Solar power made standard on new homes in CA community

KB Home includes solar on all homes in new developmentKB Home (NYSE: KBH) said it is offering solar as a standard feature for homes in 10 of its developments in Southern California. In all, 888 homes slated for construction will include at least a 1.4-kilowatt solar array capable of producing about 30 percent of the home’s energy needs, or an upgraded one depending on the homebuyer’s preferences.

KB Home has offered solar as an option for homebuyers in California and Colorado for a number of years, the company said. But this is the first time every home in one of its community developments will have a photovoltaic system.

“This is probably the most exciting thing we’ve done on solar,” said Steve Ruffner, division president of KB Home Southern California.

The arrays will use SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWRA) panels, according to KB Home.

“SunPower was excited about it because we’re offering solar as standard for these homes. It gave them the economy of scale,” Ruffner said. “We were able to make a great deal.”

Overall, the arrays are adding little cost to the homes and the basic systems are valued at roughly $7,500. The photovoltaics are integrated into the home designs from the start, including the electric system, roof and inverter. “Nothing has to be customized for an individual home,” Ruffner said. “To retrofit [a solar array] would cost $15,000 or more than the system we give them.”

Homebuyers can also choose to purchase one of three upgrades. The largest option is a 3.2-kW systems, which can bring the homes very close to net-zero energy, according to Ruffner.

“Tax credits will cover most, if not all, of their upgrade costs,” he said.

The homes start in the mid-$200,000s and range between 1,500 square feet and 3,000 square feet, according to Ruffner. In addition to having photovoltaic arrays, the homes are also Energy Star certified homes. Even without the solar arrays, energy costs for Energy Star certified homes are lower.

For instance, in Riverside County, Energy Star homes cost $100 a month less than non-Energy Star homes, and that’s before factoring in the additional savings from the photovoltaic system.

Depending on how the initiative goes in Southern California, the company might roll out similar projects elsewhere, Ruffner said.

Image courtesy of KB Home.