A rendering of solar panels on a Stellar Homes' roof.
A rendering of solar panels on a Stellar Homes' roof.

Fort Lauderdale-based Stellar Homes Group has announced a new standard feature in all its new homes that is far from standard in 2016: A Photo Voltaic (PV) solar panel system, with a 30-year warranty.

Larry Baum, co-founder and managing partner, says when he initially came up with the idea, he wanted to advance the “green movement” in Florida. But first, he and his team had to pinpoint the best way to make it a reality.

After plenty of market research, Stellar Homes decided go all-in on green technology. Combined with the solar panel system, each new home will also include:

-Passive solar day lighting through positioning of windows and doors to maximize natural light;
-Hybrid water heaters (plus $300 federal tax credit) that deliver hot water 70% more efficiently;
-LED lighting;
-Low-flow shower heads, toilet, and sink faucets;
-Zero VOC Sherwin Williams paint sealants and adhesives;
-Maxxon's Underlayment for all floors upstairs that are GREENGUARD Gold Certified meeting the most stringent product emission criteria in the market for healthier breathing air.

Stellar Homes also installs three times the required insulation on the exterior block walls. The new homes will be electric car-ready, have organic vegetable gardens, and will feature drought-resistant landscaping.

Solar’s a huge component of what we do, but it’s combined with the other features that will offer the end user a tremendous savings on a month-to-month basis,” says Tony Valle, vice president. The company is the first to offer a solar panel system standard in the market, Valle adds.

While these new features will come standard, home prices will not be raised, Valle adds. Due to heavy competition in South Florida, where Stellar Homes operates, it had to lower its margins in order to make the initiative work. “Everybody in town has set margins, the average margin is [between] 26% [and] 32%,” he says. “When we decided to move forward with this we knew that our margins would be lower because we did not want to push this cost that we’re incurring onto the buyer because the market’s too fierce. We had to be very savvy in what we selected and what we could negotiate and get good pricing.”

The solar panel systems will come standard on all future Stellar Homes Group homes.
The solar panel systems will come standard on all future Stellar Homes Group homes.

One reason Stellar Homes can offer this package is the technological advancements in recent years. Valle likened it to LED televisions – not too long ago, a 60-inch television could run a buyer thousands of dollars, but today it’s a fraction of the cost. “We discovered that the cost of panels are returned back to the user in eight-to-10 years; five years ago it was 36 years,” Valle says.

Each solar panel system has a retail value of $9,160 to $16,128 per home (depending on community). The energy conservation features as a whole are expected to result in an estimated energy cost savings of approximately $81,000 per home over 20 years, Valle says.

Stellar Homes is currently building new homes, priced from the low $800,000s, in the Florida sites: Cavalia Estates in Davie, Velero at Sailboat Bend in Fort Lauderdale, and Boca Villas in Boca Raton.

When Valle would tell other developers about Stellar Homes’ plan over the last few months, he compared the look he would get to that of an inquisitive dog when its owner calls its name. “That tells me there’s an interest and people want to know more,” he says.

And so far, that interest in showing. “Since the announcement last week the phone has not stopped ringing,” Valle adds.

Baum is hoping more builders and industry professionals will follow his company’s lead. “Here in Florida, it’s more of a new thing and we don’t get an increased value if we build green or not and we want to change that,” he says. “Because if you put more money into the house, but at the same time you’re doing good for the environment and saving the consumer money, there should be added value to that.”

Since Florida is one of the most populous states in the country, with a population still on the rise, Baum says these green practices will be key to preserving the local environment. “We have a real hope that the building community and the finance community for home ownership and rentals gives more value to these type of building practices,” he says.