Solar panels are undoubtedly the way of the future.
They give consumers access to clean and renewable energy, may significantly reduce the utilities costs for nearly every home, and can even be set up by homeowners themselves, provided they have the proper knowledge.
But installing them by yourself can lead to a number of headaches, the biggest of which is likely adhering to the various solar panel regulations enforced by your particular city and state.
And while you may be tempted to simply skirt around these regulatory procedures, doing so can land you in a world of trouble both in terms of legality as well as overall safety. That’s why it’s critical that you know about the ins and outs of the solar panel permit procedure.
Do I Need a Permit to Build a Solar Panel?
The answer here is a resounding “Yes.” Just as with any other home improvement effort that alters the fundamental structure or functionality of your house, solar panel installations must follow a number of city- and state-imposed regulatory standards.
These permits ensure that your project meets specific and trusted safety standards that not only ensure you and your family aren’t in any danger, but also so that those around you are safe as well.
Beyond that, obtaining the proper building permit for your solar panels can make it significantly easier when it comes time to sell your home as well. Proper permits will they show potential buyers that everything is up to code while also significantly increasing the value of your home since the panels are assets rather than liabilities.
In fact, depending on your location, homeowners can expect a properly installed solar system to add about $15,000 to their home value.
What’s more, owners of solar systems without proper permits may be subject to strict fines, removal of the system, and other regulatory penalties. Many contractors won’t even continue the job until the permits have been received.
So, while it may seem like a nuisance right now, obtaining the proper permits before installing your solar panels is well worth it.
Types of Solar Panel Permits
As with most other building regulations, solar panel permits are notoriously varied depending on your state, city, and even your neighborhood in some cases. As such, it is impossible to outline the exact regulations that will impact your specific solar panel installation.
One city, for instance, may require the edges of your installation to be at least 3 feet away from the edges of the roof. Others may not have such a stipulation. It’s entirely variable.
However, there are a few general types of permits you’ll need before installation can begin.
Solar Panel Building Permits
Almost any home addition is going to require building permits and solar panels are no exception. These primarily deal with the structural integrity of the existing home that the panels will be installed onto. Regulators will take into account the load bearing ability of the home, the types of materials it is made from, possible weather elements, and more.
Essentially, the building permit is there to make sure that when you do install a solar system, your home’s structural safety won’t be compromised.
Solar Panel Electrical Permits
While building permits may deal with the structural engineering of your home, the electrical permits focus on how your wiring is set up. Is your electrical system up to code? Do you have the proper safeguards in place to prevent a short circuit in the system? Will adding solar panels jeopardize the effectiveness of these safeguards?
These are all questions that the electrical permits will deal with directly and are absolutely critical to obtain before “plugging in” your solar system.
Homeowner’s Association Permits
While not necessarily “permits” in the classical sense, many people worry about being granted permission to build solar panels from their homeowner’s association. However, there are a number of considerations you should be aware of regarding HOAs and solar panels.
Some states have what are called solar access laws which safeguard a homeowner’s right to install solar panels, despite the stipulations of an HOA. These states, according to Solar Power Rocks, include:
- New jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
Beyond that, some states also have solar easement laws in place as well. Easements don’t give you the right to install solar panels but ensure that once you do, you won’t ever be forced to remove them. Plus, an easement also makes it illegal to block your source of solar power by, say, your neighbor building an especially large structure.
The states with solar easements are:
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
In any case, both of these laws give you legislative power over your HOA and can be instrumental in getting your home wired for solar.
Solar Panel Regulations: A Necessary Step
While regulations of any kind can be a bit of a hassle to adhere to, doing so helps to ensure the structural and electrical safety of your solar energy system. That’s why it’s essential that you partner with a certified contractor who is familiar with the regulatory process as they’ll often handle the permit process for you.
It’s just one more reason why finding the right solar panel installation company is key to the success of your system.