Sunny Savings – A guest blog post from Brent Hardy of Extraspace

Sunny Savings

Solar energy costs reaching average consumer price range

Whether you’re looking into selling your home or staying in it a while, now is a really good time to look into the value of solar energy in homes. For long-term homeowners, the cost of installing a system has dropped dramatically over the past couple of years, and for those looking to sell, the value of homes with solar energy systems installed is on the rise.

For states with solar installation incentives, solar energy systems, or photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, in homes are on the rise and real estate agents are scrambling to keep up.

According to a 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110421122408.htm), there is significant evidence that solar powered homes are selling for a premium over standard homes. And according to Ben Hoen, lead author of the study and Berkeley Lab researcher, not only are the sales price premiums about the same as the average investment a homeowner would have to make to install a solar energy system, the homeowner would also get to enjoy the savings on his or her utility bill before selling the home.

There are also benefits to the home buyer, such as the significant savings (from a U.S. average of $100 a month to the possibility of $2.20 a month; http://1bog.org/blog/real-estate-market-seeing-solar-in-a-new-light/) on their utility bills and in some cases, the fact that they could make money if they are in a state that offers net metering. Through net metering, home owners with solar power are able to sell back the unused power generated by their home to the utility company.

On an economic side note, along with saving homeowners some needed funds, solar energy is also creating jobs; not only for solar home installation and sales, but also in green home education. To keep up with all the benefits and improvements being made through green home building and home improvements, new companies are starting to blossom such as Ecobroker International (http://www.ecobroker.com/), an organization that educates real estate agents in green home sales.

Saving money with solar

If things are looking up with solar home sales, then how has the cost for installing a solar energy system in your home improved, if at all?
It’s actually doing a lot better than most people think, according to Dr. Joshua Pearce, Adjunct Professor of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Queens University in Ontario (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207132916.htm).

In a recent study, Dr. Pearce found that many analysts looking to determine the average cost of solar energy installation don’t take into account the fact that just the cost of solar panels is 70 percent less than it was in 2009. Additionally, several advancements have been made over the past few years in solar panel technology leading to more cost effective products.

Savings on solar don’t just stop at the physical product, either. As of 2008, the U.S. government extended a federal tax credit allowing up to 30 percent credit on residential and commercial solar installations for the next eight years. From there, you can look to your state for even more savings. Many states currently offer great tax incentives on solar installation. For example, the state of Massachusetts offers a solar rebate program that pays homeowners a base incentive of $750/kw to install a solar energy system in their home plus an additional $100/kw if you purchase your panels in state, as well as a sales and property tax exemption for 20 years. This on top of a 15 percent state tax credit for installing the system and a net metering program that allows energy companies to buy excess power generated by your home (http://solarpowerrocks.com/massachusetts/).

You can find out what incentives your state offers by visiting the Database for State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org) or at Find-Solar.org (http://www.Find-Solar.org).

Just a little sun

If you’re still a little cloudy on solar power, or if you’re renting a home and have a good relationship with your landlord, you could also consider solar leasing. Solar leasing allows you to forego the bulk of the upfront costs of solar power installation and just pay for your solar power on a month to month basis. You still save money and add to your green footprint without the hassle of dealing with a long term commitment. To find out if solar leasing is available near you, check out websites such as One Block off the Grid (http://solarfinancing.1bog.org/solar-lease) and Sun Run Home (http://www.sunrunhome.com/solar-lease/) for providers.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides a lot of useful information on solar power installation in your home. For details, visit http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/electricity/index.cfm/mytopic=10710 or check out the “Own Your Power!” online booklet provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/43844.pdf.

Brent Hardy is Vice President of www.extraspace.com, responsible for all corporate construction & facilities management. He writes about corporate sustainable practices at http://extraspace.com/blog/category/Sustainability.aspx.