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Habitat for Humanity is Going Green

Habitat for Humanity has been turning increasingly to the sun for energy solutions that will save homeowners money on utility bills.

A donated solar installation in Newark, Del. will help a family with two disabled sons save on electricity expenses.  Now they can better afford the health care they need.  This is just the latest in a long string of recent announcements about Habitat homes using solar energy to offset living expenses for the working poor in the United States and abroad.

The Newark project includes donated solar panels from Motech and service through leasing company Sungevity.

“This is a hard-working family looking to provide the best possible care for their children under difficult financial and emotional circumstances," Sharon O'Shea, Motech director of marketing said in a statement.

And the company was happy to be able to help.

But Habitat for Humanity has been making solar a more regular inclusion in the homes it builds for low-income families.

The nonprofit announced last month that it is building an eco village in Wisconsin with 18 net-zero homes powered, heated and cooled with solar photovoltaic panels and geothermal features.

“The project is an impressive model of sustainable community development that has the potential to greatly benefit families economically and socially,” Larry Gluth, senior vice president of Habitat for Humanity, said in a statement.

In Washington, D.C. this month, two families moved into an ultra-energy efficient duplex that started out as the “Empowerhouse,” built for the biannual Solar Decathlon two years ago, according to a story at

Students from the Stevens Institute of Technology, Parsons The New School of Design and Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy engineered the winning home design with the goal of building something affordable.

With foot-thick walls and triple-glazed windows, the home is built to use little energy, which means it doesn’t need many rooftop solar panels to power the whole place.

Habitat for Humanity built a second floor on the 1,000 Solar Decathlon home. In the end, half a duplex cost $200,000, which is similarly priced to other Habitat houses in the D.C. area. And the owner will save $72,000 on utilities over the life of her 30-year mortgage.

Habitat’s commitment to solar and energy efficiency, however, goes beyond the borders of the U.S.

The nonprofit has installed 127 solar thermal hot water systems on homes in Eurasia, saving those families the 20 percent of their monthly household income that would have gone to pay for hot water heating.

Habitat also helped to install solar panels on homes in Japan following the devastating Earthquake and Tsunami there, helping families to recover from the disaster and prepare for future ones with onsite electricity generation.



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