guide to getting permits for
Solar Thermal Hot Water Installations
In hot water?
Did you know, space and water heating are responsible for approximately 75%
of all greenhouse gas emissions. 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. The City of Berkeley
encourages the installation of renewable energy systems by providing affordable
solar thermal permit fees.
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
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
• 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
• Federal Tax Break- You can receive up to $2,000 in a federal tax credit 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?
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
A program of the equipment installations.
City of Berkeley For all building projects requiring Design Review, Planning Department staff will need sufficient
Green Building Initiative information about the solar thermal installation to evaluate the proposed building design.
2009 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 & 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
Planning Department Website: www.CityofBerkeley.info/Planning
Solar Thermal Hot Water Permit Guide
Building & Related Permits Continued
(building, plumbing and electrical may be required)
Permit Service Center
All permit applications are available on the Planning website and at the Permit 2120 Milvia Street, Berkeley CA 94704
Service Center. Plumbing, electrical permit and building application submittals Phone: 510-981-7500
can be mailed or dropped off at the Permit Service Center. Hours: M,T,Th,F 8-5pm, W 10-5pm
(financial transactions end at 4pm;
Submittal Requirements check website for closures)
For a complete list of requirements please refer to the Solar Thermal Hot Water
Checklist (available in the Planning section of the Online Service Center at www.cityofberkeley.info/onlineservice or in per-
son, 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 Berkley Fire Department at
Residential Single Family and Duplex Solar Thermal Commercial and Multi-Family (3 or more units) Solar
Plumbing Permit Fees Thermal Plumbing Permit Fees
Are $119.70 per installation (minimum plumbing permit Are $119.70 per installations (minimum plumbing permit
fee). fee). Commercial & multi-family solar thermal plumbing plan
check fees are based on an hourly fee of $152 per hour.
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 (currently $119.70 ) 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.
Why Install Solar Thermal?
Berkeley Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Residential natural gas is the largest source of greenhouse gas by Source (2005)
emissions from buildings. In November 2006 Berkeley voters over-
whelmingly approved ballot Measure G to reduce the community’s
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by the year 2050. The Transportation
chart, illustrates these emissions by source. By choosing solar ther- Natural Gas
mal hot water, you are helping to green your energy consumption 36%
and lower natural gas GHG emissions as part of the Climate Action
Plan. To further reduce GHG emissions, consider decreasing your Electricity
energy consumption by conducting a home performance test and by 18%
installing solar electric PV panels. To learn more, please visit
Planning Department Website: www.CityofBerkeley.info/Planning