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Making Solar Power Work For Your Home In Minnesota

May 2, 2012 3:00 AM

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Solar solutions can supply your electricity needs but they are not for everyone. Find the options that work.

Minnesota homeowners looking to reduce their heating bills by up to 50 percent and protect themselves from soaring energy prices can find solutions locally. Area installers say it is a myth that we do not get enough sun or that systems are too costly to justify a good return. There is an abundance of competent professionals in Minnesota who can guide you through the steps and recommend whether you will benefit from solar solutions.

Charlie Pickard of Aladdin Solar on sunshine: “We have a good amount of sun in Minnesota compared to other markets,” says Excelsior-based Charlie Pickard, co-owner of Aladdin Solar, LLC. “Germany has ten times the number of installed systems, but we have 30 percent better sun than them. We are similar to some areas of Texas and Florida.”

Curt Shellum of Solar Connection on electricity: “People don’t realize that world-wide solar is booming and prices are coming down,” says Curt Shellum, employer of Solar Connection in Rochester, Minnesota. “The cost for solar panels has dropped 40 percent in the last year and a half.” Pickard says some of his customers get 100 percent of their electricity paid for. “Of course, it depends on your energy use. We get a bit sloppy on our electricity usage. For example, we buy a new energy-efficient refrigerator and move the old refrigerator to the garage or the basement. Now we actually increased our consumption. It is better to decommission the old appliance.” Shellum recommends the homeowner “do a little bit of reading on their own” before they get started. Then follow up with an installer, like himself, who can audit your site to see whether you can get enough sunlight in a day with various roof and ground options.

Rich Huelskamp of The Sun’s Warmth on reducing energy: Rich Huelskamp, employer of The Sun’s Warmth, agrees on the importance of reducing your energy consumption before installing new energy sources. “Solar energy costs about $7,000 to $8,000 per kilowatt hour, and the typical home uses four to five kilowatt hours in peak usage. If you reduce your usage by one kilowatt, you have reduced your installation costs significantly.” Rich offers homeowner evaluations and recommendations before committing to an installer.

Rob Appelhof of Cedar Creek Energy on energy analysis: “We will give you a detailed energy analysis and professional site assessment to determine if your property is acceptable,” says Rob Appelhof, Cedar Creek Energy President. “From there, we will design a system and apply all rebates and incentives so you can determine if solar is right for you. Once you decide solar is right for you, it typically takes about 60 days to get your project from engineering to your roof,” says Appelhof. “We will process all of your rebate and interconnection paperwork with your utility.” An important factor is track record. “Longevity is crucial. Solar companies offer long-term warranties,10 to 25 years, but does it mean anything when the company has only been around for two years? Finding companies that have strong track records and excellence in manufacturing is critical.”

Matt Stupnik of Cedar Creek Energy on independent testing: Another important factor to be considered is independent testing and third-party verification. “Out of the hundreds of products on the market, not many produce the power the manufactures claim they will produce,” says Matt Stupnik, Cedar Creek Operations Vice President. “Foreign manufacturers are dumping low-quality products into the United States and buyers need to beware. These dumped products are not held to the same manufacturing standard as companies that manufacture in the United States.”

Consult these featured professionals for more information about incorporating solar power into you Minnesota home:

Aladdin Solar, LLC
1215 Lilac Lane
Excelsior, MN 55331
(952) 401-7073
aladdinsolar.com

Cedar Creek Energy
1285 114th Ave NW
Coon Rapids, MN 55448
(763) 432-5261
cedarcreekenergy.com

Solar Connection
907 11th St SW
Rochester, MN 55902
(507) 292-8400
solarconnectioninc.com

The Sun’s Warmth
28609 Walnut Run Way
Red Wing, MN 55066
(651) 301-3271
sunswarmth.com

For more great tricks, tips and advice about your home, visit CBSMinnesota.com/YourHome.

Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for Examiner.com, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at Examiner.com.

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