View Full Version : Custom Mounting and Inspector issues
May 21st, 2010, 10:39 PDT
I am an electrical contractor doing PV installs. Our local inspecting authority is now requiring all panel mounts to be UL Listed. I'm skeptical that this a legitimate requirement.
I'm doing an install on a low slope or essetially flat roof with obstacles that make using factory mounts impractical. I've had legs fabricated (the longest being about 8 inches in length) out of 1/4" common aluminum to mount each panel individually and still maintain proper elevation for efficient operation. Bolted together with stainless hardware there shouldn't be any issuess with this.
There have been several installs by homeowners in my area where they used aluminum angle and fabricated everything on site that have been inspected and approved because the homeowner when asked did in fact lie to the inspector as to the UL Listed nature of their installation.
Homeowners can get away with this since they'll not be working with inspectors on a continuous basis in the future. I'm consulting with an electrical engineer who also happens to be a code expert but I'd like to hear some other opinions and insights.
May 21st, 2010, 10:46 PDT
See if you can get a copy of the UL requirements for the mountings. You should be able to identify the underlying requirements (strength, materials, coatings/rust treatment, etc.).
Structurally, many building departments require a professional engineer (civil/structural) sign-off--perhaps you can have them "attest" to meeting the requirements.
Building inspectors can require or bypass such requirements.
May 21st, 2010, 11:15 PDT
I never heard of such a thing, and a look at all the panel mfg literature shows no mention of any such listing for any of the 5 brands that we carry.
Your local inspectors are idiots.
May 21st, 2010, 13:38 PDT
When I built my houst the final inspection was done with a honda eu-2000i running. The inspector thought we were hooked to the utility. They also told me I could build an offgrid home but I could not live in it until the utility approved. One inspector told a client that he needed to short out the battery to prove that the breaker would work. Not his worst idea but a little off the mark.
You do not want to know what happens when stupid people get crazy also....
May 21st, 2010, 15:54 PDT
your inspector is an idiot. what did he think that noise was, a car or tractor? where did you hide the service entrance wires not to mention the wires outside of your property?
since when do you need to be approved to be off grid by a utility no less?
May 22nd, 2010, 8:03 PDT
I feel your pain. I deal with 6 different AHJ's in my territory. One of them started requiring either factory mounting systems or custom mounts signed off by a structural PE. I now have to go to substantial work to document my own system and then pay a couple hundred to a sympathetic PE to stamp them. I'm sorry, I think my custom system is better, cheaper, and faster than purchasing all the special pieces and parts that go into a Unirac or whatever system. Those systems cost extra to make sure whatever I run into on a roof will be handled and paying for all their overhead as well as shipping. Plus, my system has much better electrical continuity as a result of using long lengths and welded joints. The real irony is that the inspectors rarely go on the roof and look at any of this. The plan checkers though, put us through hell sometimes. I figure we spend more time on the paperwork than we do on the roof. Want to make solar more affordable? - eliminate the bureaucracy.
May 22nd, 2010, 9:02 PDT
Want to make solar more affordable? - eliminate the bureaucracy.
That bureaucracy is there to save structures and lives, same thing for UL and NEC. Getting a home brew mounting system reviewed by a PE is a very smart thing, I doubt you or I have the engineering back ground to know the material strength of a custom rack or its components to mount to a structure or what its upload resistance would be.
If we didn't have this bureaucracy, we would have contractors cutting every corner to maximize profits, why do you think there are standards , building codes in general? I for one am glad and respectful that this system is in place, Since you do this for a living, once you have established a relationship with the inspectors it should be minimum the effort to properly document your systems and home made components.
As to cost, what is the 300 dollar PE fee on a 30K job in percentages?
May 22nd, 2010, 9:19 PDT
Agreed with Solar Guppy - The inspections and requirements are there because without them some contractors and homeowners would make a fantastic and potentially dangerous mess.
The fact that inspectors are sometimes less knowledgble than they should be and make unnecessary problems is a definite nuisance.
My architect would try to get the inspector to allow deviations from the civil drawings and get irritated when he refused. İ kept explaining to the architect that İ didn't want the inspector (field man) to be making exceptions. That has to go back to their office to be done.
May 23rd, 2010, 12:40 PDT
I have no problem with all the other jurisdictions I work in, and agree that oversight of the trade is needed, but solar is definitely getting special treatment from this one department.
May 24th, 2010, 7:20 PDT
Just pass on the $300 fee. It is cheap insurance for a law suit and the SE in our county (Yep only one) has to eat!
I use to wonder why he always wanted to see the hole in the ground so I waited one day and watched. Sure enough, he spent 30 seconds determing if all was ready for the pour. The rest of the time he was seriously inspecting the tailings from the hole looking for gold!
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