Ikea has expanded its home offerings and began selling solar panels at one its stores in Great Britain the last week of September. The Swedish furniture store is partnering with Chinese panel maker Hanergy Solar Group to supply the renewable energy product, and hopes to expand the offering to all 17 Ikea stores in Britain over the next 10 months.
Ikea furniture is known for being a bargain so customers who are interested in purchasing a solar system might be shocked by the high price tag. The company's 3.36 kilowatt, 18 panel solar systems will cost consumers $9,212. But unlike most Ikea products, there's no assembly required. The price of the solar panels includes an in-store consultation, installation and even maintenance of the solar panels.
If customers participate in the British program that requires utilities to pay for the renewable electricity generated by consumers they can recoup the cost of buying the solar system in seven years, according to Ikea. After that, any payments they receive from the utility are pure profit.
According to Hanergy's website, the panels sold at Ikea would earn customers about $987 every year on rooftops with mild shading. Approximately $684 would come from utility payments while the additional $303 would come from annual savings on the home's energy bill. Homeowners without any shading on their rooftops have the potential to earn more than $1,035 every year.
This move was just one of many that Ikea has made toward helping its customers go greener. The company plans to phase out traditional lighting sources and instead offer only energy-efficient LED models by 2016. LED light bulbs use about 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Though the price for an LED light bulb is often high, Ikea has said it will sell the bulbs at the lowest price on the market. The smallest and lowest priced LED bulb on Ikea's website is currently priced at $6.99. Despite the higher price, LED lights can more than pay for themselves in energy savings over time.
Additionally, Ikea has taken measures to make its product line more sustainable. The retailer ensures that all of its main home furnishing materials, including packaging, are renewable, recyclable or made from recycled materials. According to the Guardian, Ikea plans to purchase 10 million cubic meters of certified sustainable wood. In addition, the company will use only 100 percent cotton that has been certified by the Better Cotton Initiative. This type of cotton uses about half the pesticides and water that most cotton production uses.
Perhaps the reason for Ikea's commitment to helping its customers live a more sustainable life has to do with the company's own environmental goals. Ikea has made a commitment to provide 70 percent of its energy needs through renewable resources by 2015 and 100 percent by 2020. To date, the retailer has installed more than 342,000 solar panels on its stores and buildings, purchased 180 megawatts of wind energy capacity from wind farms in five countries and utilizes geothermal systems for 50 of its locations.