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.

Thinking of updating? Go Green!

by Dan Krell

If you are thinking of updating your home- think green. As we are increasingly becoming environmentally conscious, home buyers are as well. As the cost of energy continues to increase, home buyers are increasingly becoming aware of energy saving devices within homes, including Energy Star rated products and environmentally friendly materials.

Most of us are familiar with the Energy Star logo on appliances; however, Energy Star ratings or recommendations can also be found on windows, lighting fixtures/light bulbs, HVAC equipment, hot water heaters and insulation. Home improvement recommendations from Energy Star can save a home owner up to 31% in energy costs! Do you think that saving on energy costs would be a selling point to a potential homebuyer? You bet it would!

Energy Star ( is a jointly sponsored program through the United States Department of Energy and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The program began in 1992 by voluntarily labeling energy efficient items. Although computers and monitors were the first items to be labeled, the Energy Star logo is now seen on household, office, and commercial items from fifty categories. On the website, Energy Star provides assessment tools for homeowners in determining the efficiency of their homes as well helping understand what needs improvement.

To make the home more appealing to home buyers, the first items that a home owner thinks of replacing are the kitchen appliances and the washer/dryer. Although high efficiency appliances typically cost more, Energy Star states that the money saved on energy costs will more than offset the cost of an energy star rated appliance. Because Energy Star rated appliances use up to 50% less energy than standard appliances, it is estimated that the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees would be planted if ten percent of American households use Energy Star rated appliances.

Additionally, if your furnace is more than ten years old, Energy Star recommends that a newer high efficiency furnace be installed. Recommended efficiency ratings by Energy Star are 90% Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) for a gas furnace and a minimal Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 13 for central air conditioning units. However, if your ductwork leaks it reduces the HVAC efficiency, so it is recommended that leaking duct work be sealed. Additionally, adding a programmable thermostat may save an additional $150 a year.

As your hot water heater uses about one third of a home’s energy costs, replacing it to a more efficient model can reduce the overall energy bill. Hot water heater efficiency is rated by Energy Factor (EF). Depending on the size of the hot water heater, the recommended EF can vary. Newer tankless models heat water as you need it and thereby can save you even more.

Other ways to make your home greener and energy efficient, besides using high efficiency and Energy Star rated appliances and systems, include: sealing air leaks around windows and in basements/attics; ensuring that your home is properly insulated in the walls, attic, and basement; and replacing light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs. Although not all appliances are Energy Star rated, the Department if Energy has a guide to making your home energy efficient at:

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 February 11, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.