Building a New Home with Solar in Mind: Tips for Massachusetts Homeowners
May. 09, 2017
Posted: Tuesday, 5/9/17 @ 3pm EST
I'd like to preface this post as I recently built a home of my own because my husband and I were lucky enough to acquire family land. When he and I started discussing plans with the builder, I told the builder I wanted it to be built for the most optimal solar array. He thought it would look weird that our house wasn't parallel to the street (it's at 185° magnetic) and the roof pitch was off (the south facing side is at a 37° pitch), but I didn't care. Most homeowners are not complete "solar geeks" like me, but you can still build a home with solar in mind and offset your electricity tremendously (or all together, like we have... with some in the bank for the summer time when we're pumping the AC!).
So you’ve made the decision to build your dream home. Congratulations! If you are like many Massachusetts homeowners, you may have thought about building your new home with solar in mind. Consider the fact that adding solar panels to a home in the northeast can increase its resale value by nearly $99,000. With that said, going solar on your new home starts to sound like a pretty good idea (not to mention all of the financial benefits that go along with it).
Whether you plan to install solar panels during construction of a new home, or if you are just keeping your options open for later, there are a few considerations you should keep in mind during the design and building phases.
Build a New Home with a South-Facing Roof
Although it may seem like the sun never shines during the long Massachusetts winters, your solar panels will in fact convert sunlight to solar power even on cloudy days. But to make most of that sunlight captured by your solar panels, your roof should face south (anywhere within 10° of 195° magnetic, you're good; the pitch is less important, but should be between 30° and 42°). Just like with a garden plot, if you are in the northern hemisphere, south-facing solar panels receive sunlight for the greatest portion of the day.
Make the Most of Your Solar Panels: Minimize Shade and Obstructions
Although it may be tempting to place your house near that patch of old-growth oaks, you’ll want to reconsider. When building a new home with solar in mind, avoid major obstructions from surrounding trees or buildings. If you can't avoid them and still want to put solar on the home, you'll need to consider cutting down trees that will block the solar side.
Consider Roof Size and Materials with Solar in Mind
Although it’s possible to fit solar panels onto many different roof designs, if you’re lucky enough to design and build a new home before you go solar, why not think ahead. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Large roof area: The larger the surface area of the roof, the larger you can make your solar panel system. And of course, a larger system generates even more energy for your home (for our home, the roof area is 34' x 22' and 26 panels fit in that area - we wanted 27, but a town bylaw made us keep a 3' space on one side)
- Avoid dormers: If possible, don’t include dormers on your roof (we put a large dormer on the opposite roof)
- Consider roof materials: In terms of installing solar roof panels, there are pros and cons to various roof material choices, so it’s best to check with your preferred solar installer before making a decision (at Boston Solar, we'll install solar any roof materials EXCEPT wood shingle, metal shingle or slate)
Involve a Solar Installer Before You Build a New Home
If you are building a new home with solar in mind, it’s a good idea to involve a solar installer early on. A trained solar expert can answer questions from both you and your building contractor. If you are building a new home in Massachusetts and even considering solar panels, consulting now with a local Boston Solar representative will help you make the most of your choice to go solar.
Director of Marketing at Boston Solar
Here's a photo of our home during construction.