It’s an exciting time for solar energy. Solar is becoming increasingly more popular throughout the entire country, but nowhere more so than California. Not only is California one of the best states for solar power due to its abounding amount of year-around sunlight, but it has also recently passed the California Solar Mandate, a new code that requires new homes to be built with solar energy from the get-go.

The California Solar Mandate is exciting for many reasons, but much like most other legislation, it can be a bit difficult wading through the internet to learn everything you need to know about it. As a company who has been in the solar industry for over 25 years, we’re here to help break it down for you.

What Is the California Solar Mandate?

The California Solar Mandate is pretty simple on the surface. It requires all new homes to have a solar energy source, with some exceptions. The system must be large enough to meet the annual electricity usage of the building. Since new properties don’t have a proven track record of electricity usage, this figure is based on a professional estimate, determined by factors such as climate, floor space, and so on.

When Does the California Solar Mandate Go Into Effect?

In fact, it already has! The California Solar Mandate kicked into gear on January 1, 2020. As of now, any homes that are built after this date will fall into the bounds of this new code.

What Buildings Are Exceptions to the California Solar Mandate?

The California Solar Mandate is a bold and ambitious attempt to embrace the future of solar energy, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions. Certain buildings are exempt from the California Solar Mandate. Here are some examples:

  • Properties With a Small Roof: If the size of the home is so small that it can’t accommodate the solar array that’s necessary to power it, it may be exempt from the California Solar Mandate, or at least from the normal standards of the solar installation.
  • Properties That Live in the Shade: Exceedingly shady properties may find an exemption in the California Solar Mandate. This, of course, is determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Community Solar Recipients: It’s possible to build a large solar installation that provides solar power to an entire community. In the cases of homes being built within these geographical areas, they may be exempt from the California Solar Mandate, provided the community solar provides an equivalent amount of energy that an independent system would usually generate.
  • Larger Developments: The California Solar Mandate, first and foremost, is targeted towards California homes. Buildings that are over three stories tall and other larger developments won’t be required to be built with solar systems. In an ideal world, we’d have solar power on every building, but big sweeping changes take time — the California Solar Mandate is a good start.
  • Pre-2020 Projects: Many buildings set to be built in 2020 and beyond were approved in 2019 (or earlier). If the building went through its permit process before the mandate went into effect, it is exempt from the solar power requirements.

How Big Does the Solar System Have to Be?

Size is relative with solar power — you only need enough to offset the energy demands of your specific building, and that’s the general logic that goes into the California Solar Mandate. The goal is to achieve zero net electricity, meaning that 100% of the building’s electricity consumption is offset by solar power.

Note that this is different than zero net energy. A home makes use of a few different types of energy, gas being the obvious example. The California Solar Mandate doesn’t require for non-electricity energy to be offset by solar, so your gas stove, central heat, and so on won’t be affected by the new code.

The Exception – Battery Storage

There are ways to reduce the required size of the solar system. Battery storage allows homes to “store” excess solar energy, allowing you to make better use of all the sunlight that hits your home. By implementing a battery, you can potentially reduce the size of your solar installation by as much as 25% with a compliance credit.

Will the California Solar Mandate Make Homes More Expensive?

Yes, but keep reading, because it’s not all bad news. The California Clean Energy Commission determined that the average cost of a newly constructed single-family home will increase by about $8400; this adds about $40 to one’s monthly mortgage. However, it’s also estimated to save homeowners about $80 a month in energy bills, creating a net gain overall. Over the course of a year, this could lead to $400 – $500 in savings. Over the lifetime of the solar system, this could amount to as much as $19,000. Not too shabby!

While nobody enjoys the prospect of having to pay more for their home (especially in California, which isn’t exactly known for affordable housing), the California Solar Mandate actually makes home ownership cheaper in the long run, and it’s also more affordable to install solar from the get-go rather than later on.

Does Solar Add Value to Homes?

Yes. This is true already today, and it will continue to be true after the mandate. Despite the fact that all new homes will be built with solar from now on, that doesn’t mean that the marginal home value will be decreased. After all, the overwhelming majority of homes in California still don’t have solar — these post-2020 homes will have a leg-up on them based on that factor alone.

There are several reasons why solar increases home value. First off, it saves money on energy bills. Secondly, solar installation is a costly endeavor, so it’s a boon to homeowners when they can purchase a home that already has it installed. They may pay more upfront, but it’s much less than what they’d have to shell out to get it installed themselves.

It’s estimated that solar energy systems increase home value by about 3.7%. For an average California home, this amounts to nearly $17,000 — roughly double the initial cost of implementing it in the first place. This gain, combined with the yearly cost savings in energy, makes solar a very attractive option, and we’re excited about the prospect of it being implemented into every new California home.

Energy Service Partners - Embracing the Future of Solar Energy

It’s undeniable that the California Solar Mandate will have significant ripples on the solar industry and home construction industry. But, as California’s finest solar installation company, we’re excited to see what the future holds.

If you’re here on our website reading this blog, it’s likely that you represent a solar sales company. At Energy Service Partners, we team up with companies such as yours to install the systems that you sell. The California Solar Mandate will undoubtedly have major effects on both of our businesses, and we’re ready to rise to the challenge. With the raised awareness that the mandate will bring to the world of solar power, there will be countless more California homeowners who are itching to equip themselves with solar energy. With industry-leading cycle times, 25+ years of experience, and a history of happy clients, there’s no better team you could call for solar installation than Energy Service Partners. Contact us today to get started!