Solar Power World editors reached out to the people spending hours on rooftops every day for their insight on the best tips and tools for residential solar jobs. Dennis Wells, foreman at Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Arch Solar shares his thoughts below.
SPW: What’s your favorite installation tool?
Wells: Impact driver. This tool is used throughout the entire installation process by both solar installers and electricians and is a vital tool. Anchors, railing, conduit, inverters, meters, solar panels and more all need an impact driver.
What’s a piece of clothing you can’t live without on the job?
Work pants. My work pants have plenty of pockets for hand tools or installation hardware, there are loops to clip other tools, and they have built-in knee pads, which help protect my knees from the roof surface. It is essential to have the ability to carry tools and other equipment while your hands are free, so the loops and pockets are always essential. The knee pads help to protect my knees from hot and abrasive surfaces on the roof. Knee pads that slide over pants tend to move around throughout the day and constantly need to be adjusted to cover the knees.
What’s the best solar install tip you won’t find in a manual?
Make absolutely certain that the first solar module anchored to the roof is level and square from the ground. Also, have someone on the ground check and adjust the level often while team members on the roof install more panels. The first panel is used as a cornerstone for the rest of the array, and monitoring/adjusting the level constantly will avoid the scenario where the array looks unprofessional at the end of the installation, resulting in resetting the panels after the work should be finished.
What’s an install tip you learned the hard way?
Black ice can be as hard to see on roofs as it is anywhere. Be sure of your footing before committing too much of your weight to an area that you haven’t walked on yet.