BOSTON (TheStreet) -- For many, their home is their greatest investment.
Unfortunately, it is an asset that has been hard hit by the economy. Plummeting housing prices have made the once sure thing of ever-increasing equity and value uncertain. Many mortgagees owe more than what their house is worth.
Depending on your requirements for privacy and unblemished land, there are some unconventional ways to recoup your losses and squeeze every penny of value you can from your property:
Be a mini utility company
Rising utility costs and a desire to do one's part for a better environment have enticed many to install solar panels or, more elaborately, wind turbines to meet their energy needs. A surplus of power can mean extra dollars in your wallet.
The technology behind selling excess electricity back to the grid has simplified over the years. Called net metering, a small device is attached to your electrical lines to keep track of power usage. Unlike a traditional meter, it will, literally, run backward as extra and unneeded energy is produced. Homeowner are issued "energy credits" that can be applied to future bills or cashed in.
Various utility company guidelines or state regulations may have to be considered. In the past, it was common for the built-up credits to expire after a year, but various states now allow a longer grace period. Credits can often be redeemed at the rate regional utilities pay for electricity.
Be aware that the ability to sell back power may be seasonal. The shorter days of winter may make any excess meager, while the added hours of daylight in the summer will likely be the most productive.
Adding to the incentive to make green by going green: Federal, state and even city incentives can reduce the cost of a solar installation by half or more.
Grow your own
If you have a green thumb or are good with animals, starting a family farm can either cut household expenses or earn money on the side.
Growing vegetables and herbs or collecting eggs from your own chickens can greatly reduce a family's food costs. If you can grow or raise a surplus, selling your goods roadside to a nearby shop or at a farmers' market can earn a profit.
If you have enough space, opening your land to the public can also be lucrative. Plots of land can be rented out, for example. You could also offer apple picking to visitors or even a petting zoo if your winged and hoofed friends are good natured.