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The trend toward living green

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

A majority of respondents in a survey by 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 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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April 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm

In regards to Dr. J's comment, Solar panels will make your meter run backwards, as long as you are hooked up to a meter that is able to determine that energy is flowing into the grid from your home, and as long as you have enough panels to provide more energy than you are using in your home at the given time. The majority of Americans that can afford solar panels work during the day, the time when their panels are producing the most energy, and their home is consuming the least amount of energy. So unless you decide to purchase a small number of panels that don't produce enough wattage to at least provide the energy your home requires during the day...your meter will run backwards, at the very least offsetting your night time energy usage, but more than likely making you money back on your initial purchase. If you buy a battery to store energy on-site, then your nighttime energy costs are taken care of as well. Also, the energy you are no longer receiving from fossil fuels, but now receiving carbon neutral, can be sold as carbon credits online through an intermediary that will sell those credits to carbon offsetting companies...regardless of being hooked up to the grid.

Finally, fossil fuels are a finite resource that rise in cost every year due to increased demand for less product. Solar panels will only get cheaper and more efficient, as technology (usually) only progresses. Location plays a major role in determining if solar is economically beneficial for you...if you live in the northwest I wouldn't recommend it, but if you live in Texas or Florida, it's a worthy investment. Another option is a vertical wind turbine, one for example is only 4ft in diameter and 8.5ft tall, produces up to 2kW starting at 11mph winds, $10K.

April 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm

i really didnt learn anything from this article.

R. Wieringa
April 10, 2013 at 5:06 pm

This was a Bag of Air. A come on headline about Solar for energy saving and nothing definitive in the article on that topic.

Dale Schneider
April 10, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Solar electricity panels start degrading immediately and like 7th century wind turbines they are 10% efficient and need constant expensive maintenance. Solar thermal in the North is most efficient, over 90%. Water is trouble and expensive.
A "solar furnace" will last as long as the building with virtually no maintenance and save half of the heating costs. $3 to $4,000 cost with installation. And natural gas is going to sky-rocket as the trucking industry has begun converting to it.

April 10, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Mike if you didn't get $11,4000 of your neighbors tax money would you still be making money? Of course we're all able to get some discounts, but then we all end up paying more taxes ans subsidies.

April 10, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Exactly what kind of information did you give me in this article. I'm thinking none.

Bob Vivona
April 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Going Solar is fine but you must understand that if you are on the grid as the above commentor is then Solar will save him money as long as the grid is up but when there is a power outage from the Grid his solar power will also not work. and he will be in the dark same as everyone else. The only way that Solar power is able to provide power during a blackout is if your Solar is OFF GRID not On GRid. So be careful if have Solar installed.

Joe Perkins
April 10, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Saying "solar" by itself is meaningless. It's like saying "car". What kind? Even if you live in a sunny location, you need to be aware of the economics and ROI from each of the several forms of "solar" panels there are.

Solar Electric (as shown being installed above) are common, but limited. It's the second most expensive form.

Solar Water can supply hot water and really help with heating costs. It's also the lowest cost, but worst on reliability as it uses circulating water.

Solar Thermal can turn a Heat Pump based system into a wonder of science, but it's the most expensive form with the highest efficiency and ROI.

So, when you decide to look into Solar Panels, ask "What kind do you recommend and which has the best ROI?"

April 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I put Solar Panels on my house in Delaware at the end of 2012. Total cost for a 5KW system was about $18,000. I got $5400 back from the Feds as a Tax Credit. I got $6,000 back from my Utility (Delmarva) leaving my cost at $6,600. I've already generated 1 SREC (Solar Residential Energy Credit) which I sold for $300. I anticipate generating 5 more SREC's this year. My electric bill is down about 20-30% from last year, although it is too early to see how much difference it will make in the summer. I still anticipate to recoup my costs in 2-3 years which made the deal profitable.

April 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I recall in the early 1980's, installers were telling people that solar panels will 'make your electric meter run backwards'. Thirty years later my neighbors with solar panels are still waiting to recover their costs.