Home » Home buying season is here. Consider Solar!

Home buying season is here. Consider Solar!

One of the more common questions we get as Solar contractors is, “I’m planning to buy a new home and I want to put a Solar array on it. What should I consider while I’m choosing a property?”

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Many buyers are beginning to consider the cost of living in a given house. Energy bills just keep going up, so why not pick a home where you can offset your energy costs with Solar? If you can include the cost of the Solar installation in your new home’s financing, all the better!

Most consumers invest in Solar for the financial return.
Most consumers invest in Solar for the financial return.

However, not every property is the same when it comes to it’s Solar potential. What should you look for in a property if installing a new Solar array is a priority for you?

Pay attention to the  condition of the roof. Solar Panels are warranted for 25 years. While they can certainly be removed and replaced for re-roofing, it’s a complication you’d probably rather not deal with shortly after putting your panels up. It’s obviously better, therefore, to install Solar on a roof that is relatively new or at least in good condition.

LEED Certified home with rooftop Solar Array in Hanover, Virginia
LEED Certified home with rooftop Solar Array in Hanover, Virginia

The orientation & landscaping is a factor. Solar panels must be oriented on a sunny, South facing roof slope or ground mounted in a southerly orientation for the panels to achieve their rated production capacity.

A sunny lot is a requirement for Solar energy production.
A sunny lot is a requirement for Solar energy production.

Keep this in mind (tree removal, distance from the home, etc) when examining the lot. Taking several photos of the front, side, and back roofs will be helpful if you are looking for a Solar quote for a home before you buy. (Yes, we can do that!)

Upgrades to antiquated electrical service may be necessary for Solar installations on older homes.
Upgrades to antiquated electrical service may be necessary for Solar installations on older homes.

 

 

 

The age and condition of a property’s electrical service is a factor. There will need to be room (empty spaces) in the electrical panel, and the electrical system must be relatively modern or updated (no fuses in the panel box, etc) for Solar to be installed, or electrical upgrades may be necessary. Of course, this is a matter of your time and budget considerations more than anything, but anything that adds to the cost of the installation increases the time it will take that system to reach ROI.

HOA regulations- While it is illegal for an HOA to prohibit solar altogether, under Virginia law an HOA CAN restrict where panels are placed, meaning that if the rules state that you can’t place Panels on the front roof surface or install a ground mounted system, and the home is South facing, you will never realize the full financial benefit of Solar on that particular property.

A property's power consumption is the best way to gauge what size Solar array would offer the best return.
A property’s power consumption is the best way to gauge what size Solar array would offer the best return.

The property’s historical power consumption should be analyzed. Solar will reach ROI fastest when the array is sized to match the home’s annual power consumption. Therefore your contractor will examine the home’s annual power usage to determine how big a system should be for a particular site. When viewing properties, ask your realtor to get the following from the seller- the “high” annual power bill from the past year, and the “average” power bill at the residence. This information will help determine what you’d need to invest to install a Solar array, as well as what the financial return would be over time.

Beyond Photovolatiacs, which generate electricity, Solar Thermal is an option for heating water with  Solar energy. SolarThermal Systems are a cost effective way to cut energy bills and also qualify for the 30% Federal Tax Credit.  SolarThermal systems require a sunny rooftop for mounting the solar collectors. Heating water with Solar typically has a similar ROI period to Photovoltaics but the initial investment is smaller.

Of course, these are the same considerations that come into play when considering a commercial property’s suitability for Solar.

If you’re a buyer, considering a Solar installation on your next home, or a Realtor interested in helping clients find properties well suited for Solar, ODI can help.  Give us a call at 804-368-0589 or email us at sales@olddominioninnovations.com for further information.