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Tools for a Successful Solar Electric Install

"The right tool for the job makes all the difference."

We’ve all heard that bit of wisdom thousands of times. And it’s no different for a Solar Electric (PV) system installation than for anything else. Fortunately, most of the tools needed for a PV install are commonly used and easily found. There are very few highly specialized tools. Below are several lists that describe many of the tools needed for an installation. They are broken out into functional groups for site assessment, installation and maintenance. Most of the specialized tools fall into the site assessment and maintenance categories; the installation tools are probably already in your tool box!

Site Assessment Tools

Tool Description
50-100 ft. Tape Measure 50-100 ft. tape measure
Solar Pathfinder (evaluates the solar energy potential at a site) Solar Pathfinder (evaluates the solar energy potential at a site)
Compass (not needed if you're using a Solar Pathfinder) Compass (not needed if you’re using a Solar Pathfinder)
Maps Maps (reference for location latitude and magnetic declination)
Digital Camera Digital camera

Basic Tools Needed for Installation

Tool Description
Angle Finder Angle finder
Fish Tape Fish tape
Torpedo Level Torpedo level
Cordless Drill Cordless drill (14.4V or greater), multiple batteries
Chalk Line Chalk line
Hole Saw Hole saw
Unibit and multiple drill bits (wood, metal, masonry) Unibit and multiple drill bits (wood, metal, masonry)
Torque Wrench Torque wrench with deep sockets
Hole Punch Hole punch
Wire Strippers Wire strippers
Nut Driver Nut drivers (most common PV sizes are 7/16″, 1/2″, 9/16″)
Needle-nose Pliers Needle-nose pliers
Crimpers Crimpers
Slip-joint Pliers Slip-joint pliers
Lineman's Pliers Lineman’s pliers
Large Cable Cutters Large cable cutters
wire strippers Small cable cutters
Hacksaw Hacksaw
AC/DC Multimeter AC/DC multimeter
Cardboard Blanket, cardboard or black plastic to keep modules from going “live” during installation
50-100 ft. Tape Measure Tape measure
Caulking Gun Caulking gun
Heavy duty Extension Cords Heavy duty extension cords
Fuse Pullers Fuse Pullers

Additional Tools to Consider (especially for multiple installations)

Tool Description
DC clamp-on ammeter DC clamp-on ammeter
Reciprocating saw / Jig saw Reciprocating saw / Jig saw
Large Crimpers Large crimpers
Conduit Bender Conduit bender
C-Clamp C-clamps
Pry Bar Pry bar

Tools for Battery Systems

Tool Description
Hydrometer or Refractometer Hydrometer or Refractometer
Baking Soda (to neutralizer any acid spills) Baking Soda (to neutralizer any acid spills)
Small Flashlight Small flashlight (to view electrolyte level)
Turkey Baster Turkey Baster
Rubber apron Rubber apron
Funnel Funnel
Rubber Gloves Rubber gloves
Distilled Water Distilled Water
Safety Goggles Safety goggles
voltage meter Voltmeter