Los Angeles is becoming greener by the day, and one sign of that is the growing presence of photovoltaic panels across the city. So, if you’re considering using the sun to help provide your energy needs, then we congratulate you on being both thrifty and environmentally conscious. As solar panel inspection experts, we also recommend that you let our building code consultants make sure that your project’s plans meets all applicable building and fire codes. L.A.’s regulations regarding solar power installations are reasonable, but also rather stringent. Here are just some of the many things the city will expect to see on your plans:
- The building’s footprint and north reference point
- The locations of all on-site structures
- The street address of the building
- All access points from the street to the buildings
- The locations of the solar arrays
- The locations of all disconnects
- The locations of all required signage
- The locations of all required access pathways
- The locations of all required markings, warning signs, and labels
The city will also need elevation views of the buildings on your property. They will need to show the following:
- Placement of the arrays
- Ridgelines for the roof
- Eave lines
- All equipment on the roof
- Skylights, roof hatches, vent lines, and all other objects present on the roof
In addition, you should provide photographs of the area where the array is to be placed. This will assist city officials in evaluating the feasibility of your plans.
Regulations Regarding Labels, Warning Signs, and Marking
City codes are detailed in their requirements for all signage, as it will be referenced by emergency responders in the event of a fire on the premises. Here’s a list of some of the things they will be looking for:
- Markings inside the main service disconnect. These must be placed on the exterior cover if the main service disconnect can be operated with the service panel closed.
- For commercial buildings, the marking must be adjacent to the main service disconnect. It must be clearly visible from the point where the lever is operated.
- The verbiage on the markings must read CAUTION: SOLAR ELECTRIC CONNECTED.
- It must be white lettering on a red background. All letters must be capitals and be a minimum height of 3/8 of an inch. The font used must be Arial or something similar, and the letters cannot be in bold.
- The material used for the markings must be reflective and weather resistant.
For DC conduits, enclosures, raceways, DC combiners, junction boxes, and cable assemblies, the following is required of all markings:
- They must be placed every 10 feet.
- The verbiage must read CAUTION: SOLAR CIRCUIT.
- Markings will also be required at turns, above and below penetrations, and on all DC combiners and junction boxes.
Regulations Regarding Access Pathways and Smoke Ventilation
For one and two family dwellings, the following are some of the requirements you will be expected to meet:
- For buildings with a hip roof layout, solar panels must provide a three-foot wide access pathway from the ridge to the eave, on each slope where panels are placed. The access pathways must be located along load-bearing walls or other structurally strong points of the building.
- For buildings with a single ridge, the panels must provide two three-foot access pathways, from the eave to the ridge, on each slope where the panels are placed. Access pathways cannot include any eave’s overhang.
- Panels cannot be placed closer than 1.5 feet to a hip or valley, if they are placed on both sides of the hip or valley.
- If the panels are placed on only one side of a hip or valley of equal lengths, then the panels can be located directly adjacent to the hip or valley.
- In cases where there are two or more access pathways, the clear pathways must be arranged so that there are no dead ends longer than 25 feet. Any access pathways that leads to a dead end if greater than 25 feet in distance, it must continue on to the next access pathway. However, at no time can any access pathway cause an individual’s travel to be greater than 150 feet prior to arriving at another access pathway.
- Arrays of photovoltaic panels must not exceed 150 feet by 150 feet in dimension. This applies to both axes.
- Panels must have a clearance of at least three feet below the ridge, UNLESS the fire department has determined that an approved method or product will provide equal or greater opportunities for ventilation.
For housing units intended for three or more families, additional regulations must be met to pass solar panel inspection. These are spelled out in detail on fire department and building safety department websites.
Further Rules and Guidelines
The locations of your wiring systems and raceways are also important. They must be as close to the ridge, hip, or valley as possible. Conduit runs must follow the shortest paths from the array to the DC combiner box. Those combiner boxes must be located so that conduit runs in the pathways between the arrays are minimized. DC wiring must run along the bottoms of load-bearing walls.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
The city has many other rules that must be followed when solar panel arrays are installed. Though all of this may sound excessive, in reality, it’s not. Every sub-section of every heading of every page in the manual of regulations is there because it helps to ensure not only your safety but also that of your residents, your neighbors, and the public at large.
That being said, we hope that you can understand how important it is to have the help of a company like Burnham Nationwide. We’re experienced building code consultants and can perform many types of third party inspection. If there are problems in your setup, we will see them and point them out, allowing you to make the necessary changes so that you can pass when the fire marshal does come out to look over your project. Let our expertise help you avoid needless delays. Contact us today.