Wednesday, August 26, 2015

You can green your home affordably, and even make money in savings the first year!

President Obama recently said that you don't need to believe in global warming to go green. It now makes economic sense: "Solar isn't just for the green crowd any more, it's for the green-eyeshade crowd too."

People ask me if it's possible to green one's home affordably and I respond emphatically YES. In fact, you can probably green your home without putting up a cent in upfront costs and you can begin getting a return on your investment the first year. If money is your concern, you'd be foolish not to go green. If you care about the future of this planet, you'll start greening your home today.

Let me run some numbers by you. Jill and I greened our home for $18,000 by installing solar, gray water and turf removal/landscaping. We save $1200 on electricity, $400 in water bills, and $600 in gardening (we no longer need a gardener to move our lawn once a month). That's a savings of $2200 a year.  And that savings will go up at least 4% each year as the price of electricity and water rises.

We paid up front, and will recoup our investment in 6-7 years. But suppose you don't have money to invest up front. Here is where the HERO program can help you.

HERO enables you to take out a home loan for energy efficiency improvements, such as a cool roof, solar, double-pane glass windows, insulation, etc. If I had borrowed our upfront costs through the HERO program,  I would have had to pay $1600 a year for a 20-year loan to pay off the $18,000. But I would be saving $2200 a year. So my first year, I would pay nothing for installation and get $600 back in savings! And those savings would increase each year.

What this means is that going green is now affordable for most middle class homeowners. The price of solar panels has come down so much that companies like Solar City offer free installation and can reduce your electricity bill by around 10-20% the first year.

This is also the point of Bill McKibben's article in the New Yorker called "Power to the People." He begins by describing an ordinary working class family home in Vermont that went green and cut their energy use and costs by 80% (just like us) with no net cost.

McKibben writes about how utility companies can help, and hinder, the inevitable transition to renewable energy. Some utilities (like the one in Vermont) see value in cooperating with solar and make it work to their economic advantage. Others have bought into the lies of the fossil fuel industry propaganda and see solar as a threat and are trying to thwart it with excessive fees (as in Arizona, where some utilities are charging solar users a monthly fee of $50, thereby making solar unaffordable).

Fossil fuel promoters like the Koch brothers claim that they don't mind solar power, they just don't want it to be subsidized. However, as I pointed out in a previous blog, the fossil fuel industries receive gigantic subsidies from the federal government and also manage to avoid paying most of the taxes they owe through loopholes like off shoring. If solar were subsidized like the fossil fuel industry, every home in America could have free solar panels.

That's the economic reality. Renewable energy is not only the future, it's now affordable to everyone, and the sooner we make the transition, the better for the planet, and our pocket books.

I am glad to report that the Obama finally put solar panels on the White house. As you may recall, Jimmy Carter put solar on the Whitehouse 30 years old, but they were taken down by Reagan and never restored--not by Clinton or Bush--until Obama finally did what makes economic as well as environmental sense.


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