Responding both to your comment regarding the economics of solar panels and your question, let me first address the economic attractiveness of adding solar panels (whether for photovoltaics or solar hot water you do not say). First, satisfy yourself that the Seattle area has a sufficient number of sun-days that will utilize the capacity of the solar panels to produce the energy savings on which your assumption of economic attractiveness is based. If you can be made comfortable as to the kilowatts of power that your panels will produce, then you are correct that the economics of adding solar power capacity should prove attractive, particularly if you do not have to borrow to make panel installation possible. The advantage of not having to borrow is that the 30% Federal tax credit for residential solar installations is an absolute reduction in net investment when you have no debt service associated with the incremental solar investment. If you have to borrow, the savings from the tax credit, and any associated net present value or internal rate of return calculation, will be lessened materially by the fact that you will continue to have an incremental outlay for the life of the incremental mortgage pertaining to solar debt . Note also that the State of Washington may well have its own set of tax incentives for renewal energy systems which will be in addition to Federal tax incentives, all serving to reduce the payback period for your incremental energy saving investment. To learn more regarding state/local economic incentives check out the web site, http://www.dsireusa.org.
As to your question of how the visual presence of solar panels might affect the value of your home, my opinion as a builder of 39 years, who builds high performance homes, is that you will find the presence of rooftop solar panels to be a re-sale advantage. There should be no doubt that the homebuying public increasingly is coming to recognize and value the importance of energy savings. For that reason a home that possesses such a visual roof-mounted statement related to energy efficiency also accurately infers far less vulnerability to future energy costs than will exist for homes lacking their own renewable energy source. This is not to say that neighbors who may lack your resources or foresight to take advantage of the present tax credits and other incentives for solar installations will approve, whether by reason of envy or a different sense of aesthetics; but, a future prospective purchaser of the home you envision, one containing its own source of renewable energy, will reward your investment decision.
Steve Seawright, Managing Member, Seawright Homes LLC, Builder and Community Developer