Heating, cooling and solar PV installations

Some external photovoltaic panels, solar water heaters, air conditioners and evaporative coolers and support structures don’t need development or building approval if they comply with rules set out in regulations.

Exemptions from development approval

You don’t need development approval if the external photovoltaic panel, heater or cooler complies with relevant provisions of the Planning and Development Regulation 2008, Schedule 1. Part 1.3, Division 1.3.1, Section 1.27 refers to heaters and coolers and Section 1.27A refers to photovoltaic panels.


An external solar water heater, air conditioner, evaporative cooler and support structure doesn’t need development approval if:

  • no part of it is within 1.5m of a side boundary or rear boundary of the block and
  • if it is mounted on a roof, the distance from the top of the service to the closest point of the roof is not more than 1.5m and
  • if it is mounted on the ground, no part of the service is between a front boundary and a building line for the block

An external photovoltaic panel doesn’t need development approval if:

  • no part of it is within 1.5m of a side boundary or rear boundary of the block and
  • no part of a ground mounted panel is between the front boundary and the building line of the block and
  • no part of a protruding panel is higher than 300mm above the closest point of the roof (see diagram below) or
  • no part of a protruding panel restricts solar access of another block (see definition below).

Image explained below

A protruding panel ‘restricts’ solar access to another block if, on the winter solstice, when the sun’s angle is 300 above the horizon, the panel’s shadow at ground level on the other block is larger than the shadow that would be cast by the roof without the panel.

Development approvals are required if

  • photovoltaic panels will have significant impacts on the solar access of neighbours
  • the panels contravene provisions of the Environment Protection Act 1997.

You should also consider other general exemption criteria that may apply.

Other considerations

Although the installation may not require development approval, other applicable ACT legislation must be complied with; for example, building approval (see below).

The installation must also comply with Noise Standards under the Environment Protection Act 1997.

Changing the external appearance, material or finish of a building or structure may be subject to other laws, including heritage laws and energy efficiency provisions of building laws (For example replacing an energy efficient heating or cooling system with a less efficient model)

If you are seeking to build on a rural block different exemption rules apply. (See Schedule 1, Part 1.3, Division 1.3.5, Section 1.85 of the regulation).

If you are still unsure whether your development is exempt you should check the regulation or call EPSDD on 6207 1923.

Exemptions from building approval

You don’t need building approval if the development complies with relevant provisions of the Building (General) Regulation 2008, Schedule 1.


The development is exempt from needing building approval provided that:

  • it is for a class 1 or class 10a building only
  • if an airconditioning unit is involved, it is not the main source of ventilation for the room or building where it is installed

General rules for exempt building work

The proposed structure should not adversely affect:

  • the structural integrity of any part of a building
  • a fire-rated wall, ceiling or floor
  • a fire escape, emergency lift, stairway, exit or exit passageway
  • the natural light, the ventilation or fire protection system
  • the proposed structure should not affect the building in a way that reduces its compliance with the Building Code to below minimum requirements
  • erection of the structure should not involve handling asbestos or disturbing friable asbestos.

Information for installers

Further information for installers can be found on the industry information page.

For more information on exempt development call EPSDD on 6207 1923.