Florida green builder delivers luxury net-zero home
Help homebuilders overcome the challenges of adding solar PV systems during construction rather than after.
Education and pre-construction planning that embraces renewable energy systems as part of the building design.
A new below-net-zero home in Fort Myers, FL that produces more energy than it consumes.
- Solar panel installer: Advance Solar & Energy, Fort Myers, FL
- Builder: Greencastle, Inc, Fort Myers
- Home designer: Energy Smart Home Plans
- Rooftop solar PV products: 34 Panasonic HIT® 330W solar modules
- Home: Custom 4,200 square foot single family home in Fort Myers
- Customer: Private homeowner
- Power production: 11.22 kW
The experts at Advance Solar & Energy take pride in sharing their broad knowledge. Their goal: educate builders and architects on sustainable home design and construction best practices. As residential solar gains popularity in the Sunshine State, their mission to tutor the building community along its sustainable journey becomes even more important. But changing old habits and encouraging adoption of new technology is not easy.
For sustainably-built new homes to become the norm rather than the exception, builders will need to know all facets of solar energy. From system design to roofing requirements to federal and state incentives, the details can be overwhelming for those outside the solar profession.
For example, most builders would not know: “Installing a photovoltaic system during the construction process is cheaper than adding a rooftop solar array later on,” says Rick Vaske, Director of Operations at Advance Solar & Energy. “The problem is getting builders to overcome the challenges of adding solar at the time of new construction. Our goal is to help them understand the benefits of this smarter method.”
9 builder challenges to adding solar panels during construction
- Increased cost per square foot of the buildout
- Inexperience in design, engineering, permits, inspections
- Explaining federal & state tax credits to buyers
- Ensuring roofing contractors honor roof warranty
- Understanding desired result of the system’s energy production
- Uninformed about energy storage vs generators
- Training sales staff to answer questions about solar energy
- Lack of knowledge about system cost & ROI
- Electrician concerns about subpanel connectivity
A collaboration between Greencastle, a Fort Myers, FL green builder, Energy Smart Home Design, and Panasonic Premium Installer, Advance Solar & Energy set out to achieve sustainable building excellence.
Working directly with the architect, designer and engineer before construction began, Vaske was able to create a better HERS rating on the home. In addition, everyone gained a full understanding of the building materials required to positively affect the home’s energy needs and reduce its carbon footprint, including:
- High impact windows
- Variable speed air conditioning
- Routing air ducts into living space
- Blown-in insulation
- Smart control of energy consumption
- Offset water heating for pool
- Hot water tank with solar thermal system
Other advantages of pre-planning allowed for optimal rooftop orientation and tilt, which resulted in maximum sunlight capture and solar energy production. In turn, the solar system is more cost-effective and increased federal tax credits at time of construction.
Taking all factors into consideration, Vaske designed these sustainable systems:
- 11.22kW rooftop solar PV system utilizing 34 Panasonic HIT® 330W panels and Solar Edge inverter
- Solar pool system from Heliocol Solar
- Solar hot water system from Apricus with evacuated tubes
The result was better than net-zero. Way better.
When everything was accounted for, with the homeowners living in the home and consuming energy, it scored a -8 HERS® Index rating and a $-51 ENERGY STAR Home Energy Rating. Translation: The house actually produces more energy than it consumes, which is a rare feat in sustainable home building. (The Home Energy Rating System (HERS®) Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured.)
In fact, it returns 8% of the energy a normal new home would consume back to the grid. This is also known as a Positive Energy Home. But that’s not all…
The home’s sustainability grade is so high that civil engineering students from nearby Whitaker College of Engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University come to study how the home is built and how its energy efficient building materials work.
In the green building community, that’s saying something.