Want to raise the value of your home? You might consider making any of several green improvements like putting in adequate insulation, installing a highly efficient HVAC system, high performance windows and doors and so on.

Study: Green improvements make you more green at resale

A joint study undertaken by the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment and the nonprofit Institute for Market Transformation examined sales of homes from February 2013 to June 2015 and found that those with energy upgrades sold for between $10,343 to $53,000 more than non-energy upgraded homes in the control group.

Premiums on some "green" houses ranged from 6% to 7.7%, according to the findings published in the Washington Post. But the single most lucrative energy upgrade you can make is solar.

A few years back, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted an eight-year study of home resale values where whole house solar was involved. The study found the typical home with whole house solar sells for $17,000 more than a home that doesn't have it. That can recoup virtually all, if not all, of the cost for installing solar.

Think about it: You install solar and you get a federal tax credit and a possible state tax credit. A buyer realizing the wisdom of what you did will pay you more to cover the savings you didn't get if you don't live in the house long enough to get return on investment. Or maybe you live long enough to recoup your initial investment and you then make a tidy profit.

A UCLA study corroborates what the Washington Post reports and what the Lawrence Berkeley Lab says. Homeowners who have "green" homes can command 9% more in offers when it's time to resell, according to UCLA. The Los Angeles Times reports this particular study looked at sales of more than 1 million homes in California between 2007 and 2012. Researchers also noted that "green" homes tended to fetch more from buyers in zip codes where there was a heavy preponderance of hybrid car registrations, something they're calling "the Prius effect."

Thinking about solar for your home?

There's a 30% federal investment tax credit if you buy the panels and have them installed, rather than leasing them. Consider the following before taking the plunge...

Get ready for your quote

The process starts by going online to a solar company's website and putting in your street address. This will allow the company to use a satellite map to pinpoint your home and assess your solar potential. Have your past year's electric bills handy, because you'll be asked about your energy usage.

Your property will also need a fairly clear shot of the Southern sky. Don't worry if your roof is too shaded. You can still have ground-mount panels installed in a sunny spot on your property.

Some of the more popular solar companies include SolarCity.com, SunRun.com, Sungevity.com and Us.SunPowerCorp.com.

Know the right questions to ask

Always remember to ask these questions of any company you're vetting to do an installation.

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How many systems have they installed?
  • How long will the installation take?
  • Who pays for the permits?
  • Is it a roof-mount system or ground-mount system?
  • Who applies for any grants and submits all the paperwork?

Explore your alternatives 

You might want to consider solar shingles if you live in a restrictive covenant community that prohibits traditional panels. The solar shingles are small and they look just like the traditional asphalt ones you're used to. They even get nailed to your roof in the same way! You just need an electrician to hook them up to your home's electrical system.

Solar shingles are not as efficient as traditional solar panels, but The New York Times reports they can offset your bill by 40 to 80%, and they're typically 15% cheaper than a solar panel system. Visit DowPowerHouse.com for more details. So far they're only being sold in select states like California, Colorado and Texas, among others.

Read more: 9 air conditioning alternatives