I bet I can guess the top 2 reasons why you’ve brushed off the idea of adding the Solar Panel Hanger to your solar installation tool box.
#1 You're a total badass and don’t need a “gimmicky” tool to help you do something you can do yourself.
#2 You’re deterred by the price and can’t imagine shelling out a few hundred bucks for 1 tool.
And I’ll add you think you can make one yourself for cheaper.
Did I read your mind?
I bet I’m close.
Here’s the thing, there is more to this seemingly “simple tool” than meets the eye and it is my hope that I can provide a little insight into why you may want to reconsider dissing it before you try it.
I spent years roof side installing solar panels as a team of one, two if I was lucky enough to get my brother to assist. I’m not being arrogant when I say I got pretty darn good at laying them down, so I completely understand those of you out there who have an immediate perception that the Solar Panel Hanger is of no use to you. I think the majority of us master a way of completing a task in a manner that works for you, and then are hesitant to consider messing with the process. Unfortunately for me, or maybe not, I’m not a man of complacency. My mind is always reeling with how I can make something better and as a result of all those roof installs I was stuck hanging solo on, I began to imagine a tool that could make my business more efficient, more accurate, and safer.
I could throw down a few well known adages about how “Efficiency is doing better what is already being done”(Peter F. Drucker) or that “You have to spend money to make money” (Platus) and call my work here done, but if you are game I’m hoping you’ll humor me here for a few. If you’re willing, I think you might realize there is much more to my tool than “a straight line every time” and perhaps understand the actual methodology behind why I invented it.
Ya with me?
Then let’s get to it!
“I am so good at installing solar panels, I get a straight line every time and don’t need a tool to help with that.”
To that I say, congratulations! I appreciate the fact that you take your job seriously and that you pride yourself on the level of care you put into installing a solar array. However, I think you have missed the purpose of this tool as it is more than a “keep it straight” tool. And let’s be honest, I doubt you have never found yourself having to take a few panels off to readjust your line.
Yes, it is true that the Solar Panel Hanger is great for keeping the first row of panels nice and straight so your array doesn’t look cockeyed on the roof when you are done, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s segway for a moment into the basic process of installing solar panels.
- Attach solar racking to the roof. IE: IronRidge, Unirac, SnapNrac, SunModo etc
- Prepare your wiring. Connect the lightning ground and wire the strings of the array.
- Amount of wiring will depend on whether you use Enphase micro inverters, SolarEdge optimizers or are running PV wire for DC strings to an SMA or Fronius inverter.
- Bring the solar panels up to the roof.
- Stage solar panels somewhere on the roof, until you are ready to mount and connect the wiring for each one. At this point, you’ve most likely got a spider web of wiring all over the place, along with solar panels stuffed between the rail and the roof. The pros to staging your panels this way is first your panels can’t toboggan down and off the roof and second you are lowering the potential of disturbing all the work you did with your wiring. The cons are you have created a job site full of clutter that continually has to be readjusted as you work, have increased the possibility of damaged shingles or scratched panels and depending on the size of the array you might be making multiple trips in stages, as space allows, to get all those panels up on the roof.
- Mount the solar panels to the solar racking. Which includes holding the panel straight, connecting the wiring (from the microinverter, optimizer or DC strings), dealing with wire management, and tightening the panel down with end clamps or midcaps.
Step five is the most labor intensive part of the install, because not only do you have to continually repeat it over and over again for each panel, you’ve got the variables of weather, roof pitch, location of array, and height of building to contend with.
Now that I’ve reminded you how to do something you already know how to do, let me paint an entirely different picture with the use of one “simple tool.”
- SOLAR PANEL STAGING
Picture this: You are currently in stage four of your installation and the solar panels are starting to come up on the roof. However, instead of starting the process of stuffing them under the rail for safe keeping, they are being stacked neatly in groups of five right on the top of the rail near where your panel installation will begin. How you ask is this magic happening? With the simple push of a button and the flip of an arm. The Solar Panel Hanger has instantly become your personal solar panel staging tool.
And just like that, you’ve eliminated the need to “rail stuff” solar panels and the possibility of damaged shingles and scratched panels, all while simultaneously staging multiple panels all together in one place.
If you need a little math to understand what this really means, let me break it down for you. A 60 cell solar panel (roughly 3ftx5ft) comes out to about 15 square feet. Stuffing 5 solar panels in the rail equates to sucking up 75 square feet of roof space. Versus 5 panels stacked neatly together and a total of 15 square feet of work space consumed. Consider this math on a more realistic scale for say a 20 panel solar system and the square footage saved really starts to add up.
Basically what I’m getting at is this particular function of the tool reduces the footprint of space panels are consuming on the roof site, the frustration of panels sprinkled everywhere and is also presenting the opportunity to increase the speed at which each panel in a run can be snagged and put into place. Not to mention you can restructure your workforce tasks. One installer can strictly work on staging panels while the second is beginning to move them into place.
- SINGLE INSTALLER MOUNTING PANELS
Let’s move on to stage five of the install. In general, asking a single installer to take care of wire management, mount and tighten a solar panel while ensuring each panel is perfectly aligned with its neighbor is a pretty tall order. Though it is totally feasible, and I’ve done so myself many times, a team of two is the typical standard. Until now!
With the assistance of the Solar Panel Hanger you have new possibilities. You’ll start the tool off by first determining your cantilever, adjust the foot to your rail type and then seamlessly slip your pair of two over the rail and just like that it is ready and waiting to be your second set of hands. It will sit there tirelessly and hold every single one of your 50 pound panels with ease and never complain once that the panels are too hot or too cold. Basically, the Solar Panel Hanger will never experience installer fatigue, which we all know is a real thing and the more strained you become the slower you tend to work. It will never be concerned about being too close to the edge of the roof and it will certainly never move it’s holding position just a smidge without you noticing until 10 panels down.
The real beauty here is not that it can do some of the work for you, it is that you are yet again presented with the opportunity to reevaluate your work force and simultaneously become more efficient. Whether you’ve been trying to figure out how to install a hectic job solo or are frustrated with those guys who always seem to be standing around waiting to be needed; this tool has got you.
I should also mention, the more sets of the Solar Panel Hanger you add to your crew the faster your solar installation becomes. You could have one set staging your panels awaiting their turn to be mounted and the rest of your sets coming down the rail line ready and waiting for their solar panel.
What I’m getting at here in my examples above is that the Solar Panel Hanger is not a one hit wonder. It’s not like one of those gadgets you buy and then end up in the bottom of your toolbox because it’s only needed for a brief moment every once in a while. The tool has got your back all day long, every day. It is meant to be a multipurpose tool and I think it does a pretty darn good job of doing just that.
Whether you can see the advantages that the Solar Panel Hanger provides which clearly reduce some of the day to day challenges of a solar installer, I think one thing we can all agree on is that our industry is evolving daily. I also bet that the majority of you reading this are not installing the exact same product today that you were two years ago, but the process you have used to install it is still the same old, same old. I challenge you to step back and consider that just because we know how to do something doesn’t mean we know the only or the best way to do it. Consider the many other tradesmen out there and the tools that have entered their industry over the years. Certainly a painter is no longer using a paint brush and roller to paint an entire house and a framer isn’t installing trusses with a hammer. It is my hope tools like the Solar Panel Hanger, can provide the same service to the solar industry.
Let me be the one to help you with that.
Stay tuned, as I am looking forward to addressing Reason #2, the cost, in an upcoming post.