Across the country more homebuilders are realizing that solar represents a good investment for their portfolios. Integrating solar photovoltaics (PV) into new construction has become a focus for many companies and municipalities, who are incorporating building integrated PV into their master plans. Cities like Tucson, AZ, Carbondale, CO and Chula Vista, CA have developed requirements or incentives for new homes to be “solar ready,” as installed costs of solar have decreased exponentially in recent years.
Several studies have been conducted regarding the “value” of PV on homes. Most recently, a 2015 study from Berkeley Lab shows that homeowners across the country have been willing to pay a premium of about $15,000 for a home with an average-sized hosted solar array. Previous Berkeley Lab studies in 2011 and 2013 showed that 1,750 California homes found clear evidence that solar homes sell at a premium. The researchers found a strong correlation between premium size and PV system size, and a weak correlation between premium size and system age. A home with a new 5 KW system, on average, sold for nearly $40,000 more than similar homes with no PV installed. This is well above both the replacement cost of the system and the system’s expected income.
Together these studies paint a clear picture: while market factors like electricity rate and system price may impact the size and extent of the premium, solar homes can be expected to sell for more than homes without PV.
Though studies regarding selling time have not been as extensive as those regarding price, there is evidence indicating that homes with PV spend less time on the market than those without. In 2008 California homes with energy efficient features and PV were found to sell faster than homes that consume more energy. And in Denver, homes with solar were marketed more quickly than homes without. This evidence indicates that a solar home, when properly valued, tends to sell more quickly than a home without solar.
Model ordinances for solar homes are designed to ensure that homeowners have the ability to easily install solar after construction is completed. These ordinances vary widely in both their content and implementation design. While some municipalities require homebuilders to meet a minimum standard for new construction, others provide incentives and best practices to facilitate for easy installs of solar. Common requirements/guidelines include: arranging for homes to be built on an east-west line to maximize rooftop solar potential, building dedicated electric wiring or pipes in attics so PV and solar hot water systems can be added at a later date without opening walls or ceilings, and building large southern facing windows to provide for passive solar heating.
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