Effective January 1, 2015, all photovoltaic (PV) solar systems installed on rooftops throughout California must have the same fire rating as the rooftop itself. Prior to these revised fire ratings standards, solar panels were fire tested independently of the roof. The new fire resistance standards evaluate the flammability characteristics of the entire “PV system” which includes the solar panels assembled with the solar mounting (also known as racking or rails).
The solar panels, mounting hardware and roof covering are tested together as a PV system to ensure the system achieves the same fire rating as the roof covering. The testing evaluates the system’s ability to resist flame spread, burning material and structural damage to the roof.
California leads the way for adopting the new Underwriters Laboratories (UL) updated 1703 Standards where rooftop mounted photovoltaic systems shall be tested, listed and identified with a fire classification. Due to wildfire concerns, California has the most Class A and B roof fire requirements, some existing roofs may qualify for solar with a Class C roof which is the International Building Code’s (IBC) general requirement for roofs.
All manufacturers of solar panels and mounting had to have their products rated or typed. Clean Solar has partnered with IronRidge solar mounting systems. The simplicity and precision of the IronRidge photovoltaic mounting components has collectively helped to streamline solar installation projects, which is why they have received a Class A Fire Rating, the highest possible rating (August 2014).
Solar Panels are given a Type classification based on their fire performance and construction parameters. The goal is to certify a mounting system to provide similar fire performance for many different solar panels. The four solar panel brands installed by Clean Solar (SunPower, LG, SolarWorld and Canadian Solar) have received a Type 1 or Type 2 classification which mean that all our installations meet fire code. We continue to proactively address all safety concerns throughout the entire solar installation process.
The new fire code requirements provide a design standard with the intent of giving firefighters the ability to fight fires on roofs. It also provides homeowners with “extra piece of mind” that in the event of a fire, the PV system installed on their roof will not accelerate the fire, but actually slow it down.