Beautiful, functional, and solar-powered—these are the adjectives that describe the modern American dream home. It’s driven by the population’s growing concern for the environment and readiness to adopt construction, automotive, and tech innovations.
As of 2021, 12.4% of US energy and consumption is sourced from renewable energy like solar power. As the government pushes for more of its residential implementation, this number is expected to rise in the following years.
With more and more people adopting sustainable practices, many take it a step further and retrofit their homes for solar power. After all, many rewards and benefits come with having one.
Have you been thinking about designing one?
Table of Contents
Going Green Is Great
In the United States, the government is planning to reward solar energy adopters as part of its initiatives in climate legislation.
Recently, solar tax credits of up to 32% await homeowners who install residential solar panels and switch to this renewable energy source.
This means that the 39% of Americans who said they’re seriously considering switching to solar just might make their move soon.
Are you a homeowner planning to build your permanent residence? Are you also considering going green? This is an excellent reason to start designing a solar-ready home.
What Is A Solar-Ready Home?
A solar-ready home is a home designed to utilize and maximize solar energy. Basically, a solar power system is integrated directly into the designs and blueprints early on, avoiding the need for further renovations or construction later.
Not only that, but a home solar installation is also future-proof, designed with room for more solar upgrades in the future.
Designing A Solar-Ready Home
It pays to be intentional from the get-go if you want to go solar. With the help of your contractors, architects, and engineers, you can design a solar-ready home. Here’s what you need to do:
1- Know Your Zoning Laws
Before making any big plans and purchases, check the zoning laws in your state. While the government is encouraging everyone to go solar, specifications and regulations are still enforced by local governments.
Therefore, it would be best to check with your city first. In some cases, you’ll also have to consult with your HOA.
Some have noted that these regulating bodies are barriers to solar energy adoption, with long wait times, tedious bureaucratic processes, withheld permits, and rejected requests to maintain an aesthetic in the neighborhood.
On the flip side, many states strongly encourage solar-ready homes. For instance, San Francisco has mandated the integration of solar installations on all new construction. As a state, California aims to follow this city’s lead by creating a mandate on solar-ready homes as well.
2-Conduct A Solar Audit
There are many considerations around installing a solar system. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
If you’re building your home from the ground up, you can hire solar system contractors and work with them on the following information:
- Total square footage
- Your house’s power requirement
- Your roof’s total surface area
- The amount of sun exposure in your area
- Other considerations before construction
A solar audit can help maximize your house’s solar potential and minimize wastage. It’s wise to have it done before you start construction. But it’s still beneficial for existing structures. Consider it a thorough and accurate assessment of your solar needs, and you’ll see why it’s a worthy investment.
3- Consider Your Roofing
For maximum exposure, solar panels are usually installed on the roof. Optimal placement and adequate roof space will let you get the most out of your solar system, and the best
time to figure this out is even before you build your home.
Some important considerations for your roof include:
Experts recommend installing solar panels in the southwest to the southeast portion of the roof, as this area tends to receive the most sunlight. Consider this your roof’s prime real estate; do not allocate this space to other fixtures like chimneys and vents.
Solar panels and cells have an average life span of 25 years. Therefore, it’s highly inefficient to choose low-quality roof materials—you might find yourself dismantling and reinstalling your roof and solar system over and over.
Choose durable, long-lasting materials like composite shingles, asphalt shingles, and galvanized metal roofs. Composite shingles come with a 30-year warranty but usually last 15 to 20 years, while galvanized metal roofs hold up to 45 years before needing replacement. Avoid wooden or tile roofs because they may have a shorter lifespan, making solar installation costly and complicated.
Your roof’s structure must be designed with the solar system’s weight in mind. PV equipment weighs around 2.8-6 pounds per square foot.
In addition, other roof fixtures are included in the equation, plus possible additional solar panels in the future.
Besides the solar system’s weight, your contractor also considers your area’s wind loads in designing your roof structure.
Solar panels must not be laid flat, or they’ll lose maximum exposure. The ideal angle is between 30-45 degrees, although the exact number may be determined during your solar audit.
Technicalities aside, you wouldn’t want your solar system to stick out like a sore thumb. The benefit of designing a solar-ready home is being able to match your solar panels to your roofing material and color to create a cohesive look.
Depending on your budget, you can choose your panels’ frame and cell color (usually blue or black). Many homeowners love the sleek all-black combination, but this comes with a heftier price tag.
Your solar system’s biggest enemy is the shade. Make sure no obstructions are blocking the sunlight. These include chimneys, vents, satellites, trees, and other buildings. Your solar audit will help you check for them; you can work with your contractors to find a solution for trickier spots.
Much planning and collaboration will go into your roof’s design to accommodate the solar system. While tedious, this is highly beneficial. Aside from the considerations above, some homeowners reserve extra space for solar panels that may be added in the future.
This is another component of being solar-ready. You may not need the extra juice now. But as your family and property grow, you’ll appreciate the foresight to allocate extra space.
4- Sort Your Electricals
With the help of your electrical engineer, you can then prepare the rest of your house to be powered by solar energy. They can work with your solar system contractor to design and allocate provisions for the following:
- Solar inverters
- Solar-ready wiring
- Electrical conduits and where they will be routed throughout the house
- Upgraded electrical panels
- The location of safety equipment
- Solar battery backup
Another thing to consider is the EV charger for your hybrid or fully electric vehicle as you commit to going green. If you have such a vehicle, you should include this in your electrical plan.
The Benefits of Designing A Solar-Ready Home
Why is it necessary to design your home with solar systems in mind? Are there incentives to do it earlier rather than later? These may provide the answer. Here are three of the benefits you can expect from designing a solar-ready home:
The cost of solar energy has dropped significantly over the years, making it more accessible to homeowners. What used to be such a colossal undertaking can now be a highly rewarding home upgrade.
The average American household consumes around 900 kilowatts per hour monthly, which costs around USD$125-150. A 5-7 KW photovoltaic (PV) can power this household, which costs about USD$12,000 in total, including government rebates.
Since a solar system can work essentially maintenance-free for at least 17 years, you can expect an estimated USD$1500 in savings yearly, or USD25,000-33,000 throughout its lifespan. In some cases, your unused energy can even be sold back to the grid, earning you money as your panels continue harvesting energy from the sun daily.
- Reduced Carbon Footprint
The earlier you adopt solar energy, the longer you’ll be able to enjoy its benefits. And isn’t it good to make this environment-conscious decision early on? The average household in the US produces 7.5 tons of CO2 every year.
Switching to solar means you reduce your carbon footprint up to 20 times that amount. Think about the impact thousands of households can make upon switching to solar power.
- Tax Breaks
The United States government aims to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by half in 2030. This lofty undertaking comes with billions of dollars in tax breaks for Americans who participate.
Therefore, switching to clean appliances and electric vehicles can provide significant financial relief for many building their homes and saving for the future.
Aside from these benefits, you can expect your property’s value to increase as solar-ready homes sell much faster than those that aren’t.
Building a solar-ready home requires careful planning, the involvement of experts, and a substantial budget. However, this upfront investment pays well not only financially but ecologically as well.
As you build your new home, build with the future in mind. Get the services of solar system experts and include them in your team to design the solar-ready home of your dreams.