Navigating the complexities of steel pole sourcing can pose challenges for many solar installers, with various considerations such as pipe sizes, steel types, and schedules potentially complicating the process.
At MT Solar, our expertise extends beyond designing and manufacturing top-quality, made-in-the-USA pole mounting structures for solar modules and arrays. We’re committed to supporting our clients by providing insights and simplifying the solar installation process any way we can.
In this article, we’ve compiled the 15 most frequently asked questions our team receives when it comes to sourcing steel poles for your solar installation project. Our goal is to demystify the steel pole sourcing by offering guidance on everything from understanding pipe specifications to making informed decisions about steel types and installation practices. With these insights, you’ll be able to streamline your sourcing process and ensure the seamless progression of projects from conception to final inspection.
1. What pole sizes are specified for MT Solar Mounts?
We have 6, 8, or 10 inch National Pipe Standard (NPS) pipe sizes.
2. How do you measure the size? i.e. inside diameter, outside diameter?
The inside diameter changes per the schedule of the pipe. If the pipe is thicker, a schedule 80, the inside wall is thicker than if it was a schedule 40.
3. What is the difference between schedule 40 and 80?
The pipe, including the inside wall, is thicker on a schedule 80. The schedule 80 is also more expensive than schedule 40, and we recommend going with the schedule 40 option.
4. Why doesn’t MT Solar include the pole?
The shipping costs for poles is astronomical, especially when you can source it in your backyard. It’s not an economical way to do it; pipe is readily sourced almost anywhere.
5. Where can I purchase the pole?
Some places where you might be able to purchase the pole would be at a well driller or a steel supply yard. Some customers even get lucky with scrap or recycle yards. You can also buy them at a hardware or electrical store, though it would increase the price quite a bit.
6. What are the standard pole lengths?
The standard pole length from the industry is 21 feet. That is not necessarily what we have designed for you, which means it will often need to be cut.
7. Please explain the different types of pipe, including Steel, Galvanized, Cold Rolled.
We recommend using raw steel, sometimes referred to as “black iron. When you get into galvanized or cold rolled steel or even stainless, it can be quite expensive.
8. Is it the same as a well-driller pipe?
Yes, it is. Or, the same as a pipe that would be used in piping a propane station, or building a propane truck, or piping high water lines across a creek. It’s the same schedule 40, schedule 80, pipe.
9. What is the minimum pole height that allows tilt adjustment of an array?
The minimum pole height would be 36 inches above grade level, but we recommend that you go quite a bit more, at least five feet or more.
10. Does the pole go all of the way to the bottom of the hole?
Yes, in most cases, the pole goes all the way to the ground.
11. Should I fill the pole with concrete?
No, please do not fill the pole with concrete. The reason being is concrete does contract and expand during different kinds of climates and different kinds of weather, and you don’t want it to cause any damage to your support pole there.
12. Can I affix the pole to the ground using anchor bolts or baseplates?
Please don’t affix the pole to the ground until you consult an engineer and get the proper design through us to do so. Factors like wind and snow could cause the pole to tip over. The engineer you consult would have to be a local engineer rather than one of ours.
13. Can I run the conduit through the pole?
Yes, you can. It does require a little bit more work, extra installation challenges. It’s probably going to be a little bit better and much easier to run a rigid conduit along the outside of the pole and that would be a quicker method.
14. Can the pole be painted?
Yes, we recommend painting the pole. Painting it will not cause any harm, but leaving it unpainted and exposed to the elements may cause it to rust over time.
15. Does ground clearance add extra cost vs. benefits?
It does add a little bit of extra cost, but considering you have to buy a 21-foot pipe anyway, generally you’re always going to be cutting it down. The benefits are going to out-weigh the cost, especially as it relates to the clearance that we talked about earlier, keeping that mount safe from any kind of environmental effects on it. In the end, any extra cost is nominal.
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