Rebate Inflation Act solar rebate is not a silver bullet

Photo courtesy of Hoffmann Homes

Energy-efficient homes and green, money-saving measures like solar panels are growing in popularity in Dallas — but homeowners can do a lot more to save money and reduce waste, and it’s starting from zero, say the experts.

The Inflation Reduction Act – approved by the US Senate earlier this month, the US House of Representatives last week and signed by President Joe Biden on Tuesday – allows households installing solar panels to deduct 30% of the cost of their taxes. With a price tag of $369 billion, the bill represents the most ambitious climate spending program in U.S. history that is expected to boost energy security and lower consumers’ electricity bills.

Some local builders say it’s a good thing, but solar power won’t solve all our problems.

Alan Hoffmann is a local leader in building sustainable, energy-efficient homes. His Remains in White Rock, the development includes car charging stations, energy-efficient materials, high-performance windows and insulated concrete walls. He’s a fan of solar panels, but says energy efficiency is all about linking multiple components together.

“Solar panels are extremely important,” Hoffman said. “If you think about the growth in this region, solar has paid off. If there were no solar, we would all suffer. He supported the network and made it more efficient. That’s why you’ll see Oncor giving discounts. Energy providers don’t necessarily resist what green builders are doing because they view their companies as energy companies. As we become more and more in demand in the coming years, we see more and more breakthrough technologies. We see better batteries and a reduction in lithium. We don’t have an energy problem; we have a technological problem.

Hoffmann Houses

Go green

Hoffmann, founder and president of 4Tree Development LLC, a member of the Dallas Environmental Commission and a leader in the environmental building movement, became the first builder to introduce concrete forms to North Texas in 1995.

Hoffmann’s home at 2111 Autumn Sage Place, recently featured in the Dallas Builders Association Home Parade, features thick thermal mass walls, breezeways, and whitewashed cement finishes. The pantry is a storm room, and there is an additional storm shelter/panic room. Three of the houses in the Abode development capture rainwater on the roof in an above ground cistern to irrigate the entire site. Last month’s electric bill at the Autumn Sage house, during 100-degree summer days, was $80.

Whereas the new law will do a lot to increase the use of solar panels in our countryEnergy efficiency starts with insulating the concrete, Hoffman explained.

North Oak Cliff Development of PSW, Bishop Heights. The houses include solar panels and green building materials.

“It’s the best value for money,” he said. “I build giant Yeti coolers disguised as houses. The less BTUs you use, the less power you need. There is less AC tonnage required. You are looking for less power to drive that tonnage. We take the save money and buy better equipment. Where you save money is when it starts. Every time the compressor starts, there’s less power to run this thing. You don’t necessarily need to run your AC at 100% capacity, but maybe at 20% capacity.

Hoffmann homes are certified by the Department of Energy’s Net Zero Ready program, the Energy Star program, and Green Built Texas.

He’s often approached by buyers who want an energy-efficient home because that’s what he’s building, but says he’s not sure it’s become fashionable because of the upfront expense. A three-bedroom house in the White Rock mansion costs around $949,000.

But, again, the electric bill in July is $80.

“You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari and put cheap tires on it,” Hoffmann said. “It’s always amused and confused me that this city is so high-tech. People want the latest and greatest in technology, but we don’t incorporate that when it comes to homes,” Hoffman said. “Nobody wants to change, whether for good or for bad. By devoting resources to technology, we can bring prices down. »

To save money

A recent report identified Texas as having 70,708 homes with a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index score, more than any other state. The score is an industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured.

Below the new legislation on the reduction of inflation, home improvement credits for energy efficiency will not only allow homeowners to deduct 30% of the cost of solar panels, but also other improvements such as heat pumps, insulation and battery storage systems. It also means lower electricity bills, saving households around $1,800 a year, according to Rewiring Americaa non-profit organization that promotes energy efficiency.

Under the new legislation, those in a certain income bracket ($150,000 or less for an individual, $300,000 or less for a couple) will be incentivized with a tax credit of $7,500 for the purchase of a new electric vehicle or $4,000 for a used vehicle.

Some Republicans, including Marco Rubio, R-Fla., opposed the Democratic-led bill.

“[My constituents are] not buy an electric car in the near future,” said Rubio, a vocal critic of climate change legislation. “They would like gas prices to go down because we produce more oil.”

Hoffman has little to add to the climate change debate or the partisan issues that have emerged on the subject.

“The climate is changing, period,” he said. “We’re on a rotating rock in space and revolving around the sun. Things are going to change. Are we contributing a huge amount of carbon to our atmosphere? Yes every day. The planet is fine. It’s going to continue with or without us. I’m sick of people saying science is BS. I’m not the guy who’s going to be at this rally.

Environmental and Climate Action Plan

During a budget hearing on Aug. 9, Dallas District 11 Councilwoman Jaynie Schultz suggested adding solar panels to City Hall and argued for continued implementation of the Dallas Global Environment and Climate Action Planadopted in 2020.

“I would like us to make sure we take a strong advocacy stance on CECAP with the same urgency that is required if we are to secure the future of our children, especially with our policies and the way we build our own buildings. municipalities,” Schultz said. “We know building materials are the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and our own use of fossil fuels as a city. I would be happy to help with any campaign of our own efforts here at city hall, such as recycling and energy reduction, even thinking about putting solar panels on the roof of city hall if we haven’t already looked at that.

The CECAP is a “comprehensive roadmap that outlines the activities the city will undertake to improve quality of life, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for the impacts of climate change, and create a healthier and more prosperous community. “, according to the city’s website.

The program identifies the environmental challenges facing the city, drawn from a 2015 greenhouse gas inventory. implementation action plan highlights existing initiatives in the city for environmentally friendly building practices.

The wave of the future?

Hoffmann said city leaders are making progress in energy-efficient building practices.

“Everyone wants to do the right thing,” he said. “I think the industry is moving forward.”

He does not suggest imposing mandates on builders but rather encouraging efficiency best practices. For example, a radiant barrier—an inexpensive covering of what looks like aluminum foil around plywood on a roof—reflects heat from the roof and keeps heat out of an attic, dramatically reducing the amount of air conditioning needed to cool a house.

“I’ve been lobbying for this for 14 years,” Hoffmann said. “Dallas hailstorms cause a lot of roof damage. One of the most important things we can do on a roof to reduce carbon emissions in the city is to install a radiant barrier. When you sheathe a roof, you are already putting new plywood on the roof. If you are redoing your roof terrace, you can install a radiant barrier. We have a quarter million single family homes in Dallas. I don’t know how many roofs are changed each year due to hailstorms, but that would be one thing you could do to impact carbon emissions. This alone would improve the operation of your air conditioning.

2111 Fall Sage Square

There’s even a spray version, like reflective paint, that creates a radiant barrier, Hoffmann added.

“It’s a simple, inexpensive thing that could be done if the city encouraged it,” he said. “They don’t need a permit to re-roof and they don’t regulate it.”

The city, however, is eligible for federal grants and is working to improve the technology, Hoffmann said.

There’s a financial return when construction starts with a plan for efficiency and sustainability, the builder explained.

“The slab becomes an essential element to keep the house cool,” he said. “You weigh building science with cost, and there is a balance. Should I spend a little more and get a better product? Yes. I aspire to build the Honda Civic of homes – quality, durable and efficient. What will really drive it are the insurance companies. They’ll see entire neighborhoods wiped out versus one neighborhood still standing, and you’ll see heavily reduced insurance rates. By constructing a building like we do, they withstand windstorms. If it’s a two-story house and it gets hit by a tornado, it’s a bunch of sticks.

Hoffmann said he has high hopes for other automakers to embrace fuel efficiency.

“We’re building better homes than we’ve ever seen,” he said. “Solar power is essential and brilliant, but it’s the first thing people think of when you’re making a green transformation. It’s not the first thing we have to do. We really need to think about it from the bottom up. I don’t know if this is the wave of the future, but I hope so.

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