Many homeowners are interested in solar power, yet need assurance that a home can maintain its elegance with solar panels. The answer is an emphatic Yes!
There’s a specific population of buyers attracted to homes with energy-efficient features. What buyer does not value energy efficiency, whether in an established or newly built home? The idea of solar can be, and today usually is, successfully marketed to attract buyers, and to present a favorable view of the solar roof.
But not everyone is convinced. Homeowners who have held out because panels just don’t mesh with their aesthetics will be pleased to see the rapid progress of roofs with solar shingles. Shingles can blend into the architecture of a home and that of surrounding homes.
Bright Outlook for Property Values
Most people understand that solar power is an environmentally aware choice. And most know residential solar panels lower a home’s electricity bills. Less has been said about the boost solar energy can offer to a home’s value.
EnergySage, with Sandia National Laboratories, analyzed solar market values in 15 U.S. cities. In five of these cities, the income value of installing photovoltaic cells significantly outshines the cost of putting in the system. Those markets are San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the west, and Newark and NYC on the east coast.
For 10 of the 15 cities examined, solar PV systems were projected to retain income values of at least 80% of their price and installation costs. Energy Sage offers a helpful comparison here. Undertaking a major kitchen renovation will enable the homeowner to recoup about 68% of the investment on the real estate market. Comparatively, solar installations offer a remarkable return on an owner’s investment.
Enter the Tiles: Solar Systems Designed as Architectural Features
Tesla started taking orders this year for solar tiles. Beautifully styled as terracotta, slate, or smooth, modern asphalt, they are actually made of a textured glass far stronger than conventional tiles. With their durability warrantied for the lifetime of the home, and at an overall average cost of $22 per square foot, Tesla tiles offer a surprisingly reasonable option for upmarket homes. Installations, quickly and completely handled by Tesla, have begun. Tesla takes care of design, permits, removal of the existing roof, and installation plus maintenance for the new tiles.
By bringing solar power to wealthy communities, where aesthetics are paramount and visible solar panels are sometimes disallowed, Tesla is effectively floating all boats in the residential solar industry.
Consumer Reports recently published results of an experiment run on a 1,500-square-foot ranch home in Thousand Oaks, CA. Going with a recommended 50% inactive tiles and 50% active solar tiles, results look good for return on investment. The initial cost of the roof and a Powerwall device is $49,800 whereas the energy savings over 30 years is $84,700; add $13,900 in tax credits for a net savings of $41,800.
State and local credits could make the Tesla’s state-of-the-art Panasonic cells even more attractive.
With property tax exemptions for residential solar power, where a solar installation increases the value of a home, the property taxes will continue to be assessed for the lower value of your home before the improvement.
About half the states offer solar property tax breaks and most of these cover home improvements such as small rooftop systems. New York state offers a 25% Solar Energy System Credit, capped at $5,000. Here is how Consumer Reports calculates the values for New York and Texas homes — as well as the California example.
Threshold Questions: Whether and When You Need a New Roof
Traditional PV panels could come in under 30% less than Tesla’s price tag, according to Hugh Bromley, solar expert with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Yet Tesla’s look will be so attractive — and so will Tesla’s warranty.
Nevertheless, panels, which do not involve entirely new roofing, are currently the practical choice for most U.S. homeowners.
Unless a house could do with a roof replacement within five years, the price tag on a Tesla roof might make it seem out of reach to most people.
Then again, some people who’d like to go solar might wish to consider these beautiful tiles, if it happens that their home is due for a roof replacement. Asphalt shingles are reaching the outer limits of their life expectancies after two to three decades. Slate or metallic roofs can double that longevity. Each roof is unique, so it’s important to get an inspection when deciding when a replacement makes the most sense.
A homeowner who plans to replace a roof and install solar panels on it could consider Tesla’s tiles instead, if paying 10% to 20% more is acceptable. If design elements are among the homeowner’s top priorities, the extra expenditure may feel completely worthwhile. All the more so as the solar shingles will keep their curb appeal for years, and not fade as a typical roof will after a few years of exposure to the elements.
Some homeowners are Tesla car aficionados and would like to be part of the first group to get all the newest technology in place, excited about a future in which our roofs all drive our Powerwall batteries which, in turn, run our cars! Many of the tiles’ early adopters are already Tesla fans.
And It’s Not Just Tesla
Solar shingles may be particularly exciting to those who have decided to have a new house built. Residential solar power is becoming ever more attractive as green builders can now offer a whole, integrated process for both the roof building and the installation of a residential solar energy system. This decision and industry segment is known as building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV.
Tesla’s high-profile system is credited for reviving The Dow Chemical Co.’s POWERHOUSE™ shingles after they’d been taken off the market for a year.
RGS Energy Solar Company, based in Denver, Colorado, has announced a licensing agreement with Dow for the solar roof shingle system, which is designed with practical finances in mind. Dow’s new solar shingles rely on traditional silicon cells rather than on copper-gallium-selenide (CIGS) technology. According to RGS, the return to silicon reduces the cost notably.
RGS, which will handle the product installations, expects UL final certification in early 2018. The company is taking orders in anticipation of that printed certification.
RGS Energy’s CEO Dennis Lacey noted through an October 4, 2017 press release that as the adoption of renewable energy increasingly becomes public policy, with some towns even mandating solar energy for new homes, the time is right for integrated systems. Lacey also observed that customers want aesthetically pleasing solar systems.
Survey Says . . .
Residential solar roofs are becoming ever more stylish, even as they promise to increase market values in a host of other ways. Increasingly, the question is why a homeowner would not desire a solar roof.
The new aesthetic in the residential solar industry is just the latest game-changing element in a major social shift.
At The Solar Digest, we’ll be working hard to keep our readership up to date with the most interesting and useful news on solar technology, and the innovators making it happen.
Union of Concerned Scientists:
New York State Department of Taxation and Finance:
New York Times – Markets:
Consumer Reports (update, Aug. 2017):
GuideTo Network: Guide to Home Improvement