Over the course of the last year, I have bought my Sol-Ark system in increments as funds became available. First, I bought the Sol-Ark “brains” followed six months later by 15 solar panels. Then, last month, I purchased 16 AGM deep storage batteries.
Placement of the Sol-Ark Unit
I’m the kind of guy who likes to carefully think through a project before starting it. Having read the Sol-Ark installation instructions, which are very straight-forward and uncomplicated, I decided to mount the Sol-Ark unit in my garage utilities closet. I’m fortunate that my homebuilder actually made a mistake when building my house; my HVAC unit and water heater are in a closet with a wide door instead of being out in the open garage and subject to the heat and humidity. There is enough “leakage”, for lack of a better word, from my five year-old HVAC system that it keeps the closet moderately cool in the summer and warm in the cool few months of the year.
Placing the Sol-Ark’s Transfer Switch Circuit Breaker Panel
The only tricky issue I had to work through was placing the Sol-Ark’s transfer switch circuit breaker panel. My house’s circuit breaker panel was out in the open garage space. My dilemma was to either place the transfer switch circuit breaker panel next to the house circuit breaker panel or locate it in the utility closet by the Sol-Ark. I chose to locate the transfer switch/circuit breaker panel in the open garage area next to the house circuit breaker panel. It was far easier to have to run only two (2) 10-2 AWG wires rather than having to run twelve (12) 12AWG circuit breaker wires and two (2) 10AWG ground and neutral wires. Fortunately, I installed the Sol-Ark as a replacement for a Honda EU6500is gasoline generator that had a professionally installed transfer switch and circuit breaker panel of its own and was located under the house breaker panel. I was able to use some of the 10AWG wire from that installation as well as the wire channel created by the electricians who had done the installation work for the gas genny back in 2007.
I purchased a couple of additional L5-30 receptacles and plugs as well as some power cable identical to that used by Sol-Ark and did the following.
The labels on my sockets in the picture are too small to read here. However, one is the receptacle for the Sol-Ark’s power cord to plug into the 110v power source from the house circuit breaker panel. The other is the receptacle that, when combined with the extension cord I made with L5-30 plugs plus identical power cable (all used by Sol-Ark), allows me to plug in the transfer switch/circuit breaker panel into the Sol-Ark.
Setting Up the Transfer Switch Circuit Breaker Panel
The Sol-Ark system transfer switch circuit breaker panel allows the owner to connect six circuits from the house circuit breaker panel to the Sol-Ark. I chose to connect circuits that operate things used every day. They are:
- A – 10 cu ft freezer located in the garage utilities closet
- B – the house refrigerator/freezer
- C – the office ceiling fan and lights plus our computer equipment, cable modem, and router
- D – the family room lights, ceiling fan, flat screen 32” TV, and TiVo
- E – the master bedroom lights and ceiling fan
- F – garage lights and garage door opener, laundry room lights, and kitchen lights
The Time and Work Involved’
The only work I hired out was assistance in mounting my 15 solar panels, which is the maximum number you can use with the system. This number can produce almost 4kw. I purchased Sol-Ark’s panel mounting and grounding system. A friend and I measured and planned out the panel mounting configuration. We also installed the first row of panel mounting brackets. It took one man on the roof with me handing up the panels four hours to install the 15 panels.
The Sol-Ark Staff and Support
Throughout the entire process of buying the system in increments and then answering numerous e-mails and phone calls, the staff at Sol-Ark was awesome. There was one hiccup in the process. A wire was not connected in the transfer switch circuit breaker panel that caused most of the phone calls. Tom Brennan is the Sol-Ark engineer who handles installation questions and stars in their YouTube installation videos. He is a super gent to deal with!
Had it not been for that one issue, which is a rare event per Tom, my installation would have gone flawlessly. Sol-Ark stands behind their product 100% and their warranty is the best!
My Final Evaluation
So, how does my system work? In a word, it is AWESOME! I produce three to four times as much power as I consume. I only wish I could use the excess to power my HVAC or sell back to the utility. But, since I have the EMP hardened version, I cannot connect any 220v powered items to it. I’d rather have the peace of mind knowing that I’ll have power no matter what happens.