By Randy Zechman
New solar panel restrictions will limit your roof-space options in California. Effective Jan. 1, 2014, all California cities and counties will mandate more stringent solar roof setback guidelines regarding the solar panel placement on your roof.
This will limit many homeowners from getting their optimal solar system. Many try to maximize or oversize their system to lower or zero out their electricity bills. This may no longer be an option as the new roof restrictions mandate a 36-inch setback from the roof ridge line, which is often the optimal location for solar panels.
Current guidelines have left the interpretation of the roof setbacks for solar open to local jurisdictions, often providing flexibility to accommodate changes.
Setback refers to the distance that solar panels need to be from the side and top edges of a roof. Setbacks are for firefighter roof access to the ridge line. The problem is, the new setback guidelines make ideal solar roof space unavailable — sometimes as much as half (or more) of the roof area.
The good news? You can still use your optimal roof space for solar panels (often closer to the ridge) if you pull a permit for your system before the end of 2013.