Welcome to Good Dirt Radio, reporting on positive change... taking root.
Sunny roof-tops ... are proving to be an excellent asset for property owners faced with rising energy costs. The benefits of roof top solar include energy income, tax savings and a reduction of one’s carbon footprint.
Increasingly, householders are harvesting sunlight for their electricity and heat, saving money on utility bills while reducing climate changing pollution from burning fossil fuels. Yet cost can be a hurdle. And, a large number of folks live in condominiums or town homes where it may seem impossible to install a solar system. But... as they say, where there’s a will, there is a way.
We were inspired by a solar condo, retrofit project... created by Sarah Lozanova, a free-lance eco-writer based in Chicago. Sara has an MBA in sustainable management and years of experience with sustainability in business. She and her husband, Karil Losanov, an engineer and wind energy specialist, found a way to generate solar energy from their condominium rooftop. Lozanova says its important to analyze the availability of sunlight on the roof, talk to neighbors and the condo association to gather support... but advises starting with energy efficiency.
Lozanova: Well first, I recommend people look at energy efficiency before sizing a system, that might involve putting power strips on the entertainment system, making sure that the appliances are energy efficient and using energy efficient lighting, like LED or compact fluorescent lights. It's good to contact the association to see if they are receptive to it, keeping in mind that they might have certain requests such as how the conduit is run or how the panel are mounted.
The design of some condos makes it difficult to retrofit solar... and requires finding creative ways to install the hardware. She says some associations can be particular.
Losanova: Then its good too contact a local solar installer to see if they are able to cater to the requests of the condo association and then they can also give information on state and local incentives which could further reduce the cost of the solar system. And then they would also be able to look at how exactly you are gonna connect the solar system to the electrical panel or if its a solar thermal system for hot water and/or heat, then they could take a look at the layout of the utility room.
Losanova says converting sunlight to energy on a condo or town home roof is a viable and safe investment.
Lozanova: I like to think of a solar system as alternative currently because you’re investing in a system that will generate energy for your unit for years to come. It has a very low risk because you know that the sun is gonna shine even though some days may be cloudy. By and large, solar equipment is very reliable, for at least 20 to 30 years, and requires very little maintenance and upkeep. In many area of the country, there are net metering laws that require the electrical company to purchase extra electricity that is fed to the grid, at a retail rate. You can calculate a pretty accurate return on what the system will be and then there’s also a federal tax credit that’s available right now that’s a dollar for dollar tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of the solar system.
In a recession or buyers’ market, adding renewable energy to any real estate, including a condo or town home, can provide an attractive market advantage, for sellers.
Lozanova: Its also appealing when the unit is put on the market because many buyers would like to know that they’ll have a much lower or even non-existent electrical bill and it can also boost property values.
Real estate appraisers and banks now commonly add value for solar installations. If you live in a condo or town home, we encourage you to talk to your neighbors about rooftop solar on your building, at a group price.
Lozanova: I think with the severity of the environmental challenges we are facing, such as climate change, really, all hands are needed on deck. And that doesn’t exclude condo owners or town homeowners. Now is a great time to invest in renewable energy and to put the sun to work for us.
Change comes from the bottom up when we learn about options and take action. For more information about solar condos, please visit us at gooddirtradio.org.
I'm Tom Bartels and I'm Tami Graham. Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news…. for a change.