By recycling, purchasing more energy efficient vehicles and home components, and supporting businesses that leave less of an imprint on the environment, the past few years have certainly shown that we, as a nation, have made a cleaner, more sustainable future one of our priorities. Recently, however, we've seen an incredible increase in the number of folks willing to take conservation to the next level by outfitting their homes to use alternative energy sources.
Residential Solar Panel Installation
If the number of homeowners who install solar panels continues to grow at its current rate, President Obama should have no problem achieving his goal of doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years! Though it is difficult to calculate the total number of solar panels installed each year, we got the figures from ServiceMagic.com (a nationwide resource matching homeowners to contractors) to see just how much interest in these devices has grown. In 2006, ServiceMagic counted 4,269 requests for solar panel installation nationwide; by 2008, their count was a whopping 67,062! If you do the math, that's an increase of 1471%!
Geothermal Heat Pump Installation
Though not quite as dramatic, significant increases have also been seen in the amount of homeowners opting to install geothermal heating and cooling systems. Two years ago, ServiceMagic processed 5,449 requests to install geothermal systems; in 2008, that number rose to 24,269!
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The Cost of Going Green
A modest solar panel installation suitable for running a few devices can easily be had for $1,000 or less, but costs of $20,000 or more are common when creating a completely solar powered home. Geothermal heat pumps are generally considered the most cost effective way to heat and cool a property in the long run, but can be several times more expensive to install than a conventional heating and cooling system.
Though the expense of these devices might seem like a deal-breaker (especially with the nation's current economic uncertainty), increasing federal and state incentives, good planning and financing, and the proven long-term savings of getting fully or partially off the grid can each play an important role in making a green upgrade more affordable. For example, anyone building a new house or entering a new mortgage may be able to add the cost of installing solar panels or geothermal heat in the loan; in many cases the amount you save every year on utility bills will be more than enough to exceed the amount that was added to your mortgage by installing the system!
Is Your Home a Good Candidate for Solar or Geothermal Power?
If your main reason for installing a solar or geothermal system is an environmental one, you can rest assured that both of these technologies can make quite an impact in reducing the pollution your home produces. However, as many homeowners are concerned not only with their property's eco-friendliness, but its overall cost effectiveness, too, it is important to talk to a professional before you decide to upgrade. Though certainly both geothermal and solar power are suitable for nearly every area of the country, variation in drilling difficulty and fluctuating levels of sun exposure from place to place means that the benefits of installing one of these systems needs to be taken on a case by case basis. Only a professional can tell you the specific costs and benefits for your property, and how well the pros and cons will stack up for your particular situation!