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Solar is cheaper, but consumers don’t seem to know

Solar power more affordable

Homeowners across the country are making more environmentally-conscious shopping decisions, but when it comes to powering their homes, many overestimate the cost of solar energy, according to a recent survey from a company that sells solar energy systems.

More than half of American homeowners are more likely to take consider a product's environmental sustainability into consideration than they were three years ago when making a purchasing decision, according to a survey commissioned by SolarCity and conducted by Zogby Analytics. About 62 percent said that they want solar power for their homes.

An array of 575 solar panels covers the roof of Seattle's Bullitt Center, a model for a new generation of sustainable, energy-efficient buildings.
John Brecher | NBC News

"We think people just don't realize how affordable solar has become. Less than half homeowners surveyed said that they realize that solar power is less expensive today than it was three years ago, when in reality the costs have fallen dramatically," said Jonathan Bass, vice president of communications at SolarCity.

About 29 percent of those surveyed said that they could be convinced to start using solar power at home if solar panel installation and equipment were free. Free solar panel installations are available in 14 states, Bass said.

Approximately 70 percent of all homeowners consider or investigate the sustainability of big-ticket items when making purchasing decisions, and more than half are more likely to take sustainability considerations into account today than they were three years ago, according to the data from SolarCity.

But homeowners seem to be starting small. The most popular planned clean-energy purchases in the next year are LED light bulbs (31 percent of homeowners), followed by smart thermostats, double- or triple-pane windows, hybrid cars, and Energy-Star rated hot water heaters, according to SolarCity, whose biggest U.S. competitors include Verengo Solar, Vivint Solar, REC Solar and Sungevity.