What code requirements and standards do you need to know as a solar installer? Here are some of the most important codes and standards that you should know:
• IBC & IRC
• Your AHJ
OSHA — Occupational Safety and Health Administration
If you are looking to get NABCEP certified, you’ll cover the OSHA basics as a part of your preparation for the certificate. Here’s a quick, easy to read, summary on some of the most important aspects of OSHA regarding solar installer safety: OSHA Requirements for Solar Installers - Quick Guide
While the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) normally has the final say, OSHA has the authority to enforce its federal regulations at any facility in the country and override the AHJ, so it’s important to be fully aware of it.
NEC — National Electrical Code
It goes without saying that if you’re going to be putting up solar panels and inverters, that you need to understand the electrical aspects of installing the system. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) developed the National Electric Code (NEC) that governs equipment-grounding requirements for PV systems to ensure safe electrical design, installation, and inspection.
However, you also need to know what is and is not allowed in your specific area, because each state goes by a different NEC code. For example, if you’re doing an off-grid system, whether or not your inverter is grounded can matter based on the NEC code your state follows.
(IBC) International Building Code & (IRC) International Residential Code
The International Code Council (ICC) set up the IBC and IRC, which are implemented on most State Building Codes. These are building codes that require that all roof penetrations be waterproofed with flashing that complies with the roofing manufacturer requirement, along with ensuring structural integrity before installing a PV system. It depends on your authority having jurisdiction (AHJ); some are very strict about the codes while others are more lenient.
IFC — International Fire Code
The fire code is important to follow regarding the location of solar modules so that firefighters have a safe and clear pathway to do their job.
The International Fire Code (IFC) is in use or adopted in 42 states, the District of Columbia, New York City, Guam and Puerto Rico. Make sure if you’re in one of these states, that you are aware of the fire code. If you live in California, since July 1st, 2018 the standard three-foot setback rule was changed in California, so make sure to read up.
The AHJ — (Authority Having Jurisdiction)
When it comes down to it, while it’s important to be aware of the different codes, your authority having jurisdiction, the AHJ, is the one that usually has the final say on what can and cannot be done as far as installing solar.
As defined by the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC), the AHJ is “an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure”. In most cases, the AHJ is the municipality in which the structure is located, such as a city or state, where the government inspector will most likely be the primary AHJ. Make sure you know ahead of time who your AHJ is and that you are installing up to the standards required because each AHJ is different.
“IFC.” The I-Codes | ICC, 13 Aug. 2018, www.iccsafe.org/codes-tech-support/codes/2018-i-codes/ifc/.
NFPA Reports - Fires in the United States, www.nfpa.org/Codes-and-Standards.
“UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration, www.osha.gov/.