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How To Save Now And Later With A Solar Home

December 7, 2008
If youve looked at an electric bill lately, you know the value of a solar home. Theres no denying that building a house to maximize the potential to soak up the suns rays to offset heating and cooling bills is smart. Unfortunately, tweaking a home to take full advantage of every daylight hour and installing the correct systems to harness the power can prove very costly. On the upside, making this investment can save you a lot of money down the road.

So, how can you save money and still get the solar house you have your heart set on?

There are ways to bring the costs of solar home construction into line and make the investment well worth every penny. The trick lies in knowing what corners you can get away with cutting and which ones to refuse to comprise on. When you arm yourself with the right tips, money savings will come naturally.

Why Go Solar?

As electrical and natural gas prices continue to rise and availability of these power sources stands in question, solar is an excellent alternative for offsetting use. In some cases, its even possible to completely remove a home from a power grid.

Solar energy has come a long way since its original heyday in the 1970s. This source of power is now more efficient to tap into and it is becoming more cost effective with each new technological breakthrough. The benefits of using solar to augment or replace natural gas or electric include:

Monthly cost savings When a home-based solar power system is used to augment electrical, monthly electric and/or gas bills can be reduced dramatically. The actual amount will vary based on power availability and which home systems are offset by the use of solar.

Environmental benefits Solar energy is completely renewable. The impacts of using this form of energy to power a home a very minimal.

Availability Solar power units can operate when other sources of power go out. If the electrical grid is offline, for example, power stored in solar batteries can still be used.

Building a home that relies on solar power is an excellent way to fight back against the high price of electricity by offsetting its use. Building this type of home will take careful planning and consideration, but it can prove quite worth it financially in the long run.

2 Major Steps For Cost Savings

Solar construction doesnt have to break your budget if you take the right steps to save yourself money. There are two main things coming out of the gate that you can do to ensure that costs stay low awhile the beauty and efficiency of your home are high. They are:

Choosing to build on your own land If you buy land in advance of the construction of your solar home, you will be able to experience a number of cost-savings benefits that might not otherwise be afforded to you.

Acting as your own builder If you do buy land to build on, this option will become wide open. If you act as your own builder, you can substantially cut down on construction costs. While you will have to do a rather sizeable amount of work to see real rewards, the impact on your bottom line can be quite sizable. As the builder, you will have to arrange for land preparation, obtain blueprints, hire subcontractors, order materials, obtain permits and set inspection appointments. Every step you take on your own, however, is one piece of the puzzle you wont have to pay a contractor for.

Why A Land Purchase Matters

Beyond being able to act as your own general contractor, having your own land for construction of a solar home can and does provide you with a number of other benefits especially for this type of home. When your piece of property is specifically picked out for solar construction, you will be better able to:

Situate a house on the property for maximum sun exposure This can be a very big issue that will impact the overall efficiency of a solar system. Your home and its solar panels should be situated for the maximum effectiveness. On small lots or in subdivisions, you will have less freedom on this front. While this wont mean you cant go solar, it can lessen the effectiveness and power output of your system.

Avoid obstructions Things that get in the way of panels receiving the optimum amount of sunlight can hamper the ability of systems to operate at their full potential. When you build in a subdivision or on a very small lot, you will have little control over where neighbors put their houses, trees and other obstructions. If you pick out your own lot of reasonable size, however, youll have more control over this.

Getting Your Plans Lined Up

Before you can move forward with construction of your solar home, youll need to have plans in place for the home itself and the solar electrical system. There are a few options, but one tends to stand out if maximum efficiency is your desire.

So, what are your options?

As an owner builder, you can choose to purchase ready-made plans from an architectural firm or professional builder. Stock plans can be purchased for a fraction of the pricing working with an architect on a custom design might cost. If you choose to go this route, do check into a firms background, licensing and effectiveness of designs. You want to hear from others who have built solar homes from the designs about their experiences if at all possible.

Working with an architect might be the best option going. While this will cost you more, getting a custom design can save you money in the long-run. When you work directly with an architect and you happen to already have your land in place, your solar home can be designed to:

Meet your dream home specifications A skilled and licensed architect should be able to take your ideas for a dream house and put them on paper. This is the surefire way to get the house you truly want.

Increase solar efficiency When an architect who knows solar design works on your home, it should turn out to have the maximum efficiency. A good architect will not only take your design requests to heart, he or she will also help plan out solar panel placement. If you have the land already purchased, he or she will also take this into account and make sure the situation on the property is ideal for gaining as much incoming power as possible.

Working with an architect will cost you more, but it can be worth it. Just take the time to shop around not only by pricing, but also based on skill level, reputation, licensing and past work.

The Real Money Savings

Okay, so far youve learned that cutting corners on the design can cost you over the long haul. Bet youre dying to learn how you can save money on the project! Remember that suggestion to act as the owner builder? Thats where the savings comes in.

As an owner builder you will be able to save on:

General contracting fees You can cut the entire cost of a general contractor out of the bottom line. While this will put the onus on your shoulders, the money savings can be very worthwhile. Just make sure you have a handle on the building process and the time and organizational skills to pull off the job.

Some subcontractor fees Owner builders are allowed to perform some of the construction work themselves. This means if youre particularly handy in any area of construction, you can feasibly cut a subcontractor out of the picture. Whether its a big piece of the puzzle, such as framing, or a small one, like painting, every job you can tackle personally will save you.

Materials ordering The materials costs for building a solar home can add up to a fair amount. As the owner builder, you can do some of your own ordering. This will give you the ability to price things out and obtain the best possible quotes. Just make certain you dont put pricing over quality.

Saving money on the construction of a solar home without sacrificing dream house status is more than possible. If you take on some of the work yourself and learn what corners to cut and which ones to hold firm on, your savings can add up to a tidy sum.