Going Green Just Got More Cost-Effective

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Some people will adopt environmentally friendly practices because they want to do their part to save the earth. Others—many others—will hop on board once it’s demonstrated that doing so will save them money.

The WSJ reports on how towns across the country are launching programs to help residents go green by installing solar panels on roofs, replacing old furnaces with more efficient models, and improving insulation, among other things. Normally, residents are hesitant to put up the money for such big projects, which may save them money only at some point in the distant future. But local and federal initiatives make the improvements more enticing by arranging low-cost loans, free home energy audits, and an interesting payment system. The WSJ explains:

… residents can apply for as much as $12,000 in loans to finance home-energy-efficiency improvements like insulation and new furnaces. Homeowners also can use the program to finance rooftop solar panels.

After an energy audit to determine how much a homeowner could save in utility bills, the town pays a local contractor to do the energy improvements. The homeowner then pays the money back to the town through regular trash bills, with 3% interest, and the loan is structured so the homeowner pays less than he or she is saving in utilities…

Changes at the federal level are spurring the programs as well. The stimulus bill removed a federal restriction on property owners participating in local or state financing programs from also receiving the full 30% tax credit for solar power and energy efficiency.

That incentive, paired with state tax credits, can halve the cost of installing a rooftop solar array or other efficiency improvements, says Rusty Hynes, project manager for the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.

Related news: Read more about how the price of installing solar panels has come down significantly during the recession, and about how painting your roof white has been proven to save most homeowners on the cost of air-conditioning.