Let the Sun Shine In
Going green at home pays for itself. Here’s how.
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“If you need to replace your shingles, it’s a good time to think solar,” says John Weaver, president of Natural E in Avondale, Pa. “If you won’t need to replace the roof for another five years, it might be better to wait.”
Though costs vary widely, a typical household should expect to pay $35,000 to $40,000 for a 5-kilowatt system that would reduce its electric bills by about half. Government rewards would reduce the cost to the mid-$20,000s.
Incentives, including the Delaware Green Energy Program, are also slashing the amount of time it takes homeowners to recoup their investment. Currently, a solar electric system will pay for itself in six years. “Without government help, it might be 20 years,” Weaver says.
Even if the house isn’t sited ideally, the system still can capture enough energy to provide about half the household’s electrical needs. But not all sites are solar friendly.
“If you live in a wooded area, you aren’t a candidate,” says John Sergich, vice president of sales and marketing at Green Street Solar in Selbyville. “The good news is that shade trees help to keep a house cool naturally.” One offsets the other.
Net metering enables homeowners to use the electric utility grid to store the power their systems generate when they are not using it. At the end of the billing period, homeowners pay for the amount of electricity they consumed, minus the amount they generated.
Excess power from solar or geothermal systems also can generate cash for homeowners in the form of renewable energy credits, also known as RECs or Green Tags, that can be sold or traded on the open market. Green Street and some other providers will arrange to sell RECs for customers at no charge.
Solar hot water systems can provide enough energy for a family’s washing and bathing needs—“even with teenagers,” Gillen says.
But the technology has not advanced to the point where a solar hot water system also could provide energy for radiant floors or radiators.
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