What You Need to Know
As solar technology improves and becomes more affordable, an increasing number of home builders are designing their homes with solar power in mind. A solar-powered home offers several environmental and economic benefits, and solar energy is rapidly becoming the strongest choice for homeowners.
So, how do you know if solar is right for your home? And once you decide, what steps do you need to take?
Before You Build
The best time to install solar on your home is during construction. The reason is simple: If you decide to use solar power before you build your home, you can design the home to accommodate the panels. This is easier than retrofitting a system to your existing home, and it provides you with greater flexibility in your design.
When a solar power system is installed on an existing home, installers must work around obstacles – trees, chimneys, and other obstructions that can cast shadows or make the installation process more difficult. When you design a new home, you can easily overcome those obstacles by building around the solar system. Knowing that you will be using solar allows you to more clearly create a home that fits your energy needs.
If you have not already selected a building contractor, look for one that specializes in solar installation. Because solar power is rising in popularity, some home builders now offer solar installation as part of their overall design proposal. These companies have experience designing and building homes around your needs. If you have already agreed to work with a certain group, you will need to find a solar installer with experience working on new homes.
One of the advantages of installing solar power on new homes is that you have greater flexibility in your design options. A typical installation may involve mounting south- or west-facing panels on your roof, and connected to a string inverter.
However, there are now other excellent options available. One method allows you to avoid mounted solar panels and instead install the panels directly into the roof. This provides a sleek, modern design and fits well with the overall flow of the house. Another option is to create a roof entirely made of PV solar panels. Although this is a more expensive option, it turns the entire top of your home into a solar generating facility.
One additional option is not related to panel installation – instead, this involves your water heater. Most homes are designed with natural gas water heaters. However, you can choose an electric water heater and connect that to your solar panel system. Although the electric heater has a greater upfront cost than natural gas, by switching to electric you give yourself the ability to receive all of your home’s power needs from solar energy. In the long run, this decision will significantly repay your initial investment.
The benefits of building a solar-ready new home are far-reaching. Most important to consumers, installing solar saves money over the life of the home. Whether you choose a solar lease or purchase the system outright, the savings on electricity bills will typically pay for the system within 5-10 years.
Homeowners are finding another unexpected benefit: Increased property value. Because solar power is becoming the standard alternative clean energy option, many home buyers now expect a home to come equipped with solar. As a result, homes that have solar panels installed are becoming much more valuable on the open market.
By designing a new home with solar panels, you eliminate the challenges and expenses of installing the system after the home has already been built.
Consumers are finding one more incentive to building solar-ready new homes: The New Solar Homes Partnership. Developed as part of the California Energy Commission’s comprehensive California Solar Initiative, the program provides financial assistance toward the building of new, solar-powered homes. Before building your new home, you can apply to the program using their online application tool.
Currently, over $400 million have been allocated toward the program, with hundreds of millions in additional funds expected to be distributed in the next year. The New Solar Homes Partnership is a program designed to help new home builders defray the upfront costs of solar installation, making this an even better long-term investment strategy.
Overall, falling solar installation costs and government-subsidized rebate programs make this a good time for consumers to consider solar on their new homes.