Solar System Wire Management Buyer’s Guide 2019

hand holding wires

We humans have a lot in common with wires. We are vessels of energy and information that need grounding for stability. When put in situations that best suit our skillsets, we thrive. We are also prone to getting tangled up, stuck in our own way. We can be fragile. We don’t like the heat! Or rodents! And yes, like it or not, our appearances do matter.

This Wire Management Buyer’s Guide is here to help us humans have a better working relationship with our friend the wire. We asked every wire management expert we know for advice on avoiding common wire management issues, eBOS trends that are saving time and money and which new products solar installers should consider for certain applications.

Here’s our 2019 Solar Inverter Buyer’s Guide, if you missed it.

CAB Solar Cable Management

CAB Solar Cable Management

Key feature: Saves time, money by simplifying large-scale installs

CAB Solar Cable Management has a new, patented Integrated Grounding system. It utilizes copper composite messenger wire in place of the standard system’s galvanized, and it can act as the EGC and GEC. The new system uses grounding hardware on the L-brackets that allows them to bond the messenger wire to the pier and eliminate jumpers at each pier. This system saves both labor time and money. It has proven to be a huge benefit. It is safety listed by Intertek to UL 2703, and the L-brackets are UL 467 compliant. Engineering reports on the system and installation best practices are available.

Shoals Big Lead Assembly

Shoals Big Lead Assembly

Key feature: Eliminates combiner boxes

The BLA is an above-ground wiring solution that eliminates traditional combiner boxes and issues related to blown fuses that are commonly experienced in operation. By utilizing a BLA trunk system and disconnect boxes, installers can reduce their installation costs by more than 50 percent with this pre-fabricated solution. Owners and developers also benefit from the BLA system as there are significantly fewer points of failure throughout the system, reducing lifetime O&M costs.

Heyco HEYClip

Heyco HEYClip

Key feature: Cables tucked inside the module frame

The Heyco HEYClip RevRunner Cable Clip is a 304 stainless steel PV module clip that holds up to 2x cables that are between 0.20 and 0.33 in. in diameter and clips onto module frames that are between 0.06 and 0.13 in. thick. When used on panels within that range, these clips survive a 15-lb pull-off test and have superior side-to-side cable retention. The main benefit of this clip is that it positions the PV cables so that they are tucked up and underneath the PV module frame — which means they are out of sight for an aesthetically pleasing installation.

Solar Snake Max

Solar Snake Max

Key feature: Quick, code-compliant utility-grade cable separation

Solar Snake Max is Snake Tray’s new patented cable management system for high-voltage, utility-grade installations. The easily snapped together elements allow for code-compliant cable separation that can cut construction cycle times in half. Cables install with snap together components, no tools required or field fabrication. Solar Snake Max quickly mounts to any style of vertical pilings or poles and maintains code compliant separation of power cables up to 2 KV. Snake Tray products are manufactured in the United States.

Heyco Tite Liquid Tight Cordgrips

Heyco Tite Liquid Tight Cordgrips

Key feature: Designed for the Enphase Q Cable

Two new cordgrips now accommodate the Enphase Q Cable — M3231GCZ (1/2 in. NPT) and M3234GDA-SM (3/4 in. NPT). The 1/2-in. version provides liquid-tight entry for one Enphase Q Cable (0.24 in. x .38 in.) The 3/4-in. version provides liquid-tight entry for up to two Enphase Q Cables and an additional .130-in. diameter hole for a No. 8 solid grounding cable. The 3/4-in. version utilizes Heyco’s skinned-over technology, so any unused holes will retain a liquid-tight seal.

Stäubli Reusable Sealing Caps

Stäubli Reusable Sealing Caps

Key feature: Protecting unmated connections

MC4 connectors are rated for IP68 when mated. When they are un-mated, MC4 connectors need to be protected from the environment, such as moist, dirt and even insects to ensure the long-term reliability and safety of the MC4 connectors. This reusable sealing cap by Stäubli will protect unmated MC4 connectors from moisture or dirt during installation or repair. This way, you don’t have to worry about the reliability of the connector. Other situations when a sealing cap can be useful: leaving a job unfinished until the next day, unexpected rain delay and repairing an old system.

TE Connectivity’s SOLARLOK PV Edge

TE Connectivity’s SOLARLOK PV Edge

Key feature: Junction box mounted on the edge of a PV panel

Glass-to-glass photovoltaic cells continue to increase in efficiency, fall in price and grow in popularity. TE Connectivity’s new SOLARLOK PV Edge, a decentralized junction box that can be attached to glass-to-glass photovoltaic panels without drilling holes, aligns to this new market. This small junction box can be positioned right on the edge of the glass to prevent shade falling on the cells on the rear side of the panel. The junction box has a flap design, which protects the foils while facilitating attachment to the PV panel. The flaps on the box are available in different shoulder heights to fit panels of diverse thicknesses. Other features of the new junction box include a lid with cooling ribs to improve heat dissipation, elimination of X-connect to facilitate layouts and shorter foil lengths and connections.

Wiley ACC-F4F Clip

Wiley ACC-F4F Clip

Key feature: Two attachment points, perfect for trackers

The WILEY ACC-F4F wire management clip is made of corrosion resistant 304 stainless steel, which makes them durable, long lasting and reliable for all environments. The ACC-F4F is easy to install and slides 90° onto module frames and purlins of various thicknesses. Two attachment points make this clip a perfect solution for trackers and high vibration or high wind applications. The ACC-F4F accommodates 1 to 4 PV cables up to 8.0 mm in diameter. Edges on the clip are rolled up and away from the wires to give additional protection to the cables against insulation damage.

SolarBOS AC Combiner

SolarBOS AC Combiner

Key feature: Cost effective AC combining

SolarBOS AC Combiners provide a safe and cost effective alternative to AC breaker panels. Individual fused inputs facilitate string inverter output aggregation. Incorporating bi-directional fuses eliminates the need for expensive breakers that must be back-feed capable. Fuses also offer a high interrupt rating as standard, commonly 200kAIC, while a breaker’s cost increases drastically as the interrupt rating increases. SolarBOS AC Combiners support all string inverters and are highly configurable to fit any application. They are listed to UL-508A and rated for 600VAC. Available options include integrated output or input disconnect switch(es), transient surge suppression, auxiliary mini breakers, neutral terminals, etc. Custom solutions are available upon request.

Solar Raceway

Solar Raceway

Key feature: Aesthetics plus snap-in cover

Solar Raceway is a 100 percent lay-in system that quickly snaps together and allows for testing of continuity within the system. Once the wiring is complete, simply snap the cover over the tray. The Solar Raceway increases installation speed and provides an aesthetic appeal that adds to the solar installation. Inspectors can effectively assess the system and allow for installers to move on to their next project. Solar Raceway’s applications include: commercial roofs, carports, ground mounts, solar trackers and residential installs. The product is available in both aluminum and PVC.

HellermannTyton Locking Clamp

HellermannTyton Locking Clamp

Key feature: Allows for one-handed installation

The Locking Clamp is ideal for fastening wire and cable bundles to panels. Its unique fir tree design holds tightly in pre-stamped hole sizes from 9×12 mm to 9×14 mm. The locking clamp mechanism dynamically fits various bundle sizes, while an integrated cable tie saddle allows installers to add additional cable runs. The clamp is manufactured from an impact-modified Polyamide 6.6 material for increased flexibility, heat resistance and UV stabilization to deliver years of dependable performance. It is easy to install and operate with a single hand and does not require tools, saving time and labor costs.

Nine Fasteners NFI-Hanger

Nine Fasteners NFI-Hanger

Key feature: Opening/closing metal hanger

Nine Fasteners’ newest product, NFI-Hanger, was designed specifically for large-scale ground-mount solar installations. Made in the United States, this wire form simply slides into a small hole in the panel frame and is capable of holding 20+ wires at a time. Produced out of hard-drawn galvanized steel, the NFI-Hanger is able to be opened and closed. The NFI-Hanger is durable in all climates and is currently undergoing testing to be certified to UL standard 1565 for “Positioning Devices within a Solar Installation.”

EcoMount Inverter Kit

EcoMount Inverter Kit

Key feature: Minimizes inverter footprint

Ecolibrium’s EcoMount Inverter Kit is a ballasted rooftop inverter mounting solution that simplifies and streamlines rooftop inverter deployment. Modular design minimizes the inverter rooftop footprint, allowing installers to meet NEC 690.12 rapid shutdown requirements without decreasing module density. The 1 and 2 inverter kits can be combined to fit project configurations. EcoMount is compatible with all major inverter brands. The system provides flexibility and simplifies logistics and installation.


Trend Watch

Labor Savings

“eBOS is becoming the most expensive component of a system, and labor is a huge part of that. Any time EPCs can prefab work in the shop when it comes to wire harnesses or combiner box work, it saves money out in the field where mistakes are more likely, and labor is almost always more expensive. But designing wire management components that take an assembly line approach to the field helps save on labor and reduce error during installation.” — Nick Korth, HellermannTyton

Longer AC Wire Runs

“Installers are running PV wire directly to the inverter location due to rapid shutdown requirements and the wiring advantage inherent in high DC voltage systems. Mounting the inverter next to the array is shortening DC wire runs and increasing AC wire runs. Installers are meeting this challenge and finding some advantages in eBOS and installation efficiency. Inverter mounting products are designed to enable the inverter to be mounted close to the array and cable tray to bring PV wire directly to the inverter.” — Jonah Coles, Ecolibrium Solar

More Than Four Wires

Solar installers are gravitating toward practices that result in higher numbers of PV wires running in parallel paths. This results in the need for wire management solutions that can accommodate four or more wires for simplified installation. Increasing the number of wires running in parallel is not a problem as long as wire management solutions are used to support the wires at proper interval distances.” — Sarah Parsons, Wiley.

Steel Clips are Back

“Several years ago, installers and contractors were shying away from stainless steel clips, not so much because of the cost compared to a cable tie, but because installers felt the stainless steel clips had too sharp of an edge to be used with PV cable. There were concerns these installations would experience some cable abrasion over an extended period of time, so installers simply didn’t use them. Fast-forward to today, and almost every PV module clip manufacturer ‘coins’ or ‘tumbles’ the edges of the clips to mitigate any abrasion. With that issue removed, PV module clips have great panel retention and accommodate a variety of cable diameters, making them an excellent choice in wire management — most also come with a 20-year warranty, something you won’t see with a standard UV rated cable tie.” — Tom Marsden, Heyco.

— Solar Builder magazine

Wire you doing that? Top four solar installation wire management issues

solar panel wires

1. Cross-mating

Cross-mating, which refers to the plugging of connectors from different manufacturers (between modules to optimizers/microinverters, modules to field-connectors, optimizers to field connectors or field connectors to the BOS system) is one of the most common PV wiring mistakes. In fact, the EU-funded Solar Bankability Project’s Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA), which sourced data from over 1 million documented insurance claims, showed that “different kinds of connectors” (cross-mating) had the highest risk potential in PV installations, and it wasn’t even close.

The reason for the risk here is connectors from different manufacturers have different dimensions, materials and engineering tolerance. The slight variation between different manufacturers can result in higher contact resistance (heat), water intrusion or unexpected deterioration of contact or plastic parts.

“Each connector has different critical dimensions and even using the most precise calipers to copy connectors still doesn’t guarantee a secure connection,” says Dean Solon, CEO and founder of Shoals. “Secondly, these connector manufacturers do not always utilize the same metals or procure their contact terminals from the same vendor. As a result, mixing dissimilar metals will unquestionably lead to thermal events [read: fires]. Pre-fabricators or field installers should use the opposite polarity from the same connector manufacturer used on the module datasheet. If it is not explicitly stated what type of connectors are being used on the module datasheet, reach out to the module manufacturer to identify.”

UL1703/6703, IEC 62548 and IEC 62852 (EN50521) testing does not allow for cross-mating. The good news is this is an easy problem to avoid during project planning. When designing or purchasing modules, field-connectors, inverter and optimizers and BOS systems, one needs to make sure that all connectors are coming from the same manufacturer. If you are using connectors labeled “MC4 compatible,” be sure to obtain a written statement from both manufacturers.

We have more on this topic right here.

2. Skimping

One of the most common issues in solar installations occurs when wire management is seen as an optional expense or somewhere to save on installation costs.

“The long-term system and maintenance costs that result from poor wire management practices far outweigh the effort required to implement a proper solution,” notes Sarah Parsons, Wiley product manager at Burndy. “Supporting PV wires at required intervals with listed solutions made from environmentally rated materials [such as stainless steel or UV-rated polymer] is the only way to align the lifetime of the wires with the intended system lifespan.”

This goes for the cables too. Jeff Wang, business development alternative energies – North America for Stäubli Electrical Connectors, recommends using only black XLPE cables and tin-plated copper cables.

“Color cables don’t survive the UV for the lifetime of PV system,” he says. “Incorporating carbon black in polyolefines greatly increases the UV resistance, and carbon black acts as UV absorbent and screens the polyolefine from the damage of UV lights. Bare copper starts to react violently with oxygen when temperatures reache 90 degrees. It forms copper oxide and greatly reduces the current carrying capacity of the wire. In outdoor environments where there is humidity and high temperature, tin-plated wire is the sure choice.”

3. Misapplication of components

Similar to No. 1, but more specifically: Understand the details of securing wire safely or choose a fastener that is tolerant of a wide variety of installation methods. For example, when putting metal-coated or plastic ties through sharp module mounting holes. With low-cost plastic ties, you should know exactly what you are getting as a system designer, which is a solution that could last as little as a few months. A metal coated product can lead to far greater damage than just product failure, like wire damage.

“In choosing a particular material or type of wire management component, metal tends to be more forgiving to install but less forgiving to the cable if installed improperly,” says Nick Korth with HellermannTyton. “Plastic wire management runs the opposite, requiring more care to design and install but is ultimately kinder on cable insulation. These considerations are an important part of your wire management strategy to ensure a long-term solar installation.”

Heyco sees a lot of installations where side-to-side cable retention cannot be achieved simply because of the mechanics of the part being used. For example, a standard cable tie is only going to provide so much side-to-side cable retention before it begins to sag throughout the array. Most PV module clips come with a unique spring retention tab that accommodates a variety of wire diameters while still providing side-to-side retention on the cable.

In large-scale applications, trends of higher voltages and the use of more string inverters out in the field call for a complementary update in wire management.

“Solar installations are now carrying energy as high as 1,500 volts with current approaching 1,000 amps, and it is critical for life safety issues to properly house the power cables to ensure a safe working environment for the solar technicians,” says Roger Jette, president of Snake Tray. “With more inverters in use, AC and DC cables need to be carried through a cable management infrastructure versus using hooks.”

4. Not planning for landscape

Module manufacturers are designing positive and negative leads anticipating they will be installed in portrait, though most rooftop installations are in landscape. Some 72-cell modules are manufactured with leads that do not reach adjacent modules in landscape, making it impossible to string a row together.

“These short leads force installers to wire in columns on a landscape rooftop system,” says Jonah Coles, product solutions manager with Ecolibrium Solar. “In this situation, choose a racking system with built-in features to secure wires across the inter-row space. This will make stringing columns as easy as stringing rows.”

Another challenge is that dual junction boxes with a short lead on each side of the module are becoming more prevalent. This makes wiring especially challenging when using optimizers and microinverters because both leads need to be brought to the optimizer or microinverter, which also makes wiring in landscape more difficult.

“Consider these factors when choosing modules. Make a string map to organize the wiring path based on the module you are using,” Coles says. “Then choose a racking system with flexible wiring options and have your racking solution quoted to include wire clips. These planning tips will avoid delays by providing installers with a solid plan and the appropriate material to get the job done.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Snake Max is now available for utility-grade solar installs, see it at SPI

Snake Tray

Snake Tray

Solar Snake Max is Snake Tray’s new patented cable containment system for utility grade installations. The easy snap together elements allow for code compliant cable separation. Construction cycle times will be cut in half with this new approach to managing high voltage cables. Cables install with snap together components, no tools required or field fabrication. Solar Snake Max quickly mounts to any style of vertical pilings or poles and maintains code-compliant separation of power cables up to 2 KV. Booth 2281

— Solar Builder magazine

Wire management: What to look for when planning, purchasing your next solar system

Snake Tray's Cable Conveyance System

Snake Tray has developed a cable conveyance system that maintains a specific separation between cables that eliminates the need for upsizing cable gauges due to the derating cable because of bundling or piping.

Wires are good for two things: 1) Installing a kick-ass PV system 2) Tripping people up. To accomplish the first, you must avoid the second at all costs, which means implementing a sound wire management plan on projects of all sizes.

Planning

Just like the rest of the system, planning is important for both saving time and money. Tom Marsden and Vince Giglio from Heyco recommend laying out the cable routing on paper first before installing the solar cables. This will help you decide the best way to route the cables and what will be the most efficient use of cable mounting hardware.

Part of planning is of course purchasing, and knowing the most efficient ways to use what you’ve got.

“One way of saving time on installs would be to use stainless steel clips at the module level because you can install multiple clips in the same amount of time you can install a single zip tie, thus saving on labor costs,” says Vincent Marino, product manager for Nine Fasteners. “Also, when using micoinverters or optimizers connected to the panels, they can be applied prior to bringing the panel onto the roof.”

Nine Fasteners’ DCS-1307 Clip

Nine Fasteners’ DCS-1307 is its most popular clip. Constructed of stainless steel, it incorporates a rolled outer edge for maximum wire protection and is UL Certified. Its simplicity makes it cost competitive while still being manufactured in the United States.

Oh, and one trend to note while planning — pest management systems are starting to be required in rooftop installations, according to Marsden.

In a ground-mount, Roger Jette, president of Snake Tray, recommends keeping your power cables above ground when possible to remove the need to trench or thread cables through pipe.

“Besides being labor intensive, there is a potential of derating the current capacity of the cable,” Jette says. “With voltages now approaching 2,000 V, there is a high potential for problems if not enough attention is spent on the proper cable conveyance. Without a good cable conveyance plan, there is a potential for degradation of the cable insulation leading to arc failure.”

Let’s Get Wired: Five new wire management solutions to watch

We’ve heard plenty of horror stories from installers and manufacturers in regard to incorrect installation approaches or accidental errors, but the anecdotes that stand out most are those caused by wire management. Just seems silly to risk the performance of a $13,000 system by skimping out and choosing ties known to fail or clips known to dig into wires and cut them over time — the solar equivalent of losing a football game because of a missed extra point.

“Too many installers are sacrificing quality for costs. We have seen a number of installations

Heyco’s SunRunner Vidrio

Heyco’s latest clip, the SunRunner Vidrio, is intended for installation directly onto the solar module with compression force only. The SunRunner Vidrio is a stainless steel clip with a special TPE so it will not harm the glass surface and can accommodate glass panels from 0.13-in. to 0.25-in. thick.

where UV nylon cable ties are breaking, only to be replaced with more UV nylon cable ties,” Marsden says. “This scenario is no different than buying something for your home. Are you going to buy an appliance that needs to be replaced every two to three years or are you willing to spend a little more up front, knowing your product is backed by a warranty?” He points to stainless steel cable ties as a less risky solution.

Your other purchasing decisions dictate what wiring will need to be done as well, especially with those installing rail-less systems. The lack of a rail changes your wire management options.

“As a New Jersey installer, many jurisdictions require wiring inspections to verify that rails have been properly grounded,” says Chris Torre, installation manager at Green Sun Energy Systems, which has been using Quick Mount PV’s rail-free system, Quick Rack. “We’ve been able to eliminate the cost of the second truck roll to the site, saving an average of $300 to $400 per project. The system has integrated grounding pins located on the panel clamps, so the system can’t be grounded until the panels are installed. With this system, we’ve been able to install as many as 68 panels in a single day with a three-man crew.”

Chris Crowell is the managing editor of Solar Builder.

— Solar Builder magazine

SPI Preview: Eight innovations for rooftop mounting at SPI

Advanced RackingAdvanced Racking (booth W1113) specializes in the design, manufacturing and sale of PV mounting systems for all types of roof tops and will be debuting a new solution at SPI — the Total Roof Platform (TRP) — that they say is the first system to standardize rooftop mounting hardware. TRP simplifies the ordering, installation and management of PV racking hardware and creates a mounting system designed to fit all types of roof tops — shingle, metal and flat. Installers will be able to use the same hardware on different types of roofs.

 

EcoFastenEcoFasten Solar (booth 3071) designs, engineers and manufactures solar roof mounts for all roof types and has something for every occasion it seems. The company’s entire product line, including the best-selling GreenFasten and the all new versions of the Rock-It System and Tile Flashing Systems, will be on display. EcoFasten’s product line uses a patented, watertight compression technology that’s relied on by the top installers in the country.

RELATED: Mounting by roof type: Experts share tips for all residential solar installs 

 

Everest SolarEverest Solar SystemsCrossRail Shared Rail (booth 2575) uses less rail resulting in fewer roof attachments. This means you can save money on labor, material and reduce time on the roof. To simplify installation, its Slide Bracket provides north-south adjustability for easy module alignment. In addition, the system’s structural rail connectors allow you to safely and quickly preassemble rails on the ground.

 

HeycoHeyco (booth 3211) recently introduced several new stainless steel clips for a variety of racking systems, including rail-less racking systems.  The SunRunner 90-degree Cable Clips are designed to mount at a 90-degree angle to the original SunRunner and can accommodate up to four .20 to .30-in. cables depending on the part number. Also new to Heyco is the SunRunner 2 Series, which is designed to hold microinverter cables .413 to .472-in. in diameter.

 

Quick Mount tileQuick Mount PV’s Tile Replacement Mount (booth 2527) provides a fast and easy way to install solar on tile roofs while protecting against water intrusion. Simply remove the tile and replace it with the Tile Replacement Mount. Works with all standard curved and flat tile roofs and all standard rail-based racking systems. Flashed at both the deck and top levels, the mount is fully engineered to meet code requirements and industry best practices.

 

RoofTech

Roof Tech Inc. (booth 769) made its name with Rail-less PV Mounting with Integrated Flexible Flashing (RT-Butyl) and is now introducing the option for third-party rail mounting to its self-flashing base. In some rail-less applications, a rail-based platform may be a complementary option to some challenging roofing surfaces. This option now allows the installers to combine the RT-[E] Mount with a conventional rail system that utilizes the same self-flashing base integrated with RT-Butyl. More on the RT-Butyl rubber.

 

 

 

 

SnakeTraySnake Tray (booth 930) is announcing a new stainless steel Ice Guard for solar panels that prevents injuries due to falling ice. The Snake Tray Ice Guard will easily mount to any type of solar panel manufactured and is a great safety solution for high pedestrian areas including parking lots, train stations and roofs where injuries could occur. More on Snake Tray.

 

 

 

SunModoThe Helio Rail Family has a new member, as SunModo (booth 1601) introduces the HR150 open profile rail system. SunModo’s HR150 system makes it easy to route PV electrical wires inside rail channels. Secured in seconds with channel clips and a splice kit, this quick and easy mounting solution removes the cost and hassle of cable ducts and ties.

 

— Solar Builder magazine