Will You Risk Your Image for Sustainability? How about Your Property Value?

solar paneled roofI had an interesting conversation at my town’s Green Team meeting last night. One of the members was talking about someone he knows who wants to be able to put solar panels in a remote field but still wants his home credited with the power drawn from them. He doesn’t want the solar panels on his home. He doesn’t find them attractive.

I got to wondering, what will my neighbors think when I do the renovation on my house and put on solar panels? I know they won’t be surprised – they know me pretty well. But will they think the solar panels are an eyesore? Will it bother them? Will it change my image from “that green writer” to “that crazy hippie lady who made our neighborhood ugly?”

Solar panels aren’t the only thing that apparently turn people off. In September, the town of Wayne, New Jersey said no to wind turbines in their backyards.

β€œWhen you look out your back door, you don’t want to look at a nuclear power plant, you don’t want to look at a wind turbine,’’ Mayor Christopher Vergano said today. β€œWe are protecting the values of residential properties by keeping them [at] a certain setback.’’

One councilman commented,

β€œIt’s dangerous to put industrial activity in residential zones where it can threaten to destroy property values,” Scuralli said. β€œPeople’s homes are probably the biggest investment they will ever make.”

The council also brought in studies that showed that the noise from wind turbines could be a health hazard so their decision wasn’t solely based on aesthetics and fear of devaluing property.

I wonder, would solar panels or a wind turbine really devalue someone’s property? If I were looking for a new home, I would love to find one that was supported by alternative energy. I’d pay more for that.

How do we change the mindset that our property values are more important than the value of the earth that property is part of? How do we get people to say, “I don’t care what the neighbors think. I’m solar paneling my roof?”

This is one of their posts where I’m asking a lot of questions without being able to give a lot of answers. Do you have any?

  1. Adam Borut

    I recently attended a Realtor Expo in California and was very excited by the growing enthusiasm among realtors for going green. I think both realtors and homebuyers are realizing that energy efficiency is a tremendous value-add. As a baby step toward solar power…and understanding its ‘beauty’, homeowners first need to get comfortable with what green really is and realize it enhances, rather than cramps, their style. Green living about change – not necessarily sacrifice. It’s about making the right choices for energy conservation and efficiency. Homeowners can start, for example, with home water conservation which is very easy to kick-start, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and leads to immediate savings on utility bills. By using reusable water bottles instead of single-use disposable bottles (16-oz), a person can reduce CO2 by 1.5 lbs./year. Another easy activity which takes about 5 minutes is to install faucet aerators in the bathroom to cut water flow by 1 gallon a minute (with no noticeable change in water pressure)! When they see the cost savings coming from energy-saving activities, they’ll no doubt want solar panels themselves. – Adam, http://www.ecohatchery.com

  2. Bobby B.

    To minimize the risk of sabotaging your investment, you should consider photovoltaic (PV) shingles in lieu of panels and/or solar powered forced draft attic vents. Neither of these scream “hippie” or “tree hugger”. However, you should also do an economic study before you seriously consider either. The payout for a typical PV investment is measured in decades; not years. If you buy your home in your twenties and die there in your seventies, you may regain your capital outlay. However, since we all spend money on objects that make us feel good, you may not want to look at the economics, especially since it will have little positive impact on your properties overall monetary value.

    Use a search engine to find more information on PV shingles (This Old House has a nice article) and Solar Star vents by Solatube for the vents.

  3. Robert

    This sounds like the SolarShares program that SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) just recently started offering. But it’s more of a lease. SMUD set up their own solar farm and allows their customers to lease it for credits on their bill. Reading the first paragraph of the article made me immediately think of SolarShares. Although you are not actually purchasing the solar panels, but hey, you still get the credit.

  4. rockymtnway

    The PV aesthetic argument seems silly. They really aren’t that obtrustive if mounted flat. However, wind can be a different matter. Not only does it stand well above the roofline of your community, some models can be very noisy. That said, other models and in many applications, neighbors should have little concern.

    My concern comes not from what solar will look like on my home or what the neighbors will think. I’m worried about recovering my expense on a pro-rated basis five or ten years from now. Will a buyer be willing to pay $10k more for a home because it has no electricity bill and they continue to get a check from the utility company for the surplus? I think that market is yet to be tested. While I personally would be attracted to a green home and even went to the point of letting the utility bills from two homes be the deciding factor on which one to buy, us greenies are an unusual breed. I think the cost of energy would have to get a lot higher than it is today before the idea of a higher mortgage payment for 30 year would pay off over the life of the panels (generally guaranteed for 25). That gets to be an even stickier question if the panels are already 10 years old when the home is purchased.

  5. Crosius

    See, when I ride through a neighbourhood with no evidence of sustainable practice, I think that’s the ugly neighbourhood.

    The neighbourhoods where everyone is passing bylaws like this, sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling that they’re protecting their “values” (Which are, apparently, consume and never adapt to reality) Those are the ugly neighbourhoods. Who wants delusional neighbours?

    When I see photovoltaics on roofs, wind farms, food gardens and bicycles, that’s when I think a neighbourhood starts to become beautiful.

    If my idea of beauty also tends to translate into lower cost to move there, I guess I just get a double bonus.

  6. Uncle B

    The great republican depression will even change hearts about what has beauty and not! We will come to worship the solar cell array and huge griding windmills as well as little carbon fiber and polymer composite bodied tandem commuter cars, plug ins and all! A front lawn will be considered an abomination and decadently 18th century British, while a yard full full of well cultivated veggies a prize for all! “R” values will come into vogue, and easily heated and cooled, energy efficient, super insulated, solar oriented super glazed near zero running cost dwellings will be prize real estate – all others, slated for tear-down as unusable relics of an age gone by! As soon as the American psyche gets its head around the notion of “Perpetual Power” from the Sun and wind, and get past the well sold propaganda of “pay now for refill” philosophies, progress will be made. Funny, how arrogance and the will to maintain the status quo can be washed away by necessity and the forces of a depression. See you on the trains, we can have a nice chat in the lounge car, or even a drink together, arrive rested and enjoy life more, nice things coming, America, nice things coming for us!

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