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3 Pillar Blog

Blog Category - Newsletter

Building Success 101

Categories: Building Success 101 | Posted: December 30, 2016

Q: What is net-zero energy?

A: A net-zero energy balance is achieved when a home produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a 12-month period. Though a challenge to accomplish, and almost always requiring some sort of on-site energy generation system (e.g., solar roof panels), achieving a net-zero energy balance isn’t as unrealistic—or as expensive­—as it was just 5 years ago.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Develop your Building Team: Earlier is Better

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: December 21, 2016

Traditionally, people have been conditioned to follow a certain, linear path to building a new home. That is, hire an architect or designer to create the plans, select a builder and then maybe bring in a stylist or interior designer to apply the finishing touches.

But the reality is that this step-by-step approach to getting a new house is not only outdated, but can be risky in terms of cost and quality. A better approach is to form your project team from the outset. Doing so fosters a cooperative rather than combative or competitive working environment that produces more satisfying results. It’s also a dynamic that’s more likely to ensure you’ll get what you want in a new home at the price you can afford.

By bringing your design and building professionals together as soon as possible, they can dedicate their efforts to meeting your needs and looking out for your budget.

Selecting a professional builder at the outset of your new-home project allows that person or company to work with an architect or designer to deliver plans and specifications that are realistic and can actually be built. It also increases the likelihood that the project will come in on time and on budget.

Too often, the old approach left builders having to argue changes to the plans  and specifications that sometimes compromised a home’s aesthetic value, if only to make it affordable. Downsizing is difficult. No one wants to be disappointed or feel like they had to sacrifice something—especially a favorite feature or product—because it was discovered to be too pricey.

This is much less likely to happen when architect and builder are working together early in the process. By combining their expertise they can help ensure that what’s drawn can be built without sacrificing design quality and staying within budget. This collaboration can result in a far better housing value.

Here are some additional reasons to hire a builder from the beginning:

Materials ordering. Some products and materials require long lead times—perhaps months—between order and delivery. A professional builder can identify these situations and be able to place an order so that product delivery will not delay the construction schedule.

Code compliance. More so than design professionals, builders know the applicable building codes as interpreted by the local authority and inspectors. They can help insure that plans will be approved for a permit the first time they are submitted.  When plans are kicked back for changes, a home start can be delayed, or worse, a job may be stopped midway to address a code issue.

A professional builder also will know when and how to submit for a building permit and schedule necessary inspections during construction to establish and maintain a tight building schedule from the beginning.

Buildablity. You can draw anything, but even something as seemingly simple as a window or door needs to be installed properly. If allowed to be part of your new home’s planning process, professional builders and their subcontractors can quickly and easily identify potential installation issues before they become costly problems on the job site.

A collaborative effort from the outset allows ideas and information to flow among your design professional, builder, stylist, and you before anyone commits a significant amount of time and money to your new house. Sharing ideas and alternatives to achieve the best result is a far better approach than discovering a better idea too late, or not at all.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

How Much Will It Cost?

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: December 7, 2016

Home pricing is a complex subject. Here’s how we answer the most common question.

A question we get from a lot of potential clients is “What’s the per-square-foot cost of your homes?” Some clients arrive armed with numbers gleaned from Internet articles. Others quote realtors who appraise and advertise houses by the square foot.

It’s an understandable attempt to simplify a complex subject—but when it comes to custom homes, this approach is too simple.

Production builders do often price homes by the square foot. What the potential client may not have considered, though, is that these companies are simply product manufacturers. They build the same plans over and over. Like car manufacturers, they offer relatively few models and limit the number of options available for each. This allows them to calculate the cost of each model and option to the dollar, leaving little to the imagination.

Custom building is different. While professional custom builders rely on proven, scientific management systems to finish a home on time and budget, creating an accurate budget is as much craft as science. No responsible builder will quote a per-square-foot price without more information, because doing so would risk misleading the client.

That’s because a custom home is not a product; instead, it’s the physical realization of a particular client’s dream on a specific site. Because each client’s dream is unique, the only way to estimate the cost of its realization is to ask some follow-up questions.

These questions start with checking assumptions about what the client means by square footage. Do their assumptions include the garage, or the unfinished basement or attic space? Also, do they understand that prices for excavation, utilities, permits, and engineering vary greatly, depending on the site and the jurisdiction in which they want to build?

Once the assumptions and variable costs have been clarified, we ask for a general overview of the home they’re envisioning. Is the floor plan complex or simple? Is it a traditional two-story Colonial with a couple of dormers and intricate interior moldings or a modern structure with a flat roof, lots of glass, and minimal trim?

Finally, we need to define the level of interior finishes they want. Some people give a nondescript answer like “medium.” While that’s too general, it is a good place to kick off a more detailed conversation about expectations. A professional builder can help refine those expectations by starting with some easy questions, like the client’s preferences between two levels of plumbing fixtures, flooring, windows, or siding. The answers will tell us what to ask next.

After sorting through the topics above, we may be able to show them plans and photos for similar homes we have built in the past. And we can often provide a ballpark estimate of what it would cost to build that home with their finish specifications on their site.

The key word in the above paragraph is “show.” We can’t do this over the phone. The clients need to spend some time with us before we can offer a realistic idea of what they can get for their budget. Regardless of whether they ultimately decide to build with us, this is time wisely invested.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

What is an Organized Builder?

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: November 16, 2016

Investing in the design and construction of a new home is a daunting task, something most people do once or maybe twice in a lifetime. The last thing you need is a builder who doesn’t have it together.

Why does that matter? Simply, homebuilding today is an increasingly complex endeavor, involving dozens of trade partners and materials suppliers, requiring compliance with building codes and other regulations, demanding financial savvy and tight management, and calling for keen attention to every detail. This demands a highly organized approach to the new home construction process.

A hitch along the way can have a big impact on quality, performance, durability and satisfaction … or it can be mitigated or avoided altogether to protect your investment and give you peace of mind through the process and beyond.

One difference between these vastly different scenarios depends on how organized your builder is.

But what does an organized builder look like, and how do you evaluate a builder’s ability to guide you through this time-consuming and sometimes confusing process?

There are several signs that indicate a professional builder’s business acumen, organizational skills, and other capabilities that help ensure ultimate satisfaction with your new home.

Cleanliness. A clean and organized job site can often reflect a builder’s overall organizational competency. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, a clean job site is safer for workers and visiting homeowners, reducing liability. In addition, materials that are properly stacked, staged, and covered reflect a concern for quality construction and respect for the budget and schedule.

Responsiveness. The number-one complaint among dissatisfied homebuyers is that their builder was slow to respond, or never did. By contrast, an organized builder understands the importance of being responsive from the first contact through completion and beyond.

Often, professional builders develop a process for responding to calls or emails from potential and current clients, usually within 24 hours. They articulate that policy upfront and follow it through to establish and maintain reliable expectations.

Protection. Professional builders don’t allow themselves or their clients to be at risk. To mitigate and prepare for hazards, they are fully insured and — if required by law — licensed and bonded. And if you ask about those protections, they’ll provide the necessary documentation and lead you to the proper agencies and organizations for more information.

In addition, an organized builder pays his subcontractors and materials suppliers from your job (and only your job) on time and per his contracts with those partners. He then collects lien releases once the contracts are satisfied (based on mutual satisfaction with the work performed) to protect you from having any liens placed against your property for unpaid services or products.

Passing the baton. If you haven’t yet noticed, organized builders work to make sure their clients know what to expect throughout the building process … including what happens after move-in and beyond the expiration of the builder’s service warranty.

Professional builders know how and when to pass the baton for the care and maintenance of the house to homeowners. This is an incremental process that logically shifts responsibility over time rather than abandoning clients at the doorstep of their new home.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Why Home Tech Is a Wise Investment

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: November 2, 2016

Simple, affordable and easy-to-install wireless is making the long-predicted smart home a must-have.

PC Magazine has called 2016 The Year of the Home—the start of a flowering of wireless devices that will make home life easier, healthier and more fun. Research certainly bolsters that view: a Coldwell Banker survey found that nearly half of homeowners either already own or are planning to buy smart home devices, and technology forecaster Gartner, Inc. foresees 500 connected devices in the average home by 2022.

This growth is thanks mostly to affordable wireless technology. Home tech devices now cost a fraction of what they did a decade ago, and most offer a simple smart phone or tablet control interface.

Today’s devices also offer tangible lifestyle benefits. For instance, whole-house automation systems like those from HomeControl will manage lighting, security, temperature and energy consumption—all from a single app. Low-cost, entry-level alarm systems like those from SimpliSafe start with basic security and are easily expanded as budgets permit. Automation systems like these are designed to be consumer-friendly, but your builder can work with a technology integrator to install and configure them so everything is ready to use on move-in day.

Rather than a system, some people prefer to choose from the growing array of standalone wireless devices. Most start with home security, such as a wireless shade that automatically closes at night, a camera they can check from a phone, or an expandable security kit that costs just a few hundred dollars.

The fastest-growing security device category is probably the electronic lock, and there are many to choose from. Examples include the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt, which allows a homeowner to remotely set temporary entry codes—for instance, so the cleaner can only get in the house at a certain hour—and the popular Ring™ Video Doorbell, which lets you use your phone to see who is at the door. The Ring can even be connected to a motion detector that alerts you of suspicious activity on the property. If you’re someone who worries about the garage door, apps like LiftMaster’s will remotely confirm that you closed it and also will tell you if someone opens it while you’re gone.

Environmental alarms like Delta’s Leak Detector will alert you if there’s a leaky faucet or water main, while the Halo smoke detector knows the difference between fire and smoke and will call your phone (rather than chirping) when it needs a new battery. More complex systems will automatically turn the water off if there’s a leak, or kill the HVAC fan to slow the spread of a detected fire. (These systems require an integrator but still cost just a fraction of what they did ten years ago.)

Smart HVAC controls are also proliferating. For instance, the Nest thermostat learns and automatically meets your temperature preferences and will even talk to your phone’s location services to sense when you’re coming home so it can turn up the heat. And Febreze makes an air freshener that works with Nest’s Home/Away Assist to evenly disperse a scent through the HVAC system.

Let’s not forget entertainment and convenience. An example of the cutting edge here is Amazon’s wireless Echo speaker, which recognizes voice commands and will stream whatever audio you request from a variety of Internet sources. Can’t remember if you need milk? With the Smarter Fridge Cam™, you can use your phone from the grocery store to take a look.

Although a lot of people worry about getting all these devices to work together, an electronics integrator can configure a tablet to control the TV, the heating and cooling, the lighting and everything else. Your builder can coordinate the integration.

This is just a small taste of what home technology can do now, let alone what it will be able to do in the near future. An Internet search will turn up many more possibilities. And if the benefits of smart home technology don’t capture your imagination, consider resale value. If the people at Gartner are correct—and the exploding number of smart home devices indicates that they are—then it won’t be long before buyers discount the lack of smart devices the same way they now discount the lack of a cable TV connection. In other words, a small investment today could really pay off tomorrow.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Maintaining Your New Home

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: October 5, 2016

A smart maintenance schedule will help keep a new home healthy and good looking for years to come.

If low maintenance is a priority, then having a new home built is a great choice. In a 2014 study by the National Association of Homebuilders, 73 percent of new homeowners reported average monthly maintenance expenses just one-fourth (25 percent) of those reported by owners of older homes. But while it’s relatively affordable to keep a new home in good working condition, proper maintenance is critical.

A new custom home will have a tightly sealed building shell. This reduces heating and cooling bills and helps the furnace and air conditioner maintain more even temperatures all year. With fewer unwanted drafts, it’s also easier for the mechanical systems to maintain ideal relative humidity (RH) levels in the home—30 to 45 percent in winter and 45 to 50 percent in summer.

Of course, the mechanicals will do a much better job of delivering these benefits if they’re well-tuned. A good ventilation system will keep the home’s air healthy, but its filters need to be kept clean, as do those in the heating and air conditioning units. It’s also a good idea to periodically clean the ductwork. (The National Duct Cleaners Association recommends a cleaning every five years, but frequency depends on factors that include homeowners’ sensitivities, the number of pets, and the surrounding environment.)

But even people who obsessively change their car’s oil on schedule may neglect these tasks. For instance, it’s not uncommon for a furnace to develop problems if the air filter hasn’t been changed for a long time. The service company shows up only to find that the motor overheated because the filter is clogged and the system can’t breathe. Fortunately, such problems are entirely avoidable: keeping your new mechanicals in good condition is a simple matter of working with your builder to develop a cost-effective maintenance schedule, and then setting reminders in your schedule to get the needed tasks done.

An added benefit from properly functioning mechanicals is that they will keep the home looking good for many years. That strip flooring is beautiful when first installed, but it could eventually swell if the indoor air is damp, while other wood products shrink if the air stays too dry for too long. (According to a leading website for finish carpenters, relative humidity in older homes can range from 25 to 65 percent in some parts of the country, a swing that can make a 12-inch maple board expand and contract by up to 1/4 inch.)

In short, regular maintenance of your home’s mechanical systems will help ensure a healthier, more comfortable space and a lower long-term cost of upkeep. Many product warranties also require regular maintenance. This is true for any home, old or new, but it’s especially important for today’s high-performance custom homes.

The specifics of the maintenance program will vary with the type of mechanical equipment as well as with the climate where the home is located. Maintenance needs are usually covered in the final orientation, but homeowners who have additional questions about how to maintain a particular product or piece of equipment should ask their professional builder.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

The Air You Breathe

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: September 21, 2016

Just as the human body has a respiratory system, so a house has specialized equipment to bring fresh air inside, filter it, distribute and ‘exhale’ it. The respiratory equipment in a house is often referred to as “HVAC,” for “heating, ventilating and air conditioning.”

As homebuilding has become more sophisticated, so have HVAC systems. From the days of a single source of heat, such as a woodstove, this vital function has expanded to include a variety of components that deliver and improve indoor comfort, air quality, and energy efficiency. Which system is appropriate depends on factors such as climate, square footage, house design and construction methods, budget, fuel sources, and personal preferences. The wide range of options gives the professional builder an opportunity to create exactly the best HVAC system for each home.

To help builders and owners evaluate the choices, HVAC products and systems are rated by their energy efficiency so that energy use and cost can be reduced. For example, the better a particular furnace may be in recovering, filtering, and reusing the conditioned (heated) air that it produces, the less fuel it needs to condition new air coming into the system. Today’s top-of-the-line systems achieve 90 percent or more efficiency in this regard.

Using high-performance equipment, a builder can design an HVAC system to heat, cool, and ventilate specific zones of the house. Even in the best-built and insulated homes, some areas of a house will be warmer or cooler than others according to the time of year or time of day. This is especially true in homes with multiple levels and large open spaces. A “zoned” approach to HVAC design puts conditioned air only where it is needed. With a delivery system composed of a customized network of air ducts, programmable thermostats, and additional equipment as required, a home will have no hot spots or cold corners regardless of season.

Of course, like any system in a home (or the human body), the HVAC system does not work alone. To be truly effective, each system requires a well-designed and constructed structural shell, together with regular maintenance, to maintain the desired performance. Optimum performance of any HVAC system requires insulated windows, insulated framing cavities in the walls, floors, and ceilings. In addition, a properly installed air barrier membrane wrapping the outside of the structural shell helps complete the package. In some cases, a well-built home enables the use of smaller and less expensive HVAC components.

A good HVAC system is essential to the comfort of any new home, contributing in large part to the satisfaction of the owner. As professional homebuilders, we are conscious of our responsibility to design and install HVAC systems that deliver consistent indoor comfort while using as little energy as possible.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

It’s Always Sunny in TV Land

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: September 9, 2016

Home shows don’t reflect the reality of building a new home.

Who doesn’t love a good drama, especially one they can imagine themselves a part of? With that in mind, it’s no surprise that home and garden shows enjoy loyal viewership, and that HGTV has earned a spot as one of the top ten cable networks. It’s great fun to curl up on the couch and follow the excitement of a home being built or renovated, of obstacles being overcome, and of a happy couple swelling with pride at the project’s completion.

The only problem is that some people let their homebuilding expectations be influenced by what is, in reality, a scripted drama driven by product advertisers. And while no one would admit to falling under this spell, the influence can be both subtle and pervasive.

Take the example of schedules. In TV land, problems with building permits always get solved by airtime, and you rarely see major delays from bad weather or from special orders that were botched by the distributor. In fact, the timetable for a typical TV project can be as different from that of a real home build as the prep time for a microwave dinner is from that of a gourmet meal. (Outcomes will likely differ, too.) Intellectually this is a no-brainer, but if someone watches enough projects being finished in a weekend, they could be emotionally set up to think instant gratification is possible.

Even with guaranteed sunshine and 100 skilled tradespeople working 24/7 to rush the project to completion, what kind of quality do you think you are going to get? Contrast that to the professional builder, who creates a detailed construction timetable that gives all the trades sufficient time to do top-quality work without tripping over one another.

The difference in timetables is really a difference in priorities and mindset. The show producer has to meet a shoot schedule; the builder has to take the time needed to create a home that will satisfy the clients for many years to come.

Then there’s the budget. From what we have seen, the costs on a TV project seldom reflect the actual labor, overhead, and product costs builders have to grapple with. Given these shows’ large audience, some manufacturers pay to get their products on screen. Others may discount the price or loan a product during filming then take it back later. These deals are seldom disclosed.

Not only that, the experience of watching enough $5000 professional-style ranges being installed can make a homeowner feel cheated if they’re denied one—even if the budget will only support one half that price.

The bottom line is that the producers of these shows are under pressure to create dramatic tension and to keep advertisers and product sponsors happy. They’re not looking at your budget and they are not thinking about your ultimate satisfaction. A professional builder—someone who has real skin in your game—is focused on both.

None of this is meant to slam the producers of these shows, who no doubt try to serve viewers by showing what’s possible in an entertaining way. So watch and enjoy—you may even pick up some useful decorating tips. Just remember that it’s entertainment.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Excellence vs. Perfection

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: August 17, 2016

Famous football coach Bill Walsh was known for demanding perfection from his players during practices, even though he knew they would never attain it. His philosophy was if you don’t strive for perfection, you don’t have a chance to achieve it.

As professional builders, we follow the same philosophy; plan for perfection to attain excellence. Like Coach Walsh, we don’t stand a chance of delivering an excellent new home that satisfies a client’s wants and needs if we don’t set and expect the highest standards possible.

In the pursuit of excellence, we coach our homebuyers about the building process so that their expectations are high but realistic. We want our homebuyers to push and challenge us to always do better, but it is also our job to define excellence … and point out the difference between it and perfection.

Our best and most effective method for doing that is listening. Really listening. Not just to find out which floor plan a client prefers, but why and how it will satisfy their lifestyle needs. Not just about which community they want to live in, but also their concerns and questions about the quality of nearby schools, proximity to shopping and public services, and commute routes to work.

In this discovery phase, we craft a strategy for a new home that truly addresses and justifies our client’s reasons for making such a significant investment and sets us on course to deliver it according to those expectations.

It is also critical to maintain a regular and open line of communication during the construction process. As during the planning stage, our first job is to listen to and then educate and inform our buyers about the subtleties of new-home construction that are specific to their concerns.

Responding to a buyer’s question with “that’s just the way it is” or “it’s complicated” is unacceptable. Instead, we strive to deliver details, demonstrate our methods, and ensure that questions are answered to a buyer’s satisfaction. That approach and level of respect for our buyers helps build a better understanding of our work process all the way through the final walk-through and close of escrow.

Finally, a key component of delivering excellence comes after the sale, once a buyer becomes a homeowner. We make sure to communicate our policies and procedures for warranty service — once again demonstrating the difference between perfection and excellence. Ideally, we’ve done an excellent job of building their new home to the point where service callbacks are kept to a minimum; for those small warranty items that crop up after move-in, we work to be responsive and responsible to address them in a timely fashion.

As a homebuyer and owner, it’s okay to want the “perfect” home. The best we can do, however, is to strive for perfection and achieve excellence that satisfies the lifestyle needs of our clients and protects their investment now and well into the future.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Questions and Answers About Solar

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: August 3, 2016

A lot of homeowners want to know more about this popular technology.

Residential solar electric systems have seen phenomenal growth in recent years, with those distinctive panels now a common feature on American roofs. Much of that growth is thanks to hefty price reductions—an installed system costs less than half of what it did in 2006—as well as to generous government incentives. Not surprisingly, many of our clients want to know whether specifying solar for their new home is a good investment. Here are brief answers to some of the most common questions.

Q: What types of systems are available?
A: While solar panels have long been a feature on rural homesteads—mostly in areas where the cost to run power lines is prohibitive—nearly all of the systems being installed on new custom homes are grid-connected. In effect, each system is a miniature power plant feeding the utility’s network.

Q: How does grid connection work?
A: The home draws power from the panels in daytime when the sun is shining. At night, or during the day when the home needs more power than the panels can supply, it draws from the electric grid. If the panels are generating more than the home is using (during the day when the homeowners are at work, for instance), the excess flows back into the grid. Most states have net metering laws requiring the utility to reimburse the homeowner for any electricity generated above what they use during any billing period. The reimbursement amount varies by state.

Q: Will the panels power my home if the grid goes down?
A: Unfortunately, no. During a power outage, the system’s inverter (the device that converts the direct-current electricity generated by the panels to the alternating current used in the home) automatically shuts down. As an added precaution, the utility may also require an exterior breaker they can access if there’s an outage. These are safety features to protect utility workers from being electrocuted.

Q: How much will I save?
A: It depends on system size and local electric rates, but the typical system will reduce the monthly bill by more than $100.

Q: What is the payback period?
A: For systems bought under the current tax incentives (see below), the monthly savings can recoup the cost in as little as 5 to 7 years. After that, power from the solar panels is essentially free. You’re still dependent on the grid, but if electric rates rise you only pay the higher rate on any power you have to buy from the utility. With most systems offering a 25-year estimated lifespan, you are basically pre-paying for 25 years’ worth of the panels’ generating capacity.

Q: What if we move before the payback period ends?
A: A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL) found that a solar-equipped home will sell for an average of $15,000 more than a comparable non-solar home in the same market. The extra value is often enough to recoup the net system cost after the tax credits. LBL also found that solar homes sell 20% faster.

Q: What about the tax credit?
A: The federal government is currently giving a 30% Solar Investment Tax Credit (SITC). This is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your federal income taxes, reducing the system cost by nearly one-third. After January 1, 2020 the Federal Government will begin cutting the benefit each year until they evaporate in 2022. So if you are considering solar, the next few years will be your best opportunity.

Q: Do I need a southern roof orientation?
A: Ideally, yes. Panels will only generate their full capacity on a south-facing roof, which provides the maximum sun exposure. Although other orientations will work, the panels won’t generate their full capacity.

Q: Is there a calculated return on my investment?
A: Even if the home is oriented to achieve a perfect southern exposure, the return on investment (ROI) will depend in part on the home’s efficiency. Because a new home built by a professional builder will be designed and constructed to use less energy, it will lower net monthly bills and accelerate the payback period.

It’s not unusual to see a return on investment over the life of the system in excess of 250%. That’s more than 10% per year, which beats the stock market without the risks. And if electric rates rise, the percentage ROI will be even better.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.