We'll be focusing on single-family homes in developed communities so this does not include condos. The first thing you want to do when deciding that you want to build an ADU is to go to your Homeowner Association (HOA) and discuss the project with them. Remember, HOAs cannot prohibit your ADU build, what they can do is talk about design so they can talk about the architectural design, they can talk about the color of your roof, they can talk about the color of your house but they cannot prohibit. Now the same rule goes for California State Law, City law and, HOAs. You can submit your ADU to the HOA, they have 60 days to allow you the build and give you the permit and if they don't, you can discuss that with them but they have 60 days so that goes for the HOA, it goes for the city that you live in and that's a California law.
Now onto the latest ADU Solar Requirements. The burning question about this certain topic is, “does everybody need solar panels?” the answer's no, not everybody needs them though it really depends on your project. In this post, we're going to go through all the details and give you a better idea of whether you need to use solar panels or not. So who needs solar panels? The Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in California put out a really specific update that said, “if you're building new detached ADUs that are not manufactured and they're not the conversion of an existing structure then you need to install solar panels”, or at least the city or county are supposed to apply the standards in part 6 of Title 24—that's the part that's got the solar requirement for small residential. Even within that, there's going to be some exemptions and even if you have to install solar then you have options as well.
Some of the queries you may have along the way would be:
With regards to ADU conversions, the California Energy Commission (CEC) stated that the state law only requires solar panels for new construction units. So, if you could be construed as an alteration or an addition, you'll be part of the solar panel exemptions. And so, if you're turning part of your existing house into an ADU and that's obviously a conversion, alteration, or addition, you need not worry about this latest solar panel update. On the other hand, if you're tearing down the garage completely like you have a detached garage, you're just tearing it down and starting over from scratch, that's still an alteration or addition so you might as well submit it as such.
With the aforementioned information, you can now submit a permit application and say you're having a detached accessory structure and you'll be converting it into an ADU. However, if the city says you still need to have solar panels because you're building a new structure then you can make the CEC memo as a reference, qualifying your ADU conversion as a home addition or alteration.
Another really good point is these manufactured ADUs. So, if your ADU is manufactured, then they have to comply with a bunch of other laws. Manufactured ADUs are approved at the state level by Title 25 and so they have different requirements. A lot of modular companies are installing manufactured ADUs, a lot of mobile homes and Tiny House on Wheels Solutions are manufactured (although you have to put them on a foundation for them to be ADUs). The good news is, if you're all set to place your manufactured ADU, you wouldn't be required to install it with solar panels, that's one less problem for Californian homeowners.
Let's dive into some of the options you could still make use of even if you happen to be required to install solar panels. So you know you're building a detached, new construction, non-manufactured ADU and you think you need solar, even within that camp, there are a few things that might exempt you from it. For example, if you have a tiny roof if there's just not enough contiguous square footage to have a solar array there are some exceptions in a CEC memo. And then if you're not going to get enough sunlight because it's obstructed or the part of your roof that would get sunlight isn't getting enough sunlight, it's time you get to talk to a professional—they'll walk you through the tiniest details on how to be exempted from the solar panel requirement.
If you do install solar, you still got options. Solar panels aren't automatically required in every ADU, you just need to include solar panels in your plan set. So
So there are lots of options even when you do need to comply with solar panel requirements. After all, it is still not a bad idea to have one in your homes. It could be good for the environment, it could be good for your pocketbook, it can be good for a lot of different reasons. So consider solar even if Title 24 doesn't require you. There's a lot of company that will help you finance it so think about it. This is an essential subject, it can really slow down your permits and cost you time and money if you go in without realizing whether you need panels or not.