top of page

Solar installers eliminate zip ties and wire clips using SoftPaw: case studies.

Updated: Nov 20, 2023



Background

The SoftPaw wire management channel is integral to a solar panel’s frame and can eliminate all other wire management devices within the array. SoftPaw entered the market in Q1 of this year onboard VSUN 410, 450, and 500W panels supplied through Van Meter, a leading distributor in the Midwest. After several months and nearly 75MW of deployment, the results are in.

How it works

SoftPaw is a channel in a solar panel’s frame that is used to secure, protect, and hide wires within the array. As part of the frame’s aluminum extrusion, it eliminates compatibility and long-term degradation issues typically associated with wire management devices and is everywhere it might be needed instead of at discrete locations. Since it is part of the solar panel, it will last the life of the panel. SoftPawPV licenses the SoftPaw technology to module manufacturers and provides engineering assistance to ensure quick and easy integration. Custom SoftPaw designs are also available to accommodate specific applications or combination of wire sizes.


What Solar Installers Have to Say

Recently, the SoftPawPV team went to the field to gather feedback from installers on how SoftPaw is used and what impacts it has had on installation and the organization. While some comments were obvious to us, like they were no longer using wire clips or zip-ties, other advantages mentioned hadn’t been anticipated.


Case Study 1 – Rabe Hardware (5 MW/yr)

Perhaps, solar installer sentiment is best summed up by Conner from Rabe Hardware who stated, “SoftPaw should be on every module.”, and “Why has it taken so long [for module integrated wire management] to happen?”. Installers have found that SoftPaw is intuitive and beneficial in all installation applications. Troy pointed out that SoftPaw has significantly increased the aesthetics of their ground mount installations. Tucking the module leads into the SoftPaw channel, causes them to disappear behind the frame, providing an unparalleled clean finish throughout the array. And, as Dustin explained, since the wires are considered inaccessible while inside SoftPaw, they can pass inspection without triggering the guarding requirements of NEC 690.31. This feature saves approximately 400’of wire loom, 300 zip-ties, 250 wire clips, and several hours of labor for every backyard ground mount system.


Mitch, one of their leading residential rooftop installers, said “We pass more rooftop inspections with SoftPaw.” Before SoftPaw, traditional wire management devices would fail inspections because they would come loose between installation and when the inspection occurred. In addition, the wires would droop between clips, making it difficult to provide a clean look along the underside of the array. Mitch points out that they are a SolarEdge shop, and that before SoftPaw they would zip-tie all the optimizer wires and home run cables to the rails which was time consuming and required preplanning. With SoftPaw, he doesn’t have to preplan and can use SoftPaw to manage all the wires while the modules are going down, taking out the slack as they go. In summary, he found using SoftPaw required less planning, was quicker, and produced a more reliable and better-looking installation.


The entire organization is excited to have moved away from zip-ties and wire clips. As Bryce pointed out, “I’m so glad I’m no longer scurrying around the floorboards and between the seats of the truck hunting and praying for zip-ties or clips just to finish a job.” The group pointed out that wire clips are difficult and, literally, painful to use, and that zip-ties can be extremely frustrating because they get brittle and break during installation in cold weather. In addition, they find that both zip-ties and cable clips are difficult to manipulate when wearing gloves. Therefore, while there has been no opportunity for winter installations, the Rabe Hardware team predicts that SoftPaw will provide even greater benefits in winter than it does during the summer.


Case Study 2 – Eagle Point Solar (20 MW/yr)

Dean from Eagle Point Solar thinks “SoftPaw should be a new standard for the industry.” He likes how he can fit two wires at the same location. He uses this feature to prevent sag by looping the wire back onto itself to take out the slack. The process is quicker and easier than with clips. At the jobsite we visited, Dean and his crew were installing microinverters. The SoftPaw channel on the VSUN panels they were installing can accommodate 2-wire microinverter trunk cables like those from Enphase as well as DCPM cables from SolarEdge and Tigo. Dean and his crew found that SoftPaw allowed them to manage all the module leads, completely removing wire clips from their job site. Dean points out that besides the cost savings on clips, SoftPaw has resulted in several quality and cost-related benefits.


Eagle Point Solar crews expressed that SoftPaw has been critical to improving installation quality which has eliminated call backs and failed inspections caused by clips failing to hold the wires over time. Just last week, one crew had to go back to a house a third time due to wires laying on the roof. Dean reiterated that “it doesn’t even take a big windstorm to pull the clips off the modules… they even fall off during installation.” Since the introduction of SoftPaw, Eagle Point hasn’t had a single wire management related callback or failed inspection. In addition, Dean points out that SoftPaw mitigates critter damage at the jobsite, since critters can’t reach into the recessed SoftPaw channel to chew the wire. Levi, who installs with Dean, likes that the SoftPaw wire channel allows for temporary wire management for module handling. This keeps wires out of the way and off the ground preventing trip hazards, ladder falls, and wire damage while handling the modules.


Randy, the Chief Operating Officer for Eagle Point Solar, says that his crews are trained to walk the jobsite at the end of a job to look for zip-ties, zip-tie snipped ends, and wire clips that were dropped during installation. A single missed cable clip can cause a callback from a homeowner worried that their solar system is missing a critical component. SoftPaw eliminates these issues. In addition, SoftPaw can eliminate wire related O&M costs on large commercial rooftop and ground mounted systems, since it is not susceptible to weather, galvanic corrosion, or ground faults as are zip-ties and cable clips. This allows SoftPaw users to be more competitive on their O&M bids or to realize higher margins on their support contracts.


Conclusions

SoftPaw outperforms wire clips and zip-ties in every metric. It even has a higher withdrawal strength than clips while at the same time providing easier insertion and removal. SoftPaw does this with a soft touch that protects the wires throughout the module’s lifetime. Installers who have gotten their hands on SoftPaw can’t imagine going back to the days of clips and ties. It is simpler, cleaner, better looking, cost effective and provides trouble-free service for the life of the systems. What else can one ask for from their wire management? With SoftPaw, installers can do it right, do it once, and then forget about it.


Photo 1. With SoftPaw the wires disappear into the frame providing a clean look to add to an overhead array.


Photo 2. The SoftPaw channel provides and inaccessible wire location that the AHJs have ruled eliminates NEC 690.31 guarding requirements.


Photo 3. Modules prewired with SoftPaw. Notice no shiny silver clips.


SoftPaw makes it easy to wire the system after modules have been clamped down, eliminating preplanning requirements, speeding up the installation. The following images show a SolarEdge installation where SoftPaw manages 100% of all wires within the array.


Photo 4. Under the solar panel after the Rabe Hardware crew secured to the racking and prior to SoftPaw wire management


Photo 5. Under the solar panel after the Rabe Hardware secured all wires with SoftPaw.


Photo 6. The Eagle Point crew works back from the inverter to the junction box removing slack with SoftPaw.


Photo 7. The SoftPaw channel can accommodate two wires at the same location making double back and slack adjustment easy


Photo 8. Wires simply push into the SoftPaw channel without the need for gloves to protect your fingers.

Licensing inquiries: sales@softpawpv.com

General or technical questions: info@softpawpv.com

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page