The FSEC solar energy system testing and certification program is a consumer protection program. It is intended to provide Florida’s consumers and solar industry with assurance of the performance and integrity of solar equipment manufactured or sold in Florida. It includes a combination of performance measurement and system evaluation. The program was created by the Florida Legislature in 1976 and has been operated by FSEC since its inception.
Florida law requires FSEC to develop and promulgate standards for solar energy systems (§377.705(4)(a), FS) and to establish criteria for testing the performance of solar energy systems (§377.705(4)(b), FS). That same law requires that all solar energy systems sold or manufactured in Florida meet those standards. The standards developed and promulgated by FSEC are subject to rulemaking under the Florida Administrative Procedures Act (Chapter 120, FS). This requires notice to interested parties, workshops, and hearings in order to assure the standards are developed with industry input and consensus to the extent possible. The standards are then adopted by reference in the Florida Administrative Code (FAC).
The FAC Rules can be found online at:
The FSEC Standards adopted by reference in these Rules can also be found online
While many contractors may be licensed to install solar energy systems, their in-house expertise and experience levels will vary substantially between companies. Even experienced contractors can make costly design mistakes that can compromise system efficiency and reliability, or even cause property damage. Since its inception, the certification program has corrected many designs that contained substantial errors relating to both safety and performance. The program safeguards a consumer’s solar energy system investment and offers contractors a complete design review and feedback before system installation, often saving costly call-backs.
UL standards are primarily safety standards. A properly functioning solar energy system consists of many more components than the solar thermal collector or the PV modules. For a solar thermal system, the overall performance depends not only on the performance of the collectors, but also on the performance of the hot water storage component, and on the climate where the system is installed. PV system performance depends on the correct assembly of UL-listed components in accordance with the NEC and best practices. While PV modules and all other system components must meet UL electrical safety requirements, they must be properly installed in a design that is safe to operate and provides optimal performance to the customer. System certification verifies that the individual components do in fact comply with standards and that the system configuration will result in an operational system.
The law does not give FSEC any enforcement responsibilities or powers. However, the statute clearly states in §377.705 (4) (d), that "all solar energy systems manufactured or sold in the state must meet the standards established by the center . . ." FSEC conducts training of building officials, which includes information about the certification program, and encourages the AHJ to take advantage of the program as a quality control measure.
The installation of a solar energy system on a building requires a building permit – plumbing codes must be followed for solar thermal systems, and electrical codes must be followed for PV systems. Additionally, a contractor licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) must perform the installation. The licensed contractor obtains the required permit from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Therefore, responsibility for ensuring that solar energy systems are certified falls to the AHJ enforcing Florida’s Building Codes. Florida’s Building Code Officials are responsible for ensuring that Florida’s buildings are constructed in accordance with State requirements and that they are safe and healthy for their inhabitants.