Residential Solar Energy

Guidance for planning and installing your own solar energy system.

Before investing in solar, first consider making some basic home improvements that will save energy:

  • Get an energy audit
  • Seal air leaks and add insulation
  • Repair or replace old heating and cooling systems
  • Replace old lighting with high-efficiency LEDs
  • Use a programmable thermostat

The Minnesota Department of Commerce Division of Energy Resources Home Energy Guide (PDF) can serve as a resource to help you reduce your energy use up-front.

By making your home energy efficient first, you can reduce your energy consumption. A decrease in your energy demand will reduce the size of investment needed for your solar energy system, and maximize the returns on your system.

Solar Field

Solar InstallationResidential Solar Education:

Residential Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installation is an investment homeowners should thoughtfully consider before making a final commitment. If you’re considering home installation, make an informed decision by educating yourself before your buy.

Get Educated:

Solar can generate electricity, heat water, or help heat your home. Making electricity is the most common use of solar energy in Minnesota today. Learn about solar through sources such as the Clean Energy Resource Teams and the U.S. Department of Energy. Take a class on solar basics. Check for community education opportunities in your area. Talk to neighbors and friends who have installed solar.

Plan Your System: 
Find out if your location is suitable for solar. The Minnesota Solar Suitability App can help identify the solar potential of your home or business. But you will need a site assessment to determine if your location can capture enough of the sun’s rays. A third-party source, such as the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, can provide an independent site assessment.

Residential Solar Tips:  What to know Before You Buy


As with any major household purchase, it is important to get multiple bids for comparison. Get two or three bids and make sure you compare apples to apples. Be sure each bid specifies system type and size, expected energy production, maintenance requirements, warranties, and installed cost.  Exercise due diligence when hiring a qualified installer , here are some tips from the State of MN Commerce Department.  It is also good practice to ask for references from prior clients who are willing to share their experience regarding both installation and customer service satisfaction.

To locate installers near you, check lists from the Clean Energy Project Builders, or Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association.


With the PVWatts calculator, homeowners can determine the performance of proposed solar PV installations by evaluating their operation and efficiency. If you are having trouble navigating the calculator, please call the City of Buffalo Utilities Department at 763.684.5422 and we can discuss the calculator with you.


Determine how long it will take to recover the cost of installation. Use the total cost of your installation, along with the annual value ($$$) information from the PVWatts calculator.


You may also want to keep in mind other factors, including:

  • Age/condition of your existing roof
  • Number of years you plan to live in the home
  • How this will affect the home’s resale value
  • Increase in insurance for the addition of a solar PV system
  • Annual maintenance costs of a solar PV system
  • Years of warranty for solar equipment


  • If you are committed to supporting renewable energy but are not sure if you should move forward with solar PV installation, we have options. You may want to consider the City of Buffalo's Clean Energy Choice program. Customers can elect to have 50, 75, or 100 percent of their electricity come from environmentally friendly, renewable sources for only $1 to $3 per month. This program is affordable and predictable, and you can subscribe or cancel anytime.  
  • When it comes to photovoltaic (PV) installation, we hope these residential solar tips provided insight to help you make an informed decision. At Buffalo Municipal Utilities, we support homeowners finding alternative energy sources and are here to help our customers in making informed decisions. Please contact us if you have any questions.