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. Jenny Conrardy, electrical apprentice/solar installer at Wauwatosa, Wisconsin-based Current Electric shares her thoughts below.
SPW: What’s your favorite installation tool?
Conrardy: My favorite everyday, basic installation tool is Milwaukee’s M12 Impact Driver. We use it all day, every day! It is lightweight, durable and versatile. It has the power to get the job done! Another tool that I like is the Milwaukee M12 Cable Cutter. Though it’s not as much of a necessity as the impact driver, it makes wire cutting so much easier and faster when you are dealing with bigger sizes.
What’s a piece of clothing you can’t live without on the job?
The best piece of clothing that I just can’t live without are my Carhartt overalls. Working in Wisconsin winters, they are essential for maintaining your ability to withstand frigid temperatures. As they say, there’s no bad weather, just bad gear… Carhartt’s overalls stand up to working outside all day in all conditions.
What’s the best solar install tip you won’t find in a manual?
How to use a string line appropriately to achieve straight lines on commercial installs. It’s kind of an art and a science combined to eye a line and maintain a clean edge on your panels. The end result of looking down a long row of neat panels is pretty satisfying!
What’s a question you have about a new solar product or installation process?
My question about a new solar product or installation process has to do with energy storage systems (ESS), and it’s a bit of a hypothetical question: How will ESS affect codes and regulations? Battery backup systems are becoming ever more common and the technology is rapidly evolving, so I am wondering and curiously watching to see how the codes and regulations for installs change. It’s interesting to see the interplay between invention and regulation.
What’s an install tip you learned the hard way?
Watch the weather. Consistently! Just checking once at night before you go to bed and once in the morning is never enough. It is a wise practice to get in the habit of checking at certain intervals throughout the day, and if you know bad weather is on the horizon, make sure you have one person on your team who is designated to check more frequently as a weather system approaches. In solar, “The Weather” is sort of an invisible member of your team that can easily sway how an install goes, for better or worse! Early in my install career, we didn’t look closely enough at a storm that was coming in. All of a sudden, we were just a few minutes away from having to stand down for lightning. We ended up having to race to secure panels down before exiting the site. It’s not fun to be caught in a rush between potential panel damage and personal safety. Always be prepared!