Solar Thermal Hot Water Installations
In hot water?
Solar thermal hot water is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly solar energy technology. Solar thermal can supply most of your hot water needs and can even be used to heat your home. Increasing the amount of clean renewable energy is a critical component of the Berkeley community efforts to reduce green house gases. Download a flyer version of the Residential Solar Thermal Hot Water Permit Guide
Types of solar thermal hot water systems
Solar water heating systems use relatively simple technology, including a storage tank and a solar collector. There are two types of solar water heating systems: active, which have forced circulating pumps and controls, and passive which do not. Additionally, you can choose between indirect or direct circulating systems for active solar thermal systems. Nearly all solar water heating systems require a back-up system for cloudy days and times of increased demand.
Energy efficiency first
The first step in any solar thermal installation is to implement conservation measures to reduce energy and water use by fixing leaks, installing low-flow fixtures and purchasing energy efficient appliances. Conservation reduces expenses, greenhouse gas emissions, saves water and minimizes the size of your thermal system. For energy savings tips check the PG&E website at www.pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/
Resources & incentives for solar thermal hot water
- SmartSolar Program provides individualized technical assistance and online assessments of solar potential for Berkeley residents and businesses. Also check out the solar map!
- US Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy- Information on energy efficiency, system cost, installation & maintenance www.eere.energy.gov (navigate to solar water heaters under the program index)
- Federal Tax Break- Check out federal tax credits, see website: www.irs.gov
- Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency– Information on state, local and federal incentives that promote renewable energy www.dsireusa.org
What permits are required by the City of Berkeley to install solar thermal?
All permit applications are available on the Planning website and at the Permit Service Center. Plumbing, electrical permit and building application submittals can be mailed or dropped off at the Permit Service Center.
Solar thermal projects do not require zoning permits or design review (California State Code, Section 65850.5). The Planning Department offers free non-binding design review evaluation of solar equipment installations.
For all building projects requiring Design Review, Planning Department staff will need sufficient information about the solar thermal installation to evaluate the proposed building design. Note: Design Review is generally required in the following Zoning Districts: Manufacturing, Commercial, and some projects in R-4 Districts. Check the Planning website to determine the Zoning District of your property and the applicability of Design Review requirements.
Building and Related Permits
Plumbing permits and possibly electrical permits are required for all solar thermal hot water installations. If structural work is needed to support the system, a building permit will be needed as well. The City of Berkeley encourages the installation of renewable energy systems by providing affordable solar permit fees.
Single Family and Duplex Solar Thermal Plumbing Permit Fees are based on a minimum plumbing permit fee.
Commercial and Multi-Family (3 or more units) Solar Thermal Plumbing Permit Fees are based on a minimum plumbing permit fee. Plan check hourly fees also apply to commercial and multi-family solar thermal installations.
Electrical Permit Fees: An electrical permit fee may be required depending on the system. If needed, the fee will be a minimum electrical permit fee plus a per unit fee for electrical devices installed.
Building Permit Fees: If a building permit is needed to the roof assembly to support the solar thermal system, building permit and plan check fees will be based on the valuation of the structure.
For a complete list of requirements please refer to the Solar Thermal Hot Water Checklist (also available in person, at the Permit Service Center). Submit four sets of plans, minimum 11” x 17”, that include location of equipment, wiring diagram, framing plan of rafters and equipment specification sheets.
Structural plans may be required for reinforcing the roof rafters to carry the additional load. For example, if you have an older building, and the rafters are 2 x 4’s and 32” apart, you will need reinforcement. If you have a truss roof with tile and want to add additional load, you will need to consult an engineer.
Fire Department requires that panels be installed at least 18” down from the ridge of the roof on both sides for one and two unit family dwellings. Fire Department approval is required for commercial and multifamily buildings to ensure site-specific access for fire personnel. For more information please contact the City of Berkeley Fire Department at 510-981-5585.
Why install a solar thermal hot water system?
In November 2006 Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved ballot Measure G to reduce the community’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by the year 2050. By choosing solar thermal hot water, you are helping to green your energy consumption and lower natural gas GHG emissions as part of the Climate Action Plan. To further reduce GHG emissions, consider decreasing your energy consumption by conducting a home performance test and by installing solar electric PV panels. To learn more about Berkeley's Climate Action Plan, please visit: www.cityofberkeley.info/climate or to see how we are doing toward reaching our targets see: www.cityofberkeley.info/climateprogress.
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