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6 green ways to invest your income tax refund

By: Shea Gunther on April 18, 2011, 10:43 a.m.
solar panels on red tile roof under blue sky

Photo: ZUMA Press

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Solar panels

Modern-day solar panels offer around a 15-year payback on your investment, though with the right rebates and tax breaks that time can easily be cut in half. At those rates buying solar panels makes as much sense as buying into a low-risk mutual fund. If you make your money back in 10 years, then you're looking at pure profit every year after that. There's no difference between a dollar that's put into your bank account and a dollar that you don't have to pay out on your electric bill.

You can easily spend five or even six figures on solar panels for your home, but there are also options at closer to the three-figure range. Home Depot sells a 246-watt kit for just $1,400, a smaller 160-watt kit is just $950 and an 80-watt kit just $500. These smaller kits won't power your entire house, but they will cut down on the amount of energy you're drawing from the grid and would be great to power something like a small camp or backyard office.