adu california title 24
Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit in California? How Title 24 Impacts you.

Are you looking to build an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) in California? If you haven't heard already, the California Energy Commission changed it's energy code in 2019, impacting the development of your ADU project. Another reason why going solar in California makes so much sense.

What Title 24 Means for Californians Looking to Build an ADU?

Starting January 1, 2020, all new construction, additions, and alterations to residential and commercial property buildings in California will be required to meet net-zero electricity guidelines. Title 24 also impacts residential homeowners because it applies to accessory dwelling units (ADUs). ADUs are often referred to as "secondary units," "granny flats," or "cottages" and are required to meet net-zero electricity guidelines. I'm sure that this raises a few questions like: 

  1. What exactly is Title 24? 
  2. Can I fall under the Title 24 exception?
  3. What does net-zero electricity mean?
  4. What is the minimum number of solar panels needed?
  5. Do I need to calculate how much electricity the new home will use?
  6. Does Title 24 impact other types of buildings like commercial buildings or granny flats? 

There are a lot of questions that Title 24 has created. We will cover these common questions and break down the answers to provide you the information you need to build your ADU successfully. If you're looking for answers around ADUs and how they will be impacted by Title 24, read on. 

What to Know About How California Title 24 Codes Affects You

What is Title 24? Why Should I Care? 

The recently passed California Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards were designed to promote sustainability. It ensures new and existing buildings achieve energy efficiency and preserve outdoor and indoor environmental quality standards and guidelines. These energy efficiency standards apply to additions, alterations, repairs, and new buildings (including Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs). 

What is an ADU? 

Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs might be the next investment that you make into your home. An ADU is a dwelling that is either attached or detached from the main house that exists on the same lot. They are also widely known as mother-in-law apartments, granny-flats, cottages.

building an adu in california
Building an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) in California

Can I avoid Solar my ADU design? Title 24 exceptions?

If you want to avoid solar in your ADU design haven't gotten a permit yet, you can't. If the ADU plans were submitted to the permit office in 2019 and your ADU will qualify under the 2019 laws and can avoid Title 24. 

Otherwise, there are two exceptions:

  1. Correctional facilities like jails 
  2. If you're building a high rise. These codes only impact new buildings under three stories tall. 

How does this impact my ADU Project? 

If you start an ADU project for your home after 2020, you are now adhering to the California energy standard to reduce energy consumption by adding solar panels to your home. ADUs must include a solar energy system that can generate enough to offset the dwelling's annual electrical usage. 

How can I meet Title 24's Net-Zero Electricity Guidelines?

Net-zero electricity's goal is to reduce the use of carbon-based fossil-fuels by offsetting the amount of power we consume with a source that can generate electricity. This means that the total amount of energy that the building consumes on an annual basis must be equal to roughly the same amount of renewable energy that is generated on the site. Thankfully, it isn't required to be net-zero electricity yet. Instead, the guideline as of 2020 is to add a modest-sized solar array to your new building. Each city can have its own set of instructions. For example, Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Lancaster have standards that are above the state's requirements. 

So if you shoot for the goal of achieving net-zero energy, you be ahead of the curve. With the expected energy code changes across the next decade, you won't need to add more solar panels in the future. Plus, your energy consumption is only going to get larger, not smaller. If you're interested in getting prepared for an increase in rate hikes from your utility provider like SCE or PG&E, you'll be glad; you went solar.

We've never had a customer regret not getting more panels; they only regret not getting more panels. Most of our customers have asked to add solar panels to their existing solar energy system. Most homeowners expect that they will use more electricity in the future, not less.

wiring your accessory dwelling unit adu title 24 california solar requirement panels
Wiring your Accessory Dwelling Unit - Now Needs to Consider Solar

The minimum number of solar panels required to meet Title 24? 

Most homeowners want to know the minimum number of panels that are required to add for your ADU. The minimum that we have seen installed on an ADU is to have at least eight (8) panels for 1,000 sqft or less. 

When Do I Need to Worry About it? 

As early as possible because they will be required when submitting your permit to your local permit office. Title 24 impacts your ADUs permit application. You will also need to include site plans, evaluations, design, and what is known as a Title 24 calculation. Title 24 is a state mandate that impacts your local permit office. It impacts how energy efficient a building must be before a permit for the development is approved. 

Common Challenges for Homeowners Building an ADU?

Because ADUs tend to be small, it's harder for designers and architects to design to meet Title 24 regulations, and that requirement will now even more challenging starting in 2020. Also, this may add more upfront costs to your ADU project. 

What Are My Next Steps to Getting Solar for my ADU?

Title 24 is a wonderful initiative that shouldn't hold you back from your ADU project. Now that you have a better understanding of how Title 24 impacts your ADU and the solar requirements, you should know that you need to ensure that your ADU design includes solar in the permit plans. 

Get connected to the tools and experts you need to get started.

Homeowners are now adding solar panels to their homes during the construction of an ADU. Not only can it help drive down the cost of electricity, but it can make your ADU more attractive as a rental as well. Both you and your tenant will receive a significant benefit because you can now pass those electricity cost savings to your tenant's rent. Contact Forme Solar and we can help you or your builder with the design and installation of your solar panels on your ADU.