When you are building a new home, it can be one of the most exciting times in your life. How many bedrooms do we need? How many bathrooms do we need? Open plan kitchen or something more costly? How do we heat the water, what size garage and what direction do we face the lounge room? It is a time of information overload.
Today the energy footprint of your new home should be a major consideration because in the future the energy-related decisions you make today will affect the running costs of your home for decades to come.
Today we already know that Electric Vehicles will be part of the future, and so are home storage batteries. So where will your car be parking when it gets charged? What is a good spot for the battery – in the garage or outdoors? Naturally the “engine” to power these new home additions is a high-quality solar system.
If you are building a new home, getting a solar system makes so much sense, not just to keep your future bills down, but also to have the surplus renewable energy to heat your water, charge your car and fill up your home storage battery – so that you can use solar power even at night.
SolarWide, the local, family-owned solar installation company on the Sunshine Coast can give you free advice on how to future proof your new home build, so that the Smart Energy Home of the future, can be already designed and built for you today.
Installing solar and batteries as part of the new home build makes sense
A new build provides the opportunity to significantly lower your families carbon footprint, but you must ensure that you have done your research. Detailed discussions with your architect, home designer, building contractor, and solar specialist to work together to find smart solutions will ensure you gain an excellent carbon footprint and low energy cost outcome.
At SolarWide we can help you with your new home energy footprint design by looking at your current electricity bill. For example, we might suggest doubling the current electricity consumption assumptions to take care of family expansion and most importantly EV charging at home in the future.
An EV vehicle requires around 15 kWh of electricity to drive 100km – so if a home has 2 cars and the average travel distance of both EVs together is 150km per day, then you need to allow for 24kWh of electricity per day just for the car charging. 18 to 25kWh is the usage pattern of a standard Australian home without EV charging – so the assumption of allowing for a higher consumption going forward seems appropriate.
Modern homes might also use the excess solar power to divert it into hot water generation, pool heating or even room heating. So, make sure you design the roof appropriately so a large 6 to 10 kw solar system can easily be fitted, as the excess PV electricity can then be used for other applications. Exporting it for a low Feed in Tariff (FIT) is not as worthwhile as finding other uses for this electricity in your home. One of the other smart uses is to precool your home in summer. So, in the middle of the day – when your solar pumps out the maximum electricity, do not leave your house heating up but use this “free electricity” to pre-cool your home. When you then come home at 6pm, you are not arriving to a hot house and need to run the aircon hard, at the time the solar production has reduced, but you arrive to a cool comfortable home paid for by literally free electricity.
All these smart solutions are something to research before you complete the home design and our solar and battery experts at SolarWide will be able to assist you in developing your new homes energy plan.
Regarding solar and home storage battery installations, having the system added as part of the new home build has several advantages. They are:
- The inverter position can be properly planned, and as inverters like a cool position to last as long as possible, a spot in the garage or on a southern wall should be reserved. It is surprising during an inverter installation in a retro fit to an existing house, how hot water tanks, air conditioning units, wall fastened clothes driers and rainwater tanks take up valuable space on the side of homes.
- The cable run can be ideally planned and executed during the framing stage. Typically, in a solar installation 4mm or even 6mm DC cables runs from the roof, where the panels will be located to the inverter position. These are all installed in conduit and obvioulsy, it is much easier to install the cabling and conduits through the exposed frames, rather than try and fix them through gyprock walls and brick cavities.
- The normal electricity meter on a home does not allow for solar exports. In existing homes after solar has been installed, the energy retailer staff must come out and switch the meter over, so solar exports can be measured and credited. In a new build, the correct solar meter can immediately be installed, saving the replacement cost.
- If your home is 2 storeys, the solar installation team can work hand in hand with your builder and roofer to utilise any scaffolding or scissor lift on-site to get the panels safely onto the roof. Beats carrying the 20kg plus solar panels up a ladder.
Other solar-related considerations when building a new home:
You should consider the way that your block of land is shaped. The structure of your lot can have an unexpected effect on the functioning of solar panels. For instance, if you purchase a plot of land with a big slope on the northern or east side, the sun will not reach your solar modules until much later during the day in comparison to a flat plot or one raised on the southern or western side. Furthermore, if you’re thinking about buying a coastline property, verify with your installer if you’ll need to install racking and solar panels with higher wind load and better corrosion resistance, such as LG Electronics’ NeON H panels.
Another consideration to be made is your roof design. A roof with lots of gables and small sections will make it more difficult to install many solar panels and could limit the kW size of your PV system.
A north-facing roof, in most cases, will allow your solar modules to capture as much sunlight as possible. If facing north isn’t an option, a north-west or western direction is your 2nd best choice. The reason is that usually electricity consumption increases in the afternoon, for example via air conditioning, so having the panels face west makes sense, as they will generate electricity well, at a time it is needed. Easterly facing panels will not support late afternoon air conditioning use as much but are ideal if in your house electricity consumption peaks before lunchtime.
SolarWide also recommends planning the location of your other roof fixed items such as satellite dishes, antennas, air-conditioning, vent pipes and also consider nearby trees in a way to avoid shadowing your panels. Place these items as much as possible towards the roof edge on the south and during design is the best time to do this, as you have the option to design your roof and the living spaces below from scratch.
Many homes in the future will have a solar home storage battery. Today’s lithium-ion battery technology does not like being exposed to heat above 50 degrees Celsius. Therefore, planning the future home storage battery location is an important aspect, when designing your home. A garage is the best spot to locate the battery, but then one should also consider the cable run, as shorter cable runs to the switchboard make the battery more efficient.
Even if you do not install a solar battery today, run the cable in the wall, so when you are ready for a battery, your home is ready. Maybe even create a small battery and energy room, adjacent to the garage, to allow for future battery expansions, because in the future, maybe many homes will simply operate off-grid.
We also recommend looking at other energy-saving measures to have an excellent energy footprint for your home. Do not skimp on roof insulation. Keeping heat and the cold from your home will pay for itself in the future. Avoid huge westerly windows which will be a heat absorber, like skylights – they also add enormously in summer to the heat built up of your home. If your Westerly aspects offer the best views, then consider double glazing to reduce the heat load. For hot water generation, consider a heat pump that can run via the excess solar PV generation, so instead of exporting these spare kWhs for as low as 7cents, you use this electricity to create hot water on the cheap.
A well-designed quality solar system is a must in a new build. It will ensure that the overall energy costs of your home will be relatively modest for years to come. Payback and return sit around 20 to 25%, meaning you will have your initial investment back in 4 to 5 years and if you have chosen quality, instead of cheap and unreliable solar, then for a long time, your initial investment will return over 20% via the new solar system. If you decide to add a battery as well then, the return on investment (ROI) drops to around 15%, but this is still a respectable number in our low-interest home loan environment of 2-3%.
Talk to SolarWide, before you finalise your new home plans on the Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane and we promise that our feedback and suggestions will improve your home’s running costs and comfort level. Give us a call on 07 5309 5871 for obligation-free advice or visit our showroom located at 3 Bearing Ave, Warana QLD 4575.