Rooftops Rule, Solar Group’s Study Says

The solar industry is out with a report on which energy-efficiency measures and renewable-power options makes the most sense for homeowners. Hold onto your hat: Turns out solar fares well.

“For a typical home in the United States, rooftop solar energy systems (electric and thermal), will generate six times more energy than can be saved with lighting, weatherization and insulation retrofits combined,” said Sue Kateley, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, which put together the study with Westinghouse Solar.

image via SolarCity

That isn’t to say many non-solar measures aren’t effective, a fact the report forthrightly acknowledges. In fact, for the most immediate payback, the report suggests homeowners stop whatever they are doing right now and install energy-efficient lighting. It’s a relatively inexpensive and cost-effective move, typically paying for itself in less than a year.

And, despite the seeming inevitability of a solar-industry sponsored study recommending solar power, the report is valuable in comparing how a home-energy strategy can differ depending on the local climate and the home’s age. For instance, the study found that in mild Los Angeles, double-pane windows would take 44 years to pay for themselves in energy savings, whereas in chillier New York City, payback on the $8,500 investment would come in just 10 years.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.