What you need to know to cut through the solar racking hype.
Over the last decade I’ve been exposed to all the major brands and a few of the small players of racking manufacturers. In fact I’ve developed long friendships with many of the people who work at these companies and thus get to hear some good information from back channels. I’ve also read all the ads in print and online and can judge the merits of the marketing hype versus field experience. So I feel like I should share my 2 cents about solar racking with the world.
If you were to ask 5 installers from 5 different companies what they liked most, they’d most likely answer with the product they use. They would all list good reasons and leave you totally confused less sure than you were before. That’s because these guys only install what their company purchases. Often the company is purchasing Brand X or Brand Z because of low price or high accessibility or the purchasing department guy with (no field experience) got sold by a slick sales professional at the trade show.
Here’s what they all have in common.
- They are all made from aluminum.
- They all use stainless steel fasteners.
- They all have all been designed/engineered for wind loads anywhere (Florida is highest req’s ; hurricanes)
- They have all been designed/engineerd for snow loads (Colorado has high snow load req’s)
So what’s different? What separates them? Ease of installation. And boy have we come along way. I love using metaphors and analogies. Here’s one for racking: playing music. Imagine going to a party where the host still uses vinyl records. You request a song and over a minute later the needle is finally positioned at the right spot on the LP. In between songs there is long breaks where the host is putting away and getting out new records. Very cumbersome, very inefficient. In contrast, on the way home you simply push a button on your phone and ask Siri “Play Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd” and within seconds the song plays. This is what the racking industry is sort of like. There have been some early manufactures that were awesome back in the day. Over the last several years more and more minds have been applied to develop more efficient ways to install. The reduction in installations times is drastic.
As of this writing in early 2017 my racking vendor of choice is IronRidge. It’s not the cheapest, it’s not the most expensive, but for ease and speed of installation it’s what I use on all my roof installations. It’s what we use in all our kits.
SIDE BAR 1: The astute observer will see that most of my pictures do not have IronRidge racking. I spent most of my career married to the first manufacturer I met. I got stuck in a rut. I stayed with what I knew instead of venturing our and trying something new. AS a I march forward with new installations I will be replacing old photos with new ones.
SIDE BAR 2: Watch my video in the VIDEO GALLERY where I spill my guts about being a slow adopter.