Study finds solar more cost effective than retrofits

A recent study from California Solar Energy Industries Association may help solar sales.

The report found that adding rooftop solar to your home, by either purchasing a solar installation or leasing one, provides more savings than retrofitting your home for energy efficiency.

“We’re certainly not downplaying the importance of energy efficiency, but rather we’re looking at what’s most cost effective for homeowners,” said Sue Kateley, executive director of California Solar Energy Industries Association. “Our study looked at costs and return, and we found solar to be more cost effective than retrofitting for energy efficiency.”

The study looked at the combination of residential solar power installation and retrofitting residences for energy efficiency, focusing on identifying solutions that make the most sense for individual homeowners. The study found that governmental policies that mandate defined energy efficiency retrofits—such as energy-efficient lighting, weatherization and insulation—before solar energy generation to be bad economics for homeowners.

The paper reports three criteria that were used to distinguish the best solution, or combination of solutions, for individual homeowners: climate, condition of home, and local utility rates.

Energy efficient lighting resulted in savings in all conditions and climates. Insulation, weatherization, and ventilation retrofits resulted in savings only in cold climates or in older homes. Energy efficient appliances were only cost effective if replaced when the old appliances were no longer functional.

But in all markets across the U.S., the report found that rooftop solar systems would generate six times more energy than could be saved with energy-efficient lighting, weatherization and insulation combined. The report found that generating energy would have the biggest impact on home energy consumption by lowering residential energy bills by 32 percent. Residential energy use is responsible for 22 percent of our nation’s energy consumption.

“Currently, California requires people to do retrofits before installing solar systems,” said Kateley. “Energy efficiency retrofits are important. But we need to be more discerning. We are looking for refinement in state policies that couple energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. Energy efficiency will take up naturally in the marketplace in time.”

Pictured: Pretty cool new solar tiles from Marathon Roofing.