California Mandates Installation of Solar Panels on All New Homes Starting 2020

An exquisite home with the walls adorned with flowers and solar cells installed on the roof.

On Wednesday, May 9, 2018, the California Energy Commission (CEC) voted unanimously to create a new mandate that does not need approval from the state legislature and requires rooftop solar panels be put on all new construction homes built after 2020.

This new green building mandate is part of a series of regulations aimed at helping California homebuilders comply with a larger mandate to have all new homes built after 2020 be Net Zero energy, meaning they produce more energy than they consume.

For the most part, California homebuilders and affordable housing activists see this new mandate as a positive factor for housing in California. Citing their involvement with the CEC while crafting this mandate, and the balancing of regulatory cost with benefits to the environment, organizations directly impacted by the new set of regulation 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 see how it impacts housing on a larger scale.

What is the Solar Panel Mandate?
So, what does this new green housing regulation do? In the hopes of cutting energy usage in new homes by 50 percent, the CEC has required that by 2020, all new-construction, single-family homes -- and multifamily homes under three stories -- have rooftop solar panels installed upon completion.

David Hochschild, Commissioner of the CEC, has called this mandate a, “bold and visionary step” that will affect almost 170,000 new homes in 2020 alone, according to ABC News.
Unfortunately, the Commission’s own documents are vague about what this new green energy mandate actually 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 or the percentage of the home’s energy consumption that must come from solar.

The CEC’s mandate specifically for roof top solar panels made the biggest headlines, but these new regulations also contain more requirements for residential construction in an effort help them comply with California’s Net Zero energy regulations. In addition to requiring solar panels, all new homes built in 2020 and beyond have new regulations guidelines builders must following about green insulation, improving the envelope around the home, and ventilation measures that impact air filters.

What Does This Mean For New Construction Homes in California?
This new 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 a home consumes. According to the CEC, This new set of regulations on new homes 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 a 30 year period, with the cost repairs unaccounted for
  • Reduce home energy use by 53 percent
  • Add 200 megawatts of solar energy deployed statewide per year

While proponents of these new regulations point to the massive savings in utility bills over the lifetime of a home, thanks to solar panels, many people are nervous about the upfront cost added to a new home. In California, where housing inventory is already low and the average home cost almost $600,000, increasing the burden of regulations on homebuilders, and the cost of a mortgage and down payment for homeowners, is a hot button issue.

The solar panel mandate is 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.

At the end of the day, these regulations should help homeowners save money over the lifetime of their home, while helping them 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? Let us know in the comments below.

After graduating in 2016 from The University of Texas with a degree in English, Sanda Brown became a SEO Associate for (...more)

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