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Reduce and Produce: Pairing Solar and Energy Efficiency

When people think about ways to save energy in their homes, solar energy is one of the first things that comes to mind.  It’s a clean, renewable way to transform your home into its own “green power plant.”

However, much of the sustainable energy a residential solar power system produces could be wasted if your house is not energy efficient.

Installing new insulation, sealing the building envelope, and upgrading inefficient HVAC systems can reduce your energy use and make your home “renewable ready.” Minimizing energy loss in the home maximizes the benefits of installing solar panels to generate your own clean energy.

Beath solar (2000x1333)By improving the energy efficiency of your house before installing a photovoltaic system, you can even reduce the size of the solar array needed to offset energy use, saving you on upfront installation costs. 

In addition to the added savings from energy efficiency improvements, your house will be more comfortable, healthy, and valuable – both solar energy and energy efficient measures increase the value of your home.  Also, as the cost of electricity goes up, the investment in solar power will maximize your savings.

Solar power has historically been synonymous with sunny states like California, but homeowners in Virginia can also reap the benefits. With help from Solarize campaigns throughout Virginia (Energy Collective recently took a look at these programs) including Solarize Charlottesville, people are beginning to take advantage of solar energy in their own homes right here in the Commonwealth.  Through community engagement efforts to attract those interested in pursuing the possibility of solar, these Solarize campaigns are bringing affording solar options to the masses.  The Solarize Charlottesville campaign alone received more than 700 applications in its first two months with many going on to install solar and make energy efficiency improvements that optimize their solar investment.

Solarize_Charlottesville_Color_LogoMany Solarize programs like the one in Charlottesville and those LEAP is about to launch in Northern Virginia offer applicant the opportunity for a free Home Energy Check-Up so they can assess their home’s energy performance – and ways to increase their energy efficiency on the spot – at the same time they learn about their home’s solar potential.

A recent story in Energy Efficiency Markets posed this question: “Solar is experiencing over-the-top popularity among US homeowners; energy efficiency not so much. But what if state programs made solar a subset of energy efficiency?”

It answered by citing a new study:

That’s the recommendation of an intriguing paper released August 19 by the Center for Sustainable Energy. The California non-profit tried to tease out what it takes to motivate solar customers to pursue energy efficiency.  Homeowners run the risk of buying more solar panels than they need, if they do not make their homes efficient first. Several state and utility programs think the energy audit is the answer.

While that has plenty of implications for program developers like LEAP as we and our partners launch Solarize initiatives across Virginia, it underscores the benefit for homeowners of pairing these complementary energy saving strategies — efficiency and solar — as they chart a course for their home’s energy future.