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Clean Power plug and play solar

Published on March 14th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor

52

Plug-In Solar Panel Kit That Is Truly DIY

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March 14th, 2014 by  

DIY: Three letters that have the power to send either titillations of excitement or bolts of pure terror down your spine. Myself, I fall into the second group. To me, “Do-It-Yourself” sounds more like a threat than an exciting proposition. DIY solar panels?! You’ve got to be kidding me.

plug and play solar

But yes, it’s true! Plugged Solar is a start-up based out of Houston, TX that offers an innovative solution that is truly worthy of the label DIY. Their solution is a 1.7 kilowatt (kW) home solar panel kit that makes installation fast and simple, typically installing in just one afternoon. So exactly how easy is the Plugged Solar kit to install? Somewhere between assembling an IKEA dresser and installing a DVD player, I would say.

What makes Plugged Solar’s patented kit so different is that it comes preconfigured and prewired, with all of the necessary installation components (including racking), and plugs directly into a standard 120 Volt (V) electrical wall socket like an appliance. This saves homeowners both time and money on installation.

Here are the [SIMPLIFIED] installation steps below:

  1. Assemble the racking. The Plugged Solar kit comes with three options for racking: roof mount, patio mount and ground mount. The ground mount option is the simplest and quickest to assemble, but it is not necessary to be a roofer to install the roof and patio mounts. All you will need is a ladder, measuring tape, a drill, and a ratchet.
  2. Place the solar panels. Affix the solar panels on to the racking.
  3. Connect solar panels to each other. Easily connect the negative and positive ends of the solar panels to each other as per the instructions creating a circuit.
  4. Connect the solar panel circuit to the inverter. Plug the cord from the solar panels into the grid tie inverter.
  5. Plug system into the wall. Plug the cord into any standard, dedicated electrical outlet. You will hear a click, and see the kilowatt generation on wireless monitor.

Plugged Solar’s plug-in solar panel kit is already being used in homes across the United States to generate solar energy-saving homeowners an average of 30% on their electricity costs with average payoff in less than 6 years. Visit pluggedsolar.com to learn more.

This article was graciously supported by Plugged Solar.

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  • http://www.yeastinfectionhomeremediestips.com/ Kaitlyn Karisty

    very interesting

  • Deb

    what states is this approved in? Ohio?

  • http://fmwdistinct.com/ carl mason

    Solar Panel installation is def’ntly the way forward for future generations & trades…http://southernselectrical.com/

  • http://fmwdistinct.com/ carl mason

    DIY and straightfprward installaions are all good and well, but for peace of mind I would still use a qualifed spark…http://southernselectrical.com/

  • Jen

    Is there a page that lists which states these DIY kits are approved for use?

  • kuberajones

    Any chance of these coming to Canada?

  • Jeff Spies

    @PluggedSolar… You say the system is “approved” in 23 states, what does this mean? Who at the state level approves a concept like this. PV system approval is a combination of local permitting jurisdictions AND utility company interconnect agreements. I am unaware of the state being involved in approvals.

    DIY solar is possible, but only for those who understand PV system siting, layout, and proper wiring of the electrical system. Additionally, they would need education on installing a mechanical structure that will reliably connect the modules to the roof or ground for 25+ years.

    In my experience DIY’ers have a low likelihood of installing the waterproof flashed mounts in a code compliant manner. Heck, even most solar installers need coaching and practice before they can do it properly in an unsupervised install. Inexperienced solar installers often cause long term damage to the roof, and could also create electrical safety issues.

  • SolarPod

    1. These types of 120V systems bring down the Plug & Play solar industry. Why? Because a 120V system can have both the load and source mixed into the same branch circuit. This mix is a potential fire hazard. This is not NEC code compliant. Besides its warranty cannot be 25 years. The website says 5 years warranty on the inverter while 25 years on the panel. Although they say dedicated branch circuit, it is very easy for someone to remove the solar plug and place an extension cord with multiple receptacles therefore forcing a load and source in the same branch circuit. I believe many of you have already commented on this code violation.

    2. We have specifically used a 4 wire 240V Plug & Play solution because in such a branch circuit you cannot have load and source in the same branch circuit. Any electrician is aware of a 4 wire circuit. Therefore the SolarPod Plug & Play solution meets NEC code unlike this 120V CHEAP (5 yr warranty). That is why a 240V stove range is in a separate circuit. That is why a washer/dryer is in a separate circuit. Because they are 240V, 4 wire solutions. And that is why SolarPod is a 240V, 4 wire solution.

    3. We have studied the Plug & Play more than this company. We have been in the Plug & Play before this company has since 2010. They will be violating our patents. But am sure my attorneys will take it up because we already have an issued patent on Plug & Play. Please search for Patent Application No. 13/216,376 which is our patent on the Plug & Play solar. This patent has been issued by USPTO as of Feb. 14, 2014.

    As this is America and everyone has their say in business, this company may have a product. It may violate code, infringe patents and has the potential to bring a bad name to the Plug & Play industry because of the potential mix between load and source.

    • Alan Larson

      You say these 120 volt systems will bring down the solar industry, but your Solo unit is just such a system. Looks like you are not serious about safety or the solar industry if you believe these are dangerous or bad for the industry.

      As for your patent, I couldn’t find anything in there that hadn’t been done before, many times.

      • SolarPod

        120V grid tied solar systems are illegal. SolarPod is a 240V system. In 120V solar branch circuits, source and load can be in the same branch circuit. In 240V (like in SolarPod) that cannot be done.

        We are very serious of safety. All our systems have passed the stringents of city inspections including the Cities of Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Tehama County. The City of Palo Alto inspectors sit on the AHJ boards.

        The beauty of the innovation is what you have allured to. Since it has been done individually before, we have put it all together including providing a simple 240V twist locl weather proof plug. Am not going to attempt to convince a person of our innovation and it is not my job to convince you. Time will do that for us. The innovation once innovated is easy to comprehend. Similar to E=mc2 which you probably learnt in one lecture but took the innovator over 15 years.. But again I am not going to argue with you. You are entitled to your opinion and I am of mine.

        • Alan Larson

          If I misunderstood the voltage of your system, I apologize.

          One thing I still don’t understand, though, is how you get PG&E to work with it – they specify 1000 watts or more on their web pages.

          • SolarPod

            The SolarPod Grid Tied is a modular system. Each system is 960W. You can add SolarPod to the other therefore modularly increasing your total system size and reducing your total one time capital cost.

            PG&E can specify minimum only for rebate if they give a rebate. If they do not give a rebate they HAVE to by law give you a bi-directional meter which they can charge you. The cost of the bi-directional meter is about $100 to $200. If you place more than 1kW they may not charge you for this meter cost.

            Typical permit process is building and electrical first. Then PG&E. We have the PG&E links to assist you. We also have the building and electrical permit to assist you. The permit assistance is all part of our service.

  • docscience

    Back feeding a circuit like this is both incredibly dangerous and illegal.

  • Will E

    DIY Solar is so easy.
    can you plug in a freezer??? you can plug in a DIY Solar.
    and start making money at once.
    clean and easy

  • Robert Walters

    From a marketing point of view plug & play needs to be low voltage dc for sales to take off. Given the option to sell to the customer a universal system that has grid potential as well as off grid batteries storage as a backup supply or feeder return to the grid, either way, you have two options that open the market to off grid & grid users; it’s a better sale pitch to attract sales in demand of a good product.

    • James Van Damme

      Not having to buy a generator makes a big difference.

      • Omega Centauri

        Generators are cheap and can run at night. I don’t think the desire for emergency power is a good reason for solar. Saving money, and going easy on the environment are. And at this price, saving money ought to be easy.

        I’ll definitely keep these guys in mind, if we upgrade to a second plug in car, I would be looking for a PV upgarde of about the size of their small system.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Disconnect hot water system from the grid. Connect solar panels to hot water system. Electricity bills are greatly reduced with no need to get approval from anyone. Guerrilla solar, can you dig it?

    Yes it can be inefficient since it’s easy to end up wasting electricity that could be put to good use if it was grid connected, but if you have to wait months for approval or can’t get approval at all, what else can you do except stick it to the man guerrilla solar style.

  • Ray Boggs

    No mention of UL or ETL approval. I wonder why ?

    • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

      The inverters and panels for all of our grid-tie kits are UL-1741 approved, and are listed on gosolarcalifornia.ca.gov.

      • Ray Boggs

        I don’t see Plugged Solar’s name on any inverter that is listed on the CEC’s list of approved inverters. Nor do I see Sunteams name (the inverter name that you advertise on your website). on the CEC’s list of approved inverters. And even if they are UL-1741 approved, is your method of connection (a common AC male plug) U.L. approved as a current source meant for feeding the grid?

        • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

          It is on the list. The inverter is manufactured in China, and the manufacturer name is Beijing Kinglong New Energy, KLNE series, and model name Sunteams.
          Approval for the method of connection is left to the utility companies. In many states, the AC male plug connection has been approved. In a couple states, it has not been approved, and the kit must be connected directly to the electrical box, adding one more step to the connection process.

          • Ray Boggs

            Ok, thank you.

  • JamesWimberley

    It’s a surprise that this vendor has apparently opted for a central string inverter, which requires specialised DC cabling, rather than integrated microinverters in the panels, which means that all the cabling is standard AC like a lawnmower. If I were thinking of a DIY installation, I would certainly go for ACPV.

  • spec9

    Yeah, the local building department and the local utility are not going approve that. But I guess it is a way to offset your electric bill on the down-low. However, many modern utility meters will not turn backwards unless you get the special net-metering meter. (Although many old utility meters will spin backwards.)

    • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

      We absolutely do NOT recommend you installing the system without approval from your utility company (not to be used on the “down low”).
      The system has ALREADY been approved by all the utility companies in over 20 states in the US (so it is false that “local building department and the local utility are not going to approve”).
      In many states, to be approved for net metering by the utility company, they require that you have a digital meter. If you live in a state that requires that for net metering, then you must comply. And that would be true for any grid-tie solar electric installation in that state as well.

  • Omega Centauri

    Then there is the issue of islanding if the customer already has PV installed, and uses this as a system upgrade. Could the two PV systems spoof each other into thinking the grid is still up?

    I also would worry about damaging the roof, creating potential leaks. Ground and patio mounts might make easy targets for thieves.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s an interesting question. Why don’t you take it to their site and see what they say?

    • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

      That is an interesting question, actually. Would the existing PV system be a grid-tie system? If so, then it would shut down in the case of grid failure as well (complying with UL codes) so there should be no “spoof[ing] each other into thinking the grid is still up”. If you have a backup battery system, then there may be some customization of the plug-in system required.

      All of the kits on our website are designed to be DIY, so there would be no roof warranty if you installed it yourself. If you hired a professional installer, most include a warranty on roof damage for 5-10 years, depending. Our roof racking system is UNIRAC, and we have not had any complaints about it yet. We also have yet to have any customers whose patio or ground mount systems were stolen.

      • Bob_Wallace

        If you’ve got an inverter with battery backup then your inverter and batteries become a standalone grid, isolated from the main grid until it comes back on.

        You guys (Plugged Solar) are selling solar kits as well as these plug and plays. I’d think you’d be in the lab right now checking to see if you have a potential lawsuit headed your way.

  • cdog

    I also would like to understand how you can plug this directly into a wall socket. Grid tied meters are required by NEC code to be on their own dedicated breaker, with a separate AC and DC disconnect, depending on the jurisdiction. The output of the inverter listed on their website is 240V. So, you definitely can’t plug it into a standard outlet – you would need a 240V outlet. I could image if you wired a dedicated 240V outlet, like an electric dryer, and then put all the necessary DC safety equipment, and got it permitted, and got an interconnection agreement from the utility, you could do this. But, that is not very DIY.

    This appears to me to be a marketing gimmick for a very traditional grid-tied PV system. There is nothing special about the kit they are offering – it is something you can buy from any solar distributor, likely at lower cost.

    • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

      cdog, every state’s codes are a little bit different. Currently, our plug-in kit has been approved in over 23 states in the US without any modifications necessary.
      The output of our system is 120V making it compatible w/ a standard electrical wall socket (if you have a 240V outlet available to you, we can make the output 240V as well!). We are the only company who has a grid-tie kit with an output for 120V (because we have the patent).
      We also require that the 1.7 kw plug-in system is plugged into a dedicated outlet (so no other appliances plugged into the outlet), as well as a dedicated electrical line (so any additional 1.7 kw plug-in kits would have to be plugged into an outlet that is on a different breaker on the main electrical panel). Electrical lines almost all houses in the US are made to handle up to 2 kw of electricity so the 1.7 kw system (barring a circumstance where your home is very old and has tricky wiring) would not burn any wires or short anything out.
      Like I said before, every state’s codes are a little bit different. Some states require additional AC or DC disconnects which we will provide in that circumstance. A couple states also do not approve the plug-in aspect so the system has to be connected directly to the main electrical panel. This only requires about 1 hr more of installation time (its truly not difficult to do).
      This is definitely NOT marketing gimmick, and we have real customers all over the US who have the system installed and it is working for them right now:)

      • Omega Centauri

        As far as I know, standard wall outlets, have the two differenet pahses/polarities in the two sockets. So electrically, they are 240V -but not codewise. Would it be possible to have the inverter output 2*120volts (to be plugged into both top/bottom outlets. You’d probably need some sort of electronics that insures both hot wires are opposite polarities and both working (so if a breaker tripped, the inverter would trip both outputs. That would halve the current and reduce heating etc. Is is possible to make some sort od psuedo 240volt conversion this way that could be code compliant? This would also be useful for level 2 car charging.

        • James Van Damme

          No, one outlet only uses one phase to neutral. Across the room, though, another outlet might be on the opposite phase. If you have an unused range, dryer or hot water heater breaker, you can run a wire to that. You only need to break one circuit if you have a true 220V output, because no current can flow into the neutral.

      • jimjenal

        What is your patent? SMA sold a 120VAC inverter for years.

    • spec9

      I would assume it is not legal in most places.

      • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

        Why? Please ask a question. I can’t really respond to an assumption.

        • Peter Gray

          Perfect reply.

          It’s great to see a manufacturer get on this site and provide direct answers to a few hard, and some easy, questions. Your openness is a rare breath of fresh air here, and it hugely increases my confidence in your product.

          This looks like a system that could overcome some of the regulatory obstacles that plague U.S. home solar. Based on some of the horror stories we’ve read, I wouldn’t expect the coal and utility industries to go down without a fight, but more power to you, so to speak.

          Thanks, and I wish you the greatest success.

          • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

            Thanks. I agree and already sent along a thanks by email. Will try to reach out to companies to get more of them to respond in the comments here like Plugged Solar is doing.

          • Peter Gray

            Thank you, Zachary!

            For one like me, who’s not well versed in the details or dangers involved in plugging solar panels into the house circuits, this topic could be educational.

            If I were you, I’d consider going further, by requiring article writers to contact the mfrs and ask them to participate in the online discussion. If they agree, you could flag those articles at the top, so we know there’s potential to go deeper than the hype and press releases. If they decline, I’d put that topic much lower on the list.

            This step alone might screen out some of the less-useful posts we see here all too often…

          • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

            Thank you, Peter! There’s so much confusion about solar. And, unfortunately, there is some push-back against solar from utility companies who have a lot of incentives to not approve net-metering.
            But as you can see from this thread, once people get their mind wrapped around the basics, its quite simple, and the sky’s the limit with potential modifications and applications!
            Stay tuned because we have some great products coming out soon for off-grid systems, battery backup systems, as well as electric car-charging systems.

          • Zane Alexander Coppedge

            I am curious if youve been approved in CO as I currently have a decently sized bill for energy consumption and would like to utilize the sunshine here to help cut cost, especially with having to pay rent on my apartment. Which is why the wall adapter way is the best for me right now

  • Bman

    They are probably using the type of grid-tie inverters that don’t deliver power until they connect to a working grid.

    Home solar does not require an expert to set up, but there is no getting around the need for mechanical aptitude and knowledge about solar and electricity.

    For example, without adequate wire thickness, energy is lost and fire is possible.

    • Bob_Wallace

      From their FAQ –

      “If there is a power cut from the power company the solar electric system instantly stops producing electricity.”

  • Adam Devereaux

    How is having live current on a male plug legal? Pretty sure those are called widow makers for a reason. I don’t think this will ever be up to code.

    Don’t get me wrong- I like the idea of diy and simple installs but adding a breaker and a feed line is not that hard. The last thing solar needs is Fox hyping up a story of solar deaths due to some unlucky owners kid unplugging this and dying or starting a fire.

    • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

      Hi Adam,
      Our kits have already been approved by the utility companies and installed in over 20 states (they are approved by the engineers, pass inspection, and everything!).
      The only one of our kits that plugs in to the wall is the 1.7 kw kit and the output voltage is only 120V. The reason for that is that the electrical lines almost all houses in the US are made to handle up to 2 kw of electricity so the 1.7 kw system (barring a circumstance where your home is very old and has tricky wiring) would not burn any wires or short anything out, etc.

      I also agree that adding a breaker and a feed line is EXCEPTIONALLY simple. That’s how we connect our larger kits (over 1.7 kw), and how some customers have connected the 1.7 kw system as well.

      • Adam Devereaux

        Thanks for the information! How quickly does your inverter shut off power once the cable is disconnected from the wall? I understand if the cable is half out of the socket power will still be present, my concern would be the increased resistance of a partial connection and the possibility of a fire. Though obviously this is a similar situation as having a high load appliance trying to draw high current. The problem being people are used to that risk and a heater causing a fire is hardly news.

        I can see the use of this in a portable environment. If you bundled this with a panel racking system that would allow rapid storage for use with camping for example. Combine that with a basic battery system to allow for smooth output and you have a product with some utility.

        I am assuming this is a bit of a gimmick as you probably advise people if they are planning on a permanent solar panel install to go for a permanent electrical connection? Seems like a lot of liability for a very small and simple cost for the majority of installs. Though I suppose if you just buy it and plug it into the wall some people think they can bypass permitting and utility permission. Thus my concern of systems like this giving solar a bad name if someone hooks to a meter that isn’t designed for solar or other problems caused from cowboy DIY.

        On the other hand thanks for responding to comments and providing useful information! This is product marketing done right. Do you have the list of states with approval? I didn’t see that on the website, though I may have missed it.

        • http://pluggedsolar.com Plugged Solar

          The inverter shuts off immediately (and turns off the panels) when the power is disconnects (either b/c it is unplugged or b/c the grid is down).

          To respond to your comment “I am assuming this is a bit of a gimmick as you probably advise people if they are planning on a permanent solar panel install to go for a permanent electrical connection?” I would say yes and no. The 1.7 kw system is admittedly not a very large solar electric system. The exact kilowatt hour generation is going to vary by location and time of year, but generally the 1.7 kw system is going to cover 17-30% of the average American households annual electricity consumption. So this means that in general, people who go for the 1.7 plug-in kit are looking for something small, quick, and easy. Either they’re looking for something to offset the cost of charging an electric car or an RV, or they’re just looking to save some money and get their feet a little wet with solar.

          • jeffhre

            Is SCE approving these as plug in in California, or are they asking for a second meter and connection to the panel?

        • GetRealDude

          You got owned!!!!

    • stavros

      oh get over the fox thing.

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