Solar Panels and Zoning
Make Sure Your Solar Panels Don’t Cost You More Money!
Before you order your do-it-yourself home solar energy system and start building your own solar panels, you might want to save yourself a big headache (and loads of money!) by looking into your local zoning. If you live on acreage in an unincorporated area, you might still be subject to some state restrictions. So it is always wise do ask some questions and do some research at the beginning of your solar panel project’s planning process (instead of waiting until the money has been spent!).
Solar Panels Restrictions In The United States
In the United States, zoning restrictions usually are the least restrictive at the federal level. They become increasingly restrictive at the most local levels. This normally means , the state is less restrictive than the county; the county is less restrictive than the town or city; the town or city is less restrictive than the homeowners’ association. If you do your zoning research at the most restrictive level applicable to your location, you should be OK.
If you live in a community that has a homeowner’s association, start there. Find out if there are rules about installing solar panels (or any structures) on your roof, or if there are rules about the kind of roofing materials you can use. It’s not the end of the world if your discover restrictions. You’ll just have to develop a proposal that your association board will find so appeal that they’ll approve it with ease.
Your Solar Panels Friend Is The Local Planning Office
If your zoning comes from your town or city regulations, you’ll need to go the planning office and find out what your local zoning laws say about solar panel installations. It may take you some time to find out exactly who to talk with; it may be the zoning department, or the planning department, or the building code department. But once you uncover the proper authority, find out what solar panel permits you need, and what the process is that you’ll need to follow. If there are no town or city zoning codes in place that cover solar panels, you’ll need to research at the next level.
The next zoning authority level is your county. If you can find the county website online, you may be able to get answers without having to visit the county offices in person. Either way, though, you’ll need to find out which department handles zoning and permits, and get your answers there. If the county has no zoning regarding solar panels, keep asking questions. Someone at the county level should be able to tell you whether your state has any laws in place.
Ask Solar Panel Suppliers And Installers
You can also approach all of this research by finding local solar equipment suppliers and installers. Since the zoning regulations affect their businesses, they’ll usually know exactly what the laws are, if any. Be sure you ask a reputable, licensed business person, though. And double check their answers, don’t just rely on what they tell you. With solar panels, as with any “home improvement” there are a lot of scams out there that are easy to avoid by doing a little research of your own.
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