New construction does not need to be expensive to be sensible. The costs to improve a building’s insulation values and install solar equipment are quickly recouped by energy savings. Generally, high-efficiency new homes consist of the following properties:
- Airtight, well-insulated building envelope allows you to save the precious BTUs generated by your heating system in winter or cooling in the summer.
- High-efficiency appliances make the most of the energy they consume. Electricity is appealing because you can generate it for free with solar panels on your roof.
- Renewable energy systems offset the energy you do need. A properly designed solar array and an all-electric house = freedom from utility bills, forever.
Factors to Consider When Installing Solar on a New Home
While we think it makes the most sense to consider solar in the context of a new home that is also energy-efficient, we have plenty of experience integrating solar with conventionally built homes as well.
The primary factors to consider when installing solar for a new home:
- South-facing roof – Probably the most important attribute for new construction is that a home be built with an adequate south-facing roof. The roof does not need to face perfect (195°) solar south, +/- 90 degrees is still viable for solar). A roof pitch between 5 – 12 is ideal. Lower sloped roofs bias towards summer production, higher roofs bias towards winter. Roof features such as dormers, vent pipes, chimneys, and other roof mounted utilities interrupt the roof-span and make it more difficult to install solar arrays.
- Shade-free site – The south-facing roof space should be located in a shade-free area of the site. Ideally there will be a clear solar window from 9am-3pm, year round, to maximize solar performance. ReVision Energy solar technicians can provide a shade analysis using the SunEye™ site assessment tool during a complimentary solar evaluation.
- Access to utility room – A solar array will require a pipe run and/or a wire run depending on system configuration. New construction is an ideal time to integrate pipe or wire runs within the home’s frame.
- Obstructions such as vent pipes and chimneys should be avoided on the solar roof. If they are present they should be held towards the ridge and/or to one end of the roof. Place them as far away from south as possible.
- Avoid dormers on the south-facing roof as much as possible.
- Asphalt shingle and standing seam metal roofs are ideal choices when installing a solar system. Avoid metal shingles, cedar shingles, and exposed fastener metal roofs whenever possible.
- As far as wiring is concerned, if you want to prep for solar but not install solar as part of the initial construction, most residential installs will need one run of 3/4″ conduit. If you have us install solar on your new building, this is part of our normal scope of work, but check with our designers for site-specific details. We can always retrofit but it’s certainly easier to put the pipe in while the walls are open.
- Roof load – Generally speaking a code-built roof will be sufficient to carry the additional load of solar panels. There is the snow factor; a reasonably pitched roof sheds snow pretty readily.
Solar During the Building Process
We are happy to have introductory conversations throughout your process of identifying lots and determining what kind of home you would like to have built (we can also recommend some preferred builders and architects if you’d like). Where we usually start formally is when a client has a set of building plans and wants to talk in more detail about their desired mechanical systems and how solar will fit into their home design.
We work with many types of projects, from homeowner-contractors to homeowners who are working with a variety of professionals. Generally, it is helpful to have all stakeholders available during early meetings so that we can offer suggestions that save time, money, and effort over the course of your project.
We have worked on hundreds of new construction projects on some of the highest efficiency buildings in the region, and bring this expertise to every project that we are involved in. Our goal is for you to be blown away by your experience with solar, and professionalism at every step of the way is key to that happening.