Edward Schwartz is the chairperson of the Ridgewood Environmental Advisory Committee, the coordinator of Sustainable Energy for the North Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, Certified Energy and Sustainability Consultant, and a BPI Accredited professional.

Ed, founder of Green Living Solutions, has been restoring and renovating his own historical pre-revolutionary home using energy saving and sustainable practices. You can find other Ask Eco Ed articles by searching on


Dear Eco-Ed,

There has been a lot of buzz about solar panels. Would it save energy for my home? Are they expensive? How do I get started?

- Let the Sun Shine In

Dear "Let the Sun Shine In",

If your end goal is to look for solutions to offset your current energy usage and reduce your energy bill, then solar panels may be a good solution for you to investigate for your home.

Solar panels are a clean and renewable energy source, and produce energy that could then power your home or even heat your hot water. They do not produce pollution when generating electricity, and reduce the stress on our power grid, on hot and sunny days, when it is needed the most.

Here are a couple of things for you to consider when making your decision:

1. Does your roof have a predominantly southern exposure? Is it unobstructed year round from shading from branches, trees and/or other buildings? Remember solar panels do need sun in order for it to generate energy. Southern exposure will provide the most sun coverage in all seasons.

2. How old is your roof? The panels have an expected life of at least 25 years. If you install them on an old roof with only 5 to 10 years of useful life remaining, you may spend a lot more than expected to take them off, change the change, and put them back again.

3. Are you planning on other energy conservation projects in your home? Remember that a Negawatt of energy saved by conservation is better than a Megawatt generated by a renewable energy source.

You may hear from some that the cost of installing solar panels may be prohibitive. While not cheap, there are multiple financing options put in place by the Board of Public Utilities, the State and Federal government to make the purchase a more attractive option. One supplier I have worked with provides an option for no money down, and it has a positive cash flow from the date of installation.

Right now, there is a quadruple financial benefit, which makes the payback period for installing solar very manageable, at roughly 6-8 years for most homeowners.

1. The Federal government just lifted the cap on tax credits for installing solar panels. That credit covers up to 30% of the installed cost of a solar array.

2. The State just re-introduced their rebates, at $.15 per watt. If you conduct an energy audit first and then install the solar, the rebate goes to $.175 per watt. On a full sized array, that equates to a rebate of $15,000 - $17,500!

3. For each kilowatt-hour generated by the array, a Renewable Energy Credit (REC) will be given to the homeowner. Each REC has a target sales price of a minimum of $475. Last month, they sold for a price of over $600.

4. PSE&G has a loan program to keep the up-front costs down for the panels. 5. Do not forget the “free” electricity generated by the array itself. Interested?

Here is how you can get started:

Contact a certified energy auditor to do a complete home energy and comfort check for your home.

Contact a reputable solar company to provide an assessment for your home.

Good luck and feel free to contact me if you need further guidance.


Dear Eco-Ed,

Winter is finally upon us. My house was freezing this weekend and no matter how high I set my thermostat it was still drafty and cold! With the economy in the slumps, I prefer to spend as little money as possible to get the warmth! Should I go out and just buy a few space heaters? HELP!

- Not Fond of Winter

<<Click Here for the Answer to Not Fond of Winter>>