Son Power: Solar Installer Makes Believers of Project Owner Parents
Project: Radtke Home
Location: Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Installer: Solar Energy Solutions
Date Commissioned: January 2013
System Size: 27 modules
Module Manufacturer: ET Solar
Array Capacity: 6.75 kW DC
Homeowners Terry and Deborah Radtke were on the lookout for a sensible long-term investment in a sluggish economy. Should they purchase mutual funds? Real estate? The Radtkes’ son, Josh, an independent sales rep and installer at Solar Energy Solutions (SES) in Hudson, Wis., had a different idea. He suggested his parents install solar modules on the roof of their home, with the long-term goal of standardizing and reducing their utility costs.
The Radtkes were skeptical. “Neither of them believed that solar was a good investment at first,” said Josh. So Josh and Brandon Magsam, a partner at SES, calculated the project’s cost and ultimate investment potential. Terry and Deborah liked the numbers, and agreed to proceed.
On the recommendation of Magsam and Josh, the Radtkes decided to install ET Solar’s 250W modules with integrated SolarBridge Pantheon II microinverters. Magsam says the system is a new favorite at SES, partially due to its ease of installation: “It’s a lot easier to install – probably 50% faster than comparable systems that don’t have microinverters integrated into the panels.”
Magsam also likes the system’s black frame. “Homeowners want it to look nice, so we prefer the black framed modules, rather than straight aluminum. It blends in with roofs better.” The system also provides homeowners with more aesthetic options, because it is less enslaved to shading concerns than other systems. The Radtkes were able to center the solar array in the middle of their roof, despite the shading this location receives from trees and the family’s chimney, which gave their new solar array greater curb appeal—an important consideration in their residential setting.
The Radtke’s solar array consists of 27 modules configured as two AC branch circuits connected to their own individual breakers in the breaker box. The Power Manager is located outdoors, and connected to the system via its own breaker.
The modules’ power and seasonal flexibility have been striking to everyone. “At 15 degrees below zero we saw an AC performance high of 6,203 kW, which is 92% of our installed DC capacity,” said Magsam, “even with a terrible sun angle this time of year. Needless to say we are anxiously awaiting summer to see what the system can really do.”
For his part, Josh Radtke caught the modules continuing to produce power while nearly covered in three inches of snow: “They never said anything about that in school!”
In addition to their power, Magsam praised the modules’ monitoring system, saying it makes it easy for homeowners to see their return on investment. “It’s very easy to use, and the ability to monitor each individual module is a selling point as well.”
The Radtkes, who were concerned about the modules’ life expectancy, were pleased with the 25-year end-to-end warranty. Magsam also appreciates the warranty, calling it “a huge selling point.”
The Radtkes’ modules were the first AC modules installed by SES, but they won’t be the last. “We’ll be doing more,” said Magsam. “In fact, from now on, all our new residential systems will be AC modules.”
The PV system will supply 100% of the Radtkes’ electrical needs, averaged year around. “My dad never fully believed that it was a good investment until the day we installed it, and I showed him the meter spinning backwards,” said Josh. “Then he believed.”