What Permits Do I Need to Install Solar Panels?

By Mohamed Fared

Last Updated:

Going solar is a win-win: it’s great for the Earth and can be great for your wallet too, thanks to all those government incentives. 

But before you start counting the savings, there’s a key question to tackle: What permits do I need to install solar panels? 

Well, you’ll need a building permit to make sure your setup sticks to local building rules. 

You’ll also need an electrical permit to confirm everything’s safe and up to code. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through each step to secure these permits, ensuring your solar installation goes smoothly and legally.

Key Takeaways

  • To install solar panels, you need a building permit and an electrical permit, depending on whether your system is roof-mounted or ground-mounted.
  • Permits ensure that your solar installation complies with local building and electrical codes for safety.
  • On-grid systems require additional permits to meet utility company standards, while off-grid systems may have different requirements.
  • Handling permissions involves getting approvals from local building departments, utility companies, and homeowners’ associations (HOAs).
  • The inspection process includes both pre-installation and post-installation checks to ensure the system is set up correctly and safely.

Why Are Permits Necessary for Installing Solar Panels?

Permits are necessary for installing solar panels because they ensure everything is done safely and according to local regulations. 

When you get these permits, you’re not just protecting your home but also taking care of your entire community. 

Ensuring your solar system is installed correctly avoids potential hazards affecting everyone.

These permits also ensure that your setup complies with local building and electrical codes

These rules are there to keep your home safe from issues like fires or structural problems. 

If you’re planning to connect your solar panels to the public utility grid, having the right permits is crucial. 

They confirm that your installation meets the utility company’s standards, like proper voltage levels, and ensure it won’t disrupt the overall grid. 

Permits also play a big role in maintaining your property’s value and making sure it’s properly insured. 

Properly documented installations can boost your home’s value. 

Skipping this step might lead to complications if you decide to sell, or could cause issues with your insurance coverage.

In areas with homeowners’ associations (HOAs) or strict local guidelines, permits help ensure that your solar panels don’t clash with community standards and aesthetics. 

Also, many local governments offer financial incentives like rebates or tax deductions for solar installations, but you’ll need to have all your permits to qualify.

What Specific Permits Are Required for Solar Panel Installation?

1. Solar Panel Building Permit

Not every city has the same rules for installing solar panels. 

Usually, the permit you need is just part of the standard electrical permits for homes. 

But if you’re looking at something like ground-mounted panels, which are seen as a new structure, you might need to grab a separate building permit.

When you’re ready to apply for this permit, you’ll have to pull together some important paperwork. 

Depending on where you live, this could mean needing a homeowner’s affidavit, an engineering review, or specific details about your solar setup. 

For example, if you’re beefing up your roof to handle the panels, you’ll probably need an engineering report. 

This report is super important because it proves that your roof can safely support the panels.

For this task, I prefer to touch base with my local permitting office directly. 

They can provide a specific list of what they need for a complete application, tailored to the type of solar installation I’m planning.

2. Solar Panel Electrical Permit

To get a solar panel electrical permit, you’ll be dealing with the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)

They need to check out the electrical details of your solar setup, such as wire sizes, how you’ve sized your conduits and the voltage and power settings. 

It’s crucial that everything checks out for safety and meets the code requirements.

Before you send off your permit application, take a good look at the AHJ’s electrical checklist

This list is your best friend—it tells you exactly what documents and information you need to pull together. 

Taking the time to get this right helps you avoid any hitches that might slow things down.

It’s pretty normal for the permit reviewers to come back with questions or ask for a few tweaks. 

Don’t sweat it; these are usually simple fixes. 

If you’re quick to respond and have everything organized, you can speed up the approval process. 

Just make sure you have all your paperwork neat and ready to go, which will make getting your electrical permit a whole lot easier.

Related article: Can You Put Solar Panels On A Shake Roof?

Are There Special Considerations for Different Types of Solar Installations?

1. Roof-Mounted vs. Ground-Mounted Systems 

When you’re getting ready to install solar panels, the type you choose—roof-mounted or ground-mounted—will determine the permits you’ll need.

For roof-mounted panels, which attach directly to your home or another building, you’ll usually need a retrofit or renovation permit

These permits are crucial because they make sure your building can handle the extra weight and that everything is safe and up to code.

Ground-mounted panels are a different story. 

Since they’re not connected to an existing structure, they’re considered new constructions.

This means you’ll need permits that examine where you want to place them, how they’ll be built, and their potential impact on the surrounding area. 

These permits can be a bit more complex because they need to ensure that your new setup won’t harm the local environment or break any zoning laws.

So, as I said before, if you’re not quite sure what permits you need, the best thing to do is get in touch with your local permitting office. 

They can offer you tailored advice based on the specifics of your project and your location.

2. On-Grid vs. Off-Grid Systems

We also need to think about the type of solar system—on-grid or off-grid—because each one has different permit requirements.

For on-grid systems, that connect to the public electricity grid, you’ll need permits. 

These permits ensure your system meets all safety and regulatory standards. 

You might also need extra permits if you need to upgrade your circuit breaker panel (Main Service Panel) or reinforce your roof to support the solar panels.

Off-grid systems are a bit different. 

Many off-grid setups don’t require a permit, and some DIY enthusiasts choose to skip this step. 

However, some local authorities (AHJs) do require permits for off-grid systems. 

To make sure you’re following the rules, it’s best to check with your local office.

Related article: Can You Put Solar Panels On A metal Roof?

How Do You Handle Permissions from Different Entities?

1. Local Building Departments

Before you start your solar installation, you need to get approval from your local planning or building department. 

This might be at the city or county level. 

These departments ensure your project follows local rules and safety standards. 

They’ll check if your building can support the solar panels and if the installation meets all safety codes.

Sometimes, if you live in a very rural area outside city limits, you might not need a permit. 

To be sure, I suggest checking your local building code or giving the code office a call. 

2. Utility Companies

Next, you need to get approval from your utility company. 

In case your solar system will connect to the grid, it has to meet all their code and safety requirements. 

The utility company will review your electrical wiring diagram to ensure everything is set up correctly. 

They’ll also require an inspection before you can turn your system on. 

This way, they can make sure your installation won’t interfere with the grid and operate safely.

Take it from a pro: getting in touch with your utility company early in the process can save you a lot of headaches. 

They’ll guide you through their specific requirements and help you understand what you need to do to get everything approved quickly.

3. Homeowners’ Associations

Lastly, if you live in a community with a Homeowners’ Association (HOA), you’ll need to get their approval. 

HOAs care about how the neighborhood looks and want to protect property values, which is why they have rules about solar panels.

Believe it or not, some HOAs still don’t allow solar panels at all.

So, it’s important to check your HOA bylaws and talk to them before you start your installation.

Take a look at the HOA’s guidelines and, if needed, submit a proposal.

This usually means providing details about where you’ll place the panels and how they’ll look. 

Believe me, based on my experience, getting their approval early can save you a lot of headaches down the road and ensure your installation goes smoothly.

Related article: Difference Between A Grade And B Grade Solar Panels

What Is the Inspection Process for Solar Panels?

As part of the permitting process, solar panel systems require an inspection. 

Most Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) require a post-installation inspection, and sometimes a pre-installation inspection as well.

For pre-installation inspection, here’s what to expect:

  1. Verify the integrity and structure of your roof: Ensures your roof can support the solar panels.
  2. Roof measurements: Confirm that the system will fit and identify any obstructions.
  3. Review attic truss layout and direction: Check the internal support structure.
  4. Review the circuit panel and electric meter: Ensures they can handle the new solar panel system.
  5. Verify proposed electrical conduit routing: Ensures the planned electrical pathways are safe and efficient.

After you’ve received your permit and installed your system, it’s time for the post-installation inspection. 

During this process, expect the following:

  1. Proper grounding of electrical aspects: Ensures electrical safety.
  2. Verify correct panel attachment: Check that panels are securely mounted.
  3. Proper installation of rails: Ensures the mounting rails are correctly placed.
  4. Proper sizing of conduits: Confirms that the electrical conduits are the right size.
  5. Proper connection of wires: Ensures all electrical connections are safe and correct.

Related article: How Long Does It Take For Solar Panels To Pay For Themselves?

How Much Is a Permit to Install Solar?

Residential solar permit fees are usually between $300 and $500, thanks to the 2017 Fair Permit Act, which caps them at $500

If you’re installing solar panels for a commercial property, the fees can go up to $1,000

So, when budgeting for your solar project, make sure to account for these permit costs.

How Long Does the Permitting Process Take for Solar Panel Installation?

The permitting process for installing solar panels usually takes between 40 to 125 days

This is the longest part of the whole installation process. 

To avoid delays, make sure all your paperwork is complete and accurate. 

After your system is installed, the utility company will need to do a final inspection to ensure everything is set up correctly. 

They also need to approve the connection to the electrical grid. 

So, plan for some extra time to get everything sorted out and ready to go.

FAQs

Do I Need a Permit to Install Solar Panels in Florida?

You need a permit to install solar panels in Florida. You can check with your local building authority for specific steps.

Do I Need a Permit to Install Solar Panels in California?

You need a permit to install solar panels in California. Contact your city or county building department for the exact process.

Do I Need a Permit to Install Solar Panels in Texas?

You need a permit to install solar panels in Texas. Get in touch with your local building office to find out the requirements.

Conclusion

Just like we said, we’ve gone over all the key permits you’ll need to get your solar panels up and running. 

This includes everything from building and electrical permits to getting the nod from local utility companies and even your homeowners’ association. 

Here’s a pro tip: think about bringing a solar consultant on board early on. 

They know their way around all the local rules and can make getting those permits a whole lot easier. 

Do you still have any questions or need more details on anything specific? 

Feel free to ask. 

Let’s make sure you’re fully prepared to start your solar journey!

Mohamed Fared

Mohamed Fared is a qualified engineer, with over three years of experience in the solar energy field. He has worked on some of the largest infrastructure projects in the world, including the 1,650MW Benban solar park in Egypt. When he’s not working, Mohamed is a passionate advocate for increasing access to green energy and sustainable development. He also enjoys learning about new innovations in the industry.

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