The Economics Make Sense...Now

Since 2009, the combination of solar electric prices dropping by 60%, the arrival in the marketplace of cost effective super high efficiency heat pumps, and the advancements in LED lighting makes it possible to design and build Net Zero Energy homes that are extremely cost effective. Take a minute to run a few sample homes thru our NZEN Calculator. In all 16 climate zones in California the cost of solar provided electricity is significantly less than the grid provided electricity. Keep in mind that solar provides a fixed electric rate for the next 30 years plus. For general contractors building their own homes check out one of our sponsors Builder's Solar. They provide a complete package of solar electric equipment including sizing, design, panels, racks, inverters and help with all the rebate paperwork. A GC building their own home for spec or for themselves can install a solar electric system for just slightly more than the incentives.

Is a Net Zero Energy Home Expensive?

Your Net Zero Energy home will use very efficient appliances, lighting, windows and HVAC to dramatically reduce the electric load of the building; however, most of these devices and methods are required by the California Title 24 energy code already. The solar systems will add 1-2% net cost of the building but will eliminate a utility bill and often will be immediately cash positive.

How Exactly Does The Utility Billing Work?

The way you pay your utility bills changes when you own a solar electric system. The first difference is the meter. The utility will put in a "net meter" that measures how much energy is being produced compared to how much is being used. For example, if more energy is used than is produced by the PV system, the meter may read a positive number. You can look at this positive number as you owing money to the utility. However, it is apparent that some months are much sunnier than others and therefore, your system will produce more energy. Further, the winter months force one to consume more because of the outside temperature as well as decreased sunny hours. Because of these factors that change throughout the year, the utility company adds up the monthly readings over the course of one year before billing the customer. So instead of paying a monthly bill, you only pay at the end of the year. This means that if you produce as much as you consume over the course of the year, you will owe no money regardless of the individual months that you used more than your solar electric system produced.

Sample House: For the following questions consider our NZEN sample house. The house is 2300 square feet insulated with R-30 in the roof, R-19 in the walls and R-19 in the floors. It has Energy Star qualified windows and appliances, uses 90% high efficacy lighting, has an Energy Star heat pump, and will use a 6.2 KW PVT system to achieve Net Zero Energy. The standard house is considered as a house with the same square footage, floor plan and insulation as the NZE Certified sample house, only it just barely beats Title 24 requirements.

How Much Does the Solar Electric System Cost?

The original (pre-incentive) retail price for the 6.2 KW system can be about $30,000. California utility and government incentives make the solar system for this sample home very affordable. First, the New Solar Homes Partnership offers a $2.00 per watt rebate which equals a $12,400 cost reduction for this system. Next, there is a 30% uncapped federal tax credit that will take away another $5,280 off the original price. After these two rebates, the total cost of the Solar Electric system is $12,320. If you wanted to add the cost to your 30 year mortgage, assuming 5% interest, it would only be $66.14 per month. If you a GC building your own home and providing the labor the monthly increase to your mortgage to never having an energy bill would be about $35 per month.

What if I produce more energy than I use?

As of now, the best case scenario for a home is to produce as much energy as it uses. There are few benefits to producing more that it uses.