California Home Builders Fired Up for Solar Safety

California Home Builders Fired Up for Solar Safety

The popularity of rooftop solar panels grows by the day as we evolve further into the green and smart home revolution, and with that comes a new concern for builders.

Rooftop solar panels could prove a major hindrance to firefighters’ ability to do their jobs. So what is the builder’s role in addressing codes and concerns with their clients?

A Firefighter’s Struggle with Solar

In locations around the U.S., firefighters have been faced with the task of tackling infernos that occur in homes with rooftop solar panels.

Among these issues is a basic learning curve. If a firefighter has never dealt with a house fire involving solar panels before, their ability to properly alleviate the situation may be delayed by simply trying to figure out how to work around the problems caused by panels.

There’s also an electrocution risk if they come into contact with the panels and also limited access to the roof if it’s majorly covered.

Building a Partnership with Builders

A partnership between builders and firefighters to educate the latter on correctly and safely battling fires in homes with solar panels could be a start.

Prevent solar panel rooftop fires with these tips
Prevent solar panel rooftop fires with these tips

But Shawn Evenhaim, CEO of California Home Builders, suggests an even more involved partnership that has been working wonders in addressing codes, concerns and regulations on the West Coast.

“In California, the codes are being updated all the time by different agencies, whom we work together with,” says Evenhaim.

The agencies Evenhaim refers to include the Fire Department, the Department of Building & Safety and the Department of Water and Power. Together, these agencies, along with the builder, can address all the concerns associated with rooftop solar panel safety in the case of fires.

“Builders should look for these examples of how we are working together to integrate solar while still making sure it is safe at the same time,” says Evenhaim. 

A Builder’s Simple Solution to Solar Concerns

Evenhaim, who has been integrating solar as a standard for years with California Home Builders, says there are many ways to address these concerns.

“Firstly, all the buildings we build have fire sprinklers, so that mitigates the risk of a fire when you have one. The second thing is we have many disconnects with various access, so power can be shut down in the case of a fire,” he says.

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Evenhaim adds that part of the roof is always left uncovered to make room for firefighters to break in if needed and water down the house from the top.

These safety precautions along with building educational relationships throughout the community allow for “far less risk than there is concern,” says Evenhaim. He also adds that safety is always the most important thing when it comes to designing and installing rooftop solar panels.

“We want to ensure that our buyers are safe and happy and green,” says Evenhaim.

About The Author

Greg Vellante is a staff writer and multimedia specialist at TecHome Builder, as well as a content coordinator for AE Ventures events. He has over a decade of experience writing for various publications on topics that range from cinema to editorials to home technology. His favorite technologies fall into the A/V and home entertainment realm, and he’s keeping a close eye on the rising trends in robotics and virtual/augmented reality. Greg resides in Boston, holds a degree in Media Studies from Emerson College and pursues screenwriting/filmmaking in his free time.

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  1. Garry Walker

    Assuming your suggestion is correct and the panels are isolated (they probably aren’t) but if they are and there is even a minimum amount of light source the unaffected panels will continue to produce a DC voltage that could be hazardous to the fire fighters. What Greg is saying is as Solar Installers we need to provide fire fighter safety access to the building (even through the roof is sometimes required) to extinguish the fire. Most houses in the USA do not have fire suppression or sprinkler systems and we should consider all possibilities when it comes to person and property safety. The Solar Inverter System (converts DC currents to AC for building consumption) has safety systems and mechanisms in place but may or may not function completely in the event of a fire or severed communications line. The additional new Rooftop Solar System requirement will be allow for potential “fire fighter egress in the event of an emergency” will save lives and property. Thank you Greg for bringing this to our attention.


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