Patricia Lovett-Reid

I may not know you personally, but I bet I know something about you. You are aware that using green energy reduces your household's environmental impact, yet you probably aren't generating electricity with rooftop solar panels.

Am I right?

A new TD Canada Trust survey indicates that a mere five percent of Canadians have installed rooftop solar panels. While one in three may have considered it, three quarters of respondents say they've been deterred by costs.

Who can blame them? While we may be concerned about tomorrow, we have bills to pay today. But I think it's possible for many Canadians to do both.

Let's start with the solar panel example. According to the survey, forty percent of homeowners would install solar panels if financing options are available to help with upfront costs. They can run about $10,000 and $20,000. But depending on where you live, you could be eligible for government rebates or incentives that help knock the price down.

In addition, your financial institution may be able to make that cost more manageable with special green mortgages or green home equity lines of credit. For example, some Canadian banks offer 1% off the posted interest rate on a five-year fixed rate mortgage or on a five-year fixed rate portion of a home equity line of credit if you purchase CSA approved solar panels. That's a saving of about $4,500 on a $300,000 mortgage. You may also be able to get a rebate of up to 1.5% of the amount of the mortgage or line of credit.

That certainly makes the initial cost much less daunting.

And I haven't even gotten into the savings on your home energy bill. Usually homeowners that generate power feed it back into the grid - often at a pre-determined price - and only pay for their net electricity use. The average one-kilowatt system generates about 1,600 kWh per year in a sunny climate and about 750 kWh in a cloudy climate. Depending on where you live, you could see your energy bill fall by a few hundred dollars a year. The savings add up quickly, especially over the 25 year lifespan of the solar panels.