I am self-employed, and run my own business. Were I to do the same thing again, I would have just had my business do the installation, run all the receipts and everything through the business, and then just write myself one invoice.

Keep in mind some of the other requirements of the Focus on Energy program – solar must point within a certain number of degrees to south, you must be grid-tied with a participating utility, and a few other details.

I don’t believe that you have to use one of the specifically listed contractors. They want to know that the system is done right. I think another part of the whole idea is to help grow jobs in solar. If you have any issues, just hire an electrician for your final hook up and see about using him/her as your official contractor. There’s probably pretty good odds that you need an electrician’s license number for an electrical permit anyways.

By contrast, the Federal Tax Incentive was MUCH easier. You simply put in how much you paid for the solar on a one page form on your taxes. That’s it.

Hope that helps!
Good luck!

11 admin August 29, 2020 at 10:40 am

Hi Aaron.
For making videos, you can use almost any camera. There are so many good cameras today, you almost can’t go wrong. Just make sure to hold the camera steady (Use a tripod!) and get good audio (use a mic, or at least get close and stay out of the wind!)

On YouTube, it’s really more about your content than production value. Good information, presently plainly and to the point, with an in-focus image and clean sound will get plenty of views.

I happen to shoot with a Canon digital Rebel camera:
And a Senheisser Wireless microphone:
but you can use whatever gives you good quality picture and sound.

I currently edit with Adobe Premiere. Again, there’s lots of good editing programs. If you are on a Mac, iMovie is included with your computer and works just fine.


12 Brett July 8, 2024 at 10:36 pm

In the process of buying a home on lake delevan. Are there any vendors people recommend in SE/southern wisconsin for residential solar install? I should note that this home is part of an HOA. I have solar on my current home but the company who did the install has since been bought out and the new company is not doing residential solar projects. Thanks in advance.

13 Ben N July 10, 2024 at 6:14 pm

Hi Brett!
There are plenty of great solar companies out there. Look for ones who are happy to give you testimonials.
Full Spectrum out of Madison has a stellar reputation and has been in the industry forever. There are certainly plenty of other good vendors as well.
I’d also recommend anyone who is an MREA business member:
I’ve only ever heard horror stories about HOAs, and am not in one, so I can’t say much about that except TALK TO THEM FIRST and when looking for a solar installer, ask them about their experience with HOAs as well.

Good luck!

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