5 Ways to Power Your Home with Renewable Energy

In the US, residential energy accounts for roughly 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions. That's because 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 can be a lot cheaper and easier than you think. 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 energy 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 with solar panels sell more quickly and for an average of $15,000 more.

To get 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.

While solar installation rates are lower than ever, it’s still a big investment. But there are ways 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 Mae 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.

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 can opt in to clean energy whether you own or rent, and even if you share a meter.

To get 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 power supplier will be a clean energy provider. After you make the switch, share what you learn with your landlord, HOA, or neighbors. 

3. Subscribe to Community Solar 

Community solar is an opportunity for a group of local energy users to come together to develop a solar farm. Community solar enables you to access clean energy without installing equipment of your own, all 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 (community solar garden).

There are more than 1,600 community solar projects in the US. Over 70% are in Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. Enter your zip code at EnergySage to find out what’s available where you live and how much you could be saving.

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. 

Explore this map of deregulated markets to see if you qualify. 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.

Map by Electric Choice

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 turn 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.  Anyone, anywhere in the US, can purchase RECs to support clean energy.

When you purchase RECs, you pay for clean energy production equivalent to your usage. In effect, you're cleaning up your slice of the grid. To get started, explore GreenE’s database of certified REC providers.

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