Unirac

Unirac Announces Domestic Content Mounting Systems for Residential and Commercial Applications

Albuquerque, NM – July 11, 2024 – Unirac is proud to announce that its domestic solutions are available now and shipping today. These solutions can help solar installers across the country achieve the qualification requirements for the Domestic Content Bonus Credit (DCBC), as defined in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Unirac’s residential solutions include a complete, US-manufactured racking system with rails, attachments, and clamps. When combined with domestically manufactured MLPE equipment, solar installers can take advantage of the 10% bonus credit. Unirac is also currently offering commercial non-steel flat-roof racking. This solution is available for quoting today and will ship in the upcoming months. Earlier today, Enphase Energy, a leading MLPE manufacturer announced it is shipping products that can qualify for domestic content. Unirac’s announcement is part of an industry-wide trend to expand US-based manufacturing.

It is exciting to see how our industry is responding to the IRA and investing in US-based manufacturing,” said Peter Lorenz, CEO at Unirac. “As a result, solar energy will reach more homeowners and broader communities that otherwise couldn’t afford it. Unirac is proud to be part of this trend.

Unirac is committed to supporting solar installers at every step of the process. Extensive product training resources and design support are offered by the company to ensure that solar installers can confidently take advantage of this opportunity.

Unirac encourages solar professionals to contact their finance partners and distributors to learn more about leveraging the benefits of domestic content.

About Unirac

A pioneer in solar racking, Unirac has been North America’s leading manufacturer of solar PV mounting systems for over 25 years. The premier U.S. solar racking manufacturer with products that outlive their warranties, Unirac has more than 25 GW of experience and over 2.5 million installations that back up their engineering service and supply-chain excellence. Unirac is committed to being a partner throughout the full project lifecycle. At Unirac, Better Solar Starts Here. Learn more at www.unirac.com.

Media Contact:
Karen Paramanandam, Marketing Manager

karenp@unirac.com

Better Solar Starts Here with Unirac’s UL 3741

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Why is Rapid Shutdown Important?

Safety is a fundamental concern in any solar installation, and rapid shutdown is an advanced critical-safety feature that quickly de-energizes conductors in a PV array during emergencies such as flooding or fires. By disabling the power of a solar array, rapid shutdown standards protect our firefighters, first responders, and maintenance personnel from electrical hazards during emergencies. By mitigating the risk of electrocution, these systems ensure maximum protection when immediate action is necessary.


CODE REFERENCE

What is UL 3741?

UL 3741 is a data-driven safety standard developed to provide an alternative to Module-Level Power Electronics (MLPEs) for rapid shutdown on commercial flat roofs. While MLPEs, like microinverters and solar optimizers, have been widely used to comply with rapid shutdown requirements, UL 3741 offers a streamlined approach that caters specifically to the needs of large-scale commercial installations.

READ MORE ABOUT UL 3741

Why Should You Care?

UL 3741 matters because it protects our first responders. As an alternative to MLPEs, UL 3741 also provides a more flexible and cost-effective solution for achieving rapid shutdown compliance. By integrating UL 3741 into your solar projects, you can:

  • Enhance Safety: Ensure the safety of first responders and maintenance teams by adhering to stringent safety standards.
  • Save Money: Reduce the need for additional MLPEs, lowering overall system costs.
  • Streamline Installations: Simplify the design and installation process with a wide array of approved inverter combinations.


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Ease of Operations & Maintenance

One of the key advantages of UL 3741 is the ease of operations and maintenance (O&M) compared to MLPEs. UL 3741 reduces the number of DC-to-DC connection potential failure points over the 25-year lifespan of the system. This translates to fewer maintenance visits, lower repair costs, and more reliable system performance over time, making UL 3741 the preferred choice for long-term sustainability.

The Unirac Advantage

Unirac is proud to prioritize safety, our first responders, and our customers. This is why Unirac offers the most extensive portfolio of flat roof, flush-mounted or tilt-up systems, and inverter combinations approved under UL 3741. Whether you’re working on a residential project with the Tesla PV Inverters, Tesla Powerwall, or a commercial installation with rail or flat roof systems, Unirac has you covered. Our solar mounting systems are designed to be application agnostic, offering compliance via both UL 3741 and MLPEs to suit your specific needs and unique use case

Comprehensive Support for Commercial Designs

Our dedicated Commercial & Industrial (C&I) team is here to help optimize your commercial designs and provide the support you need when working with AHJs, developers, or project owners. We are committed to guiding you through the UL 3741 path, ensuring that your projects not only meet safety standards but also achieve the highest levels of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Trust Unirac for Your Solar Mounting Solutions

At Unirac, we believe that Better Solar Starts Here. With our expertise, extensive product portfolio, and commitment to safety and efficiency, we are your trusted partner for photovoltaic (PV) mounting solutions. Let us show you the benefits of UL 3741 and why Unirac is the right choice for your next project.

For more information on how Unirac’s UL 3741 can benefit your solar installations, contact us today and discover why Better Solar Starts Here.

A Conscious Approach to Pioneering Solar Mounting Engineering

A Conscious Approach to Pioneering Solar Mounting Engineering

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Solar Mounting Engineering Expertise Matters to Customers

Solar mounting might be a technical job, but it’s a service, nonetheless. In spite of this, solar installers often underestimate the power of customer perception. This invisible force greatly impacts your business, more than you might realize, and neglecting it can have far-reaching consequences. As a result, having in-depth access to the ongoing flow within the industry becomes critical. These perceptions directly affect businesses and the industry; after all, installers act as a primary touchpoint for customers.

The power of perception becomes clear when we consider a customer who is excited about switching to solar, enticed by lower bills and environmental benefits—an ideal scenario, right? Not quite; while installing rooftop solar may appear to be a straightforward choice or even an easy decision for clients, the reality is far more complex.

According to a report by Campaign for Accountability, many solar customers feel that they receive subpar craftsmanship from solar companies, which leads to increased financial implications for them. This disconnect between the perceived benefits and the reported reality paints a worrying picture for the industry, including your business. Addressing such concerns head-on is crucial toward building trust and shaping a positive perception.

So, where do we start? There is no question that installers play a centralized role in the solar project, directly overseeing critical phases in the installation process. However, one crucial element often gets overlooked: the engineering quality of the solar mounting system. Despite accounting for a small portion of the total project cost, the racking system has an inherent function to play in the overall viability of the solar project.

Consequently, while you may pride yourself on delivering top-notch designs, layouts, and installations, it is essential to scrutinize the engineering, design, and testing standards of the solar mounting systems themselves.

Consider these compelling reasons that support the prioritization of better engineered solar mounting solutions:

  • Rigorous Design and Engineering for Reliability: A meticulously designed, engineered, and tested solar mounting system ensures optimal performance, long-term durability, and minimizes the risk of system failures. This translates to reliable energy generation and fewer headaches for the customer, ultimately impacting their perception of the entire project.
  • Cost Transcending the Initial Price Tag: While the mounting system itself represents a smaller upfront cost, its quality significantly impacts long-term expenses. A poorly engineered system can tarnish the perception of the entire solar experience, while selecting well-tested, engineered mounts safeguards the interests of everyone, from investors and homeowners to developers and installers.
  • Streamlined Project Execution: Quality mounting systems must be designed for smooth installation, minimizing construction time and potential errors, leading to a seamless project experience.
  • Investing Beyond the Minimum: Product development and testing for mounting solutions requires considerable investment in research, innovation, and resources. A ‘bare minimum’ approach by companies may lead to compromised quality and potential future issues.

Intuitive Design and Rigorous Testing Creates Better Solar for All

According to a podcast by Solar Power World, the solar industry is witnessing a trend towards smaller, lower-profile roof-mounted solar panel attachments. This shift includes a growing demand for open-channel and rail-less mounting systems, aiming for more aesthetically pleasing and potentially leak-proof installations. While such advancements may seem lucrative, they also raise certain concerns about safety and quality assurance—are testing standards used by manufacturers keeping up?

The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple yes. Existing testing procedures, designed for traditional roof settings, may not adequately assess the unique challenges posed by innovations like direct-to-deck attachments, leaving a gap in safety protocols. This gap can create potential risks if manufacturers rely solely on the bare minimum standards for testing methods.

As Ryan Estrada, technical program outreach manager at Unirac, noted, the prevailing test standards in the industry are geared towards connections into rafters, hence not fully aligning with the evolving practices of deck attachment. Common rafter-attached test standards, such as ASTM 7147 for establishing allowable loads of joist hangers and 1761 for testing mechanical fasteners in wood-based materials, exhibit limitations when applied to direct deck attachments.

Furthermore, a race toward better design and connection strength claims can be deceptive. While low-profile systems appear user-friendly, their installation can introduce new complexities that would not come to light without proper testing.

The lesson here is that controlled laboratory testing, while valuable, may not encapsulate the comprehensive safety and quality standards of the product in real-world scenarios. For instance, full-scale testing for direct-to-deck attachments conducted at Unirac’s facility revealed that solar panel roof attachment connections aren’t the only failure mode when considering the complete load path through the roof in adverse conditions. Therefore, it becomes clear that the lack of extensive real-world testing data on newer systems makes it challenging to fully evaluate their long-term viability and durability.

To address this challenge, manufacturers need to reassess their testing protocols and invest in more comprehensive testing methodologies that better simulate real-world conditions. This might involve conducting field tests or simulations that account for variables such as weather, structural stresses, and long-term wear and tear.

Nico Martinez, senior product manager at Unirac, emphasized a few findings from comparative testing with competitors, particularly concerning direct-to-deck attachments. These findings highlight two fundamental issues with the tests that some of the competitors are conducting:

  • Unirac’s internal testing has revealed challenges in meeting their claimed loads.
  • Their tests are performed in highly controlled laboratory settings.

Engineering Expertise for Protection, Satisfaction, and Trust

Solar racking manufacturers must understand that while meeting building codes is given, a stricter and more holistic engineering approach is critical for reliable solar mounting systems. Cutting corners on quality and relying solely on basic lab tests—testing in settings that do not represent an actual roof and operating tests that force a failure mode in a certain way—can backfire in the long run, leading to roof damage and even safety hazards. Such failures, if not addressed early, can severely damage the reputation of the solar industry as a whole, hindering its growth and eroding customer trust.

“Once roof failures start happening, it’s not just bad for our company—it is bad for the entire industry,” stressed Nico Martinez.

The solar industry must make a deliberate and unified effort to implement higher engineering standards. The answer is to simulate the absolute worst-case scenarios, adopt stricter internal standards, exceed building code requirements, and conduct rigorous field testing for diverse environments. Manufacturers can proactively ensure the safety, reliability, and longevity of their racking products by going above and beyond what is necessary. It is okay to be conservative if it ensures the safety of the customers. Understand that while there may be pressure to prioritize cost-efficiency or speed to market, the potential repercussions of compromised quality far outweigh any short-term gains.

Elevating Quality Benchmarks in Mounting Solutions—Unirac’s Golden Standards

Given that solar modules have a design life of 25+ years, it becomes a necessity to engineer mounting solutions that last and not only endure but outlive diverse environmental conditions.

However, generic testing methods, like a typical ASTM D7147 test configuration, will not expose the potential vulnerabilities that could arise in real-world scenarios. That is why Unirac undertook comprehensive testing to find extensive insights into roofing failure, such as:

  1. Sheathing Separation from the Rafter: The sheathing, the layer of material directly attached to the rafters under the roof covering, can separate from the rafters themselves.
  2. Nail Pull-Out: The force exerted on the sheathing panel can cause the nails securing it to pull out, compromising the mounting system.
  3. Roofing Nail Failure: Similar to nail pull-out, extreme weather conditions can cause the roofing nails connecting to the rafters to pull out.
  4. Nail Pull-Through: The heads of the nails used to secure the mounting system can pull through the sheathing, compromising the overall strength and stability.
  5. Deformed and Deflected Sheathing: Under excessive pressure, the plywood sheathing can deform and deflect, eventually leading to failure of the entire mounting system.
  6. Inconsistent Sheathing Quality: Standard testing often uses new sheathing purchased from hardware stores, which may not accurately reflect the variable strength properties and potential degradation of sheathing materials used in real-world installations over time.

Unirac’s Approach to Addressing Substandard Testing and Potential Issues

Great product engineering can eliminate most product defects early on, while rigorous product testing can set technical benchmarks in order to produce high-quality products that are safe to install. This sets the standard for Unirac’s approach.

Here’s how Unirac achieves this:

  • Proactive Solar Engineering: Unirac follows a hard engineering approach to identify and eliminate most potential flaws early on. This minimizes defects and ensures durability from the very beginning.
  • Rigorous Testing: Go beyond generic testing and controlled lab scenarios, simulating real-world conditions to achieve hard data on the products’ performance. This includes:
    • Extensive Compatibility Testing: Testing products on various roofing membranes, from traditional asphalt shingles to metal and TPO roofing systems, ensuring compatibility across diverse roof types.
    • Scenario Simulations: At Unirac, we do not shy away from pushing our products to the limit. We test extreme conditions, like high wind loads on roofs, to ensure our equipment can withstand the harshest weather.

The Benefits:

  • Quality, Reliability, and Durability: Unirac can confidently stand behind its products, backed by real-world testing data, offering peace of mind to both customers and installers.
  • Seamless Installation: The products are designed and tested for ease of installation, ensuring a smooth and efficient process for installers.
  • Worry-Free Operation: Unirac’s products are designed with a 25+ year lifespan in mind, allowing customers to enjoy the benefits of solar energy with minimal concern.

Commitment to Excellence—A Promise to Customers and Installers

Recent weather data shows a rise in the frequency and intensity of severe weather events, painting a rather concerning picture. These broader climate change trends will pose significant challenges for the solar industry, particularly concerning roof mounting solutions.

There is no doubt that innovation is crucial for the industry’s advancement, but it must be coupled with rigorous and comprehensive testing. Mounting solutions need to be meticulously evaluated to ensure they can withstand the evolving weather patterns brought about by climate change. Controlled laboratory testing methods will not adequately capture the real-world impact. Thus, necessitating shift from a minimum-standard approach to rigorous product development and testing.

“We are not just making solar mounts and systems; it is an ecosystem that ties in with building and construction,” asserts Ryan Estrada.

Ultimately, it is a company’s ethos that guides its approach. Compliance with standards and product development practices can vary among organizations. While some may view minimum standards as sufficient, others strive for excellence. Companies will have to acknowledge that compliance alone may not be sufficient at some point in the course of time. Solar technology still has significant growth potential, and as it grows, it will result in a steady increase in industry standards and customer expectations that go beyond mere compliance.

Solar Mounting for Hurricane Safety Revisited with Miami-Dade NOA

Solar Mounting for Hurricane Safety Revisited with Miami-Dade NOA

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Climate conditions are progressively getting more severe, underscoring the urgent need for localized and globalized solutions. Recent data from the National Centers for Environmental Information reinforces this reality. In 2023 alone, the U.S. witnessed a staggering 28 confirmed weather/climate events, with 19 severe storm events and 2 tropical cyclones among them—a stark reminder of our vulnerability.

However, amidst these challenges there’s a silver lining: the solar energy sector stands poised to capitalize on the transition to clean and renewable energy sources. With the demand for solar energy surging, the infrastructure supporting clean energy becomes increasingly vital.

This presents a dual opportunity for the solar-mounting industry: firstly, to bolster solar mounting systems against severe weather conditions driven by climate change, and secondly, to adapt racking materials and products to evolving climate trends.

Companies that prioritize developing resilient mounting systems stand to gain a competitive edge while also building trust through compliance with regulations and building codes, thereby driving further growth in the solar industry.

Compliance with Stringent Building Regulations in Hurricane Prone Areas

Solar manufacturers and installers may lack the motivation to implement necessary racking changes due to an underpublicized disaster landfall count. However, considering the NOAA’s objective data point, 2023 was recorded as the fourth most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, with the sheer number of 20 named storms far exceeding the annual average of 14. This increase clearly emphasizes the effects of changing climate dynamics. While not all storms move inland, those that do make landfall cause massive damage, highlighting the crucial role of stringent building regulations in hurricane-prone areas.

In light of these extreme weather dynamics regulation compliance transcends being a mere bureaucratic obligation and becomes a critical line of defense against devastating impact of natural disasters. Solar systems and solar racking standards are inclusive in these regulatory mitigations standards. Adhering to rigorous building standards designed for the High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) ensures that racking manufacturers play an active role in mitigating risk for their customers and the public at large. For solar mounting installers, this means using only robustly engineered mounting solutions, high-wind-resistant materials, and meticulous installation practices. While these systemic measures might seem like extra steps, they are in fact investments that contribute to long-term structural resilience and sustainability, thereby generating confidence for solar in vulnerable regions.

Prioritizing compliance with building codes goes beyond customer safety. Here’s how:

  • Reduced Costs: Hurricane-resistant solar mounting systems minimize damage and repair costs for homeowners and businesses, making solar a more financially sound option.
  • Environmental Impact: Rigorously engineered mounting systems have a higher wind load capacity and are less likely to become flying debris in severe weather conditions, minimizing storm damage to surrounding structures. Additionally, an inherently longer system lifespan reduces associated environmental costs..

Prioritizing safety through compliance allows solar racking manufacturers and installers to cultivate trust with potential customers in hurricane zones. This can lead to:

  • Market Growth: A focus on safety can drive increased adoption of solar energy in these regions, which automatically means increased demand for racking solutions.
  • Industry Image: Demonstrating a commitment to responsible practices enhances the overall image of the solar industry, attracting further investment and innovation.

As climate change intensifies hurricane activity, the solar industry must strive to develop more relevant building codes, and by adhering to these evolving regulations, solar mounting manufacturers can position themselves as leaders in sustainable and climate-resilient design. A closer connection between manufacturers, installers, and regulators can ensure consistent safety across the industry.

Miami-Dade NOA: A Seal of Approval for Quality and Safety

Storms and their destructive winds are a natural concern for anyone living in hurricane-prone Southwest Florida. Here, the constant threat of extreme wind, rain, and flooding introduces an additional layer of complexity for those considering going solar, as high winds can cause severe damage to rooftops, potentially damaging solar installations. In case of a catastrophic weather event, the entire roof might come off with the solar mounting still attached, or areas with panel attachment points could sustain considerable damage. The additional weight and potential wind shear from improperly engineered solar mounting systems can exacerbate this damage, creating leaks and contributing to compromised roof integrity.

The regions stringent building codes serve as a resolution for this concern, which is imperative for mitigating the risks posed by extreme weather events, especially in regions like Miami-Dade County, which falls within the High-Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ). Miami-Dade County has the most stringent requirements in the US, demanding solar mount systems with exceptional wind resistance.

NOA-certified systems are engineered for this exact scenario, and though solar racking and mounting are new to the NOA product approval process, Unirac became the first manufacturer to receive it in June 2020 for its SOLARMOUNT PV mounting system. Using wind load calculations (based on building codes), Unirac’s mounting systems are designed to resist extreme wind loads, ensuring maximum security. Therefore, a Miami-Dade NOA signifies that the solar panel mounting system has undergone rigorous testing to ensure it meets these stringent requirements. However, obtaining a Miami-Dade NOA approval is no small feat. It involves thorough product evaluations, inspections of manufacturing facilities to ensure quality control, and independent lab testing to ensure quality and resilience.

Ernest Gallegos, Unirac’s Director of Products, aptly describes a Miami-Dade NOA as the gold standard of product approvals for high-wind regions. This NOA achievement underscores Unirac’s commitment to delivering top-quality products with exceptional engineering, aligning with our promise of ‘Better Solar Starts Here.’ This dedication not only ensures customer satisfaction but also enables businesses to reduce costs and focus on growth.

What does a Miami-Dade NOA mean for Customers?

  • Investment protection: Customers can be confident that their solar mounts are built to endure even the strongest storms. Replacing a damaged roof after a hurricane is a significant expense. NOA-compliant mounting systems can help you avoid that cost altogether.
  • Peace of mind: For customers, choosing a Miami-Dade NOA-certified solar mounting system means you can be confident in the longevity of your investment.

Competitive Advantage for Solar Installers:

  • Marketing Leverage: Miami-Dade NOA compliance can be a strong selling point. It differentiates a company from competitors and showcases commitment to quality and customer safety.
  • Nationwide Recognition: While Miami-Dade County sets the bar high, many other regions recognize their NOA as an ideal standard, and by offering NOA-compliant mounting systems, you cater to a broader market.

Fortifying Against Nature: Engineering for Extreme Weather Conditions

Solar mounts must be built tough enough to endure intense winds and rain—hurricanes present unique threats. Florida, for example, has experienced extreme wind speeds exceeding 140 mph, heavy rainfall, flooding, and flying debris. These elements demand special considerations for solar installations.

Several crucial factors come into play when installing solar panels in hurricane-prone areas. First, a thorough evaluation of the property’s structural integrity is essential. This helps determine the appropriate mounting system for withstanding high winds and potential impacts. Understanding local building codes in hurricane zones are paramount to ensure the racking systems comply with wind load requirements. Choosing reputable solar mounting manufacturers with proven hurricane-resistant systems is the next and most crucial step. Look for companies that adhere to stringent engineering and testing practices, going above and beyond to ensure safety.

The reasoning behind customer research and opting for reliable companies with reputable products is simplistic but vital. The entire solar array, once assembled, acts as a cohesive single unit. However, wind uplift on the panels becomes a major concern due to the array’s large surface area, and the mounting system is the real assembled component that withstands these pressures. Wind loads can vary depending on the location and landscape. Stronger winds are likely near the coast, while residential areas might offer some protection in the form of wind reduction. These variations represent deliberate considerations that companies must account for during product design and testing. Therefore, selecting the most appropriate mounting and racking solution is key to keeping arrays secure in high-velocity hurricane zones.

Compliance and Cutting-Edge Solar Mounting Solutions: A Testament to Excellence

All arguments converge that as climate change becomes a pressing reality, traditional engineering and testing practices must evolve. Technologies that promote sustainability aren’t just a nice-to-have now; they are a necessity. In this scenario, the Miami-Dade Notice of Acceptance (NOA) certification for solar mounting solutions becomes more than a stamp of approval—it’s a symbol of excellence, signifying a commitment to the future where advancements and safety go hand-in-hand.

True leadership in the mounting industry extends beyond simply meeting regulations. It is about pushing boundaries and relentlessly pursuing excellence. This dedication translates to constant innovation in solar engineering for Unirac. Every detail, from the initial design phase, where functionality and quality are paramount, to rigorous testing that simulates the harshest environments, reflects this commitment. The result? A portfolio of meticulously crafted solar mounting solutions built for long-term performance and unwavering reliability.

Miami-Dade County’s reputation for stringent building codes is well-earned, and earning the Miami-Dade NOA approval signifies a company’s commitment to exceeding these demanding standards. Distributors, project developers, and homeowners alike can be assured that Unirac’s solar mounting solutions are built to withstand the harshest conditions, providing peace of mind for years to come.

Solar Safety Made Easy with UL3741 Compliant Mounting Solutions

Solar Safety Made Easy with UL3741 Compliant Mounting Solutions

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Solar Safety and Rapid Shutdown: A Scarce Solution to an Old Concern

Solar power offers a clean and viable energy solution for homeowners aiming to lower their electric bills or decrease their carbon footprint. However, for fire-rescue personnel, solar electricity presents a concerning safety dynamic. Firefighters must be aware of potential electrical hazards and be able to quickly employ protection measures to mitigate possible risks for first responders. Traditionally, fire-fighting standard operating procedures rely on disconnecting the power grid to counteract the dangers of electrocution. Since solar panels continue to generate electricity for as long as they are exposed to sunlight, the industry needed to standardize safety gates that addressed this concern.

Failure to address this PV safety issue could be a deal-breaker for potential customers, creating a bad reputation for solar installers, promoters, and manufacturers. So, it is prudent to ask what the solution is. Before UL 3741, the industry relied on module-level power electronics (MLPEs) to achieve rapid shutdown, a requirement solar professionals are familiar with since its first appearance in the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC). The NEC introduced rapid shutdown requirements, aiming to quickly de-energize solar panels during emergencies. While seemingly logical, this decision had massive implications for the industry at the time, giving rise to some unintended consequences. The “plug-and-play” installation simplicity of solar arrays vanished, replaced by additional electronics on rooftops under each panel that could introduce new potential failure points.

When ideally considering system reliability and ease of installation, adding additional electronics to an array is a hard sell, especially in solar, where the conditions can be thermally challenging and vary seasonally.

In fact, Heliovolta, a third-party auditor, has officially stated in its Solar Builder magazine that the heightened utilization of mass-produced power electronics components such as MLPEs has introduced a statistically significant increase in failure points within U.S. rooftop solar systems over time. This surge inevitably leads to a greater occurrence of thermal events. What it means is that the incorporation of rapid shutdown system components may inadvertently contribute to these thermal events, further compromising system safety. This, in turn, necessitates a higher frequency of on-site firefighter interventions, presenting a paradoxical situation that appears rather counterproductive.

Scott Carman, an Operation and Maintenance worker at Paragon Solar, expressed in an interview with Solar Builder magazine:

“I feel that the well-intentioned additions to the rapid shutdown code tripled the number of connectors in a system, inadvertently creating more of a safety hazard it was meant to improve. The safest roof for a firefighter, after all, is the one they never were required to be on.”

Upon critical examination, it becomes evident that the code-based approach is an incomplete solution, proving to be inadequate in many cases:

  • Increased Complexity: MLPEs added complexity to solar installations, and with additional electronics on rooftops, they could introduce more potential failure points.
  • Cost Impact: MLPEs raise installation and equipment costs, making solar less attractive to price-conscious customers.
  • Maintenance Woes: Solar technicians reported more service calls due to MLPE malfunctions or improper installation due to increased complexity.

What is UL 3741 — New Path Toward Risk-Based Safety Standards?

All these arguments and issues against module-level rapid shutdown—due to the lack of concrete data on firefighter risks and the potential downsides of MLPE—culminated in the introduction of UL 3741, an alternative provided in the 2020 NEC. 

UL 3741’s implementation signified a significant shift toward data-driven safety standards for interaction with solar systems. The focus shifted from voltage limits to measuring the actual electrical dangers firefighters encounter during interventions. This shift in perspective assessed what shock hazards exist for emergency response personnel posed by a solar installation in worst-case conditions. 

Underwriters Laboratories defined and worked toward eliminating these issues by collaborating with industry stakeholders such as the Sandia National Laboratories and the US Department of Energy. This risk-based approach then uses empirical data on shock hazards to define safety parameters. The presence of real-world hard data allowed UL 3741 to establish a repeatable testing methodology for consistent and verifiable PV hazard standards. 

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UL 3741 opened the door for innovative solar system designs. It allows systems with minimal or no MLPE to be code-compliant, thereby reducing installation complexity and cost—a major concern for the industry. However, this flexibility comes with its own robust protection requirements. For racking manufacturers, an UL 3741 certification means that they must ensure that all accessible wires and energized components in an array are shielded to mitigate any risk of exposure. Rigorous testing simulates firefighter interaction with equipment, ensuring a high level of protection in various scenarios, including those in which firefighters fall on PV equipment while holding tools. 

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Solar mounting systems that qualify for UL 3741 listing must follow these 3 steps:

  1. Ensure PV racking and inverter models have been certified and listed together.
  2. Design the PV array layout according to one of the 4 use cases to meet NEC requirements (see Unirac’s UL 3741 application guide).
  3. Ensure wires are managed according to the racking-specific installation manual so that the system is installed correctly and safely.

Leadership in Safety and Compliance is Unirac’s Choice

Considering the history of solar energy safety standards, it is easy to identify UL 3741 as a watershed standard that positively impacts customers, whether commercial or residential. Now, on the application part: How can you guarantee they will receive the full value of their investment? The answer is straightforward: opt for UL-3741-compliant systems for a solar project.

Safety is a priority, and UL 3741 compliant systems must be your first choice.

Sounds very promising, right? Here’s the catch: the widespread adoption of this new standard within the solar industry has yet to fully materialize, at least to a significant extent. Manufacturers are still striving to achieve this golden standard—which is precisely where Unirac distinguishes itself. Unirac stands out by achieving UL 3741 compliance across our entire roof racking portfolio. Our hard engineering approach to product design and testing ensures that our systems are UL 3741-compliant, and your investment in solar with Unirac is not only safe and reliable but also future-proof. This commitment to safety demonstrates our proactive stance and innovative approach in the solar racking industry.

Unirac’s leadership brings several benefits to you as well:

  • Unmatched Selection: Unirac offers the most UL 3741-compliant racking and inverter combinations available.
  • Installer Confidence: Installers can choose Unirac racking with the assurance of safety and compliance whether they are installing on pitched or flat roofs.
  • Simplified System Design: A wider range of compliant options makes system design, selection, and installation easier. Unirac now offers residential UL 3741 solutions with TESLA POWERWALL paired  with NXT UMOUNT, SOLARMOUNT, PUETO RICO TILT LEGS, NXT UMOUNT TILT LEGS and SOLARMOUNT TILT LEGS.

Unirac’s Portfolio of UL 3741 Certified Solar Mounting Systems

UL 3741 FLUSH Mount & Tilt up Systems

A New Solar Vision for All Stakeholders

UL 3741 represents a monumental leap forward for the solar industry, benefiting all involved, including designers, engineers, and installers. With a comprehensive view, we can easily discern the profound impact the standards have on these stakeholders:

  • Enhanced Safety: UL 3741 sets a clear data backed benchmark for rapid shutdown, reducing their liability concerns and ensuring solar designs prioritize safety.
  • Simplified System Selection: With a wider range of UL 3741-compliant components, selecting safe and compatible equipment becomes easier.
  • Customer Trust: Using UL 3741-compliant systems allows installers to confidently guarantee their work meets the latest safety standards, building trust with customers.
  • Simplified Installation: Compliant components ensure a smoother installation process, potentially reducing installation time and complexity.
  • Competitive Advantage: Offering UL 3741-compliant systems can give a competitive edge in the market, showcasing commitment to safety and quality.
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The question that persists is: How can this be achieved, considering UL 3741 is a relatively new standard necessitating proper training and guidance for racking installation? While reviewing all related UL standards is one approach, it’s not entirely practical; the learning curve is high. This is precisely where Unirac, as a leading racking manufacturer, steps in. Drawing from the extensive experience with our partners, we understand the necessity for training. That is why we offer comprehensive training modules focused on our UL 3741-listed racking systems. These certifications equip you with the knowledge to seamlessly integrate our products into a compliant solar array. Completing our training will ensure you will gain in-depth knowledge of UL 3741 requirements as they pertain to our racking systems. This empowers you to answer customer safety questions confidently and efficiently, further solidifying your expertise. 

Embrace UL 3741 for a Safer and More Sustainable Solar Industry

Ul 3741 can be incredibly complex and confusing considering the details, simulations, and empirical evidence it contains. Nonetheless, what we can be confident about is that it is taking the industry in the right direction. For a long time, the sector has been thrown off track due to a lack of empirical data and research. We are now a lot more liberated, with multiple options available to go solar. Admittedly, like most new things, progress will require time and patience, yet strides have already been made, with manufacturers such as Unirac adopting UL 3741 for the majority of its products.

The imperative now is to maintain this momentum and enhance product safety through better engineering and rigorous testing. Additionally, all stakeholders, including installers, bear the responsibility of educating customers about the benefits and necessity of utilizing UL 3741-listed systems to ensure the safety of solar installations. With its consistent efforts and support, Unirac remains steadfast in its belief that every advancement contributes to the sustainability and resilience of the solar industry—after all, we believe Better Solar Starts Here.

Find out if your next project is a good candidate for UL 3741

Gear Up for Success with Solobox Comp

Gear Up for Success with Solobox Comp

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Gear Up for Success with Solobox Comp: The Solar Installer’s Ultimate Junction Box!

At Unirac, partnerships matter. We recognize the challenges that our solar installers encounter, including routine logistical hurdles that can unexpectedly complicate what should be a seamless solar installation process. This is why Unirac is proud to introduce our junction box, Solobox Comp, the optimized solution for shingle-roof installations. Far more than just a J-box, Solobox Comp has been meticulously crafted to streamline your workflow with additive features directly requested by our solar installers.

First Butyl Box in Solar! Say Goodbye to Messy Sealants, Leaks, & Fumbling Around with Loose Parts

Say goodbye to the headaches of messy sealants and the hazards generated by loose parts on the rooftop. Featuring an integrated butyl attachment, Solobox Comp ensures that your junction box is securely seated and resistant to moisture, providing a strong, lasting connection that protects your customer’s investment for years to come. With Solobox Comp, all roof penetrations are safeguarded by Unirac’s trusted polymeric and hydrophobic adhesive butyl, which has been scientifically engineered to maintain roof integrity and stop leaks dead in their tracks.

Plus, Solobox Comp streamlines rooftop installations by reducing the number of necessary components. The innovative, single-screw hinged lid allows for swift installation and effortless maintenance checks. Experience the satisfaction of knowing you’ve delivered a clean, secure, and long-lasting installation with minimal hassle—that’s Solobox Comp, The Ultimate Junction Experience!

Solobox Comp 09

Affordability That Won’t Break the Bank

We get it; every dollar counts. That’s why Unirac made Solobox Comp the most cost-effective and innovative junction box on the market. Solobox Comp provides unmatched reliability and ease of installation, guaranteeing top-quality performance, all without being a drain on your budget. With Solobox Comp, we’ve made your success our priority, and Unirac is committed to supplying exceptional value for your investment. There are many junction boxes out there, but Solobox Comp is the only one that elevates your solar setup by delivering the reliability and affordability that you deserve!

Backed by Unirac: Our Guarantee of Quality

Unirac believes in the quality and durability of Solobox Comp, and we back it up with an industry-leading warranty. When you choose Unirac, you’re opting for premier-quality products engineered with cutting-edge materials, advanced manufacturing standards, and rigorous testing criteria. Our products are built to last, providing unmatched durability and reliability for years to come.

Take Action Now! Request Solobox Comp from Your Preferred Distributor

Now is the time to prime yourself for success by incorporating Solobox Comp into your renewable-energy framework. Take the initiative—request Solobox Comp from your trusted distributor today. If you have any inquiries or require assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Your clients will applaud your expertise. Start today! Request Solobox Comp and establish yourself as the installer who always delivers excellence!

ASCE 7-22 Integration: Keeping You Ahead of the Curve

ASCE 7-22

ASCE 7-22 Integration: Keeping You Ahead of the Curve

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ASCE 7-22
In the ever-evolving world of solar, staying ahead of the curve is paramount. As responsible solar professionals, we understand the significance of adhering to the latest standards and regulations. Unirac, a trusted name in solar mounting solutions, is taking proactive steps to ensure your solar installations are not only efficient but also built to withstand the harshest conditions. We are thrilled to announce that, even though only a few Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) have adopted the ASCE 7-22 standard, we have our eye on the ball. The state of Florida, renowned for its rigorous building codes, has been one of the first adopters of the new standard. Unirac, going a step further, has already integrated 7-22’s structural-load criteria into U-Builder and provided state certification letters for plan set submittals.
Computer with screenshot Rail NXT-UMount

The ASCE 7-22 Standard: What’s New?

The ASCE 7-22 standard brings several important changes to the world of solar construction. It addresses critical structural-safety aspects such as snow loads, wind loads, seismic loads, and even tornado loads. While some AHJs are still catching up, Unirac recognizes the importance of staying ahead to ensure the safety and reliability of your solar projects.

​Proactive Integration Into U-Builder​

Unirac’s commitment to excellence drives us to anticipate the needs of our customers. That’s why we’ve taken the initiative to incorporate the ASCE 7-22 standard into our U-Builder design tool. By doing so, we empower solar professionals to design systems that align with the Code standards, even before they are widely adopted by AHJs.

State Certification Letters for Plan Set Submittals

Understanding that AHJs may require documentation demonstrating compliance with the ASCE 7-22 standard, Unirac has ratified state certification letters for ASCE 7-22 plan set submittals. This invaluable service simplifies the permitting process by assuring authorities that your solar project adheres to the latest industry standards.

Seven Systems Now Certified: Our Goal is Your Peace of Mind

At Unirac, we believe that safety should never be compromised. That’s why we have begun incorporating the ASCE 7-22 design criteria into our solar-racking products. We have started this process with seven of our systems including SolarMount® and NXT UMOUNT ® and will soon have a total of nine systems certified (GFT and ULA coming soon). These products have been certified to the updated requirements of ASCE 7-22, ensuring that your solar installations remain durable, dependable, and up to code.

Unirac has always provided high-quality, innovative solutions for solar professionals. Our proactive integration of the ASCE 7-22 standard into U-builder, coupled with state certification letters for plan set submittals, demonstrates our unwavering commitment to safety and compliance. By incorporating this standard into all our systems, we aim to provide solar professionals with the tools and products they need to thrive in an ever-changing industry.

As you embark on your solar projects, rely on Unirac to serve as your steadfast partner in guaranteeing unparalleled safety and reliability. With ASCE 7-22 integrated solutions, you can build with confidence, knowing that you are at the forefront of industry standards. Together, we are creating a brighter, safer, and more sustainable future through solar energy.

Innova letter

Overview of ASCE 7-22 Code Changes: Minimal Cost Impact Expected for Projects

Snow Loads: ​

  • The way we calculate ground snow loads for specific locations has changed. We now use a different statistical measurement method and consider data from the past three decades.
  • There’s a change in how we factor in reliability for snow-load combinations.​
  • Roof load values have been adjusted, with an average increase of 12% for most sites.
  • The snow importance factor has been eliminated, focusing on reliability values for different risk categories.
  • Snow drift calculations have been updated.

Seismic Loads: ​

  • Spectral calculations have been simplified, and factors Fa and Fv have been removed for certain situations.
  • We now use a multi-period response spectrum instead of a two-period one.​
  • Three new site classes have been added based on how seismic waves travel through the ground.
  • The equation for loads on non-structural members (Fp) has been refined for accuracy.

Wind Loads:​

  • Wind speed maps have been revised, especially in hurricane-prone regions.
  • The pressure coefficients (GCp) for Components and Cladding have been changed.
  • There’s a new approach for calculating the effect of wind direction (Kd) on design wind pressures in structural elements.
  • A new section has been added to determine wind loads on ground-mounted fixed-tilt solar systems.

Tornado Loads:

  • ASCE 7-22 introduces new guidelines to account for the impact of tornadoes. These rules are applicable to structures in risk categories III and IV.

Current Unirac ASCE 7-22 Certified Systems:

Unirac Joins Forces with S-5! in Pioneering Alliance to Propel Solar Energy Deployment

Unirac Joins Forces with S-5! in Pioneering Alliance to Propel Solar Energy Deployment

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Unirac, a pioneer in solar racking, and S-5!, a leading authority in solar attachment solutions for metal roofs, are proud to announce a new chapter in their long-standing partnership. This collaboration is a strategic move to streamline processes and overcome barriers in the energy transition journey, making solar installations easier.

The partnership encompasses several key initiatives that are set to redefine the standards in solar mounting technology. S-5! has extended its UL 2703 certifications for its clamps and brackets, which are now listed under Unirac’s certifications, a critical compliance requirement increasingly demanded by Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) nationwide. This certification ensures that these clamps are now fully approved for use with Unirac’s NXT UMOUNT® and SolarMount® systems. A comprehensive list of certified S5! clamps is available in Unirac’s installation manuals.

Moreover, the partnership is taking significant strides in technological integration. Both companies are actively working to incorporate each other’s solutions into their respective design tools – Unirac’s U-Builder™ and S-5!’s Solar Calculator. This integration promises to streamline the solar project design process, making it more efficient and user-friendly.

Ernest Gallegos, director of products at Unirac, emphasized the company’s commitment and vision, stating,” We are dedicated to driving innovation in solar mounting technology and ensuring our customers remain at the forefront of the industry. Our partnership with S-5! enables us to deliver solutions that not only boost efficiency and ensure code compliance but also reflect our unwavering commitment to our customers’ success. We see this as a significant advancement in our ongoing efforts to provide the best experience for our customers and to offer peace of mind to consumers adopting solar energy.”

The partnership marks a significant stride in addressing several critical needs within the solar energy sector. Foremost, we are ensuring compliance with new requirements that attachments are integrated into UL2703 certifications. These requirements are increasingly mandated by AHJs. This aspect of our collaboration guarantees that our systems not only meet these stringent standards but also provide our customers with the reassurance and compliance they need.

“Why is this partnership so important?” says Gallegos. “It’s because doing solar in a sustainable way, where the solar assets last as long as their intended time and purpose, is vital for the industry’s growth and customer acceptance. Unirac and S5! share a common vision of bringing solar energy to the masses in the most efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly manner. By adopting sustainable practices and adhering to industry-leading codes, we are not only ensuring the longevity of solar installations but also building trust and confidence among customers.”

Mark Gies, director of product management at S-5!, adds, “We are excited about taking our partnership with Unirac to a new level by incorporating our solar attachment solutions into their project design tools and technical certifications, making it easier and more efficient for design and permitting systems that utilize their rails and our clamps.” He continues, “We have always been driven to make processes as user-friendly as possible for installers and end-users by providing world-class support and technical data.”

About Unirac

A pioneer in solar racking, Unirac has been North America’s leading manufacturer of solar PV mounting systems for over 25 years. The premier U.S. solar racking manufacturer with products that outlive their warranties, Unirac has more than 25 GW of experience and over 2.5 million installations that back up their engineering service and supply-chain excellence. Unirac is committed to being a partner throughout the full project lifecycle.

At Unirac, Better Solar Starts Here.

Media Contact

Karen Paramanandam
Marketing Manager, Unirac, Inc.
karenp@unirac.com

About S-5!

Founded by a veteran metal roof expert, S-5! has been the leading authority on metal roof attachment solutions since 1992. S-5!’s zero-penetration clamps and lifetime brackets attach virtually anything to most metal roof types, while maintaining roof integrity and warranties. Made in the U.S.A., S-5! solutions are engineered for a variety of roof-mounted applications and are now installed on more than 2.5 million metal roofs worldwide, including more than 6 gigawatts of roof-mounted solar, providing strength and longevity never before seen.

For more information, visit www.S-5.com.

Media Contact

Fiona Maguire-O’Shea
Public Relations, S-5!
fmaguireoshea@s-5.com

Bringing Butyl Back

Unirac UL 2703A Butyl Attachments

Bringing Butyl Back

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Bringing Butyl Back: The Future is Here with Unirac, Again!

At Unirac, we’ve always prided ourselves on being at the forefront of solar mounting technology.  In 2010 we were so far ahead of the innovation curve that we were the first to introduce adhesive flashing that opened the market and enabled a more efficient installation experience. Today, we want to dive deep into that innovation and its significant impact on rooftop solar installations: butyl roof attachments for every pitched roof application. Unirac now offers a butyl solution on a full suite of attachments and conduit mount.

What are Butyl Roof Attachments?

Butyl, a synthetic rubber, has been traditionally used in various industries for its remarkable waterproofing and adhesive properties. When it comes to solar installations, butyl roof attachments refer to mounting systems that use butyl-based sealants or tapes to ensure a watertight seal between the roof and the solar racking system.

Stronghold

Why Butyl is a Game-Changer

Superior Waterproofing: Butyl stands out for its incredible water resistance. By using butyl roof attachments, installers can be confident that the point of attachment is well-sealed against potential leaks.

Extended Lifespan: Butyl maintains its adhesive properties over an extended period, reducing the need for frequent checks and maintenance.

Compatibility: Whether it’s a metal, composite, or asphalt shingle roof, butyl attachments provide a versatile solution suitable for various roofing materials.

Temperature Resistance: Solar installations are exposed to varying temperature ranges. Butyl’s ability to maintain its integrity in both high and low temperatures ensures the longevity of the seal.

Ease of Installation: With the adhesive properties of butyl, there’s no need for additional, complex sealing procedures. This translates to quicker and more efficient installations.

Unirac’s Approach to Butyl Roof Attachments

At Unirac, our approach is to integrate the benefits of butyl into our industry-leading mounting solutions. Here’s how:​

Engineered Excellence: We have combined our engineering expertise with the unique properties of butyl to create roof attachments that not only ensure a strong hold but also protect against the elements.​

Training and Support: To get the most out of butyl attachments, it’s essential to install them correctly. We offer comprehensive training and support to our partners, ensuring every installation is up to the mark.​

Commitment to Innovation: Our R&D team is continually working to push the boundaries of what’s possible with butyl in the solar industry. Expect more cutting-edge solutions as we move forward.​

Optimization: We kit all our attachments and that is no different for our butyl products. Each butyl attachment and accessory are kitted with the hardware needed to complete rafter installations. That is one SKU for ease of ordering, stocking, and installation. Direct to deck applications require extra screws and are sold separately as needed.​

The Road Ahead

As the solar industry continues to grow and evolve, the demand for reliable, efficient, and innovative mounting solutions will increase. At Unirac, we see butyl roof attachments as a key piece of this future puzzle.

In conclusion, butyl roof attachments represent a merger of traditional material science with modern solar needs. By adopting these solutions, solar installers can ensure that their installations are not only efficient and reliable but also resilient to the elements. With Unirac leading the charge, the future of rooftop solar looks brighter than ever! 

Update: As of May 2024, Unirac’s Stronghold Butyl, SFM Infinity Butly, and SolarMount butyl are UL 2703A certified. 

Ask your distributor to stock Unirac attachments with butyl today.

Unirac UL 2703A Butyl Attachments

Stronghold™ Butyl-

    • Dark: SBUTYLD1​
    • Mill: SBUTYLM1​
    • Extra deck screws: 003251W​

SFM Butyl- SFMBTLM1​

SolarMount® Butyl- ​

    • Dark: 004BUTYLD​
    • Mill: 004BUTYLM​
    • Extra deck screws: 003251W​

Unirac Leads The Industry With The Largest Number of Racking & Inverter Combinations Under UL 3741

Unirac Leads The Industry With The Largest Number of Racking & Inverter Combinations Under UL 3741

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Be rapid shutdown compliant with or without MLPEs. Unirac has the solution that fits your needs.

Unirac has recently achieved UL 3741 compliance for its entire portfolio of racking systems. This is a major achievement, as Unirac now offers the largest number of racking (7 systems) and inverter (38 models) combinations that are UL 3741 compliant in the industry. This means that solar installers can have confidence in using Unirac’s racking systems for their projects, knowing that they are safe, reliable, and meet industry standards. Download the Unirac 3741 Application Guide.

Unirac has been at the forefront of innovation for over 25 years, and they go beyond basic requirements as dictated by code. The Unirac Product Development team is constantly seeking ways to improve the efficiency of projects, maintain safety standards, improve ROI, and provide the best value to their partners.

UL 3741 compliance is an important step forward in solar safety, as it provides a new level of PV hazard control that meets NEC rapid shutdown requirements. The NEC requires rapid shutdown of solar systems in case of an emergency or maintenance situation, to prevent electrical shock or fire hazards. Previously, the only way to meet this requirement was by using module-level power electronics (MLPE), which can be costly and complex to install.

“UL 3741 is a critical safety standard that specifically addresses Photovoltaic (PV) hazard control. In alignment with the National Electrical Code, it sets forth rigorous requirements for the design, construction, and performance of PV mounting systems. This helps ensure a high level of safety and reliability for both installers and system owners. As a Product Manager, I can attest to the impact of adhering to UL 3741, as it ultimately enhances the overall quality and dependability of solar installations.” 
– Tristen Foley, Flat Roof Product Manager

To comply with UL 3741, solar systems must meet several requirements. First, the racking system and inverter models must be certified and listed together, ensuring that the system is designed to work safely and efficiently. Second, the PV array layout must be designed according to one of the four use cases outlined in Unirac’s UL 3741 Application Guide, which provides guidance on how to design a safe and effective solar system that meets NEC requirements including inverter placement. Finally, wires must be handled according to the racking-specific installation manual, ensuring that the system is installed correctly and safely.

Unirac’s UL 3741-compliant racking systems offer several benefits to solar installers and project owners. First, they provide a simplified and cost-effective solution for meeting NEC rapid shutdown requirements, without the need for complex and expensive MLPEs. Second, they offer flexibility and compatibility with a wide range of inverter manufacturers, allowing installers to choose the best option for their specific project needs. Finally, they are designed to meet the highest safety standards, ensuring that solar installations are safe, reliable, and compliant with industry regulations.

“As the largest provider of UL 3741-compliant racking systems in the industry, Unirac continues to lead the way. Solar installers can trust Unirac’s racking systems to meet industry standards and deliver safe and dependable performance. With a wide range of racking and inverter combinations, Unirac offers a simplified and cost-effective solution for meeting NEC rapid shutdown requirements, making solar installations more accessible and affordable for all.” – Ted Bleeker, Director of Business Development.