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101 Renewable - Using hand tools in solar industry

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Last Updated
5th of January, 2020

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There are a couple of basic rules when it comes to choose and use professional tools in the solar industry. We like to give you the Q&A for what we consider most important from the tools prospect in a renewable energy project.

Why Quality Tools?

A normal residential project does not exceed 2 to 3 kW installed power, the amount of money involved in components procurement is in the range of $ 20k to $ 30k depending of the type of solution adopted and based on other additional retrofit installation necessary to be performed in order to accommodate the RE project to the dwelling. At this amount of money and considering the fact our installation will generate power and return on investment we need to deliver an accurate quality assembly work, reducing any possible lost through faulty connections, or even ground fault or any leak may happen later because of a defective junction of the solar thermal installation. That brings the obligation to use quality tools and to know professionals how to manipulate them.

Home improvement tools used as common tools in a solar project?

Some of the tools from our toolbox can be used like fishing tape for wires. But the tools we can reuse are very little in number and is good to avoid them for our project. In most of these situations when comes to RE projects, we have to deal quite a bit with DC type of power circuits. Professional and well-isolated screwdrivers and players are keeping us and the building where we do the installation safe. Not to omit the fact that a DC meter is very necessary or the connection to the utility point requires tools and hands of an authorized electrician.

How much we expect to pay for solar tradesman tools?

This is a very painful question and for most of the installers it really das matter. A rule of thumb for a common installation we may consider between 3 to 5 percent from the value of material involved as a realistic number we have to pay for tools and other bits. It can become expensive if additional structural work is involved. The good news is some of the cost of the tools involved can be recovered and tucked into project cost through a program called: America Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or buy American with Stimulus Funds. For that Clean Energy Brands will provide Country of Origin (COO) information on products you identify as "ARRA" when you order to comply with the unique Buy American requirements of Section 1605 in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and FAR Subpart 25.6.

How can it happen that the tools' purchase to be flagged as ARRA type of purchase?

When you place your order electronically you can specify the type of order as being on ARRA funds. In this way, we can initiate the process and send you the invoice with all the needed specifications. For more information with regard, ARRA see Recovery Act Benefits Extended at Recovery.gov

Renting versus buying?

In some cases is very convenient to rent and that when the tools we may need are quite expensive and we do not use them frequently. Most of the time in case we face structural work on that site or when we need to lift panels either thermal ( very heavy through the amount of copper) or pallets with solar panels on high elevated structures and roofs renting expensive pieces of equipment it becomes necessary. Are these rental equipment and tools in somehow deductible? Renting them it means we do request an additional service to the project. And sure this becomes part of the project basic costs and it becomes covered by stimulus money.

What is the safety measure we need to know and care about when we use solar tradesman tools?

All the legal safety issues are spelled in OSHA Regulations:

1910.269 - Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution.

1926.302 - Power Operated Hand Tools.

We like to guide you through some of the most common issues of using hand tools in RE projects:
Working on high platforms and roofs require special protection at the ground as high visible barriers and tape to secure the working area against tools falling down or other elements of installation slipping away from the roof.  Tools are to be kept together on the roof most of the time using a bucket organizer.

Ropes and security hooks attached to the working harness must be used in case of very stiff roofs and platforms.

Working on the roof under the sun must require additional protection against UV. Do not let the tools exposed to the sun for a long period of time. They overheat and isolation can be affected by UV.

When you do the pilot holes to attach the studs for your racking system do not forget to fill them back with silicon and to protect against water sipping through the roof into roof attic.

Use lightfoot protection when you are on the roof in this way you keep the roof tiles intact. Roof job has to be done in early hours before the sun melts the tar of the tiles and they become sticky to your soles. Keep your tools in a holster attached to your belt. In this way are handy and they will not lay all over.

Connect solar panels at the very end and do not forget they already are energized with electricity when you connect them. Avoid to drop the tools on the panel surface and chip them.

Use steps adequate to an electrical job as wooden steps or fibber glass type of steps.

Have a first response medical kit handy at all times together with the address and contacts of the nearest hospital in that area ready for just in case things may happen. 

About the author of this article:
View Michael Comsa's profile on LinkedIn

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