Two Lower-Income Northern Virginia Families Benefit from Solar Energy

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Two local, lower-income families will now experience the benefits of solar energy. Today, a team of volunteers joined non-profit GRID Alternatives Mid Atlantic to install 16 solar panels – eight per house – on the roofs of two energy-efficient homes Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (Habitat NOVA) is constructing in the Groveton Heights neighborhood of Fairfax County.

The two single-family, three bed, two bath homes will be the first of Habitat NOVA’s to feature solar panels, and the site of GRID's first solar installations in Virginia. Each home will have eight solar panels producing 2.16 KW of power.  Habitat NOVA plans to install solar panels on five townhomes it will begin constructing in the City of Alexandria in the next year.

“Lower-income households pay a disproportionate amount of their income to utility and energy bills as compared to other homeowners across the country, spending between 17 and 50 percent of their incomes on energy while other households average just four percent,” said Jon Smoot, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia.  “Putting solar panels on the two houses Habitat NOVA is constructing is not only good for the environment, it’s good for the family budget. Long-term affordability means the families can be successful homeowners for years to come.”

Habitat NOVA volunteers, along with the future homeowners, are constructing the two homes to EarthCraft Gold standards, making them energy-efficient while maintaining long-term affordability. All EarthCraft certified homes demonstrate energy costs that are, on average, 30% below those of a typical new home, directly translating to monthly utility savings while lessening the impact on the environment. The homes have also been designed to meet Easy Living standards with a step-free entrance from the driveway or sidewalk into the central living area on the first floor. The first floor includes one bedroom and a full bath, making it a home equipped for aging in place.

The homeowners are required to put in hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” as part of Habitat’s unique building and mortgage-lending model that helps qualified, lower-income first time homebuyers purchase a home with just 1% down and a no-interest loan. With a conventional mortgage loan, they may otherwise not be able to afford the home.

"We are excited to partner with Habitat NOVA to put solar on these homes and save families money they can use for other basic expenses like food, healthcare and transportation,” said Nicole Steele, Executive Director of GRID Alternatives. “Together, our organizations are working to ensure that everyone has access to the benefits of clean energy."

According to GRID Alternatives, 36 tons of greenhouse gas emissions should be off-set per home over the 25-year system lifetime – the equivalent to planting 850 trees.

Construction began on the two houses in December 2014 and are expected to be completed by early Fall 2016. The homes were designed by Sanchez Palmer Architects & Triad Engineering, pro bono.

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