|Image courtesy VELUX America|
In a recent NY Times article covering issues surrounding the ongoing housing slump, an interesting sales tactic caught my eye. One builder outside Chicago is offering a credit at a local GM dealership with the purchase of a new home and he's not the only one. While this promotion appears to be working to generate some sales, I have an even better idea for home builders.
In a market where new homes are competing against plummeting existing home prices driven by foreclosures, builders must differentiate their product on things other than price. New homes must offer features that you can't find in older ones if they have any hope of being attractive. One thing that almost no existing house has is an integrated solar water heating system. A new home builder looking to stand out and make an impact in the minds of buyers should offer "Free Hot Water with Every New Home!" Unlike with a free car, a free solar water heating system would reduce the homeowners' monthly power bills, reduce their carbon footprint, appreciate in value as fuel costs rise and make a leadership statement that appeals to 94% of us. On top of that, local renewable energy creates good, local green collar jobs.
Solar water heating works everywhere in the US with almost immediate payback on invested dollars when financed as part of a standard home mortgage. In an economic downturn, the best way out is to commit money to long term infrastructure enhancements. In the past, this has meant roads, dams, bridges, etc that provide value for many years after the upfront costs were recovered. Now we can add renewable energy to that mix. Let's commit to making this sound investment today so that we can reap the benefits for decades to come.