Posted on March 23, 2017 by Jorie Helms

The solar panel industry and efficiency advocates have not backed off their efforts to require all new homes to be “solar-ready.” These efforts are showing up throughout the country at both the state and local levels.

The solar panel industry submitted an amendment to the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) that would have required all homes to be built in such a way that solar panels could be accommodated on the roof: typically including a conduit from the attic to the electric panel, space in the panel to accommodate the solar circuit and documentation that the roof is strong enough to hold a system as well as 300 square feet of clear (not north-facing) roof area.

The amendment to mandate solar-ready homes was defeated ─ but it was included in the appendix of the 2015 IECC, allowing a state or local jurisdiction the ability to require homes to be solar-ready if it wants to.

It’s true that having the infrastructure in place for the installation of photovoltaic panels can be can be desirable to consumers in some markets – which is why NAHB is a strong supporter of voluntary programs and tax credits that encourage their use.

But solar-ready homes aren’t for everyone and every region, so NAHB has resources for home builders and HBAs to refute arguments that they should be installed in all homes.

It’s easy to see that a mandate isn’t the way to go.

  • It’s not just the cost – estimated to be between $300-$500 per home – but also design issues: Plumbing and mechanical vents might need to be relocated to find the 300 square feet of space the panels require, and architectural features such as gables and dormers might not be possible on a home’s south side: a problem if that’s the side that faces the street.
  • Some fire departments have expressed concerns about their ability to vent the roof in the event of a fire.
  • Not every house is a good candidate for solar panels either because of size or space constrictions or because of location – it makes no sense for a house that is often shadowed by tall trees or surrounding buildings, for example.

An alternate to a mandate for solar-ready homes would be, if the builder requests it, that private solar panel installers “certify” a new home as solar-ready if the home’s design allows for easy placement of panels at a future date. The certification sticker could be placed on or near the home’s electrical panel and include the company telephone number so the owner can call when ready – and the solar company can make a sale.

For resources and fact sheets on these code proposals, contact NAHB’s Don Surrena

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