5 Ways to Green Your Home with Renewable Energy

Marley Flueger
April 14, 2022

In the US, residential energy use accounts for roughly 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions. One big reason for this? Most of our homes draw from a centralized electrical grid, which is still overwhelmingly powered by fossil fuels.

As consumers, we can increase the demand for clean alternatives -  and update our personal infrastructure for lower emissions - by switching our utilities to renewable energy. Clean energy gets an unfair rap for being time-consuming and expensive. But it can be a lot cheaper and easier than you think. And whether you rent or own your home, you’ve got options.

Here are 5 different ways you can use your home utilities to power the transition to a cleaner future.

1. Install Rooftop Solar

If you’re a homeowner, there’s never been a better time to invest in residential solar. Not only can you reduce or eliminate your electric bill – you’ll increase the value of your home. According to Energy.gov, houses equipped with solar panels sell faster, and for $15,000 more on average, than those without. 

While solar installation rates are lower than ever, it’s still a big investment. There are ways, however, to offset the cost: 

  • Federal Tax Credit: The residential solar energy credit allows taxpayers to claim 26% of the cost of home solar installation through 2022. The credit drops to 22% in 2023 and expires in 2024 unless congress renews it.  
  • State Incentives: Depending on your state, you may be able to get additional credits or incentives for installing solar, which can greatly offset the cost. Check DSIRE’s database of state tax incentives
  • Fannie Mae: The ​​HomeStyle Energy mortgage is the latest Fannie May energy improvement offering. This flexible program enables borrowers to make clean energy upgrades when purchasing or refinancing a home, eliminating the need for a subordinate lien, home equity line of credit, or other higher-credit loans.

Getting Started: Check your home’s potential sun exposure on Google Sunroof. If you’re in a good spot for solar, use EnergySage to shop around for competing quotes and offers.

2. Purchase Green Energy Through Your Utility

At least 50% of Americans have the option to purchase green energy directly through their utilities provider. Program specifics vary, but it’s usually easy and inexpensive to opt-in; you might even save money.  

You can opt-in to green energy whether you own or rent, and even if you share a meter. If you live in a multi-family property, research your options and share what you learn with your landlord, HOA, or neighbors. 

Getting Started: Check your utility provider’s website or call to inquire about green power programs. If you find a plan you like, you should be able to sign up on the spot. You’ll still get a bill from your utility company, but the supplier will be a clean energy provider. 

3. Subscribe to Community Solar 

Community solar is when a group of local energy-users come together to develop a solar farm. Community solar enables you to access clean energy without installing equipment of your own – while saving an average 5 - 15% on your annual electricity costs. 

Formats vary by project, but you’ll usually subscribe through your utility provider or third-party developer. Each month, you’ll get a credit on your electric bill for the energy produced by your portion of the solar array and a separate bill from the CSG.

Getting Started: There are more than 1,600 community solar projects in the US, but over 70% are in Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. Enter your zip code at EnergySage to see what’s available where you live (and how much you could be saving). For folks in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York, Solstice is a well-regarded option.

4. Switch to a Green Utility Provider 

In some (but not many) US markets, you can switch to a different utility provider if you’re unhappy with your current one. In these deregulated markets, you may be able to buy your energy directly from a provider that specializes in renewables. 

While some states are fully-deregulated, partially-regulated states - like California - limit the providers you can choose from. 

Getting Started: Explore this map of deregulated markets to see if you qualify. (Here’s looking at you, Texas.) If you're in a deregulated market, search for renewable energy providers in your city or country to see if there are green utility options available to you.

Deregulated Energy States

5. Purchase Renewable Energy Certificates

An electron in one part of the grid is equal to an electron in another part of the grid – regardless of how that electron was produced. That means, when you flip the lights on, there’s no way of knowing if that electricity was generated by solar, wind, coal, or natural gas.

A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) signifies 1,000 kilowatt hours (1 MWH) of solar or wind power contributed to the electrical grid. When you purchase RECs, you pay for clean energy production equivalent to your usage – in effect, greening your slice of the grid.

Getting Started:  Anyone, anywhere in the US, can purchase RECs to support clean energy. Explore GreenE’s database of certified REC providers for even more.

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