California Home Builders Offer Solar Panels as Prebuilt Feature
One company in Los Angeles is building homes with pre-installed solar panels. This affordable alternative to adding panels later has placed California Home Builders at the forefront of the state’s energy innovators.
Shawn Evenhaim is the company’s founder and CEO. Compared to the other building operations in the San Fernando Valley, California Home Builders is modest – with only 20 employees on its crew. But its modesty is a valuable asset, as Evenhaim builds with the first-time homeowner in mind.
Mid-market homes in Los Angeles range between $300,000 – $400,000 and up to about 1,800 square feet, which is what CHB specializes in. “We don’t sell a lot of options on our homes,” says Evenhaim. “What you see in the model house is what you get.”
For most homeowners in this range, that puts innovative extras like solar panels (installations valued at about $30,000) out of reach. As The Daily Beast’s Daniel Gross explains, “His customers live in Sherman Oaks, not Bel Air.”
But for Evenhaim, that’s no reason to deny his customers greener, more future-friendly homes. “We’re developers who care for the environment,” he says. Taking advantage of California’s renewable energy incentives, CHB can build homes with leased solar panels pre-installed without breaking his customers’ pocketbooks.
Here’s how it works: Solar leases are bought, sold and installed by a third party who retains ownership of the panels. In the case of CHB, this allows the company to keep the associated tax breaks and offset the cost of installation. When a customer purchases a home, they also purchase the lease at a monthly rate between $40 – $60.
Since 2012, California Home Builders have completed several home developments with pre-built solar systems in Sherman Oaks, Pacoima and Sylmar. With even a simple 15-panel system in place, homeowners benefit from the state’s Go Solar initiative, which offers rebates to solar customers.
Evenhaim is predicting that solar systems will one day become mandatory in California municipalities. Two cities have already proved him right: Sebastopol in Sonoma Valley and Lancaster in Northern LA. The latter was the first city in the country to require solar panels on all new buildings, a surprising move when considering its conservative city council and Republican mayor. The mayor, R. Rex Parris, was in fact the biggest proponent of the law, pledging to make his city the “solar capital of the universe.”
The times they are a’changing.
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