Brighten up your home with solar power: a few starter tips

(MGN Online)

Are you interested in powering your home with solar energy, but don’t know where to begin? The Minnesota Commerce Department offers a few starter tips.

Before investing in solar, first, make sure you take advantage of some basic energy-saving home improvements. These include getting an energy audit, sealing air leaks, adding insulation, maintaining or upgrading heating and cooling equipment, and using a programmable thermostat.

By improving your home’s energy efficiency, you lower your overall energy demand and thereby reduce the size and cost of the solar system you need. The Commerce Department’s Home Energy Guide, available on the agency’s website (mn.gov/commerce), has many ideas to help you reduce your home’s energy use.

Now you’re ready to explore solar. Here are a few steps to follow:

  • Get educated. Solar power can generate electricity, heat water or help heat your home. Making electricity is the most common solar application in Minnesota, but solar heating applications are increasing too. Find helpful information about solar from the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), Minnesota Commerce Department and the U.S. Department of Energy. Take a class on solar basics. Check community education opportunities. Talk to neighbors and friends who have installed solar.
  • Plan your system. Find out if your location is suitable for solar. The Minnesota Solar App (mn.gov/solarapp) can offer an initial measure of your home’s solar potential, but you will also need an onsite assessment. A third-party resource, such as the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, can provide an independent site assessment.
  • Learn how to pay for it. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org) provides a comprehensive list of solar financial incentives. It includes information on the Federal Residential Renewable Energy (FRRE) Tax Credit; incentive programs, rebates and loans (such as Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards Program); and state sales and property tax exemptions. Your solar contractor can also help identify financing options.
  • Get bids. To locate installers near you, checklists from the Clean Energy Project Builders, Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA) or the Commerce Department’s Solar Business Directory. Get two or three bids and make sure you compare apples to apples. Each bid should specify system type and size, expected energy production, maintenance requirements, warranties and installed cost.
  • Finalize a contract with a professional solar installation company and have your system installed.
  • Maintain your system and keep track of its energy production.

If your home is not suitable for its own solar energy system, consider subscribing to a community solar garden. You get a credit on your utility bill reflecting your subscribed share of the electricity generated at these solar installations.

 

Information provided by Commerce Department’s Energy Information Center. For more information, go to energy.info@state.mn.us or call 800-657-3710.