Real Estate

Going green: Not just for energy saving anymore

There is more and more talk about “off the grid,” “going green,” and “energy efficiency” these days. It applies to cars, appliances, devices, and homes. As with recycling, it was something a self-selected type of person did to be eco-friendly. But now, I see more and more solar panels on homes, as well as other energy-efficient improvements. These not only save money and energy but also add value to your home.

It’s worth noting that new legislation is expected to go into effect in January that calls for all new buildings up to 10 stories tall, both residential and commercial, to either use solar panels for electricity or a solar system to heat water. San Francisco has a goal of meeting 100 percent of its electricity needs with clean energy by 2025. So going green is something of a fait accompli.

The good news is that it’s worth it in many ways. A new study from The Appraisal Journal, a professional publication for appraisers, shows that homes with solar panels sold for $14,329 more than comparable homes without them. Please keep in mind that this is a national figure. On a national scale, that equated to 3.74 percent more than the average sales price. Also, a recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Selling into the Sun” concluded that buyers will pay an additional $4 per kilowatt of solar panel installed. When we put solar panels on our homes in 2007, we were told they would pay for themselves within 10 years from energy cost savings. I have been keeping track of this statement by looking at my own home, and it does appear to be true. After next year, it will be money in the bank as well as increased value to our home.

There has been a big change in the procedure of installing solar panels in the nine years since we got ours. Now there are companies that will waive upfront costs. For example, in 2014, Solar City partnered with Bank of America Merrill Lynch to fund an estimated $400 million in solar power projects that year and in 2015. Homeowners were able to install solar panels without paying any upfront costs. Other companies are allowing homeowners to lease solar panels to waive the potential $35,000 installation investment. It has become much easier and more affordable for nearly everyone to harness the power of the sun.

Millennial buyers consider green homes the new norm. Even the Department of Energy announced that it is partnering with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to try to quantify the value of green features in homes, so buyers and sellers can see the intrinsic value of these energy-saving features. The rising cost of energy is also contributing to the demand for more homes to be energy efficient. The average American home consumes nearly one quarter of all energy. Buyers are more eco-conscious.

What are some other ways to “go green”?

  1. You can start by getting a home energy score. This will help you put your home improvement dollars to good use.
  2. A simple way to start is by changing your light bulbs to the new energy-efficient, long-lasting brand. These last 10 times longer and use 75 percent less energy than a standard bulb.
  3. Substitute your windows with modern double or triple pane. This will not only save energy but will also improve the look of your home. In addition, it will cut down on the outside noise — another great feature. NAR has estimated that, in comparison to all home improvements, replacing windows provides the best return on investment. It can increase the value of the home by as much as 97 percent of the cost of the windows.
  4. Get an energy-efficient home automation package such as Vivint, which includes a thermostat you can control from any web-enabled device. These packages include 12 energy-efficient light bulbs, too.
  5. Install solar panels, which we have already discussed.
  6. Buy energy-efficient appliances, including washers, dryers, dishwashers, hot water heaters, and especially home heating units. Often there are rebates on the purchase of these items.

These are just a few ways to make your home more eco-friendly. After an energy consultation, you may find more ways to make your home LEED certified or an Energy Star home. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Energy Star-certified homes meet rigorous energy-savings standards as prescribed by the Environmental

Protection Agency. These certifications will also add value and appeal to your home.

I hope these energy-saving ideas give you food for thought — not just about saving energy and having a more comfortable home, but about adding value and demand for your home as well.


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Stephanie Saunders Ahlberg has been a real estate agent for more than 30 years and joined Hill & Co. in 1983, where she has consistently been among the top 10 salespeople. She can be reached at