As one of the owners at Tampa Bay Solar one of the most common questions I get is “I’m building a new house, how much solar will I need?”
The answer to this question depends upon many factors, but the main factor is the overall efficiency of the home. The building stage gives the new homebuyer a great opportunity to build a MORE efficient home so they don’t NEED a ton of solar on the roof.
Disclaimer: I don’t sell HVAC systems, roofing or radiant barrier, I have NO horse in this race, but I’d rather give our clients better ADVICE. In the long run this is a great way to SERVE your clients, and you actually make more profits when you serve your clients better than your competition!
BEFORE you get solar do THIS:
#1. Opt for a higher SEER rated HVAC on your new home.
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. The higher the SEER rating on your HVAC the less $$ you will spend to heat and cool your home. Using the air conditioning from February to December will use 60% of your electricity, so why not spend a little more upfront to buy the MOST efficient HVAC in your budget? The general contractor building your home might install a 15 SEER HVAC because he wants to meet the minimum county code requirements, but in my experience most general contractors are not focused on long term energy efficiency.
The difference? Maybe you spend an extra $2K upfront to get an 18 SEER rather than a 15 SEER rated system, but it saves you $10,000 in energy costs over the next decade you live in that home.
#2. Get radiant barrier in your attic.
Many builders offer this as an option. Radiant barrier keeps your attic cooler, which keeps your entire home cooler. Cooler home = AC runs less = less wear and tear on your HVAC and lower energy costs.
#3. Get a 240 volt outlet installed on your garage wall.
If you plan on living in your home over the next 15 years there is a high chance that either you or the next owner will drive a plug-in electric vehicle. This outlet is inexpensive to install when the electrician is putting in the main panel. Make sure each 240 volt outlet has it’s own breaker in your main panel. The 240 volt outlet can fast charge any electric car, versus trickle charging with 120 volts.
If your home is “electric car ready” you are far more likely to buy a plug-in electric vehicle, which will save you thousands of dollars per year in gasoline costs, especially when gas is at $6 per gallon by 2025…
#4. Don’t go with darker shingles on your roof.
Dark colors absorb MORE radiant heat from the sun, lighter colored roofs reflect heat away. I’ve seen homes with black shingle roofs and $400 electric bills. A dark roof is a huge mistake, your house will heat up like a microwave oven every time the Florida sun comes out. Hot roof = hot house = AC working all the time = crazy high energy usage.
#5. If less than 4 people live in your home install an instant-on or a hybrid water heater.
These are highly efficient for a house with fewer people. If you have a large family (5+ kids…) a solar water heater makes more sense. I have a solar water heater on my home, along with 34 electric solar panels and they work great together. I don’t have 5 kids… but I wanted to use solar to heat my water.
That pic below is my roof in Pasco County:
My system was installed 5 years ago, the long panel in the middle heats my water, the other panels surrounding it generate electricity. My solar paid for itself in less than 4 years!
Building a new home from scratch gives you a great opportunity to plan for the future and make your new home really energy efficient. This means you can meet your total energy needs with LESS solar panels on the roof, which means LESS cost to install the system.
Yes, I might make a smaller commission, but I’d rather do the right thing here.
Powering an electric car off the solar array on your roof will also save you $100 or more per MONTH in gasoline cost (hence the 240 volt outlet recommendation).
If you’re smart about your new home in the construction phase you’ll save thousands of dollars in energy costs after you move in!
Hope that helps!