Homeowners across the country are harnessing the power of the sun to light their homes, run their air conditioners and even watch their favorite TV shows. Since 2009, the number of home listings on Redfin.com that included mention of solar panels grew 288 percent. Just last week, former vice president Al Gore said in a speech at the University of Hawaii that the exponential growth in photovoltaic solar panels is a “game changer” in the fight against climate change. According to a Redfin report highlighting the top neighborhoods for green homes, the median sale price of homes with green features was $47,600 higher than for homes without green features.
Los Angeles Redfin real estate agent Julie Jacobson, who had solar panels installed on her own roof in 2011, said she has definitely seen an increase in solar panels over the past few years.
“Growth has been absolutely incredible in the past few years in existing homes getting solar panels put on or developers putting them on,” she said.”I am seeing them pop up in my market with remarkable frequency now.”
Jacobson has sold several homes with solar panels, and some of Jacobson’s former home-buying customers have decided to install panels after they buy.
Noel Michel and his wife, Amy, bought a Los Angeles area home in 2010 with Jacobson’s help, and in 2012 installed solar panels. Solar panels were a natural next step after painting their roof white to help deflect sunlight and keep the home cooler.
The couple are leasing their solar panels, and were able to get them installed with no money out of pocket.
“We end up breaking even or paying a little less than we would have if we didn’t have the solar panels,” Michel said. “The benefit to this is we are locked in to this rate for 20 years so we are protected from rising electricity charges. It’s also great to know that we are helping the planet.”
Before their panels were installed, the company, SolarCity, did an energy assessment and recommended changes to increase efficiency of the panels.
“Through some green energy programs and rebates, we were able to have $4,000 worth of energy-saving modifications done at no cost to us,” Michel said. “We have seen huge benefits from the wall insulation that was installed on all the exterior facing walls in our home, as the temperature in our home is much more consistent than before.”
Another Redfin customer, Supranamaya Ranjan, purchased a home in Berkeley, Calif., with solar panels last year with his wife. The couple had to replace the home’s roof, and decided to reinstall the panels on the new roof because they liked the idea of pulling less power from the grid. Come tax time, they got a pleasant surprise.
“When we were redoing the roof and I was doing the taxes this year, I came to know that any work that you do which has improved the energy efficiency of the house, especially solar panels, you claim 30 percent of that as a credit,” he said. “I didn’t even know about it.”
Find out more about tax credits, rebates and savings here.
Erin Krauss, a current homebuyer, has been interested in environmentally friendly home features for a while and is thrilled to be closing on a home with solar panels.
“Of course there are the financial benefits,” she said.” But more importantly than that, if the cost was the same I would still prefer to use something that is better for the environment.”
But some people are still hesitant to jump on the solar bandwagon. The World Wildlife Fund debunks several common myths about solar here, including:
1. Solar is Too Expensive
According to WWF, the cost of solar panels dropped 80 percent between 2008 and 2013. And lease options make it possible for homeowners to go solar with zero upfront costs.
2. Solar Panel Installation is Complicated
Most solar companies offer a free consultation. They’ll tell you how much you can save and answer all of your questions. And the solar company often takes care of the permits, inspections and other paperwork for you before installing panels on your roof.
3. It’s Not Sunny Enough Where I Live
Cold and cloudy Germany (which gets less sun than every state in the Lower 48) is the world leader in solar power. States such as Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts are right up there with California and Arizona as states with the largest amount of solar energy available per person. Snow actually helps solar panels work better because sunlight reflects off of the snow.
Want to know more about solar energy? Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s consumer guide to solar electricity or read more about solar panels from the World Wildlife Fund. To see how you can make a difference for the environment with changes small and large, read Jacobson’s 15 Tips to Make Your Home More Green.