Solar has emerged as the shining star of the alternative energy industry (pun intended). Photovoltaics has experienced tremendous growth in commercial and residential sectors as companies, corporations and private citizens seek to reduce reliance on non-renewable fuels and build a clean, sustainable future. As the solar sector matures, requirements for labeling are becoming more clear and cohesive. What do solar installers need to know to ensure they are in compliance with the NEC and IFC?
The Growth of Solar
As of the second quarter of 2015, solar has supplied 40 percent of all new electric generating capacity. With over 22,700 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity, solar generates enough power to operate more than 4.6 million US homes.
The cost to install solar equipment has declined by an astonishing 73 percent since 2006, and a new solar product is installed every two minutes. As prices decline and more infrastructures are added, it inevitably means more installers and first-responder personnel come into contact with photovoltaic equipment.
The NEC (National Electric Code) and IFC (International Fire Code) enacted labeling requirements to ensure the safety of these professionals in the event of emergencies. But these regulations were not always clear. As Todd Fries writes in Solar Industry Mag, “The industry is young, and the codes and regulations are so diverse that most installers are left on their own to figure out how to ensure they pass inspect while still meeting the labeling requirements….”
This is one area in which installers cannot afford confusion or to be “left on their own to figure” it out.
Labeling PV Equipment
To prevent injury and help identify various components and devices, installers need tags for:
- AC disconnect and point of connection.
- DC disconnect.
- Function boxes.
- Back-fed breakers.
- Individual breakers.
- Switches and circuit breakers.
- Main service line.
- AC service section and sub panels.
- Hazards and warnings.
- Shingled roofs where circuits are embedded.
The NEC requires the labels to be made of a “durable, unalterable material permanently attached to the device.” We custom-make high-quality engraved plastic labels to help ensure installers are in compliance.
Updated IFC standards define the required color, text size, and other aspects of the label. For example, the labels must be red, reflective, and use white text that is visible from a distance – 3/8 inch. The idea is that firefighters and other emergency workers need to be able to ascertain the level of danger at a glance. Labels also need to be able to withstand the install environment (temperature, wind, rain, snow, ice, and, of course, sun).
Labeling requirements may be complex – but ordering and receiving them couldn’t be simpler. We ensure that installers have the signage they need, quickly, and most importantly, accurately.