Thanks to The Free Press's "Home + Style" magazine for its feature story on home solar panels and geothermal systems. It contained lots of good information.
However, there was an error on the discussion of tax credits for solar. They are federal tax credits, not state tax credits — a big difference, since for nearly everyone federal income taxes are much higher than state income taxes.
And to be clear: These incentives are tax credits, not expense deductions. In other words, they directly reduce what you owe on taxes. Furthermore, if your tax bill is less than your credits for installing solar, those credits can be carried forward to the next tax year.
While the article was quite complete, there are other steps homeowners can take to lower their energy costs and make their homes more efficient. For instance, when installing heating and air conditioning in a new home or replacing an old system, homeowners should consider a ground- or air-source heat pump. This is especially true if you are in the country and are reliant on propane for your heat.
Another way to save energy and thus money is to consider a high-efficiency tankless water heater. When I installed mine, my gas bill immediately dropped $20 a month. Plus, I had unlimited hot water!
If you get your electricity from a rural energy co-op, many co-ops offer deals on electric water heaters with oversized tanks, where heat and energy can be stored during the day, with the water heated at night when electricity is significantly cheaper. And this is all done automatically.
For homeowners, options for saving money by saving energy are numerous. There are many sources on the web; plus, you can contact your energy utility and ask how they can help.
Chair, Southcentral Minnesota Clean Energy Council