Tesla Solar Install – Part 2: Confirming and Prepping
By: Harry C. Burch
Powering Up with Tesla Solar - Preparing
So now that we’ve approved the layout for the Tesla solar panels, it’s time to approve it and move on with the process. For us, the process would have gone more smoothly had we not made a couple of mistakes in the submission. We’ve been making a lot more contacts with our Project Advisor in the last couple of weeks to straighten out errors. The process for approving the Tesla Solar layout requires that the initial forms be filled out correctly.
Two key elements factor into ensuring the layout is correct from the beginning. First, filling out the submission must be accurate from the very first keystroke. I misunderstood a couple of items and got into a set of problems that are still being worked out. Read every single line on the layout carefully. First, it’s important to know whether you’re looking for Partial or Full Home backup. We chose Full Home, but Partial Home came up on the layout. Second, the Backed Up Loads showed two items that we do not have at our house. It shows us with an electric range, which we replaced with gas a few years ago. I don’t recall this being an item for selection on the submission and I certainly wouldn’t have selected it. A Well Pump is also listed. I was confused when I was completing the submission and selected this thinking that they were referring to a sump pump, we are on municipal water.
The Project Advisor has forwarded the changes to the engineering team so that they can adjust the layout if necessary. I suspect that there won’t be any changes to the system size (8.16 kW) or to the storage (2 Powerwalls) as the demand is likely outset by not having either an electric range or a well pump. If you do run into problems with your design, text your Project Advisor. I recommend asking them to call you as a conversation seems to work significantly better than an email or text stream.
Now we sign for payment method and various related documents. Just as ordering a Tesla vehicle is accomplished through the Tesla website, so is all of the Tesla Solar and Powerwall installation. Going to your home page, you’ll see Solar Panels (if you ordered Powerwalls, they’ll be here, too), vehicles, and Tesla Shop orders. Selecting Manage under Solar Panels, will bring you to your Tesla Energy page where you can review, edit, and approve your energy project. Payment method will also appear here. There are several options including cash, loans, and subscriptions.
Visit https://www.tesla.com/support/energy/solar-panels/after-installation/billing to see these options. Clicking on the View Order Details link will give you a summary of the order.
Once everything looks accurate, then it’s time to pull the “solar trigger.” On the Track Your Order page you will have a link to approve you order. This is necessary to proceed to the next stage of getting the local permits. You will have a number of documents to either upload or sign electronically. Be sure to scroll down on the page to see the documents. These will need to be signed in order to proceed to the permitting process as it gives Tesla permission to act on your behalf to contact the various authorities.
My next step in the process was to determine where the Powerwalls could be mounted. It would have been simple to mount them in the basement next to the main electrical panel. This would have been immediately inside from the electric meter and below the bulk of the solar panels, thus shortening the wiring needed. This looked good until the Project Advisor let me know that it could not be there per New York State Fire Code as indicated in the following excerpt. I suggested outside by the electric meter, but Tesla engineering indicated that the weather is too harsh for that location.
R327.4 Location. Energy storage systems shall only be installed in the following locations:
1. Detached garages and detached accessory structures.
2. Attached garages separated from the dwelling unit living space and sleeping units in accordance with Section R302 of this code.
3. Outdoors on exterior walls located a minimum 3 feet (914 mm). from doors and windows.
4. Utility closets and storage or utility spaces within dwelling units and sleeping units.
R327.8 Fire-resistance rating. Rooms and areas containing energy storage systems shall be protected on the system side by no less than 5/8-inch Type X gypsum board or equivalent, installed on the walls and ceiling of the room or area. Attached garages containing energy storage systems shall be protected on the system side by fire-resistant construction in accordance with Section R302.
FIRE AREA. The aggregate floor area enclosed and bounded by fire walls, fire barriers, exterior walls or horizontal assemblies of a building. Areas of the building not provided with surrounding walls shall be included in the fire area if such areas are included within the horizontal projection of the roof or floor next above.
Finally, I chose the garage as the only viable option for mounting the Powerwalls. I looked at the house side of the garage as it has the necessary fire barrier, but there are so many electrical runs and outlets, plus an outside faucet that this seemed difficult at best to accomplish. I finally decided on the opposite wall of the garage. I moved the tools and tool rack to the shed and laid out where the Powerwalls could go. This will require approval by Tesla before they can proceed, but I expect it will be acceptable. Unfortunately, now the wiring will have to run the length of the house, probably through the basement to the main electrical panel.
This is where we are in the project. Now we wait for permits and an inspection by the installers before the excitement begins. Well, I guess it’s more like until the excitement continues. We already have the Tesla Solar sign up in anticipation.