Solar Pioneer Party 2015

Photo courtesy of Rachel Bujalski

In October of 2015, a group of solar professionals gathered in the capital of off-grid America – Southern Humboldt County – for the first ever Solar Pioneers Party, which was conceived and produced by Jeff Spies, Senior Director of Policy for Quick Mount PV, with generous contributions from Backwoods Solar and PV Cables. The group assembled to celebrate the roots of residential PV and recognize the contributions of all the intrepid back woods solar engineers and mad scientists that made solar home power possible. The event was a huge success, bringing together numerous PV visionaries and pioneers. Many of whom, dating back to the early 1970’s, were integral to bringing solar to the public and helping fuel a true, “power to the people” revolution in off grid living, as well as usher in the modern era of grid tied residential solar.

We’ve put together a short video of what transpired. Stay tuned for the full Solar Pioneers documentary, based on the hours of interviews performed by Tor Valenza and Tristen Kreager. All video shot and edited by Jason Vetterli and Kristen Huster Young.

Solar Pioneer Party from Quick Mount PV on Vimeo.

New products, trainings & more
at SPI next week!

Visit us at booth 2910 at Solar Power International next week and see live demos of Quick Rack™, our patented rail-free mounting system. Check out our full product line of mounts for comp/asphalt and tile roofs, including Quick Hooks and E-Mount Lag, designed to make installations even faster and easier. Our technical and sales staff will be on-hand to answer all your questions. We are also offering several exciting training opportunities. Read below to learn more. See you in Anaheim!


Install SolarEdge Optimizers in 10 seconds!

The Accessory Frame Bracket offers fast, on the ground installation for mounting SolarEdge Power Optimizers directly to the module frame, saving you time and money. Stop by our booth to see for yourself!

Learn More


Thursday, Sept 17 | 1:30 – 2:30 PM

PV Technical Training Booth # 5142

Join our Director of Training, Johan Alfsen, for a one-hour training put on by Solar Energy Internation (SEI) on best practices in mounting and racking rooftop solar. This presentation covers best practices, codes, and standards that will help solar installers protect the roof and choose the appropriate solutions for residential and light commercial PV racking and mounting systems.
One NABCEP CE credit.

One NABCEP CE credit.

Jeff Spies, our Director of Policy will also be participating in a number of trainings and discussions at SPI. Visit our website for more information.

Tools & Techniques: Attaching solar on
steep slope roofs

Roofs over 2:12 pitch are considered steep slope and instead of using a waterproofing membrane like a low slope roof, they typically use water shedding roof coverings that rely on gravity to keep the water out of the structure. The significant majority of steep slope roofs use asphalt shingles or tile. The other common steep slope roof options include wood shake, wood shingles, metal shingles, slate, standing seam metal roofs, or exposed fastener metal roofs. There are a variety of roof attachments and flashing methods available for each roof type, and careful selection is needed to insure you are able to deliver a structurally sound, waterproof, code compliant solar attachment system.

Waterproofing basics

Building codes require that roof penetrations be flashed per the roofing manufacturer installation instructions. A significant majority of asphalt shingle manufacturers follow the National Roofing Contractors Association guidelines for penetration flashing which mandate metal flashing for all penetrations and specify the upper edge of the flashing must reach up into the third course of shingles. The vast majority of tile roof manufacturers follow the Tile Roofing Institute’s installation guidelines that requires metal flashing to be installed at the underlayment level and sealed using bibbing or three coursing with roofing cement and reinforcing fabric.

Structural attachment method

Rafter attached systems have been the norm for solar installations as the tried and true attachment method. Building officials allow rafter attachment as long as the roof meets established criteria. An alternate attachment method secures the racking system directly to the roof sheathing. Using sheathing attached systems may be inadvisable since it can be difficult to verify whether the sheathing is reliably secured to the rafters. As a result sheathing attached systems are often not allowed on existing roofs in many jurisdictions. Sheathing attached systems can work well for new or re-roofs applications since the installer and building official can verify that the sheathing is attached to the rafters before the roof covering is installed. If a sheathing attached system is used on a new roof, it’s important that point loading on a single attachment does not get concentrated on a single fastener. This could initiate a structural problem if the fastener pulls out under dynamic uplift forces from windstorms.

This flashed roof attachment is rafter mounted and provides a reliable structural attachment for full code compliance
This flashed roof attachment is rafter mounted and provides a reliable structural attachment for full code compliance

Shingle roof attachment

Options for shingle roof attachments include standoff cone flashings, hooded flashings, and integrated seal flashings. Standoff cone flashing use a metal cone flashing that elevates the seal area above the roof plane. Hooded flashings are inexpensive, but have a major vulnerability as they have an opening on the downhill side of the attachment, which can allow wind driven rain to access the penetration. Integrated seal flashings use rubber seals and can be very effective. Seals located at the waterline will degrade more quickly than elevated seals particularly in cold climates where freezing water can wear out a rubber seal.

Metal cone flashing provides ample elevation of the seal above the waterline, assuring longer seal life

Metal cone flashing provides ample elevation of the seal above the waterline, assuring longer seal life

The patented QBlock waterproofing system elevates the seal of this integrated flashed attachment above the waterline.
The patented QBlock waterproofing system elevates the seal of this integrated flashed attachment 0.7” above the waterline. This approach positions the sealing area in a protective cavity shielding the seal from moisture and UV exposure.

Tile roof attachment

Options for tile roof attachment have expanded dramatically in the past several years and fall into three general categories: standoffs, tile hooks, and threaded bolts. Regardless of which method you choose, flashing at the deck level (underlayment level) is code required by the Tile Roofing Institute. Underlayment flashing can be challenging for certain tile attachments including the sliding track style base mount, but fortunately a growing number of code compliant tile roof attachments include preformed metal flashings to seal the penetrations at the underlayment level. This code compliant tile hook (pictured at top) is quicker to install and has no visible flashing. The standoff on the right is super strong and uses a malleable tile level flashing. Both roof attachments are sold with deck-level flashing that are sealed to the underlayment under the tile.

Tile standoffs

Tile standoffs are much stronger than hanger bolts as they have a larger diameter base and post, but both standoffs and hanger bolts require double flashing since the tile must be penetrated to allow for installation. The tile level flashing can be installed above or below the tile that is penetrated and the secondary flashing at the underlayment level would be sealed to the underlayment using bibbing or three coursing with roofing cement and reinforcing fabric. For curved tile, the TRI requires a malleable metal flashing molded to the tile.

Tile hooks

Tile hooks typically do not penetrate the top of the tile, instead they protrude between 2 rows of tiles. The tile lug will need to be trimmed using a tuck pointing diamond blade to allow for clearance of the hook and insure proper tile seating. Some metal strap style tile hooks allow the weight of the array to rest on top of the tile. This method of attachment is inadvisable, as the array will vibrate on the tile in a windstorm, increasing the likelihood of broken tile. The best tile hooks provide a strong mounting location that elevates the hook and racking system off the tile– preventing contact with the tile under full wind loading conditions.

Tile hook with underlayment bibbing

To be code compliant, tile hooks must have metal flashing installed using Tile Roofing Institute approved underlayment bibbing (shown on the left).Three coursing with roofing cement and reinforcing fabric (shown on right).

Less common roof types

Asphalt shingle roofs and tile roofs represent over 90% of all solar installations in the US, but many solar installers are confronted with less common roofs like wood shake/shingle, slate, or metal shingle. These roof types are often found on more expensive homes and are more challenging for the installer. The benefits of learning how to work on these upscale roof types are fewer competitors and better profit margins. Typically partnering with an experienced qualified roofer is advisable. Metal panel roofs are common in rural areas but exposed fastener roofs (corrugated or trapezoidal) may be less desirable than standing seam roofs as the fasteners often require periodic tightening and access to these fasteners is difficult after a solar installation. Standing seam roof rack systems typically attach to clamps on the standing seams. Standing seam panels are held on with clips, so the installer and building official should verify there are sufficient clips securing the roofing system, so it can withstand the uplift forces from the solar array when subject to strong winds.

This home with Decra metal shingles in Florida uses standoffs with flashing installed with a Decra

This home with Decra metal shingles in Florida uses standoffs with flashing installed with a Decra “Underpan” to channel any leakage safely to the top of the shingles below.

As flashed roof attachment options continue to expand, it’s important to verify your your attachment of choice will provide a reliable, long-term, structurally robust and waterproof system for the life of the roof and array. Your customers will thank you.


This article was originally written for Solar Novus Today

The Next Generation Home

We’ve been working with on their web series, First to the Future Home, featuring TV star and carpenter, Ty Pennington. The series covers the design, build and reveal of a truly next generation home, showcasing what it takes to make a house energy efficient, weather resistant, healthy and smart. As you might imagine, rooftop solar was an important aspect of this project.

We were honored to be included in the series and on the roof. Our QBase Composition Mount was installed on a sustainable and 100% recyclable Decra metal shingle roof during the SolarCity installation episode (episode 25). And just for fun, our first ever TV commercial is at the end of the latest episode (episode 28). Also, If you are interested in the Decra install, make your way to episode 18. The home will also include an AET solar thermal system, which they discuss in episode 24. Check it out, the episodes are short (less than 5 minutes) and it’s really amazing to see the latest innovations in smart, energy efficient home products, from foundation to rooftop. Enjoy!

Ty Pennington’s First to the Future Home

Ty Pennington’s First to the Future Home

Vlog Series: Locating the Rafter

Today we’re posting our first in a series of video blogs! This vlog series will discuss challenges solar installers face on the roof and offer solutions to many of the common problems you may run into when installing rooftop solar. Our first post is about locating the rafter on a particularly challenging comp/asphalt shingle roof.

We’d love to hear from all of you about your experiences with challenging installations and how you ensured the project was a success. Or if you have a subject you’d like us to cover in this series, comment on the post and we’ll follow up with you. Hope you enjoy it!

Installing Solar On Metal Shingle Roofs

Over the past few years, our tech support staff has fielded a growing number of questions about metal shingle roofs. Metal shingle installations are more challenging than asphalt shingle roofs or even tile roof projects and require partnering with a qualified roofer. As a result, fewer solar installers bid these projects. However they can be more profitable than other projects as they are less subject to intense competitive pressures. Metal shingles are noticeably more expensive than asphalt shingle and tile roofs. Homes with metal shingle roofs are often in affluent areas with owners that are more likely to invest in solar. These homeowners tend to be less concerned about the modest savings common in grid tie competition and are usually more concerned with an attractive installation that preserves the aesthetic appeal of their pricey metal shingle roof.

To help make sense of this more challenging installation, we contacted the largest metal shingle manufacturers, and developed several methods for installing on metal shingle roofs. While there is a wide array of metal shingles, they typically fall into three basic mounting configurations:

Figure 1: Decra interlocking metal shingles with Quick Mount PV QBase mount installed over Decra underpan

Figure 1: Decra interlocking metal shingles with Quick Mount’s QBase Comp Mount installed over Decra underpan

Interlocking metal shingles most often resemble asphalt shingles or slate. They are directly nailed or screwed to the deck and have interlocking lips on the upper and lower edges, or sometimes on all four sides. These interlocking lips lock together for a lightweight, highly wind resistant roof. This style of metal shingles often requires complete removal of the roof from the ridge to the bottom of the array.

Figure 2: Batten mounted metal shingle

Figure 2: Batten mounted metal shingle

Batten Mount
Batten Mount metal shingles often resemble shake or tile. They typically mount to horizontal wood battens attached directly to the deck with screws inserted into the leading edge of the shingle. Batten mount metal shingles are relatively easy to install solar onto, because the individual shingles can be removed by taking off the screws at the top and bottom of the shingle and installing the mount. 
Figure 3: Counter batten roof

Figure 3: Counter batten roof

Counter Batten Mount
Counter Batten Mount metal shingles are installed onto a grid work of horizontal wood battens secured to vertical wood battens attached to the roof deck. This arrangement is best in a wet climate as it allows for rapid drainage of water that might leak past the metal shingles. An important caution is in order: before quoting any metal shingle project, always check for old shingle or shake roofs under the array. If you find an old shingle or shake roof under the metal shingles, the best strategy is the “strip and go” procedure outlined below. It is very challenging to effectively seal mounts on roofs of this configuration.

There are four methods for installing Quick Mount PV mounts on metal shingle roofs.

Figure 4: The light blue underpan extends under the mount and channels any rainwater harmlessly off the roof just below the mount. Note how the upper edge of the underpan is sealed to the underlayment.

Figure 4: The light blue underpan extends under the mount and channels any rainwater harmlessly off the roof just below the mount. Note how the upper edge of the underpan is sealed to the underlayment.

1) Underpan: Quick Mount PV has worked closely with Decra (the largest manufacturer of metal shingles) to develop a procedure for installing solar arrays on Decra metal shingles (aka stone coated metal panels). Decra is unique in offering a clever drainage pan configuration referred to as underpans. These underpans are positioned under the mount location with a flashing installed over the mount and the shingle installed over the flashing. Any water that hits the mount flows harmlessly down the underpan to the shingles lower down the roof. Since Decra stone coated metal panels are galvanized steel, any contact between the aluminum mount and the metal shingle is protected with a barrier material like a fully adhered underlayment.

Figure 5: The flashing shingle sandwich installation method requires a flashing installed between 2 metal shingles. Note that the lower metal shingle does not need to match color of the upper visible metal shingle.

Figure 5: The flashing shingle sandwich installation method requires a flashing installed between 2 metal shingles. Note that the lower metal shingle does not need to match color of the upper visible metal shingle.

2) Flashing sandwich: For batten mounted metal shingles that do not use underpans (like Gerard), you may be able to use the flashing sandwiching method. This requires purchasing enough of the exact same shingle as is currently on the roof. Color is not important, as these new shingles will be installed under the original shingle with a flashing sandwiched in between. The mount is bolted to the roof deck. Next, cut a 4” diameter hole into the new shingle and install over the QBase Comp Mount. Trim the top edge of the flashing as needed to fully cover the shingle. Finish by installing the original shingle over the top of the flashing. Cut small 1″ wide drainage slots in the butt edge of the top shingle to allow any water that gets onto flashing to easily drain. If the shingles are galvanized steel, use a self adhered underlayment on the top and bottom of the flashing to protect against galvanic corrosion caused by aluminum to galvanized steel contact. Finish by applying sealant around flashing cone to minimize water getting past flashing cone and sprinkle color matching granules into wet sealant to produce an attractive color matched mount. In this configuration, the bottom shingle serves the same function as the underpan in the method above.

3) Adhered flashed mount: Metal shingles that are fully interlocked on all four sides require a different approach. There are two possible approaches for “Aluminum Lock Roofing” shingles. The first method involves trimming the top edge of the Classic Comp Mount or E-Mount so the bottom edge of the flashing is just above the butt edge when the top edge is wedged all the way up in the interlock area above the penetration. The flashing is then coated with a sufficient amount of sealant, and the lag bolt is carefully torqued to the proper setting (when the QBlock stops pivoting). When installed properly, the gasket seal is tightly compressed between the flashing above and shingle below providing a reliable long term seal. The second option for interlocking shingles requires cutting a slit in the interlock just above the penetration and slipping the upper edge of the flashing under the second course of shingles until the block is positioned in the proper location. Sealant is applied to the cut area and under the flashing.

Figure 6: This metal shingle roof is installed over an old asphalt shingle roof. The best solar mounting option for this configuration is "strip and go".

Figure 6: This metal shingle roof is installed over an old asphalt shingle roof. The best solar mounting option for this configuration is “strip and go”.

4) Strip and go: If there is an old shingle or shake roof under the metal shingles, the easiest approach would be what is commonly referred to as, “strip and go”. First, a qualified metal shingle roofer would “strip” off the metal shingles from under the field of the array. Then the roofer would “go” by installing a new asphalt shingle roof under the field of the array. This installation method is a compelling option since the customer gets a new roof that lasts the life of the array, and the roofer can warranty the roof and flashed mounts. The long term cost benefits of a new roof under the array are dramatic- saving thousands in repair costs during the life of the solar system. When done properly, “strip and go” has the attractive appearance of Building Integrated PV Systems (BIPV), particularly when installed on batten mounted metal shingles shaped like curved tile or shake. There are six basic steps in the “strip and go” process.

  • Step 1: Roofer removes existing metal shingles under and around field of array.
  • Step 2: Solar installer secures QBase Comp Mounts over new underlayment into rafters using lag screws.
  • Step 3: Roofer installs shingles AND flashings over mounts.
  • Step 4: Solar installer assembles array.
  • Step 5: Roofer installs flashing around perimeter of shingles.
  • Step 6: Roofer installs metal shingles around perimeter of array.

While metal shingles require a bit more research, learning how to install on this high-end roofing system can boost your bottom line and bring solar to homeowners that often struggle to find a willing and able solar installer.

To learn more, register for our next metal shingle webinar on February 12. Or visit our website to download the presentation slides or view a previously recorded webinar.

Fire Classification for Roof-Mounted PV Systems

We recently worked with SolarPro Magazine and PanelClaw to write an article about the new UL 1703 PV system fire classification requirements for roof-mounted PV systems. The article was published in the Nov/Dec 2014 issue of SolarPro Magazine and can also be found on their website.

Until recently, the National Electrical Code was the only widely enforced code in North America with specific require
ments for PV systems. This changed when the 2012 editions of several international codes incorporated PV-specific content. In addition to the new International Fire Code requirements for PV systems—some of which Fortunat Mueller discusses in detail in “Pitched-Roof Array Layout for Fire Code Compliance,” —the International Building Code (IBC) introduced fire classification requirements for roof-mounted PV systems.

The 2013 California Building Code (CBC) and the California Residential Code (CRC) subsequently incorporated the new fire classification requirements. Since no available products met the requirements, the California state fire marshal issued an addendum to Information Bulletin 14-002 on April 29, 2014, advising local code enforcement agencies to temporarily delay enforcement of fire classification requirements for roof-mounted PV systems until January 1, 2015. This delay allowed UL and industry stakeholders time to develop new standards and enabled module and mounting system manufacturers to test products to these new standards.

New Building Code Requirements

The new fire classification requirements for roof-mounted PV systems originate in Section 1509 of the 2012 IBC, “Rooftop Structures.” Subsection 1509.7.2 addresses fire classification: “Rooftop mounted photovoltaic systems shall have the same fire classification as the roof assembly required by Section 1505” [emphasis added].

Fire classification is a fire-resistance rating system for building materials. In some locations, such as California’s wildland urban interface (WUI) areas, building codes require the use of roof assemblies with enhanced fire-resistance ratings. Where this is the case, Subsection 1509.7.2 ensures that installing a roof-mounted PV system does not adversely affect the fire resistance of the roof.

Fire-resistance ratings for roofs. Per IBC Section 1505, roof assemblies are either nonclassified or fire classified. Nonclassified roof assemblies remain untested for fire resistance. Roof fire performance is classified by means of burning brand and spread of flame tests. Burning brand tests simulate what happens when burning embers fall on a roof surface. Spread of flame tests simulate how fire propagates across the roof. Fire-classified roofs are rated—in decreasing order of fire resistance—as Class A, B or C, based on their ability to withstand severe, moderate or light fire exposure.

Since Class A and Class B roofs provide higher fire resistance than nonclassified or Class C roofs, AHJs may require Class A– or Class B–rated roofs in areas with high wildfire vulnerability. For example, the City of Oakland implemented a mandatory Class A fire rating for all new residential roofs after the devastating 1991 firestorm. When California adopted the 2013 CBC and CRC on January 1, 2014, the number of jurisdictions with Class A and Class B roof requirements increased significantly.

Noted code expert Bill Brooks expects this trend to continue: “While current Class A and B fire rating requirements impact only about 20% of California, and only a few percent of the rest of the United States, it is likely that these percentages will rise dramatically over the next few years. The solar industry must be prepared to update its products to meet the demand for higher fire-rated roof systems.”

PV System Fire Classification

A key word in IBC Subsection 1509.7.2 is systems: PV systems—not modules—must carry a fire classification rating. Whereas legacy fire performance tests evaluated PV modules on their own, the new tests evaluate modules in concert with mounting system components. This represents a significant departure in how the industry evaluates PV system component fire performance.

Legacy approach. For nearly two decades, the industry evaluated and classified PV modules according to fire exposure tests outlined in UL 1703, “Flat-Plate PV Modules and Panels.” While the legacy fire performance tests for PV modules borrowed elements from fire exposure tests for roof assemblies, evaluators applied burning brand and spread of flame tests to PV modules in isolation rather than within the built environment. This approach ignores the racking assembly’s impact on the spread of flame. For example, the legacy fire exposure tests do not consider the potential chimney effect where PV modules are flush mounted above a steep-slope roof.

System-level approach. Current building codes require the classification of PV systems using fire-resistance test methods that include both the module and the mounting system assembly. Per CBC Section 1505.9, “Effective January 1, 2015, rooftop mounted photovoltaic systems shall be tested, listed and identified with a fire classification in accordance with UL 1703.” Similar language appears in CRC Section R902.4, except that it replaces “systems” with “panels and modules.” While California is the first state to enforce these requirements, other jurisdictions will eventually follow suit.

Fire Classification for roof-mounted PV systems

Revised Product Safety Standards

Because fire exposure tests now must account for the performance impacts of PV mounting and racking systems, industry stakeholders needed to revise the fire classification requirements in the product safety standards for PV modules and mounting systems. This required new fire-resistance test protocols for PV systems. It also gave rise to a system for categorizing different module types.

UL 1703 and UL 2703 revisions. In December 2010, the UL 1703 Standards Technical Panel (STP) initiated the review process by establishing a fire performance subcommittee. UL published its revised 1703 standard in October 2013 and ANSI formally adopted it as an ANSI standard in May 2014. While the updated UL 1703 has an effective date of October 25, 2016, California has already adopted the new testing and classification approach.

UL 2703, “Rack Mounting Systems and Clamping Devices for Flat-Plate Photovoltaic Modules and Panels,” is nearing ANSI accreditation. This standard references the fire-testing protocol in UL 1703 and further addresses the mechanical strength and suitability of racking and mounting system materials, as well as bonding/grounding assemblies.

Revised fire tests. The UL 1703 STP developed new fire classification test protocols in collaboration with the Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs) and UL staff. These stakeholders developed interface test methods to evaluate how fire spreads on steep- and low-slope roofs with PV systems in place. Figure 1 illustrates performance of the spread of flame test for steep-slope mounting systems. Figure 2 shows a similar spread of flame test performed for low-slope mounting systems. These new tests evaluate what happens at the shared boundary or interface between the PV system and the roofing assembly.

Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) such as CSA, ETL, UL or TÜV perform these new fire classification tests. Per the revised UL 1703 and UL 2703 standards, fire classification applies to PV systems, not to modules by themselves.

Module type testing. There is some continuity between the legacy fire classification tests in UL 1703 and the revised requirements. For example, NRTLs still conduct spread of flame and burning brand tests on the top surface of modules. However, these fire performance test results are now part of a process used to categorize modules according to different types. NRTLs additionally categorize modules according to construction, which includes superstrate material, encapsulant material, substrate material, and frame type and geometry. UL 1703 currently recognizes 15 module types based on different combinations of fire performance and construction characteristics.

Module type testing is a very important part of the revised fire classification methodology. A PV system may undergo up to six tests to receive a fire rating. Classifying modules according to type makes it unnecessary to test each mounting system with every module. Once an NRTL fire classifies a mounting system with a particular module type, you can substitute any other module of the same type—as long as it fits the mounting assembly—and retain the system’s fire-resistance rating.

Installing Fire-Classified Systems

Like any other major change to codes and standards, the new fire classification approach requires some attention to detail. To meet requirements for enhanced fire-resistance ratings, you need to specify a tested, listed and identified fire-classified mounting system. If the mounting system’s fire classification meets or exceeds that of the roof, then the installed PV system will maintain the roof’s fire-resistance rating—provided that you install the mounting system according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Some installation details—such as the use of deflectors or type-tested modules—can be essential to maintaining a PV system’s fire classification. Other details—such as mounting hardware selection or air gap height—may not matter. When in doubt, consult the product installation manual or an applications engineer.

Deflectors. Some mounting systems use a leading-edge deflector, also referred to as a shield or a skirt, to help slow the spread of flame. Deflectors can reduce the perimeter air gap and thereby mitigate the chimney effect that a roof-mounted PV system produces. To maintain an enhanced fire rating, you must install deflectors if they are part of a listed Class A or Class B assembly.

Type-tested modules. While most mounting system manufacturers perform fire classification tests with type-tested PV modules, some may opt to test their products with specific modules. Where the product listing refers to a specific module make or model, you cannot substitute different modules and maintain the fire-resistance rating.

Steep-slope air gap. Industry studies found that a 5-inch air gap is the worst-case scenario for a spread of flame on a steep-slope roof due to the chimney effect. The default air gap for the steep-slope roof spread of flame test is therefore 5 inches. If you are using a mounting system evaluated with this default 5-inch air gap, then you should be able to install the system at any distance off the roof deck and maintain its fire-resistance rating. However, if this is not the case, you need to install the PV system with the air gap distance used for the fire classification tests, which the manufacturer’s instructions should specify.

Roof mounting hardware. The UL fire test protocols do not specifically address attachments, feet, standoffs and so forth unless the manufacturer requires spacing at a distance of less than 40 inches. On the one hand, if a manufacturer requires specific mounting hardware that was part of the fire classification test, then you need to use the hardware specified. On the other, if a manufacturer does not call out the mounting hardware make or model, then you may use any hardware and maintain the mounting system’s fire-resistance rating.

While system integrators and building officials will encounter a learning curve, the new UL 1703 PV system fire classification requirements should provide a higher level of confidence for building departments, inspectors and PV system owners. You will need to consider which fire-rated mounting systems and module types best meet your needs, particularly when evaluating pricing and inventory issues. Some integrators may choose to standardize on Class A–rated systems that are acceptable in all jurisdictions. Others may opt to purchase Class B– or C–rated systems where a Class A rating is not required, especially if those systems are less expensive.

Written for SolarPro Magazine by:

—Jeff Spies / Quick Mount PV / Walnut Creek, CA
—Mark Gies / PanelClaw / North Andover, MA

SPI 2014 Wrap-Up

SPI Logo

Last week Las Vegas, Nevada hosted thousands of solar professionals from all over the globe to view the latest in products and services for the solar industry. SPI-booth The show floor appeared bigger than last year in Chicago, and attendance at the Quick Mount PV booth was very strong. There were a number of new integrated racking solutions on display in Las Vegas, but none received more attention than the Quick Rack rail free mounting system for shingle roofs. It was a hit with installers and designers alike. Every hour, the installers from Apex Solar made quick work of installing the 9 module PV system using Quick Rack mounts with integrated grounding. Everyone commented on the rapid installation and attractive finished appearance.

In other industry news, we were excited to see the B3 backfed main breaker from Q Factory 33. This breaker was promised to have it’s UL listing by January. If this device works as promised, it could reduce the need to upgrade the service panel in most cases saving $1000-$1500 per solar installation. Major industry buzz focused on the growth of solar powered battery systems. Numerous workshops and conference sessions addressed the coming wave of battery systems for grid tie backup systems, demand charge load shaving packages, and off grid. Several large industry players including LG and Enphase are planning introduction of home based battery systems. Think of it as a refrigerator sized uninterruptible power system that will keep your critical loads (refrigerator, lighting, computers) running for outages of a few hours to a few days. Another hot topic of discussion was the influence that utility companies are starting to have on solar installation and the growth of our industry through changing interconnection policies and net metering fees. Several utilities including APS in Arizona and Heco in Hawaii are even exploring the possibility of owning the rooftop solar systems on their customers homes and businesses. This development could have a major impact on the direction of the solar industry, so stay tuned.

Rapid shutdown is another challenge that installers are looking to resolve. SMA debuted their new rapid shutdown kit that is slated to work with the entire TL line of inverters, but there are still not many choices for rapid shutdown of string inverters causing more installers to consider micro inverters and maximizers.

Quick Mount PV’s Jeff Spies and Johan Alfsen both gave successful SEI training workshops on the show floor. Over 100 attendees came early on Wednesday to learn about calculating financial payback on a solar investment from Jeff Spies. This workshop proved quite popular and as a result, this content will be offered via Solar Energy International (SEI). We will also be adding this content to our own Successful Solar Business webinar, check out our website for the next scheduled webinar. Johan Alfsen also gave an SEI workshop on Racking & Mounting Best Practices on Thursday of the show to a large crowd.

Overall the event was a big success and everyone was looking forward to an even better SPI in Anaheim next year. we hope to see you all there!