New Home Roofs Must Be Solar Ready in 2014

Russ Steele

If your build a house in 2014 the roof must be solar ready. That means the broad areas of the roof must face south, the roof cannot be shaded by trees, attic vents, skylights, vent pipes and chimneys will not be placed in the broad expanse of the roof most suited for solar panels.  Details are in this Mercury News Article:

State regulators with the California Energy Commission are expected to approve stringent energy efficiency standards for new residential and commercial buildings Thursday.

The new standards, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

. . . the proposed standards also require new homes and commercial buildings to have “solar ready roofs.

Rooftop solar systems use photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity. But their performance is affected by many factors, from the age of the roof to how it is situated — ideally, it should face south.”Shading” is also an issue: Roofs should have clear, unobstructed access to the sun for most of the day. Attic vents, fans, skylights and chimneys can also influence how many solar panels a roof can hold.

The new regulations update Building Energy Efficiency Standards contained in the California Code of Regulations, commonly known as Title 24. Home and building owners will not be required to install solar panels, but if they choose to do so, their roof will be ready.

“This will be great for everybody who buys a house and wants to put solar on the roof,” Commissioner Karen Douglas said in an interview Wednesday. “Your roof must be able to support a solar photovoltaic system.”

If we were to apply this standard to our home, I would have to cut down the oak trees that shade our house in the summer, but lose their leaves in the winter allowing the sun to shine on our solar house. We have large windows facing south, which are shaded by the oak trees in the summer but allow in the winter sun. If I cut the oaks down, so we can have solar panels on the roof, then we do not get the summer shade cooling benefit. The most summer days we have ever run the AC is 12 days one summer. It was 2 days last summer. Now, If I cut down the oaks, pines and cedars that shade the house, the number of days we have to use the AC will jump consuming electrical energy.

There is one thing in the new standard that I do approve. Whole-house fans. It is the whole house fan that lets us avoid turning on the AC.

Other standards for new homes include requiring whole-house fans, which use evening air to cool homes and attics and reduce the need for central air conditioning, and improved window performance to reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. 

If you are planning to place your house for the best view, that view better be to the south or you are SOL, your new house has to be oriented to collect the sun, views will not count, shade trees for summer cooling do not count. Our nanny government has once remove one more of our freedoms to choose. You may choose to not install solar panels, but your house and roof must be solar panel ready, no shade, possible not view and no skylights to let in the winter sun to warm you house.



About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

21 Responses to New Home Roofs Must Be Solar Ready in 2014

  1. Dixon Cruickshank says:

    what if your lot sits east and west – does that mean you have to situate the house long ways on the lot when all existing houses face the street – kinda kills the ” backyard”

    only in California

  2. Dena says:

    Been there, done that. Our condo in Anaheim came with two copper tubes sticking out of the roof that came out in the garage for a solar hot water heater. After about 20 years not one unit installed a roof hot water heater so when it came time to replace the roof, they just cut the things off instead of going through the expense of sealing around the pipes to keep the water from leaking through the roof. I guess if somebody wants to install one, they could poke two holes in the roof but our gas bill was always less than $40 a month for hot water, heating and cooking so why bother spending on a solar collector that will reduce the gas bill by very little.
    As for whole house fans, they work better in California than they do here in Arizona. In Arizona you would be better off to set the house up with an air conditioner for the hot weather and an evaporative cooler for the warm wether. There just aren’t that many days a year that a whole house fan would work in Arizona. In california, we would put fans in the second story sliding door and cool the unit off at night. We were able to get by with only one or two months of air conditioner. Same idea as a whole house fan but with a little more work.

    • stevefrisch says:

      I have at least 3 relatives in Arizona, two of whom control their entire house with a whole house fans and evaporative coolers instead of air conditioning, and one of whom has air conditioning and an evaporative cooler and only uses the cooler. The whole house fan crew lives in Phoenix and Tucson respectively, and the “little air conditioning” one in Phoenix. They are all very adept at 1) having good landscaping that shades their homes during the day 2) covering outdoor areas surrounding their homes with shade structures, 3) using indoor blinds and tinted windows to reduce solar heating mid-day. Of course this does not work well with the current housing stock of multi-family residential–but then that is what a building code is all about right? setting up to recover costs later for an initial investment in new construction. The bottom line is Californians pay a little more for electricity than the rest of the nation but use less than half as much per capita, so we realize the savings down the road. The crew here will never acknowledge that.

      (By the way, I loved the post several days ago from the business that is moving his company to Washington because power is cheaper….I wonder if he realizes that power is cheaper in Washington because the US government created a public power agency and financed dams on the Columbia River to create that cheap power….in other words, what those here would call…damn socialism)

      • SteveF, the dams and bridges are socialism built eh? You liberals are too much. Where did the money come from to build the bridge? Maybe the pockest of the middle class? Your logic is totally bogus.

      • stevefrisch says:

        I know you have a hard time recognizing irony, but to be clear, I don’t think the Columbia River projects were socialism–I think they were a legitimate function of government.

      • Dena says:

        An evaporative cooler is a whole house fan if you turn the water off. It just works in the opposite direction. The big problem with an evaporative cooler is at best you get 20 to 25 degrees temperature drop. If the humidity is high, the number will be less. On the other hand, when it hits 118 outside, a 20 degree drop isn’t going to do it. I lived for many years with an evaporative cooler and most of the time it worked well. On the other hand, I was younger and the heat didn’t bother me much. For someone older who is not careful about their water intake, 100 degrees is not a good thing. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to have an air conditioner as a backup.
        I also live in a socialist community better known as an home owners association. We have restriction as to how big and the type of trees we can plant as well as how we can change the appearance of our house, They are far less restrictive that the rules that applied to the condo, but they are restrictions none the less which eliminates several options.

      • stevefrisch says:

        Well according to the principles professed here: you make the choice you pay the price. Seems hard to believe that your socialist HOA restricts shade…..perhaps what vegetation you use for shade….but restricting shade in a desert? Sounds like appearances are much more important than economy to your HOA….but then, your choice your price.

      • Dena says:

        Tree size is limited to something about the size of an Orange tree as the lots are 1/6 acre and you don’t want your tree taking out a neighbors house. Land cost are high so the days of the acre lot are gone unless you are willing to pay big time or move way out. My mothers house is on an acre and for a while, people were wiling to pay $100,000 for the house just to tear it down and build something else on the property. Yes, it is in a good location and it is horse property.

  3. gjrebane says:

    Another butt stupid regulation from socialism run wild. I’m not even in favor of the whole house fan regulation. If someone wants to put in a whole house fan – a good idea BTW – then they can. But only if they want it, not because omitting it would make them criminals.

    • Russ says:

      Excellent point George. We love out whole house fan, but as you point out it should be a home bulder option. Two of our children had them installed post purchase and the third is planning on it this summer.

  4. RL Crabb says:

    Ever seen that house along 101 in Marin County that used to rotate? That’s your answer. Make your roof follow the sun. Should only add a paltry 20 or 30 grand to your building costs.

  5. Brad Croul says:

    I found this section that (I think) says shading by trees is considered by the ordinance.

    Shading. The Solar Zone(s) shall be minimally shaded by vents, chimneys, architectural
    features, mechanical equipment or other obstructions that are on the roof or any other part
    of the building. Any vent, chimney, or other architectural feature shall be a minimum
    distance of twice the height from the reserved roof area(s).
    – Exception 5 to Section 150(q)1: Any vent, chimney, or other architectural feature to
    the north of the reserved roof area(s) shall be exempt from the minimum shading
    – Exception 6 to Section 150(q)1: Shading from trees, utility poles, other
    buildings, and other non-building sources are not included in the minimal shading

    The whole building does not have to be oriented for solar. Only some portion of the roof. So, it might take some creative roofing design (adding additional expense to the design).

    Here is a link,

    I think that making sure new developments are designed for passive heat and cooling and solar retrofitting is a good idea.

    You should also be able to put solar panels somewhere else on the property besides your house.

    I like the idea of making houses solar and whole-house-fan ready. Having never built my own house, I have had to live with the (obsolete) design ideas of the original builders. I was not able to get a great solar orientation for my solar panels here in Nevada City but that was partly due to to the shape of the lot and its orientation.

    If no one wants to be forced into insulating, designing for passive heating/cooling, or for providing for other conservation measures, then expect rolling blackouts and rationing and higher energy costs.

  6. Build some more dams and allow more selectivity generating plants. We have plenty of power available. I am sick and tired of the nanny state. When one adds up all the crap government is forcing on the new house and all the subsidies for “solar” and the “green” power, one has to be plain stupid to see the the “benefits” of the nannues.

  7. Redman2 says:

    Reply to stevefrisch from the guy who is moving to Washington State:
    I’m quite aware of the reason for cheap electricity in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s called the Columbia River. With or without government built dams, the abundance of so much potential hydro capacity would have led to cheap electricity. Or do you think all those PG&E hydro projects without dams in the Sierra were the result of some far thinking apparatchik in Sacramento or DC?

    But don’t worry steve, people just like you are trying their best to get Bonneville Power to remove the dams. They’ve started with an assault up stream in Idaho with attempts to remove dams on the Snake River. If they succeed, then you will be able to gloat that Washington has expensive power just like California. Many of the local utilities are county owned PUD’s that buy power from Bonneville, and as here in California with PG&E, they are being mandated to go green. Since sunshine is at a premium up there, they have gone wind. Want to know how many birds they chop up to “save” the environment and how ugly they are blocking those beautiful views of the Columbia Gorge?

    Maybe I’m just buying time with the move north. But I do know that given current demographics, years of liberal indoctrination in California schools, and the approach of super-majority Democrat control in government here, that this state is going to get much worse to operate a business. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

  8. stevefrisch says:

    You missed the point Redman. The reason the power is cheap is that the power (Bonneville Power Administration) was created by the federal government, was publicly financed, and required to operate for the benefit of the customer – there are no stockholders in a federally created public utility, so there is no need to earn dividends for investors. Consequently BPA, who supplies more than 1/3 of all power in the Pacific Northwest, maintains substantially lower rates for customers, and tends to act as a competitor to keep private power prices cheaper in the region. Private power companies in the very same Pacific northwest are still charging about 3 times what the BPA charges for wheeled power to local suppliers. So, in short, you are full of beans when you say the private power would have done the same thing.

    By the way, most hydro power in California is also a result of government investment, not private investment; as it should be, because private parties do not OWN a river, or the water in a river, they are a public resource, owned by the people.

    Such a project (BPA or the Central Valley Project or the State Water Project) could never even be considered under the philosophy professed here. It would be roundly attacked as socialism. As a matter of fact, many here have roundly claimed that such New Deal programs were failures. Yet here you are, professing to move your company there, taking advantage of the cheap power created by the ‘socialist’ FDR.

    By the way, I don’t think you know what “people like me think” about removing dams….I have never spoken to you about it here. I would not remove dams that still provide their public purpose efficiently. I would agree that in cases where it is practicable fish passage should be created because there is a legitimate public interest in biological diversity.

  9. Redman2, good luck up in Washington. We see the results of a lefty run state here and it is not pretty. Unfortunately, it won’t change because the democrats are unwilling to vote for anyone but a democrat and since they are the majotiry, it will never change. If the left practiced what they preach about _non partisan, then we would have many very qualified men and women freom the right in place as well. One only needs to watch and listen to the state legislature to see the dregs of the left, elected by unyielding democrat voters, gloating in the Crapitol. That is why I have no room to listen to SteveF’s crapola about the “middle”. So the dem dregs will try and tear down the dams like in the Knlamath and we will try to stop them,

  10. Seems to me that if the home owner provides a nearby, (less than 200 feet) spot that is oriented properly and unshaded, that it should be an option. Of course a whole house fan will do less work if the roof is shaded by solar panels. Allowances should also be made for lots that are on the north side of a steep hillside, where only massive logging would give winter solar efficiency. Ground level panels can have more complex aiming mechanism that are easily adjustable through the season, and the panels are easier to clean. Trees are our friends, and do reduce the cost of energy needed to keep a house comfortable. BTW, daytime whole house fans that pull in from the outside air, rather than sucking the precious cooler overnight air inside the house, are a good idea.

  11. Redman2 says:

    Stevefrisch, I don’t have the time to answer you fully. But I disagree totally with your assertion that it is a legitimate function of government to commandeer natural resources like water to the public domain. Private ownership was clouded in California and most of the West because so much watershed remained in government ownership. Under this collectivist belief all water including groundwater is owned by government. And that theory is now slowly being implemented here. What have just been proforma county drilling permits will be expanded to metered wells. Water rights associated with land ownership will be voided. It is already happening with any well that is considered commercial, that is, more than one user on the same well. Next will be individual wells.
    Above ground water rights are also being revoked. The Klammath basin is only a start. I know what I’m talking about here, Steve, because I inherited and for now anyway, own deeded water rights. The clause in the Appropriative Water Rights law that states “put to a beneficial use” is the one being used to confiscate without payment water rights owned individually. Farming or watering pasture is considered less “beneficial” than running the water out into the ocean for the “benefit” of threatened fish species like delta smelt or salmon.
    That FDR red herring won’t work anymore. A full scale assault on individual property rights and on business is taking place in this state. AB32 is the poster child for it, and is the final straw, and why I’m selling my family homestead, moving my business, and getting out of this wannabe People’s State. Where did you go to school Steve, Berkeley?

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