Imagine buying a brand-new home that came equipped with solar panels. And it isn’t a million-dollar mansion—it’s actually the cheapest house on the block. Homebuilder KB Homes announced that it will offer solar panels as standard equipment on every house it builds in ten subdivisions across southern California.
Including something as expensive as solar panels on every house may seem risky in the current housing market. Average home prices in southern California have stagnated in recent months, according to a story by the Los Angeles Times, and 12% of all mortgages in California are delinquent, according to data from Housingwire.com.
But homebuilder KB Homes is betting the move will help the company sell more houses. That’s because in the current market, the biggest competitor for a new home builder is not other new homes, but rather the glut of existing homes already on the market. By building homes that are more energy efficient and partly powered by solar, KB Homes hopes its new houses will beat out less-efficient older homes.
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“I think one of our biggest competitors is resale,” says Craig LeMessurier, spokesman for KB Homes. “In these times when every penny counts, they’ll look at a home that isn’t energy efficient versus a home that will save them a great deal of money every month. It’s a great benefit to the consumer.”
The base solar system will include six solar panels and produce 1.4 kilowatts of electricity, enough to reduce a home’s energy consumption by 30% a month, LeMessurier says. Consumers can pay more for larger systems, including a 14-panel model that could bring their total energy costs to zero, and even earn them a little extra money by selling power back to the grid.
Larger systems may take longer to pay for themselves in the form of reduced utility bills. But homebuyers may be able to recoup most of the cost for the six-panel system almost immediately. The system adds $5,000 to the cost of the house, LeMessurier says. But a 30% federal tax credit for residential solar arrays covers most of that increased cost within the first year.
“So it’s almost a no-brainer,” LeMessurier says.
The company will include the panels on homes in three subdivisions already under construction, plus another five that will break ground within the next 60 days and two more that will start by the end of 2011, LeMessurier says. Once fully built-out, that will mean 800 homes with solar panels across 10 subdivisions. The houses will cost between $250,000 and $360,000.
Image: Living Off Grid, via Flickr.com