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2011 - Volume 1 Issue 2
Casas Bonitas
New Home Construction
Article: Bob Skolnick
courtesy Florian® Solar
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A solar energy system is an excellent investment when building a new custom home. Until recently, solar systems were thought of as very expensive and too high tech for a single family home. I think a better approach is to think of a solar system as an appliance you would purchase, and the purpose of this appliance is to provide a source of energy other than purchased energy. This helps power the elements of your home more economically.

The inclusion of solar systems can be bundled into the aggregate cost of building the new home and included in the home mortgage. This is a growing technology and lenders and appraisers are becoming more educated to the costs and contributions of a solar system inclusion in a home’s value.


FAFCO’s patented Solar Pool Heating system. Its fully-wetted design transfers virtually all available energy directly to the pool water.

Aire Serv Heating
& Air Conditioning


Border Solar

Positive Energy

Solar Smart Living

Sun City Plumbing
& Heating


Sun Tech Services

SunSpot Solar
Energy Systems

There are different laws and codes in New Mexico and Texas for the placement of solar systems. Make sure you check the covenants of your community for any requirements, then contact your solar provider. If you are concerned about the aesthetics of a solar system, there are now solar panels that are integrated into roof tiles or placed as patio roofs, kept to the natural surface and sight lines of the house. This is a new technology under development. Solar panels can also be installed on the ground but will need enough room so that they are not shaded and will require a more detailed mounting rack.

When you install a solar energy system, the goal is to reduce the amount of purchased power, electric or natural gas, and to lower your monthly expense for energy to operate your household. The federal government, individual states and local utility companies are offering significant tax credits and energy credits for the inclusion or upgrade to solar. These tax credits go a long way to reduce the initial purchase and installation costs. With the tax credits, your return on investment will come back in a fewer number of years. Equally important is the value a solar system adds to your home (without increasing your taxable property base) and having solar will keep the home of today competitive with homes of the future.

The electricity or natural gas required to operate a home varies, based on the energy efficiency of the home. The appliances, the heating and cooling system and lighting are the largest consumers of electricity and natural gas. Another factor of energy consumption is based on the number of people residing in the home and the energy use habits such as thermostat settings, length of showers, number of laundry loads, swimming pools, etc. Solar systems can offset the purchase of both electricity and natural gas depending on how the system is applied.

As a first step you can install passive solar elements such as solar light tubes in rooms that have limited daytime use such as kitchens, laundry rooms, garages and bathrooms. Light tubes will cut your lighting requirements and your energy demand.

There are two basic types of solar energy systems for the home. The first is a photovoltaic system that makes electricity and is connected to the electric utility. There will be times when your solar system will produce more energy than being consumed and other times where your usage will exceed any production (night time and bad weather days.) You will partner with your local utility company sometimes as an electricity producer and some times as an electricity consumer.

A solar voltaic systems is a series of collector panels which can be mounted on the roof or the ground with collectors that collect the sun’s energy and convert that energy to electricity. The array of panels can be connected as a series and the solar energy collected is directed to one inverter which converts the energy from the array of panels to electricity. You also can have a micro inverter for each panel which allows them to function independently. This approach is slightly more costly but provides for better results over time. The most productive months for the collection of solar energy are the spring and fall. Solar actually diminishes its collection process in the hottest part of the summer as the panels get too hot and work less efficiently.

A second type of solar system is solar thermal. This system heats hot water either directly or indirectly to provide hot water for showering, dishwashing, clothes washing and home heating. This type of solar system uses a series of singular collector panels filled with tubes which are typically placed on the roof. In a solar thermal system the sun’s radiant energy heats water or glycol in tubes running through the panels on your roof. Your provider and installer must have a plumbers license.

There are two types of solar thermal systems, active and passive. The active system uses a series of panels that collects the sun's radiant energy and heats water as it passes through the collector panel and then is stored in a large holding tank for use when needed. This system requires pumps and a controller and it in itself uses energy. Active systems are typically specified when the use is to heat air for winter comfort as well as for hot water usage. Passive systems are simpler and less expensive. They are directed specifically to provide a portion of your hot water needs to reduce your demand on traditional energy. The passive solar thermal system operates with a collector panel(s) mounted on the roof, each holding up to fifty gallons of water. When the need for hot water occurs, the cold water supply rather than going to a traditional hot water storage tank goes to the roof mounted collector panel and the solar heated water goes to a hot water tank that services the demand.

It is always recommended to have a backup hot water heater inside the house such as a tankless hot water heater that may only be called into use if needed. The overall result is a lower energy demand and a resulting savings.

A separate solar thermal system is also specifically designed to help you heat your swimming pool. This is accomplished by a series of collector panels that heat the water as it moves through the collector system. The concept is similar to the passive solar system except that the water circulates using the pool’s pumping system. If designed correctly, solar pool heating systems provide for comfortable water temperature of between 80 to 85 degrees six months out of the year, typically from mid spring to mid fall. A heated pool for use in cooler months will require a pool water heater to provide the source for warming the pool water. Again a natural gas fired heater is the best option.

Solar systems are now much more affordable and within the average homeowner’s financial capability. You need to give serious consideration to solar, especially if your lender will include this in your mortgage.

Once you make the decision to go forward with solar, you need to engage an experienced and licensed solar energy company at the early planning stage. They will evaluate your home’s probable energy usage, design the system, oversee the installation, secure the permits, interface with the utility company and help you with the application for the energy tax rebates. ///
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