Solar power is growing increasingly popular around the country. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 47% of U.S. homeowners have either installed a solar panel system or have given serious thought to doing so over the past year.
In Texas, the warm climate and sunny skies offer a perfect setting for solar power. Homeowners can lower their electricity bills and enjoy a greener energy alternative. There are many pros and cons to switching to solar in Texas, but the benefits typically outweigh the costs.
If you’ve been considering a solar panel system, you may be wondering about the legal requirements involved. Thankfully, setting up your system is pretty easy in Texas, but there are still some things to know.
Use this blog to understand how to meet the rules and regulations of setting up a solar panel system in Texas.
Can I install a solar panel system myself in Texas?
Unfortunately, no. Even if you’re handy and knowledgeable about electrical systems, you can’t set up your own solar panels.
Though you can buy solar panels and learn how to install them yourself, doing so may cause significant problems. You may damage the panels or your home. You can also get into legal trouble for setting up your system without the proper permits and licensing.
Instead, you should research and find a local qualified solar panel professional. These companies are licensed and certified to provide systems for Texas homes. With their legal qualifications, you’ll know that they’re qualified to set up your solar panels.
Plus, a solar panel professional will handle all of the permits and paperwork you need to install your system. Without their help, you can’t meet your legal requirements.
How can I find certified solar installers?
Numerous companies offer solar panel installation, but how do you know which ones meet local and federal requirements?
First, these providers should hold an industry-standard certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This certification means that they meet national standards for solar panel installation. You can ask the company about this certification before hiring them.
Additionally, solar companies should have a Texas Electrical Contractor’s License (TECL), awarded by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). You should be able to find the company’s TECL number on all of its marketing materials, including business cards, websites, advertisements, and more.
After verifying a solar installer’s accreditations, look into their ratings and reviews. Qualified does not mean quality. Check the company’s rating on the Better Business Bureau website, as well as customer reviews on Google, SolarReviews, and more. Ensure the company delivers a great product and experience before giving them your money.
Can homeowners associations (HOAs) restrict solar panels?
Homeowners associations can have significant power over what you do with your home and yard. If they don’t approve your projects, they can fine you or even place a lien on your home.
This control extends to solar panel systems as well. Previously in Texas, homeowners couldn’t install solar power if their HOAs disapproved of the project. This left many Texans frustrated and stuck paying higher energy costs.
In 2011, Texas passed House Bill 362 to address this issue. This law prohibits HOAs, as well as property owners associations (POAs), from restricting solar panel systems. It also prevents these organizations from creating unreasonable restrictions on homeowners for solar energy.
To install a solar device in an HOA-controlled neighborhood, you still have to follow the association’s normal processes for home improvement projects. You have to create a written request or application for the solar panel system, submitting it to the appropriate Architecture Review Committee or a similar organization.
Following the appropriate process doesn’t guarantee HOA approval, however. Your neighborhood’s committee still has legal grounds to deny your request if:
- The solar devices you want to install are illegal or fail to meet public health and safety regulations
- You want to install them on common property in the neighborhood
- The solar panels aren’t parallel to the roofline, extend higher than the roofline, or fail to conform to the slope of the roof when installed
- Your ground-mounted solar panel system extends above your fence
- The installation voids the warranties in any way
- Any parts of your solar devices aren’t silver, bronze, or black in tone
- You install the system before getting approval from the HOA
Homeowners associations also have the power to choose where your solar panels will be installed on your roof. You can petition the board to use an alternative location, but only if the location they choose will affect your energy production. You will have to use a tool offered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, such as the PVWatts Calculator, to prove that it would cause a decrease of more than 10% in your estimated annual energy production.
Can developers prohibit solar panel systems in new neighborhoods?
No, thanks to State Bill 1626. Under this law, developers can only prohibit solar panels in subdivisions that have 50 or fewer homes.
Previously, developers could prohibit these systems in any neighborhoods that were still being built. Companies would sometimes claim that subdivisions were indefinitely in development so they could continue banning solar panels.
SB 1626 closed that loophole to give homeowners more control over their homes and energy sources.
How can I qualify for rebates and tax credits?
For most solar rebates and savings, you will have to research the specific requirements given by the program or company.
To qualify for the federal solar tax credit, you have to be a taxpayer in the U.S. You may be eligible if you meet these criteria:
- You installed your solar panel system between January 1, 2017, and December 3, 2034
- You purchased your system with cash or through financing
- You’re claiming the credit for your system’s original installation, meaning it’s new or being used for the first time
Speak with a tax professional to make sure you’re eligible. You can then submit IRS Form 5695 with your annual tax return to claim your credit.