Solar Panel Inspections

Solar panels on a roof in Los Angeles

Solar Panel Inspections are becoming more and more frequent. In sunny Los Angeles, the allure of solar panels continues to grow in popularity. The interesting thing about solar panels is the technology is ever-evolving. We have discussed inspecting solar panels previously here and here. In this article, we will dig deeper into what we are looking for and why when looking at solar panels during a home inspection.

Inspecting Solar Panels

Inspecting solar panels is not simply looking at the panels. An inspection requires looking in the attic under where the panels are installed. Looking at how the panels are connected to the electrical system. And then, of course, looking at the panels themselves, and under the panels when possible. Because inspecting solar panels requires viewing the system from various parts of the house, we cannot offer the service à la carte. However, if we are already inspecting the entire house, we are already looking in the attic, on the roof, and at the electrical panel, so observing the panel installation is easy to add to an existing inspection.

California Setback Rules

When inspecting solar panel installations in the Los Angeles area, it’s crucial to understand California’s setback rules. These rules govern the required distance between solar panels and the edges of the roof, and the ridge and provide adequate walkways between panels.

During a fire, firefighters may need to cut into a roof to gain access and control the blaze. Proper setback rules ensure that solar panels do not obstruct their path. Compliance with these rules is not only a matter of code but a vital element in preserving lives.

Drawing of solar panels on a roof
California Set Back Rules for Solar Panels

Solar Disconnects

A disconnect switch must be present to turn off the solar power in an emergency. Even when power is out, electrical charges can be running through the panels and wiring. By having a disconnect, firefighters can turn off all electrical currents in the solar system in an emergency. In addition, electricians can ensure the system is off when servicing the home’s electrical system.

Labeling Solar Conduit

In addition to setback rules, the labeling of conduits plays a pivotal role in fire safety. Clear and accurate labels on conduits help firefighters identify solar electrical components during an emergency. They know they can not cut into such conduits when the system is energized or risk electrical shock. However, once they confirm the system is shut off, they know the conduit can be cut if necessary to enter the building.

Conduit labels often fade with time or inadvertently get painted over. Checking conduit labels is part of the home inspection process.

Changes: Microinverters

All solar panel systems create DC (direct current) electrical power which must be converted into AC (alternating current) to be used by a home, One significant change in the world of solar panels is the adoption of microinverters. Unlike traditional inverters, which are often large and installed on the side of homes, microinverters are compact and mounted directly under or next to each solar panel. This greatly improves the aesthetics of a home as a system no longer has to have large inverters on the side of the house. Microinverters also are more efficient, considered safer, and allow for a system to have future expansion. Microinverters have no real parts to inspect, whereas older inverters often have lights and displays to check for functionality.

A solar microinverter on a roof
A Microinverter on a roof.

The Future of Solar Panels

Looking ahead, to the future of solar panels in Los Angeles, we expect panels to continue to be part of more and more homes. In addition, we expect technology to continue to evolve. Tesla’s solar roof tiles have garnered attention for seamlessly integrating solar technology into roofing materials, creating a sleek and efficient energy solution. Additionally, battery backup systems, such as the Tesla Powerwall, are gaining popularity, providing homeowners with energy security during grid outages. As these systems are self-contained, there is often very little to inspect.

To book your home inspection, call 818-298-3405 or book online here.