In May 2018, the California Energy Commission (CEC) voted unanimously to create a new solar panel mandate. In a nutshell, it requires that rooftop solar panels be installed on all new construction homes built after 2020. The CEC will implement additional mandates, known as the “2022 Energy Code” requiring single-family homes to be electric-ready, beginning in January 2023.
The purpose is to ensure that all new homes built after 2020 be Net Zero energy. Translation: Home must produce more energy than they consume.
For the most part, California homebuilders and affordable housing activists see this as a positive housing move; they insist it will help balance the regulatory costs with benefits to the environment. Organizations directly impacted by the new regulations look forward to the expansion of green homes in California.
Robert Raymer, technical director of the California Building Industry Association called the mandate a, “quantum leap,” and believes the rest of the nation should pay attention to see how it impacts housing on a larger scale.
What is the Solar Panel Mandate?
So, what does the green housing regulation do? In the hopes of slashing energy usage in new homes by 50 percent, the CEC requires that by 2020, all new construction, single-family homes — and multifamily homes under three stories — have rooftop solar panels installed upon completion.
By 2023, California’s Solar Mandate will also require all single-family homes to accommodate solar battery storage systems so they can be electric-ready and compatible. These changes will help ensure that homes have electricity during any power outage; solar panels won’t need to rely on an electrical grid to function. These changes will also reduce the grid’s reliance on fossil fuels, furthering California’s commitment to green energy.
David Hochschild, Commissioner of the CEC, has called this mandate a, “bold and visionary step” that had the potential to affect 170,000 new homes in 2020 alone, according to the Washington Post.
Unfortunately, the Commission’s own documents are vague about what this green energy mandate entails. While the mandate does allow homes that cannot support rooftop solar panels to draw power from a community solar bank, it does not clarify how many panels a new home will need. Nor does it indicate what percentage of the home’s energy consumption should be solar-powered.
The CEC’s mandate didn’t only address rooftop solar panels – though that ruling made the biggest headlines. The new regulations contained other requirements for residential construction that would help homes comply with California’s Net Zero energy regulations. Builders that construct a new home after 2020 must adhere to strict guidelines on green insulation, improving the envelope around the home, and enhancing ventilation measures that impact air filters.
What Does This Mean For New Construction Homes in California?
The green building mandate has many direct effects on housing in California. It impacts the overall affordability of new homes, the cost of living in the home, and the amount of energy consumed. According to the CEC, this set of regulations is expected to have these financial and energy consumption impacts:
- Add approximately $9,500 to the total cost of a new construction home
- Raise monthly mortgage payments by about $40
- Save homeowners $19,000 in utility bills over 30 years, not including repair costs
- Reduce home energy use by 53 percent
- Add 200 megawatts of solar energy deployed statewide per year
- Reduce 10 million metric tons of greenhouse gases over 30 years, the equivalent to taking 2.2 million cars off the road for a year
While proponents of these regulations point to the massive savings in utility bills over the lifetime of a home, many are apprehensive about the upfront cost tacked on to the price tag. In California, housing inventory is already low. When you consider that the average cost of a home is nearly $600,000, homebuilders feel the weight of these regulations bearing down on them. Factor in the cost of a mortgage and a home buyer’s down payment and you have a red-hot-button issue.
The solar panel and electric-ready mandates are another regulation in California’s quest to reduce energy consumption and become one of the greenest states in the US. If you plan on building a new home in California in the coming years, watch for more information on these developing green construction mandates. NewHomeSource will provide updates with additional developments as they become available.
Ultimately, these regulations should help homeowners save money over the lifetime of their homes. Another perk is that homeowners will have the pleasure of knowing they are helping maintain a healthy and green space.
What do you think about requiring builders to include solar panels on their newly built homes? Would you want to pay almost $10,000 more for your new home to have solar panels and battery storage? Let us know in the comments below.
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Lauren Brown graduated from the University of North Texas in 2021 with a degree in Advertising. She’s a freelance copywriter and editor from Austin, Texas. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking pastry, reading, and marathoning movies.