Make Hay While the Sun Shines: Get Started Building Solar Homes

Filed in Design, Education by on April 30, 2015 1 Comment

sunlight

With costs declining and consumer interest ramping up, there’s never been a better time to get up to speed on the ins and outs of building and remodeling single- and multi-family homes with solar photovoltaic (PV) power.

Luckily, a plethora of free online guides shed light on whether solar power is an economical choice for your project.

Why go solar? Solar power is clean and abundant, and consumers see value in energy independence, protecting the environment and saving on utility bills. Solar can increase a home’s value, and the payback period can be as little as two to five years. Already more than 10% of NAHB members are incorporating solar in their projects and half expect to be doing so by the end of 2016, according a 2013 survey.

Surprised? Probably not if you live in a state like California, where solar homes have been associated with higher property values, faster sales and premium prices. But markets can vary widely, so do your homework to understand consumer interest in solar as well as the technical and economic considerations for your business.

Get started

Are you building in one of the best markets for solar homes? Going Solar in America ranks its value to consumers in America’s largest cities.

Incentives can help create demand. What rebates and tax credits are available in your state? Find out from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

The federal Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit, known as Section 25D, is good for 30% of the cost of alternative energy equipment and labor costs for installation on qualified projects. It’s currently available through the end of 2016, though extensions into the future are possible.

Project management and design considerations

As with many aspects of home building, proper design on the front end coupled with effective project management will ease the transition to becoming a solar builder. From understanding how to maximize sun exposure through appropriate roof design and house siting to adjusting subcontractors, scopes and schedules to get panels on the roof connected to a project’s power system,  anticipating the impacts of adding solar early and adjusting accordingly are keys to success. Detailed specs, checklists and site assessment tools at EPA’s Renewable Energy Ready Homes and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Solar Ready Buildings Planning Guide can help you get started.

Permitting and metering

Solar permitting requirements and costs vary dramatically from city to city. The National Solar Permitting Database and qualified installers can help you navigate what can be a very simple process —or a very complicated one.

Where available, net metering allows surplus power produced at connected homes to offset power purchased from the public utility, so the home owner only pays for the “net” electricity used. Your installer or local utility can often help you source a smart meter equipped to monitor two-way electric flow.

Find an installer

The Solar Energy Industries Association’s SEIA Member Directory connects you with companies that distribute, research, manufacture, finance, and build solar projects domestically and abroad.

Financing options

There are a number of options home owners can choose from to pay for solar systems, including leases, loans and direct purchase. Being conversant in how each impacts paying for installation, qualifying for tax credits, operation, maintenance and warranties will help you make solar affordable for your clients.

Clean Energy States Alliance publishes an overview of these options in A Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing.

FHA’s PowerSaver program offers first and second mortgages as well as smaller unsecured loans through approved lenders.

NAHB actively works with industry partners to expand resources and education to help builders and remodelers interested in capitalizing on the growing solar market.

For more information, sign up for the NAHB webinar, Are We Ready for Renewables?, June 17 from 2-3 p.m. ET. Council members, $39.95; members, $44.95; non-members, $64.95.

 

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  1. Hannan Ahmad says:

    Solar technology has engulfed many neighbor hoods, which are actually sending power to the grid instead of using it. That is because each house there has installed huge solar systems which generate more than enough electrical power, so they actually send the access power into the power grid.

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