Renewable Energy at Home

by Dan Krell

The debate over the use of renewable and green energies in the home has been fought for many years. However, recent spikes in energy costs combined with the imminent sharp increases from local power companies have made a case for the use of renewable energies such as solar power. Many real estate analysts agree that as solar photovoltaic technology advances and becomes more affordable, solar energy sources in the home will not only become accepted – but expected from home buyers.

Today, many people are ill informed about solar energy and its uses in the home; when asked, they might describe solar energy as using a large bulky panel sprouting from the roof to heat hot water. Solar collectors from thirty years ago were limited in the amount of energy they could convert, as well as being cost prohibitive for the majority of home owners. However, solar photovoltaic technology and engineering have come a long way since then such that the materials used are more efficient in converting light into electricity as well as being more affordable.

Technological improvements, lower costs and government incentives have prompted worried home owners to take another look at solar energy. Advancements in new materials (such as thin film) have created solar collectors that are smaller, more reliable, and more efficient than their counter parts of thirty years ago. The new technology has allowed new Building Incorporated Photovoltaic systems to incorporate the use of solar collectors in wall and roof components such as shingles, tiles and other building materials, which not only makes the use of solar collectors more feasible but aesthetically pleasing as well.

The cost (usually measured in Watts) to install solar photovoltaic cells is still not cheap. Depending on the type of system installed and the contractor used, the cost for a residential installation can be as little as $5,500 and cost as much as $22,500 ( However, with Federal, state and local incentives, combined with the long term benefit of reduced energy costs, the cost does become more acceptable. Federal tax credits can be up to $2,000 on the installation of an acceptable and approved solar energy system ( Montgomery County offers the Clean Energy Rewards program; the program pays consumers one cent per kilowatt-hour for eligible energy consumed ( Additionally if your system is connected to the local energy grid, you can sell any excess energy to your local power company!

If you live in a homeowners association, however, you may have opposition to your solar panel installation. Many homeowners associations prohibit the installation of solar panels because of their appearance and the concern over lack of uniformity within the neighborhood. However, to encourage the use of solar panels as a green energy source, some states have already fought back by disallowing HOA bans on solar panels.

Installation of solar photovoltaic systems in your home is an exact task because of the engineering considerations and electrical components used. When choosing a contractor to install your system, make sure they are locally licensed as well as certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners ( The NABCEP provides certification to those who specialize in solar photovoltaic installation.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of May 12, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.

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