Builder: U.S. consumers want solar on new homes

pulte-group-homeConsumer demand for new homes with solar is growing, according to homebuilder PulteGroup. In response, PulteGroup is expanding its offering of solar power in its new home communities.

“Solar makes sense for many homebuyers,” said Walter Cuculic, the company’s Director of Sustainability. “With solar more affordable than ever before, tax credits available for purchasing solar options, and the ability to roll the cost into a home mortgage, solar is a great investment for new homebuyers looking to hedge against rising energy costs.”

Pulte focuses on homes in Southwest
Cuculic said the company has introduced solar primarily in Pulte Homes, Centex and Del Webb communities in the Southwest, and is looking for opportunities to increase the number of communities offering solar electric technology.

The company has 10 actively-selling communities that offer solar as standard or as an option, with the majority of solar based in Arizona, California and Nevada. Four of those communities started offering solar within the last five months.

“We continue to look for additional opportunities across the nation,” Cuculic said, adding that states such as Florida, South Carolina, Colorado and New Jersey are examples of markets where local utilities and governments are considering or implementing solar rebates and incentives for consumers and homebuilders.

“These types of incentives are increasing demand and fueling the growing solar movement,” he added.

This month, the company will begin its first solar community east of the Mississippi. Del Webb’s River Pointe community in New Jersey included 2.25 kW solar electric system, with the option to upgrade to larger sized systems.

Homebuyers look at (solar) as an investment decision. A huge advantage is the ability to roll the cost of solar into your new home mortgage. Essentially, the interest from the homeowners’ mini power plant at the top of their home is now tax deductible.”
— Walter Cuculic, Pulte Homes Director of Sustainability

The roof-integrated SunPower SunTile and SmartMount solar systems Pulte offers are part of a relationship the company has formed at various communities with SunPower Corporation, a manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells and panels.

Norther California community offers solar
Woodbridge by Del Webb in Northern California began offering the company’s first solar power option in a 55+ community more than a year ago. In its first months of offering the option, about 30 percent of the active adult buyers were choosing to add a solar system to their home.

“Typically, an option that has a higher price tag does not perform this well,” said Paul Renker, Vice President of Sales for PulteGroup’s Bay Area Division. “But in this case, homebuyers are telling us they like the fact that solar allows them to take control of their energy costs, reduce their reliance on utilities and contribute to a healthier environment.”

Typically, solar options range in price from about $14,000 to $25,000, before local incentives, rebates and tax credits, said Matt Brost, General Manager of New Homes Division for SunPower Corp. He said the cost varies based on the type solar system selected and size of the home. A typical homeowner can save $35 to $60 a month on their utility bills with a solar option, while at the same time qualifying for tax credits.

Meanwhile, Brost said the cost of solar in new homes is about 20 percent less than retrofitting solar in an existing home. In California for example, rebates for solar systems on new homes are at least 125 percent higher than rebates for retrofitting a system.

Pulte is also able to drive down costs through volume purchase agreements and integrating the system into the home while it is being built, Cuculic said.

“Clearly, we have to look at each community, the price point and the people buying there to determine if solar makes sense,” Cuculic said, noting that the majority of solar offerings for the company will be concentrated with its Pulte Homes and Del Webb brands. “In most cases, a community for first-time homebuyers may not see a high demand for solar simply due to the added cost of the home.”

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GenX buyers want solar
The heart of the Pulte Homes homebuyer are Gen X (age 29 to 45) consumers, many of whom value the social as well as the environmental benefits of solar.

In Las Vegas, Pulte Homes introduced solar as standard at its Villa Trieste community, which features smart home technology that enables homeowners to track their electric production and home energy consumption. Solar electric panels and a custom eco-concierge dashboard in each home help homeowners manage energy usage and monitor solar generation. Additionally, an iPhone application provides Villa Trieste homeowners with a remote and convenient means of monitoring the energy performance of their home.

The 185-unit community, lauded as one of the most energy efficient in the nation, is a result of a public-private collaboration aimed at reducing residential energy demand by 65 percent.

“Homebuyers look at it as an investment decision,” Cuculic said. “A huge advantage is the ability to roll the cost of solar into your new home mortgage. Essentially, the interest from the homeowners’ mini power plant at the top of their home is now tax deductible.”

For more information on energy efficiency in PulteGroup communities, visit the PulteGroup pressroom and click on “Energy Efficient Homebuilding.”

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