The IRA: Preparing for Home Solar

This post is part of our ongoing series about the Inflation Reduction Act. For more information, see: Funding Our Energy Transition; Get Ready Today; Heat Pumps; Weatherization; Appliances; and Windows and Doors

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is the largest piece of climate legislation in US history. It has the potential to have enormous impacts on energy costs, pollution, and climate change. The federal government will be making huge investments into energy efficiency projects and programs. There will also be energy efficiency funding available from the Minnesota state government. One goal of these programs is to help everyone make their homes energy efficient.

Making a home energy efficient is a complex multi-step process. This post is about preparing to install a rooftop solar array. This process is almost exclusively accessible to homeowners who live in single-family homes. Next month, we’ll share ways for everyone to get involved with solar, including renters and folks who live in apartment buildings.

Energy journey graphics in a timeline: Audit, air sealing, insulation, new appliances, heating/cooling, windows/doors, and solar. Audit and solar are highlighted yellow.
The home energy journey is a complex, multi-step process. It is recommended to go left to right.

Benefits of Solar

Solar energy is abundant and reliable. Even during power outages, solar panels continue producing energy. Installing solar on homes reduces pollution, helps stabilize our climate, and makes our communities more resilient during outages. 

While solar installations can be costly to install, the average rooftop system will reduce energy costs significantly. These reduced (or completely covered) energy bill costs then offset the cost of installation over time. Many households, however, cannot afford to wait for that return on investment. That’s why programs like the IRA provide tax credits for solar installation. Tax credits reduce the total investment, and make solar installation more affordable for certain households. 

Getting Ready for Solar

We recommend homeowners only consider solar installation after they have completed the rest of the steps on the home energy journey above. Solar is last on the list because your energy needs may change significantly as you progress through the steps. Ideally, it is best to design your solar array to match the energy needs of your home, so you don’t pay for panels that are not needed. You want your home to run as efficiently as possible first so the energy you produce is best used. Addressing your home’s energy efficiency before switching to renewables will save you money in the long run. 

Once your home is energy efficient, there are recommended steps to prepare for installing solar panels: 

  • Review your electrical system. You may need to upgrade your electric panel, wiring, or other parts of the system before installing solar. 
  • Assess your property to see its solar potential. Our Duluth Shines! Solar Map can help with this step. Simply type in your Duluth address to see the area of your roof suitable for solar and the solar quality of that area. 
  • Contact your utility provider to make a plan for connecting your panels. Many companies provide information and support for customers installing solar panels; as an example, see the guide from Minnesota Power. Minnesota Power also currently offers a pilot Solar Energy Analysis program to its customers. Sign up here for interest. 
  • Plan your financing. There are many federal and state programs that provide support for home solar installation. Under the IRA, you can receive tax credits through the Residential Clean Energy Credit program, up to 30% of the cost of installation. Other incentives include loan programs, property tax incentives, and rebates. See this list of solar incentives for more information. Another option is a solar group buy similar to those arranged by our partners at Solar United Neighbors and Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light. See past projects and learn more at the Solar United website; another solar group buy is planned for February. 
  • Talk with installers. When choosing a contractor, we recommend receiving at least three bids to compare offers. Be sure to ask about their warranties and internal financing options. We also encourage you to ask them their knowledge of the IRA tax credit. 


Start with an Energy Audit

An energy auditor can help you determine your energy needs, assess your property, and review your electric system. The audit prepares you to take those critical steps before solar installation to ensure your solar energy production can be affordable and practical. 

Start today by requesting a home energy audit and checking your home’s solar potential!