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The trend toward living green

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

A majority of respondents in a survey by Realtor.com said they would like to own an eco-friendly residence and are willing to pay more for it.

Builders are responding to more demand for eco-friendly features such as solar panels.

The online survey of 1,439 consumers didn't define "eco-friendly." For homeowners in the south, an important eco-friendly feature might be energy-efficient air conditioning, says Leslie Piper, consumer housing specialist with Realtor.com. But in another part of the country, it might mean solar panels. Because of the disparities, the survey let respondents decide how to define the term.

Overall, respondents say energy-efficient appliances, lighting and air conditioning were among the most desired eco-friendly home features, Piper says, with nearly 80 percent of respondents saying they want all three.

Piper says a majority of respondents who currently live in an eco-friendly home are older than 40 and have children. She attributes that to a higher level of education about environmentalism. "In the 1970s, you saw people who recycled bottles or cans for the cash or did composting," she says. Ten or 15 years later, people began putting more thought into how to be environmental in their homes, especially when they had children, she adds. "It's becoming more of an everyday routine that brings about awareness."

In her experience as a realtor, Piper says she has seen clients take advantage of a range of eco-friendly options, from simply changing light bulbs or installing low-flow shower heads and water filters to the more complicated and expensive, such as replacing single-pane windows or installing solar panels.

The additional cost of an eco-friendly home would depend on what features it contains and where it's located, Piper says. In the survey, more than 70 percent say they believe eco-friendly features add monetary value to a residence, and 68 percent say they would pay more for it. Of those who would pay more, the majority -- 24 percent – indicate they'd pay 3 percent to 5 percent more. Whether they would actually put their money where their mouth is remains to be seen, but Piper believes the trend toward eco-friendly homes will continue to grow. Builders are already responding, she says. "Green homes are in high demand, and people want recognition for living in a green home."

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40 Comments
Donya Laughinghouse
April 13, 2013 at 10:16 am

When you are serious about your move to solar energy and begin using panels that sink more than 6 watts, invest in a solar controller. These small controls help maximize the efficiency of the charge cycle and prevent any wasted overcharging from occurring. When there is a lot of energy at stake, these are a must have for your solar-home..

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Maritza
April 11, 2013 at 9:15 am

Take whatever a realtor says for what its worth...they are of course more into sales than analysis. I agree with the person that mentioned that it is only a feel good purchase. Why not survey people who actually OWN solar panels rather than people who don't? doesn't make sense. Of course the majority of people want to go green. This article does not nothing but mention the obvious. The same is true with hybrid cars... the extra money spent could be better spent on something that is going to make a difference.

ION (pronounce YON)
April 10, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I strongly believe in SOLAR, close to your roof, no transport and distribution costs, even if I've lived in MN for the last 13 years... Wind energy is good, but the transport is too high....
Some companies might fall (like Solyndra) others migh go up...like the Chinese ones, or SPWR (I don't like FSLR, low efficiency, polluting or rare earth materials like Cd or Te and big area for the same power....I don't know who pushes them forward...)Silicon is the power...SAND..(SiO2)...SUN....ENERGY....
Nothing is easier than that.....SOLAR is the future....Chinese, German, American, competition is good, it will drive the prices down to earth....next 5 years will show it...GO SOLAR!!!!!

nick1936
April 10, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Solar i Love mine 16 panels installed 8 months ago at a cost of $16,000 at no interest for a year invested that money at 5%. so far i have received %5,000 from the state and i am receiving a $5,000 tax credit from the government i have received $1650 from the power company for my contribution to the grid and I have saved over the last 8 months an average of $115.00 a month over last years bills. total return on investment of $16,000 not counting interest earned or federal tax credit a total of $7,570 so far

Marc
April 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Stacy....I give you the time....a few facts please...not the usual
left response....thank you Stacy.....

Rod
April 10, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I work in this industry (residential sales and installation) and solar has a terrible return on investment. It is a feel good purchase, and does not make economic sense. If your State is giving you extreme amounts of per kilowatt kickbacks it may make economic sense for you, but without these the ROI is abysmal. Even in sunny climates where electricity rates are higher, a $20,000 investment may net you $500 a year in real value of electricity generated (not subsidized values). In Norther areas of the country your $20k investment may only create $150 in electricity. Considering how much energy it costs to make the product, service it, transport it, remove it when reroofing your house etc. the net effect on carbon emissions etc. is probably close to zero.
I am not against green technologies at all, but these feel good purchases bother me. Your money is exponentially better spent on programs such as they have in the Northwest where you can pay extra on your electric bill (green power programs)which help subsidize wind projects which are exponentially more effective than solar. For $25 every 2 months, your electric company is creating the amount of electricity your home uses by building large economy of scale wind farms. When you look at the cost to generate this electricity, it is exponentially more efficient than solar created at your residence. Would you rather spend $12.50 per month to make your house truly "green", or spend $20k up front for something that is way less effective. I understand the feeling of being able to look at your system and see it.
Spending money on making your home better insulated is a way better investment. Consider installing a heat pump instead of just an air conditioner. Newer heat pumps will create on average 3.5 kilowatts of electricity for every kilowatt used. This is a proven technology and when you look at the efficiency numbers, nothing is in the neighborhood of as efficient or "green" as a heat pump is. For indoor units (gas furnaces or air handlers) consider variable speed drives which use 3x less electricity than standard units.
In summary, creating power is exponentially more efficient and effective on a large scale than it is creating it at your residence.

Stacy
April 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm

It's ironic that the uneducated comments and conclusions about photovoltaics stated in this forum is probably the reason the PV companies are failing. People, I wish I had the time and the platform to address each and every comment, but let me just suggest that you educate yourselves about this topic. PV is an outstanding solution to our energy needs. It makes all other forms of renewable energy obsolete. The industry has developed solutions to every single concern expressed here today, from shingles to holes in your roof to power outages and everything in between. Do some meaningful research.

Chuck Morfe
April 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm

If solar panels were the answer the companies making them would be booming not going out of business, like Solindra five hundred million on us the taxpayer

D.C.
April 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Personally I think they ruin the looks of a home when installed on a roof. So what happens when you need to replace the shingles on the roof? Couldn't these panels being bolted on cause leaks through the roof? What about the high winds from N'Easterners that happen around here? It seems as though you would have to generate a lot of credit over a long period of time to recover the costs of installation of these panels. I don't believe they are worth it.