What were once considered an expensive novelty for environmentalists have become a growing trend among energy-conscious homeowners: rooftop solar panels.

Over the past few years, the cost of solar panel systems has decreased dramatically – more than 50 percent since 2010 – making this energy-producing tool a more affordable option for many homeowners.

At the same time, federal and state incentives along with energy-efficient mortgage – which factor in lower energy costs when calculation how much a buyer qualifies to borrow – have helped homeowners see the value of investing in this renewable technology.

Rooftop solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) systems, are the most common solar technology used for homes. Today, almost 450 000 homes and businesses have solar power systems, according to the Solar energy Industries Association.

Recognizing the growing popularity of solar energy, some homebuilders have begun offering solar panel systems on new homes. Other homebuyers choose “solar-ready” homes, which will make it easier for them to have solar panels installed in the future.

And, if you don’t like the look of traditional solar arrays, you can buy solar-powered rooftop shingles that blend seamlessly into your roof.

As more homebuyers become interested in this technology, they are looking for both new and existing homes that offer solar power systems. Increasingly, home appraisers are including the value of a home’s green features, including solar power systems, into their appraisals.

That means that installing solar panels now will not only help you save on your electric bill, it will make your home more valuable when you are ready to sell.

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