How to protect your budget from energy cost spikes

By KBJR News 1

Credit: MGN Online

How to protect your budget from energy cost spikes

March 18, 2014 Updated Mar 18, 2014 at 12:08 PM CDT

St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Heating bills have been soaring this winter for Minnesotans, especially those using propane.

"Sky–rocketing heating bills have raised the profile for new energy options such as solar thermal, ground source heat pumps, and high–efficiency wood energy systems," Commerce Commissioner, Mike Rothman, said.

Yesterday the Made in Minnesota Solar Thermal Rebate Program applications were re–opened on a first–come, first–serve basis. This program is part of the 10–year, $150 million initiative to increase solar electric and solar thermal installations in the state which opened this year.

Solar thermal systems use solar collectors to harness the sun's energy. Commerce says the systems can be installed in residential and commercial facilities for space heating, water heating and pool heating. It could cover approximately one–third of the space heating needs.

For a single family residential home, the program provides a rebate of 25% of the installed cost of a complete system up to $2,500. With 30% federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit and more than half the cost of the solar thermal system will likely be covered.

You can lower the cost of your energy bills by using programmable thermostats, weather strip doors/windows, seal air leaks, add insulation and maintain heating systems.

A Propane Emergency Hotline: (800) 657–3504 for greater Minnesota or (651) 297–1304 in the Twin Cities has helped thousands of Minnesotans in need.

The Energy Assistance Program (EAP) is available to households which bring in 60% of state median income. The EAP also provides crises benefits up to $1,000 for Minnesotans heating with propane and heating oil. You can apply by calling 1–800–657–3710.

There is also the Weatherization Assistance Program which provides cost–effective energy conservation measures to permanently reduce energy costs for low–income households.

The Renewable Energy Equipment Grant Program provides solar air furnaces, low–emission outdoor wood/pellet boilers and low–emission wood/pellet stoves to supplement heating.

Ramona Marozas