What should you be aware of when going solar from the ground up?
For most homeowners, going solar means adding a solar system to a house that was built years or even decades before. If you’re in the process of building or planning to build a new house, though, you might wonder if it makes sense to design your dream home to integrate solar “from the ground up.”
The answer is: very possibly. In California, a recently-enacted law actually requires that most new-build homes have a solar energy system. In the rest of the country, there are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to build with solar or add solar later.
Avoiding Install Complications
When installing a solar energy system in an existing house, there can be unforeseen difficulties that require changes in plans and modifications to the house, most frequently with the structure of the attic and roof or the electrical system. While we do our very best at Zenernet to spot such factors early in the design process, it’s inevitable that these complications still happen from time to time when working on a home that wasn’t built with solar in mind – or maybe even built before residential solar was available. The result can be added cost and delays in the install process. Designing and building with the intention of using solar energy allows most of these frustrations to be avoided.
Building a sun-loving home
By far the single most important thing to consider when building a new home with solar energy in mind is insolation. Insolation is a term that simply means the amount of sun that can reach a particular area. In practical terms, what we’re talking about is the house’s position and orientation.
In the northern hemisphere, the sun is always in the southern half of the sky. This means that your solar panels should face south to generate the greatest amount of solar energy. If you want to build a house with the greatest solar potential, you should make sure to design it with lots of square footage of south-facing roof space.
Of course, the orientation of your roof doesn’t matter if something blocks the rays of the sun from reaching your solar panels. This means that you also need to think about trees, tall buildings, or other nearby features that will leave your roof in shade for at least part of the day.
In summary, the most important work in making your new house a “good solar house” is done before construction ever begins.
How solar fits into the building process
Design of your solar install can begin as soon as a complete and finalized set of architectural plans for the new home are available. When adding solar to an existing home, monthly utility bills from the past year are typically used to estimate energy usage. With a new-build home, an accurate estimate can still be made based on the home’s square footage, number of residents, and the number of high-usage appliances or devices.
The actual work of installing solar can begin as soon as the roof is finished and the electrical wiring is complete. In general, the sooner in the process of building that design and installation can begin, the better, because this reduces the impact of unavoidable delays during the permitting and inspection phases.
To learn more about the solar installation process, you can read our overview here.
Ready to get started?
If you want to make the savings and energy independence of going solar part of your dream home experience, get in touch with us and schedule a consultation. Whether you’re still in the “wishlist” phase or already under construction, our solar experts can help you make an informed decision on whether solar is right for you and customize a system to your needs and budget.