Photo Credit: iStockphoto
Before installing a solar water heating system, you should investigate local building codes, zoning ordinances, and subdivision covenants, as well as any special regulations pertaining to the site. You will probably need a building permit to install a solar energy system onto an existing building.
Not every community or municipality initially welcomes residential renewable energy installations. Although this is often due to ignorance or the comparative novelty of renewable energy systems, you must comply with existing building and permit procedures to install your system.
The matter of building code and zoning compliance for a solar system installation is typically a local issue. Even if a statewide building code is in effect, it's usually enforced locally by your city, county, or parish.
Common problems homeowners have encountered with building codes include the following:
- Exceeding roof load
- Unacceptable heat exchangers
- Improper wiring
- Unlawful tampering with potable water supplies.
Potential zoning issues include the following:
- Obstructing sideyards
- Erecting unlawful protrusions on roofs
- Siting the system too close to streets or lot boundaries.
Special area regulations -- such as local community, subdivision, or homeowner's association covenants -- also demand compliance. These covenants, historic district regulations, and flood-plain provisions can easily be overlooked.
To find out what's needed for local compliance, contact the following:
- Your local jurisdiction's zoning and building enforcement divisions
- Briefly describe your intended construction, asking for other relevant ordinances/codes that might be in effect.
- Find out if there are any additional local amendments or modifications to the regulations in effect.
- Ask how to determine whether you are located in a historic district, flood-plain area, or any other special category regulated by a government body.
- Ask where you may find pertinent ordinances/codes (local library, government office, etc.).
- Read pertinent sections of the regulations, making photocopies of information you wish to file for future review and design/installation analysis.
- Homeowner's, subdivision, neighborhood, and/or community association(s)
- Ask if they have any ordinances, provisions, or covenants that may affect the design and installation of the system.
- Copy and file pertinent sections for reference.
- Photovoltaic and Solar-Thermal Technologies in Residential Building Codes - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
- Bringing Solar Energy to the Planned Community - U.S. Department of Energy
- Heat Your Water with the Sun - U.S. Department of Energy