Solar-powered houses

Energy prices are up and people are looking for alternatives to fossil fuels. A recent HooK article by Courtney Stuart focused on Roger Voisinet’s (fellow Realtor) solar-powered business –

If you wore bell-bottom pants and platform shoes in the 1970s, you were groovy. If you placed a few solar panels atop your home or business, your cool factor went through the roof– literally.

Today, Voisinet foresees a revival of more technical solar devices thanks in part to the rising tide of energy prices. He notes that there’s still a 10 percent federal tax credit for businesses, and many states– including Virginia– are considering additional credits.

The revival is under way, if recent news is any indication. The HooK article is one sign. The EarthCraft House in Charlottesville is another (pdf). This Schuyler development is yet another. The signs are everywhere.

Annette Osso, executive director of the VSBN, said, “While the mid-Atlantic area has benefited from years of low energy prices and plentiful sources of drinking water, we are beginning to see a lot more attention given to green building. We have been working for four years to partner with builders and code officials in Virginia to make sure the EarthCraft House program would fit their needs. After this summer’s pilot project, we plan to take the program statewide.”

And then you have the “1st Green Home in Virginia.
The biggest roadblock of course, is money.

So far, though, zero-energy technology isn’t very cost-effective. Solar panels and the inverters that transform the sunlight into usable energy can raise construction costs by $8,000 to $20,000, depending on the amount of power they produce — which means it can take years to recoup the expense.
Few home buyers have been willing to pay the costs and, consequently, few builders have been willing to build such homes.

I remember several years ago when I first started in real estate, a few new agents were meeting with local builder. At the time, he promised that he would build a “green” home within the next two years. It’s been four, and I’ll bet he is reconsidering his decision. Sustainable housing very well might be the “next big thing.”

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