solar-home.jpgSolar power is inching closer to the mainstream, with a 40% increase last year in U.S. households installing the renewable power source.

The costs have sharply decreased in the past few years and the return on investment is attractive for some — while the investment builds home value similar to installing a new kitchen.

In states with high electricity rates, like California, the system could pay for itself in six or seven years. Tack on incentives for switching to renewable energy, like the 30% rebate on installation costs in Illinois, and it could be as fast at two or three years, according to Housing Watch.

There are also federal tax credits for up to 30 percent of costs.

For one man in Illinois who invested $20,000 in a solar system a few years ago, the return on his investment is about 3 or 4 percent a year.

The Chicago Tribune reports: “His gas use has dropped more than 50 percent, and his electricity use has dropped about 70 percent. He sells extra power back to the electricity grid and sells renewable energy credits, which investors buy and trade to support renewable energy projects.”

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