7 Secrets of Incorporating Solar in New Construction
Essential Guide to Gaining Competitive Advantage by Offering Solar as a Customized Option
As new technologies enter the construction market every single day, future homeowners are starting to ask for more: they want their dream homes to be more energy efficient, if not energy independent, and to incorporate the latest features and upgrades.
Solar panels are among these new features homeowners are asking for, often hoping to see solar as a standard option. “At least six of the 10 largest U.S. homebuilders, led by KB Home, include photovoltaic devices in new construction,” states Justin Doom in his article “Solar Panels Are the Next Granite Countertop for Homebuilders”, published by Bloomberg. However, some builders are falling behind. Some lack awareness of the many advantages solar offers – to the homeowners as well as the contractors. This, together with reluctance to begin offering unfamiliar products and suppliers, usually results in hesitation in the contractor’s decision to jump on the alternative energy wave.
But the reality is clear. Solar is here to stay, whether the government will continue to support it as a form of a clean energy production or not. Its biggest asset is its money-saving element. Unlike solar, most of the new home features do not pay for themselves in a relatively short time period. So, what should savvy builders do to avoid missing the boat?
1. Gain visibility on the market
Today, individuals, families, and businesses seek ways to lower their monthly operational costs. Here is where a smart, energy conscious builder gains competitive advantage. By offering energy saving features upfront including solar upgrades (installing solar during the construction phase lowers the overall installation cost), the construction company immediately distinguishes itself from other players in the market.
2. Leverage your information level
In order to impress a customer, one must provide clear and coherent information. Learn the basics of photovoltaic, solar thermal and solar pool heating technology. Your time will be paid off with new customers proud to see that “their” builder knows the latest technology.
3. Find your solar sub
Builders are the construction experts. They know their market, they know their products and they are respected for that. But they cannot possibly know it all. Find one or two solar companies in your area that will simplify the process of design and installation of a solar system for your customers. Use their experience and expertise to build a house producing its own electricity and generating the forecasted energy. Builders save on overheads, and on the purchase of expensive tools necessary to furnish accurate power production estimates. Energy analysis is crucial for successful solar projections and is an often unknown area given the nature of construction. The installation process of experienced installers is streamlined and subordinated to the construction timeline. Solar companies work with the builders and the homeowners to meet the goals of both: simplifying the construction process, lowering overhead costs, and meeting the customer’s expectations.
4. Give your homes money saving features from the start
Installing solar panels on new homes brings tremendous financial benefits to homeowner’s bottom line. The State of North Carolina currently supports generating clean energy with a 35% tax credit and the Federal government with an additional 30%. More than a half of the investment into rooftop solar is paid for by these generous tax incentives. Your new home will generate its own power and your customer will have lower monthly energy costs, resulting in a
higher level of satisfaction and more referrals for you.
5. Harness the sun’s abundant power
North Carolina has one of best solar resources in the nation with solar panel installations rapidly increasing in the last few years. With the declining prices of solar products and the great financial incentives currently in place, North Carolina ranked 3rd in the US in installed solar capacity in 2013, producing 335MW of power, which according to SEIA is “Enough solar energy to power 36,800 homes.” Homeowners, often migrating from the not-so-sunny North down to our beautiful sunny area, are well aware of the favorable conditions to produce their own electricity and are especially eager to do whatever it takes to pay less in utility costs. Hedging against the ever-increasing energy costs during their entire retirement period with solar panels (solar manufacturers typically offer warranties of 25 years and product lifetime expectancy exceeds 35+ years) gives homeowners more piece of mind.
6. Let someone else to do the rigorous paperwork
Despite the 35+ years of maintenance-free solar production, the actual installation consists of a rigorous permit process and extensive paperwork in order to obtain every financial benefit associated with the purchase of these clean energy generators. Depending on the local utility provider, the solar integrator will secure a power purchase agreement and fill out and submit paperwork for all available financial rebates. Because of the harsh coastal conditions (high winds and humidity, salty air, direct sun, etc.), permit applications are strict and often require
the involvement of a Professional Engineer, which is the responsibility of the solar installer.
7. The grid is the best battery bank
An off the grid solar system is highly sought after. Initially. After learning the detailed costs associated with equipping a solar system with a battery bank, homeowners usually decide to stay with an on grid system, enjoying the additional benefits from net metering or buy all sell all configurations with the utility. There is no cheaper storage place for the produced electricity than the grid and the utilities are supportive of homes with their own power generator.
Solar empowers not only the bottom line of property owners, but offers many benefits to all parties involved. Builders should not be afraid of offering solar panels in new construction: solar is a proven technology and a stable and safe investment offering great competitive advantage for the contractor.
Linda Hanykova, VP of Operations
Wilmington, NC based Cape Fear Solar Systems, LLC