Thursday, February 18, 2021

Solar, PVC, EMT and Corrosion


You have to use the right equipment for the job that is suitable for the environmental conditions that it will be installed in.

Residential Solar

With electrical equipment you have many options that are perfect for the job that you are doing. On the other hand, you have unlimited options for equipment that will get the job done, but will not last long enough to get your money out of it.

Residential Solar

I’ve installed a lot of solar in many different environmental conditions. The main thing to keep in mind when doing electrical work is that cheap is almost never the way to go. Sure, it will work! But most likely you will be right back out to do maintenance on the equipment you just installed a short time ago, and you will have very unhappy customers.

Some companies will think that it is job security to install the cheaper equipment. They often can under bid their competition by using cheaper equipment also. I personally will not work for any company who uses this type of philosophy, nor will I do that on my own projects around the house.

Meter Base

I work with electricians who think that using PVC conduit instead of EMT conduit is somehow cheap or substandard. This simply is not true; they both have a place. PVC isn’t just for underground either. Now I’m not saying that using PVC all over the outside of buildings is good either. Like I said at the beginning you need to use the right products for the location that they are being installed.

For example, in salty environments EMT just does not hold up to the corrosion and will rust out in a years’ time. PVC works great underground but when its installed on the side of a house ran horizontally in direct sunlight it will warp, expand, shrink and all the glued joints will pull apart over time.

Combiner Box

So, what do you do if you do need to use PVC on the side of a building because it’s a salty environment and you don’t want to use EMT fearing it will rust out quickly? You just need to install it properly with the knowledge that it is being installed exposed on the outside of a building. One way is running it tight up under the eaves out of the sunlight for horizontal runs and strapping it at no more than 24” intervals.

PVC Conduit


Then when exposed to direct sunlight try to only run it vertically for short distances.  More straps with PVC is usually better in most cases. Painting the PVC conduit after install will also help make it blend in and stops the discoloration from the sun.

Residential Solar


The main thing is to plan your install so that you have the least amount of exposed conduit possible.

Residential Solar

 Unfortunately, when it comes to electrical disconnects and service equipment, corrosion is a big problem. Stainless equipment is expensive and not always an available option.

Residential Solar

With combiner boxes and J-boxes they come in all sorts of weather/environment ratings. You can get them made from fiber glass, stainless and PVC. So, make sure you get the right one for the job.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Residential Solar, Utility Interconnects

I have spent years working on electrical systems in multiple states, counties, cities and small towns. The most interesting thing is the fact that they all follow the NEC, but the truth is that  none of them interpret it the same and they all have their own specialty code or just have decided that they have certain installation methods they allow or don't allow regardless what the code says.

Solar Power Generation
Residential solar production

If you are a homeowner just doing work on your home then this isn't really problem most of the time. But if you are an electrician in the trade moving to another area or even another state to do electrical work, then you will need to find out what the latest electrical installation methods are and what the local inspectors like to see. I have found out the hard way that just because the code allows it, this doesn’t always mean that the inspectors will allow it.

Meter Main Interconnect
Utility Interconnect for Solar

Sometimes this is because they interpret the code differently, or sometimes its due to that specific geographic location requiring different environmental considerations. This can make certain wiring methods not expectable in that region or area.

Solar Inverter
Residential Solar Inverter

For example, say you work primarily inland in the pacific northwest but you decided to go to any number of the little beach towns to replace an old service for your brother. You may be in for a surprise. You installed that new meter main on the house, but when the inspector comes to inspect your work they inform you that you can only use stainless steel service equipment. For some of you that may be common knowledge but for others you don’t know what you don’t know.

Save time and money by asking a few questions before you purchase materials, equipment and start a project outside your knowledge area.

None of us know everything. I personally find that the electrical  trade and just technology in general changes so rapidly that I feel like I’m always in a constant state of learning.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Electrical Trades and Education

Since I first decided to become an electrician, I have been lucky enough to learn from some of the best journeyman electricians in the trade. From the very beginning I have never limited myself to only specializing in one field in the electrical industry. Whether its wiring houses, security systems, fire and life safety, data cable systems, solar, commercial, agricultural, or industrial there is a place for everyone!

Agricultural Greenhouse

Industrial Wiring

Several of my friends in the trade like to specialize or find their knitch in the electrical trade. This can make it so that they are one of the best in that area of electrical, but I have found for myself that this approach can also cause you to become limited in being able to market yourself when looking for a job and most of all you miss out on learning other in demand areas of electrical. If you own or plan on owning your company, specializing in only one scope of electrical work, such as residential house wiring can be a good plan. For the most part it is and can work out great. When the economy is good, and you have a lot of competition you can dominate your area by specializing, being efficient and cutting costs. Your company can boost its profit margins substantially since you will be able to outbid competitors and finish jobs faster that require shorter time schedules. Also, your quality of work should be the best around since that is what you specialize in.

Hydro Electric

Hydro Electric Power

The down side to this can be that if work gets slow it may make it harder for you and your company to pivot to other types of work like light commercial, low voltage, solar or agricultural and so on.

Industrial Wiring

If you are just starting in the trade it could be very advantageous to get yourself working on all types of electrical scopes. I can’t tell you the number of low voltage electricians that have told me they wished they would have chosen to go to the next level. You may be thinking to yourself that you only want to do one type of electrical work like fire alarm, security or any low voltage systems. That is great if that is what you want to specialize in, but do yourself a favor while you are in the apprenticeship learning the trade, get licensed to do it all. After you have that license you can still choose to do low voltage projects only, specialize in it and make lots of money, you just won’t be limited should you change your mind later.

Low Voltage Controls

Environmental, BMS, Fire Alarm

Agricultural Boilers

Try to get yourself exposed to as many parts of the electrical trade as you can. I’m not saying that you need to be great at all of them but have a basic understanding, the rest you can develop on the job depending on the path you decide take. The electrical trade changes so fast that you will always be learning and changing installation methods and the materials being used. If you do this, you will be a more well-rounded electrician, and you will be way more valuable to future employers. You will also find that low voltage and high voltage wiring is getting more and more interconnected every day. Smart houses and controls, generator backup systems, everything is beginning to be controlled by wireless or some sort of low voltage control systems so knowing all sides of it make you very valuable. If nothing else, it is a great sense of accomplishment, and pride in knowing that you can do all aspects of the electrical trade.

Solar, PVC, EMT and Corrosion

  You have to use the right equipment for the job that is suitable for the environmental conditions that it will be installed in. With elect...