Considering the installation of a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system is a commendable step toward sustainable & reliable energy. However, it’s crucial to prioritise safety and compliance throughout the entire process. This comprehensive guide to rooftop solar installations in South Africa will help you make informed decisions, evaluate service providers, and understand key requirements before, during, and after installation.

Why Safety Matters

Poorly installed and illegally connected solar PV systems pose significant safety risks. These include the potential for electrical fires, electric shocks, compromised power quality on the electricity grid and risks to electricity staff working on the network. To ensure a safe and legal installation, it’s essential to consider the type of PV system, adhere to safety checklists, and follow guidelines from local authorities.

Types of PV Systems

Understanding the types of PV systems is a fundamental step in ensuring the safety and legality of your installation:

  • Grid-Tied PV Systems:
    Can be connected directly or through internal wiring.
    Export or no-export options are available.
    Considered grid-tied with export if excess electricity is allowed onto the grid.
  • Grid-Tied Hybrid Systems:
    Can disconnect from the grid and operate in load-shedding scenarios.
    Offers flexibility in power supply.
  • Standby PV Systems:
    Supplies electrical loads either through PV or the grid but not both simultaneously.
    Two types: passive standby UPS and alternative supply (whats the difference?).

Checklists for Safe and Legal Installations

Before Installing a PV System:

  • Become More Electricity-Efficient:
    Enhance efficiency before installation to reduce the required PV system size and cost. Consider energy-efficient appliances and alternative heating solutions. Choose a reputable installer that has the relevant qualifications. To gauge the qualification, choose an installer that is a member of a solar industry body such as SAPVIA or AREP and that they have a Green Card or P4 accreditation. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act Electrical Installation regulations, work undertaken on electrical installations must be overseen by a registered person ie someone with a wireman’s licence.
  • Obtain Approval from Eskom or your Municipality:
    Regardless of the system type, authorisation from your Utility (Eskom or the local municipality) is mandatory.
    All generation facilities and equipment must be registered with the City. As part of this process, the Utility will check that the equipment being installed complies with the grid code and other relevant standards and regulations.
  • Obtain a Structural Assessment:
    While roofs can generally withstand PV loads, a structural assessment ensures safety. Structural engineers can provide assessments.
  • No Need to Submit Building Plans:
    Building plans are unnecessary unless specific criteria are met.
    Criteria include protrusion height and distance from the roof’s highest point. There are some Municipalities that require building plans to be approved for ground-mounted solar, so one must check this.
  • Buy the Correct Inverter:
    Ensure the inverter complies with the grid code, standards and regulations. Inverters operating in South Africa need to comply with the Grid Code and NRS097. A list of approved inverters should be available for your reference (Only Cape Town does this and it is limiting in my view, so suggested changing this).
  • Check PV Panel Standards:
    Verify that PV panels comply with SANS/IEC standards. Look for certificates of compliance with standards such as SANS/IEC 61215 and SANS/IEC 61646.
  • Store Batteries Safely:
    If batteries are part of the installation, adhere to storage regulations. Proper storage reduces safety risks and ensures compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.

During Installation:

  • Don’t Install Without Authorisation:
    All rooftop solar PV installations require written permission from the Utility. Unauthorized installations can lead to legal complications.
  • Ensure Effective Control:
    On-site electricians must be in control and supervise work effectively. Compliance with electrical codes and standards is paramount.
  • Check Placement on the Roof:
    Ensure proper panel placement for cleaning and accessibility by emergency services. Considerations for cleaning and maintenance contribute to long-term efficiency. Emergency services also need access to the “firemans switch” to switch off the system in the case of an emergency.
  • Ensure Specialised DC Circuit Breakers Are Being Used:
    Direct current (DC) from PV panels requires specialised safety equipment. Confirm that the installation uses appropriate equipment.
  • Manage Health and Safety On Site:
    Adherence to national health and safety codes is mandatory. Installers must have proper training and certification for working at heights.


  • Request an Original Electrical Certificate of Compliance (CoC):
    The installation electrician must provide a CoC after completing tests and checks. COC is required for all electrical installations including SSEG installations.
  • Quality Assurance Certificates:
    Obtain the serial number and quality assurance certificates for the equipment installed. These certificates provide essential information on the equipment and technical details of the installation.
  • Check for Roof Leaks:
    Post-installation checks should include an inspection for roof leaks. Ensure that the installation has not compromised the roof’s integrity.
  • Warranties and Manuals:
    The warranties  on major equipment varies depending on the type of equipment. Panels typically have a 10+ year warranty, inverters 5= year and batteries 10 years. A quality installation company should be offering 1-2 years warranty on their workmanship. It is important to get copies of the manuals for the major equipment and a operating procedure so you can safely operate and shutdown the system yourself.
  • Recourse for Poor Work:
    If unsatisfied with the work, request an independent inspection. The Association of Renewable Energy Practitioners (AREP) has an industry ombudsman functionality and is 


Prioritising safety and legality in rooftop solar PV installations is not just a legal requirement; it ensures the long-term efficiency and sustainability of the system. By following these guidelines, you can make informed decisions, choose reliable service providers, and contribute to a safer and greener energy future.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us to make the picture clearer.