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How to Sell Green Upgrades: Electrical Improvements

Part 5 of a series explaining the art of selling upgrades to environmentally conscious customers

Posted on Jun 27 2011 by Michael Strong, LEED Associate, CGP

I have three favorite electrical enhancements I love to sell homeowners. There's also a fourth option that can be a little bit tricky. All these options provide the client with value, and all are more cost-effective in new construction than they would be in a remodel.

First, let me remind you that “selling” is not a bad word. I like showing folks their options, empowering them with information, and letting them buy what’s right for them. In fact, I feel I owe it to them to provide this information. After all, they expect me to share the results of my education, my experience, my expertise of the industry, and my knowledge of trends. Nobody wants built-in obsolescence, so you should help future-proof your clients' homes by sharing some of these green electrical enhancement options.

Soffit receptacles

The first green upgrade is to install electrical receptacles in the soffits that are all controlled by a predetermined number of switches.

Anyone who installs holiday lights (for Christmas or otherwise) will enjoy the convenience of controlling the decorations by lights switches and reducing the number of required extension cords. It's a great convenience that many clients will gladly pay for. And because all of us have at some point skipped the effort of going outside to unplug the lights, this green upgrade will also save energy.

A charging station for an electric car

Second, prewire the garage for a future charging station for an electric car. That’s exactly what we are doing in our most recent home (LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. Silver) and the line item was only a few hundred dollars.

Talk about future-proofing! If you do not think your clients will be driving an electric car in your lifetime you are likely long in tooth or very short on vision! The green benefits are clear that by building this infrastructure into the home in today’s dollars (which are cheap) and so is the additional profit you make.

Prewiring for a PV array

Another favorite is prewiring the roof for a future photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PV) array.

It’s hard to believe, but even today there are still many builders who do not offer this option. It may entail some additional framing work to future-proof the roof for PV, but in all likelihood you will only need an electrician to complete this enhancement. Again, another few hundred dollars added to your bottom line, and an upgrade your client will love you for in a couple years when they decide to get the solar panels installed after all!

A master kill switch

And finally, an option that is not for the faint of heart: it's possible to diagram your rooms so that a single switch can shut of a predetermined number of receptacles.The idea is to install a switch near an exterior door so that the homeowner can shut off most of the home's plug loads when leaving the house.

However, because of the design time required and advance lifestyle planning involved, you must be sure to charge enough for this upgrade. Prep your client in advance. As a concept, it sounds nice, but the first time they flip the switch and their computer, radio, and alarm clock all turn off and have to be reset or rebooted, they are going to be pretty annoyed. And it sure won’t work in the kitchen where you could be shutting off the refrigerator!

These upgrades will improve your bottom line. In today’s economy, we all need whatever bump we can get. These individual items give your clients a little peace of mind, a bit of energy savings, and considerable convenience. Collectively, however, they add up to a better wired, high-performance home designed and built to embrace the future.

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  1. Duncan Rawlinson -

Jun 27, 2011 9:14 AM ET

Two "essentials"
by 5C8rvfuWev

Thanks for the ideas for "next time," Michael. Two more I wouldn't be without:

A whole-house surge protector. (Still a "luxe" item in this area)

A kill switch on all the "big stuff" -- computers, refrig, media, cable, etc -- to remove the pricey stuff even further from the afternoon parade of electrical storms that march through this area. (Last week I missed/ignored the cat-6 cable hookup and, yes, fried the modem, the router, a motherboard and a power supply. One wire. Really. Sheesh.)


Jun 27, 2011 2:29 PM ET

More ideas
by Kevin Dickson, MSME

Great ideas here, and they are the type of upgrades that probably won't turn out to be fads, like whirlpool tubs, gas fireplaces, etc.

Here's another: A place for a master timer switch that turns off everything that you want to run on off-peak rates.

Jun 27, 2011 7:02 PM ET

Home Automation
by Stephen Magneron

Those are all fantastic ideas!

What about home automation? Everyone's walking around with smartphones and tablets these days. Controlling your house can be like playing a computer game, empowering people to conserve in a fun easy way?

Jun 28, 2011 8:09 AM ET

Pour the ideas on!
by Michael Strong, LEED Associate, CGP

I love the avoiding fads because we all hate to be suckered into them. Surge protector, great idea and a no-brainer. Home automation? That's another blog in and of itself and for self-declared Ludites like myself, a little scary! But your right Stephen, the tablets especially make it easier to understand, manage and enjoy than ever.

Jul 7, 2011 12:53 PM ET

Master turn off switches
by Chris Byers

Michael, I have strongly considered room turn off switches like for a media room but I think it is much cheaper to have power strips for computers and other smaller appliances. How much are we talking cost wise for a whole room shut off swith installed during construction or a master switch (that may shut off other switches or just certain outlets)?

Jul 8, 2011 1:02 PM ET

Master Switches cost
by Michael Strong, LEED Associate, CGP

You know Chris,
I spoke with my electrician about this and he said if the drawings lay this out up front he is not going to charge any extra whether is is for certain outlets or the whole room. His cost is in the labor unless the client and/or architect require him to do some crazy "loopy" (his words) wiring or unless it is a very large room where by he might then see a measurable bump in his wiring costs.

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