house with solar panels

An Architect’s Advice on Solar Panels in the Bay Area

We’re all looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint by leading greener lives. One popular option for homeowners in the Bay Area and beyond? Solar panels.

If you’re wondering whether solar panels are right for your home project in the Bay Area, read on. We’ll tackle solar architecture, solar panels, green design, and how they work together to create sustainable homes.

Electrician connecting solar panels

What is Solar Architecture?

Every day the sun releases a massive amount of energy. The solar architecture  approach harnesses this clean and renewable power to create energy-efficient buildings.

ArchDaily says solar architecture is a  “way to address the global climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions. Solar design can reshape cities and architecture around the world.”

A solar home design includes many strategies for converting solar energy, such as:

  • properly oriented windows,
  • thermal mass,
  • distribution mechanisms, and
  • control methods like roof overhangs and electronic sensing devices.

Among these, solar panels remain as the most effective way to power your home while helping the planet.

The 411 on Solar Panels

Unfortunately, solar panels often get a bad rap. Concerns include upfront costs, appearance, and home resale value. However, these fears are unfounded.

 First, the upfront costs. But while installing solar panels can seem steep, they can more than pay for themselves eventually. Coupled with lower utility bills, government incentives, and higher property value, you’ll realize how much savings you can have with solar panels.

According to the Center for Sustainable Energy, the average costs of solar panels and installation range between $15,000-$25,000. Typically, experts measure cost in terms of dollars per watt, AKA the output capacity of a panel.

Secondly, the appearance of solar panels has also improved. Thanks to new designs, the solar panel aesthetic moved from a mere afterthought to an architectural element.

Finally, with increased awareness of going green, homebuyers show willingness to pay more for eco-friendly homes. According to one Zillow report, homes with solar panels sell for 4.1 percent more than those without.

Different Kinds of Solar Panels

Then, there’s the fact that you may not have any choice. For instance, California mandated that all new homes be built with solar electricity systems – the first state to do so. The takeaway? If you want to build a home in California, solar panels will be part of the design.

Critically, it’s also important to note that solar panels aren’t created the same. There are several different kinds — each with its own set of pros and cons. They vary across factors like how they’re manufactured, cost, appearance, performance, and installation. 

The three primary solar panel types are:

  • monocrystalline,
  • polycrystalline, and
  • thin-film.

Depending on the specifics of your property and project goals, one type of solar panel may be more suitable than another.

To Buy or to Lease Solar Panels?

Moreover, another thing to consider if you’re thinking of going solar is whether to buy a solar panel system or lease it. Each  has its distinct pros and cons, as well.

For instance, purchasing a solar panel system maximizes the financial benefits of going solar. You can take advantage of tax credits and increase your home’s market value.

On the other hand, leasing may be best if you want to do away with maintenance and repairs. This could also work if you don’t qualify for tax credits,  don’t want to pay cash, or take out a loan to cover upfront costs.

solar panels on roof top

Solar Architecture and Green Design

In 2019, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) called an urgent resolution  to “exponentially accelerate the decarbonization of buildings.” Above all, it calls for global standards that will help create zero-net-carbon buildings.

Solar architecture is just one of many initiatives towards green design. Others include:

  • radiant flooring,
  • gray water recycling,
  • geothermal systems,
  • eco-friendly materials, and
  • energy efficient windows. 

Homeowners looking to remodel or build a sustainable home can combine these systems into one comprehensive green design for best results.

Due of its growing popularity, many architects have experience with solar architecture and green design. At Drafting Cafe, we specialize in a complete range of services for new home builds and renovations, including:

  • Architectural design,
  • Project management,
  • Interior design,
  • Budgeting/estimating,
  • Permitting, and
  •  ADU plans.

To learn more about our solar architecture and other approaches or to start your project in the Bay Area, contact us today.

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