Making the Switch to Solar and 'Going Green' in Ulster County

Posted by Dylan Taft on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 at 1:50pm.

In today’s world there is a never-ending need to ‘go green’ in pretty much any and every aspect of people’s day to day lives. Going green not only helps to protect and save our environment, but in many cases, where it pertains to housing and real estate related ventures, going green also has the potential to save you money in the long run.

Going Green

Going green has been, and continues to be, a hot topic in the real estate industry. Other than helping to protect our environment, the movement towards using more environmentally friendly building techniques and practices also has the potential to save homeowners a big chunk on their utility bills- if they even have to pay for utilities at all! In fact, as of this spring, we are lucky enough to say that the building where our New Paltz office is located, is one of the first, if not the first, commercial office building in all of New York State to achieve Net Zero Energy status- meaning the building produces more energy that it uses on an annual basis! Congratulations to Alfandre Architecture and the owners of 231 Main Street on this extraordinary accomplishment! Not only does 231 Main Street produce more energy than what it runs on, it is certified at the highest level by the U.S. Green Building Council, holding the title of LEED Platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Alfandre Architecture- 231 Main Street.jpgNot only does this achievement lead the way towards better and more sustainable living, but the truly awesome part is that all of this was accomplished using readily available construction practices and techniques, meaning that this status is easily within reach for so many more Ulster County residents as well!

Here’s some of the ways that 231 Main Street achieved Net Zero Energy status and LEED Platinum Certification:

  • Reducing water consumption

        By collecting rainwater for flush fixtures and irrigation and by utilizing low-flow fixtures, the building was able to reduce its water consumption by 80%

  • Reducing lighting energy

        LED, High Efficiency Fluorescent fixtures and occupancy sensors reduce the building’s lighting energy usage by 41%

  • Powered by the sun

        A 34kW Commercial solar powered grid generates more electricity than what the building uses on an annual basis

  • Airtight Insulation

        Insulated concrete forms (ICF) in the walls and structural insulated panel system in the roof provide high insulation factors and are air-tight

  • Healthy Indoor Environment

        Low-emitting materials, indoor air quality management and large, efficient operable windows maximize lighting and thermal comfort for residents

Residential Green Builders

While many newer commercial buildings have been built using some or all of the above listed green standards, these features are not just found in commercial properties- they are beginning to be more and more common in newer residential constructions as well! Alfandre Architecture is just one of the excellent local architecture and building firms that helps advise clients, plan and construct highly efficient, environmentally responsible, green residential buildings (and commercial ones as well, of course). Just like how 231 Main Street achieved net zero energy status, residential homes can do the same by attaining sustainable site designs, being energy efficient, reducing waste, having high indoor environmental air quality, water stewardship and by using environmentally preferable building materials.

In fact, if you are in the market for a new Ulster County Green home, there are quite a few brand new builds currently active on the market that have been built to be extremely energy efficient and some are even expected to be Net Zero Energy buildings. Both 10 Taylor Street and 3 Taylor Street, located in the Green Acres subdivision in New Paltz, NY, built by Alpenklee Builders are expected to maintain zero energy status, and have already been certified by the US Green Building Council (LEED), US DOE and EPA. They have achieved these certifications because of their high efficiency geothermal heating and cooling systems, air-sealing and insulation systems, use of triple pane windows and insulated concrete construction, solar panels and more. Similarly, both 18 Hickory Ridge Drive and 26 Hickory Ridge Drive in the Riverwood subdivision of Gardiner, NY are being built to green standards by Alpenmargritili Builders, using triple pane windows, solar panels, insulated windows and doors and low flow energy efficient plumbing fixtures. 17 Gibbons Lane in New Paltz is also active on the market, recently built by Seakill Home Builders and is energy star rated with it’s energy efficient insulated doors and windows and digital thermostat to provide efficient utility usage.

If you are interested in finding more energy efficient local homes in Ulster County, contact Taft Street Realty so we can provide you with an up-to-date list of homes on the market or help put you in contact with a local builder who can help you plan and construct your dream green home.

The Increasing Move to Solar Powered Homes

One of the biggest factors that allowed 231 Main Street to achieve net zero energy status comes from having the ability to produce its own energy through solar panels installed on the roof. Harvesting the sun’s light to convert to useable electricity has been gaining in popularity as an alternative energy source for many Hudson Valley homeowners in recent years, but new factors affecting the cost and availability of solar have made it much more attainable for the average residential home buyer.

In only the past few years, the upfront costs of installing solar grids has significantly dropped and the time it takes to see a return on investment has fallen dramatically as well, with people now saying their solar powered systems have paid for themselves and are actively feeding power back into the grid within a 4 year period. Tax incentives have also helped people to offset some of the initial install costs, making solar a much more feasible option for people who didn’t think they may have been able to fund it previously. The solar boom seemed to really take off after a massive and unexpected increase in Central Hudson’s electric prices a few winters ago that left many customers with unexpected bills that they were continually paying off well into the summer and beyond.  Now, some of these same homeowners who’ve re-evaluated their energy consumption options and who’ve made the switch to solar might actually receive a check back from Central Hudson! No monthly energy bills, a potential bonus check for supplying extra energy, (albeit most likely not a major kickback, but something is better than nothing!) and an environmentally safe, renewable energy source that isn’t harming the plant… sounds like an all-around win!

The solar power industry has gained such momentum in the past five years that it is now reported that there are more people working in the solar field in the United States than there are working at oil rigs and gas fields. That trend doesn’t just apply in the United States though- solar energy production and consumption is a growing global trend. A UN Report published in a New York Times Renewable Energy piece stated that the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources (solar, wind, etc) has doubled worldwide since only 2007 and that the average global cost of generating electric from solar powered systems fell a whopping 61% between 2009 and 2015. If these trends continue, solar might not be the alternative, it may very well become the standard.

Here Comes the Sun, Ulster County

A few years ago you could drive down an Ulster County road and would have to hunt for homes or commercial properties that were using solar panels to harvest energy. Today on the other hand, you can drive down some of those same roads and be hard pressed to find a home that doesn’t have a solar panel somewhere on the property. Whole neighborhoods of homes in Gardiner, running parallel to the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge that receive lots of sunlight, have glistening panels on every roof, ranging from the massive-million dollar homes to the small cottages and seemingly everyone in between.

If you’re interested in seeing how you can save money on your electric bill by making the move to solar, there are plenty of great solar energy companies in Ulster County and throughout the Hudson Valley- from consultants, installation companies, equipment distributors (like Mountaintop Greene Clean Energy in Lexington, Lotus Energy in Hudson and 2K Solar Inc in Middletown), even production and manufacturing plants that service nationwide solar companies (SunWize Technologies has production locations in Saugerties and Prism Solar Technologies has a distribution center in the town of Lloyd). The companies listed below can serve any and all of your solar needs in Ulster County, from quotes to installation- let the pro’s help you find the energy solution that best fits your needs.

  •      Lighthouse Solar

             4 Cherry Hill Road, New Paltz, NY 12561

             www.lighthousesolar.com

  •      Hudson Solar (Serving Kingston, Saugerties and more)

             13 Hook Road, Rhinebeck, NY 12572

             www.hvce.com

  •      SOLARgeneration, Inc

             747 Route 28, Suite #4, Kingston, NY 12401

             www.solargeneration.net

  •      SunPower by New York Solar Farm

             1938 Route 44/55, Modena, NY 12548

             www.nyssf.com

  •      Autonomous Energies Solar Installations

             Kingston, NY 12401

             www.autonomousenergies.com 

  •      Empire Solar Solutions

             15 Colden St, Newburgh, NY 12550

             www.empiresolarny.com

Starting Out Slow - Understanding Energy Star Ratings

When given the choice to “go green” or stay with what they’ve got, most people wouldn’t hesitate to make the move to energy efficiency, but we realize it’s not a perfect world. While the costs of these techniques have come down majorly in the past years, some homeowners just aren’t in a position to upgrade whole systems in their older homes or to build a new net zero efficient home. To achieve maximum energy efficiency (the kind that could potentially wipe out your electric bills), many separate elements need to be in place to create an overall effective system, however that doesn’t mean that there is no reason to take small steps to work up to this goal.

Most people have heard of “Energy Star” Ratings when looking for appliances or light bulbs and have probably seen the infamous blue star logo that accompanies many low energy products. For an appliance or system to be Energy Star certified, it must generally use 20-30% less energy than what is required by federal standards (this percentage varies- for example refrigerators need to save 20% over the minimum standard to achieve certification, whereas dishwashers need roughly 40% savings, and using LED or fluorescent lighting instead of incandescent bulbs could save you 75%). In addition to appliances, lighting, and home electronics, many heat pumps, boilers, AC systems and furnaces are manufactured to Energy Star’s standards which can help to increase your home's efficiency even further.  You can even apply for Energy Star certification for your building, providing that it passes the EPA’s tests and is graded 75 or higher (meaning the building performs better than 75% of the buildings in the US when it comes to energy efficiency).


If you’re looking to see how you can make some changes around your home, shopping for new efficient appliances, or want to see more details about constructing an energy efficient home, www.energystar.gov is a great resource to learn more about these practices and how they can save you money on your home’s utility bills.

If you are interested in finding more energy efficient local homes in Ulster County, contact Taft Street Realty so we can provide you with an up-to-date list of homes on the market or help put you in contact with a local builder who can help you plan and construct your dream green home.

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