Home Front

A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

March 15, 2008
Solar Saturday

My wife wanted to get ideas for tile in the bathroom so we took a road trip today to the new Madeira neighborhood in Elk Grove to look at model homes.
We dropped first into Amberleigh, being built by Tim Lewis Communities of Roseville. The place was having a solar fair to promote what a lot of Sacramento-area builders are doing now to differentiate themselves in a tough market. The public utilities, Roseville Electric and SMUD, have been especially aggressive in partnering with builders to do solar. I have not tracked the numbers of new solar houses in the region in awhile because there are just so many builders doing them now. But for awhile there about a year ago - and maybe it is still true today - utilities and builders in the Sacramento region were frontrunners nationally for building new solar-powered homes.
It makes sense with 320 days of sunshine a year here.

Anyway, we got to the models around 1 p.m. and saw a steady stream of browsers - proof that people are looking as the weather warms up. It did not hurt that there were free hot dogs and chips and soda.
If you have been through the models at Amberleigh you know it is like a civics course in being green. The rooms have all these little green signs telling visitors how to save energy:
- Remember to turn off the water faucet while shaving or brushing your teeth.
- Ceiling fans improve heat and cool air conditioning to keep energy costs down.
- Guest rooms not in use? Adjust the vents to direct air to other rooms until needed.

They really get your attention with one sign in particular: it says that buying a house with a solar package like this cuts your energy bill by 60 percent.

IMERYS2.jpg There must be hundreds of people by now who have bought these houses in the last couple of years here. Do they really save their owners that much? Do these solar panels really work? What do you do in winter? What is it like living in these houses?
If you own a solar home and have a minute drop a line here and give us a quick opinion.
I have heard plenty the past year from solar installers, environmentalists, builders and utility reps with agendas and financial interest in saying solar is great. But I have not heard much from real people who have lived under a solar roof for a year. A lot of us would like to know: Do they really make a difference?
Photo courtesy of Solar Energy Alliance

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