How to Green Your Home Without Going Broke

E.B. Boyd by E.B. Boyd | August 5th, 2009 | 2 Comments
topic: Green Living, Healthy Home

Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought about installing solar panels or a tankless water heater, and then balked because of the cost. If so, you’re not alone.

Berkeley, however, has come up with an innovative program to help homeowners afford solar systems—and it’s one that is starting to make it possible for homeowners around the country to finally afford renewable energy systems and other energy efficiency improvements.

Today, if you want to install solar panels, you either pay the hefty sum out of your pocket, or you go to a bank to get a loan. Either way, you might worry that you’ll never recoup the investment if you ended up selling your house. The Berkeley program eliminates both of those hurdles.

It works like this: the city itself gives you the loan (from a special bond it issues) and provides it to you at a fixed, low interest rate for 20 years. And then, instead of repaying it the way you would a typical loan, your repayments get assessed as a special tax on your particular property. That way, if you sell the house, the special tax continues to get assessed on the property, and the new homeowner picks up the cost of the “loan.” And in the meantime, you get to write off the cost of the interest on the loan on your income taxes, the way you do your mortgage interest.

The idea proved so revolutionary, a statewide program was created to help other cities in California implement it. This spring, San Francisco not only jumped on the bandwagon, but it expanded the program to include any number of renewable energy projects or energy efficiency improvements, like installing a tankless water heater or a geothermal heating system. And now a number of other states have also given the program the green light, including Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Best of all, this program doesn’t preclude you from taking advantage of government rebates or other incentives. Plus it’s a win for cities, who have been setting climate change goals to move their citizens toward energy efficiency and renewable energy, but have struggled with the fact that many residents didn’t want to take the financial plunge.

Learn more:

  • Berkeley FIRST
  • City FIRST
  • 1BOG
  • DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency)
  • Comments

    1. With the new Feed In tariff in the UK you can actually get paid to put electricity back into the grid, and the energy providers have to pay a fixed price.

      John Philips | April 15th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
    2. I was looking into making my own solar panels and wanting to go Green at home. The initial cost of materials is substantial. I also wanted to rid my home of toxic chemicals and found the information I needed on a wonderful website. It has made going green affordable and almost effortless. The toxin-free home is the first step for me, getting funds for the solar panels is within sight, and my future retirement income looks brighter.

      Susanna | April 26th, 2010 | Comment Permalink

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