Everything You Need to Know About the California Solar Initiative

In 2006 the California Public Utilities Commission adopted the California Solar Initiative (CSI) as part of the state’s Go Solar California Campaign.

The goal of the program is to increase the capacity of California’s solar energy production, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decreasing the overall negative impact on the environment.

To accomplish this goal the state implemented a series of rebates and other initiatives to drive solar use.

The most recent update as part of the California Solar Initiative came in May 2018 when the California Energy Commission approved new regulation concerning new construction of low-rise residential buildings, and changes California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards.

The mandate, effective January 1, 2020, and a first of its kind within the United States, requires solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on all new homes.

It’s a move that, according to their press release, will be as effective as removing 115,000 fossil-fueled cars from the road and reduce the energy use of new homes by fifty percent.

The new Standards also establish requirements for newly constructed healthcare facilities.

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the update to the California Solar Initiative.


What are Building Energy Efficiency Standards?

The Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Standards) are part of the California Code of Regulations or CCR (Title 24, Part 6), the administrative law of the state.

They’re part of the mandatory regulations governing California, but individual county and city offices are responsible for verifying and enforcing compliance.

The Standards were originally adopted into the CCR in 1977 and are updated every three years by the California Energy Commission. The Energy Commission aims to “conserve electricity and natural gas and prevent the state from having to build more power plants.”

The Standards apply to newly constructed buildings and additions as well as new alterations to existing buildings. They’re intended to entice builders to use the most energy efficient materials and technologies available, while maintaining the overall cost-effectiveness to homeowners.


What are the newest changes to The Standards & the California Solar Initiative?

The Standards offer a multi-pronged approach towards enhancing environmental quality and reducing energy consumption.

The California Solar Initiative requirement for solar panels on newly built residences is just one of several changes that start in 2020.

Other improvements are intended to prevent heat transfer between the interior and exterior of a building, enhance lighting requirements, and improve indoor air quality. Those are accomplished through measures such as these:

  • Builders and homeowners are encouraged to use demand responsive technologies such as water heaters that use a heat pump, and battery storage. Builders can receive a 25% compliance credit towards the amount of PV they are required to deploy.
  • Commercial structures and family homes over four stories must comply with rules concerning windows, doors, and ventilation systems.
  • Non-residential buildings must be test the efficiency of such things as kitchen exhaust hoods, insulation, and blower doors.
  • Voluntary options to install technology that shifts energy usage during peak and non-peak times.


How much will the new Standards cost?

The initial cost of a newly constructed home is estimated to increase by about $9500 due to 2019 Standards.

Some builders disagree with this estimate and calculate as much as a $30,000 increase in the total cost of a home.

But the Energy Commission expects homeowners to save $19,000 over the course of a typical thirty year mortgage in usage and maintenance expenses.

Homeowners should anticipate that the total cost of a new home will rise about $40 a month as a result of the new requirement.

But these same homeowners should see their monthly heating, cooling, and lighting costs decrease by an average of $80.

The Energy Commission based these estimates on the assumption that homes would have access to and utilize multiple types of fuel, not just solar or just electric.

They anticipate that homeowners will regularly use natural gas as well as other fuels, and will change their fuel source based on cost.

It’s worth mentioning that many sources note that even without these changes solar panels are already being widely used with the construction of new single-family homes at a rate of about 15,000 installations per year.

That number is expected to reach upwards of 80,000 by the time these California Solar Initiative regulations become effective.


How much energy and money will the Standards save?

The press release issued by the Energy Commission compared the energy efficiency of these new regulations to that of the previous update in 2016.

They estimate that homes built to the new standards will use about 7% less energy than homes built to the 2016 standards. When rooftop solar electricity is factored in that estimate jumps to a whopping 53% energy savings.

That should lead to overall cost savings that can be felt on monthly power bills of those homes.

Non-residential buildings should experience thirty percent less energy usage from the enhanced lighting requirements. Once updated windows, insulation, and ventilation are factored in those building owners should see even more savings.

The state contends that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by about 700,000 metric tons over the course of three years.

Detractors of the new initiatives point to California’s high traffic population as the main source of greenhouse emissions and poor air quality, and argue that the savings estimated by the Energy Commission is not enough to offset that pollution.


Are the new residential Standards a move towards “zero net energy?”

In 2008 California set a goal for itself that new homes and commercial buildings would reach such high efficiency that renewable energy could meet the state’s annual energy needs. The target dates are 2020 for residential and 2030 for commercial buildings.

Without a doubt newer homes will be better equipped to meet those demands but the Energy Commission points out that the more important characteristic is the home’s ability to produce and consume energy at appropriate times.

It’s their goal that homes can respond to the ever-changing needs of the power grid they are a part of.

Policies such as the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and Net Energy Metering rules (NEM) that affect the value of power generated from rooftop solar panels have gone a long way towards creating a cleaner electrical grid.

Regardless of if you are in favor of the new California Solar Initiative regulations, it’s something we must get used to.


The Best Fireproof Roof Materials to Protect Your Home This Summer

Most homeowners understand that their home’s roof is an important part of the residence, providing both protection from the elements and helping to maintain a stable temperature. Unfortunately though, many homeowners underestimate the importance of making sure they have fireproof roof materials.

Understanding fireproof roof and safety helps you make good decisions to protect your home.

Why is fire safety an important?

Your roof is a large exposed area, high above the ground, possibly containing a few antennas.

This leaves is prone to accidents and acts of nature.

Depending on where you live, wildfires are a real possibility.

Embers travel far with the wind and can easily spark a fire.

Even if you’re in no danger of wildfires, there are other possibilities to be aware of, especially during the summer.  Some common circumstances include the following:

  • Lightening strikes
  • Fireworks
  • Chimney sparks
  • Bonfire or barbeque embers
  • Sparks from a nearby house fire


What does it mean to have a fireproof roof?

The terms fireproof roof materials and fire resistant materials can be used interchangeably to describe how easily a material burns.

All materials, including those used for roofing, are categorized according to their relative fire resistance.

The independent safety and certification company Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. also known as UL, created standardized categories, or rating, to describe a material’s flammability.

In order to receive a rating, the manufacturer must submit its material for testing.

Having such a rating system helps customers easily distinguish the safety of all fireproof roof materials available to them.

The tests look at three characteristics:

  1. How the flame penetrates through the outside roof material and into the underlying attic,
  2. How the flames spread over the roof’s surface
  3. The degree that the roof material forms embers


The fireproof ratings are referred to as Class A through Class C. Below they’re described in order of increased flammability.


Class A

Class A is the highest rating a material can earn. These are the least flammable materials.

A flame will spread no more than 6 feet; it can withstand a brand measuring one square foot and weighing 2,000 grams; last 2 to 4 hours before igniting; and it can resist igniting through 15 cycles of having a gas flame turned on and off.


Class B

Class B materials were effective against moderate surface fire.

A flame will spread no more than 8 feet; it can withstand a brand measuring six square inches and weighing 500 grams; last an hour before igniting; and it can resist igniting through 8 cycles of having a gas flame turned on and off.


Class C

Class C materials were effective against light surface fire, and are the most flammable.

A flame will spread no more than 13 feet; it can withstand a brand measuring one and a half square inches and weighing a quarter of a gram; last 20 minutes before igniting; and it can resist igniting through 3 cycles of having a gas flame turned on and off.



How safe are common roofing materials?

If your roof was built or repaired by a reputable contractor then you’re in good shape as far as fire safety.

Contractors have to follow strict rules concerning the materials and techniques they’re allowed to use.

Those rules take fire safety into account.

The most fire-safe materials include fiberglass-based asphalt shingles, clay and slate tiles, and concrete tiles.

Pressure treated shingles are less safe. Unsafe materials include plywood, and untreated wood shingles.

Some common fireproof roof materials are described in more detail below:


Fiberglass-based asphalt shingles

Asphalt shingles are by far the most economical and most commonly used roofing materials.

Some estimates note they’re used on about 80% of homes within the U.S.

The exterior of your roof looks like normal asphalt shingles, which are fire resistant on their own.

When combined with a fiberglass underlayment the structure becomes even more resistant to fire, earning a Class A rating.

This roof covering is durable and can last several decades requiring little maintenance.

Care should be taken during heavy winds to make sure no shingles blow off; any bare spots make the roof vulnerable to fire and water damage.


Clay tiles

Clay tiles have proven to be one of the safest roof coverings available.

Clay inherently resists flames and easily dissipates heat. When properly installed they achieve a Class A fire safety rating.

Though more expensive to install than asphalt, homeowners largely find that clay tiles are still affordable.

They’re also extremely durable and can last up to thirty years.

Thanks to modern manufacturing methods clay tiles are available in a number of colors to match any decor.


Slate tiles

Slate, like clay, is a natural material and inherently resistant to fire. It’s been used for centuries to line fireplace hearths.

When properly installed it achieves a Class A fire rating.

It’s important to recognize that slate roofing tile is different than other slate tiles, like the ones used for flooring.

Slate used for roofing is thicker and heavier than other tiles.

That thickness is part of what helps it achieve its Class A rating because it’s not easily chipped where fire can penetrate through.

Slate is a more expensive roofing material, but it’s been known to last nearly a hundred years.

The slate roofs of many historic homes have survived over 70 years, without the benefit of modern construction techniques.

And since it’s heavier than other roofing materials you need to make sure your framing is strong enough to support it.


Pressure-treated wood shingles

Wood shingles offer unsurpassed style and warmth but pose more of a fire risk than other materials.

Achieving good fireproof roof safety depends on how the roof is installed and maintained.

A roof that hasn’t been well maintained may be brittle and have empty exposed areas.

Also, wood roofs usually require regular sealing to maintain its effectiveness against fire.



Your home’s roof is a big investment and serves many important functions.

Although homeowners are largely familiar with other roofing maintenance requirements, most aren’t knowledgeable about the risk of fire, and the importance of fireproof roof materials.

Summer is an especially likely time to be concerned with fire.

Understanding your risk, the basics of fire safety, and the different types of fireproof roof materials will ultimately help you have a safe fun summer in your home.



Common Questions About Fire Resistance

What Causes House Fires?

Wildfires, lightening strikes, fireworks, chimney sparks, bonfire or barbecue embers, sparks from a nearby house fire.

What are Fire Rating Classifications for Roofing Materials?

Class A ratings are the least flammable; a flame will spread no more than 6 ft. Class B ratings are effective against moderate surface fire, and flames will spread no more than 8 ft. Class C materials are effective against light surface fire and are the most flammable; a flame will spread roughly 13 ft.

How are Roof Materials Rated?

Fire rating classifications are based on: how the flame penetrates through the outside roof into the attic, how the flames spread over the roof’s surface, and the degree that the roof material forms embers.

What are the Best Fire Resistant Roofing Materials?

Fiberglass asphalt shingles (Class A), clay tiles (Class A), slate tiles (Class A), pressure-treated wood shingles (Class A).