Renewable Energy Installations

Building Regulations and renewable energy installations

In relation to renewable energy installations, the Building Regulations apply if you need to undertake any structural alterations/strengthening work to a building as part of the installation or provide or extend a "controlled service". A controlled service is a service or fitting to which Part J (combustion appliances) Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) and Part P (Electrical Safety) applies.

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This means that even where the energy source itself does not require a Building Regulation application, for instance a free standing wind turbine, the alteration to the existing electrical system or heating / hot water system does and an application is required for at least part of the work in most instances.

Alterations to electrical systems in non-domestic buildings is not controllable work.

Additional factors which need to be considered for the various renewable products most commonly available today are shown below.

Solar panels

These gather energy radiated by the sun and transfer it to heat water.  They are usually secured to the top surface of a roof structure.  You will need to ensure that the roof structure is suitable to support their weight and consider how the panels are to be fixed and how the weather tightness of the roof will be maintained.

If the roof structure requires strengthening Building Regulation approval will be required as part of the application. New pipework should be insulated in accordance with the Domestic Heating Compliance Guide.

Wind turbines

These catch the winds' energy via blades and using a gearbox and generator convert this to electricity. In all domestic cases Building Regulation approval is required for the electrical installation work and this should comply with the requirements of Part P, Electrical Safety. An application would not be required for Part P work if it is to be carried out by an electrician registered with a relevant competent person scheme.

If the turbine is to be secured to a building, Building Regulation approval will be required. Wind turbines will exert a force on the structure that will have to be resisted by its fixings and it will be necessary to prove that the structure and fixings are capable of supporting the loads applied. Wind turbines should not be fixed to chimneys.

Approval will be required under Part P for free standing turbines. An application would not be required for Part P work if it is to be carried out by an electrician registered with a relevant competent person scheme.

Photovoltaic panels

These convert sunlight directly into DC electricity.  Using a converter and other equipment this is delivered to the buildings system in AC format.

Building Regulation approval is required for the electrical installation work and this should comply with the requirements of Part P. An application would not be required for Part P work if it is to be carried out by an electrician registered with a relevant competent person scheme.

With regard to the structure, you need to consider how the panels are to be fixed and ensure that the roof structure is suitable to support their weight and consider how the weather tightness of the roof will be maintained. If the roof structure requires strengthening, information will be required as part of the application.

Biomass boilers

Most biomass boilers use wood fuel and can now be up to 90% efficient.  An installation of any new or replacement boiler requires Building Regulation approval.

An application would not be required if it is to be carried out by an installer registered with a relevant competent person scheme.

Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps make use of renewable energy stored in the ground. They can be installed in most of the UK, using a borehole or shallow trenches or, less commonly, by extracting heat from a pond or lake.  Heat collecting pipes in a closed loop, containing water (with a little antifreeze) are used to extract this stored energy, which can then be used to provide space heating and domestic hot water. 

Any alteration or extension to the heating or electrical systems requires an application unless the installer is a member of an appropriate self certification scheme. 

Air source heat pumps

An air source heat pump extracts heat from the outside air in the same way that a fridge extracts heat from its inside.  It can extract heat from the air even when the temperature is a low as minus 15OC.

Any alteration or extension to the heating or electrical systems requires an application unless the installer is a member of an appropriate self certification scheme.