Are you planning to build a new home, commercial office, our outbuilding? If so, it’s a great time to add solar panels and roll the cost into your construction loan. Read on for a few considerations to be aware of as part of the design and construction process.
Going solar can save you money on your electricity bills and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise be produced when using fossil fuel-generated electricity supplied by the grid. It makes good sense to consider solar as you work with your architect during planning and design to optimize the system’s location and size.
Not only can solar save you money on electric bills, it can also increase your home value. A study conducted by Zillow.com showed that homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more than their equitable counterparts without solar.1 A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showed that homes with solar panels sold faster and for more money than equivalent non-solar homes.2
When planning your new construction, there are several factors to consider. The main considerations relate to equipment location, roof design, and aesthetics. Let’s break down these considerations.
The optimal orientation for a solar array is due south, with unobstructed exposure to the sun from 9am-3pm daily. East and west facing arrays can be great options as well, and they may require 20% more modules to get the same amount of energy output on a south-facing roof at the same pitch. Be watchful of obstructions which can cast shadows such as trees, buildings, utility poles, vent pipes, etc. and do your best to keep equipment off of commercial roofs, or at a minimum located in such a way which optimizes open blocks of space for solar panels. Installing a ground-mounted solar array if ground space is available is often the best option for efficiency and avoidance of roof obstructions and maintenance.
Identify the electrical service panel location for convenient solar system interconnection, and keep space available both in the electrical panel for a solar circuit breaker and near the panel for installation of the inverter.
Roof material may be a consideration as well. Since solar panels last 25-30+ years, you may need the panels removed and then replaced if you need to replace the roof due to a hail storm or regular weathering over time. Choosing a roof material that is rated to last beyond 30 years is beneficial. Metal roofs are ideal for solar installations for this reason. Flat membrane and architectural grade shingles are also good options for increasing roof-life longevity.
You’ll also want to be sure to design your roof area to allow adequate space for the system size needed. Roof space is in most cases the limiting factor for roof mounted systems. A 5 kW array, as shown in the example above, will require approximately 330 ft2 of unobstructed area. Talking with a StraightUp Solar Project Developer will help you determine what your ideal system size should be, and how much square footage to allow depending on your energy offset goals.
A ground-mounted solar array can be a great option if you have available space. Ground-mounts should also face due south, and will be tilted at 30O to maximize their efficiency. The panels will have similar longevity to roof-mounted systems, and it is important to place them in an area that will remain untouched and unshaded over the long-term. A consideration unique to ground-mounts is trenching the system wiring to the point of interconnection, typically near the utility meter. If the solar panels are located far from the utility meter, trenching costs can significantly increase the cost of the installation. Talking with a StraightUp Solar Project Developer will help you understand the best placement for your ground-mounted array.
Aesthetics are important. Do you want to proudly show off your system to your neighbors? Or would you rather have the array in a discreet location hidden from street view? Those are considerations to consider when deciding on the placement of the system. StraightUp Solar offers a variety of panels and typically homeowners prefer an all-black option with a sleek appearance. StraightUp Solar also has an option to add a critter guard, snow guard, and array “skirt” to protect the array wiring from rodents, slow snow fall from the roof, and reduce visibility of the couple inches of gap between your roof and the solar panels.
Planning the construction of a new building is both exciting and challenging. Let us help you! Please reach out now for a free, no-obligation consultation on your new construction project.
1 Zillow Economic Research – April 16, 2019
2 NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)