August 2023 – John Owens may be the only Edina resident who can credibly claim: “I have been in the energy trade my entire life.” It’s been the family business for more than 65 years – and Owens has been at the vanguard for 45 of them.
His father, Robert H. Owens, established Bloomington-based Owens Companies in 1957. Something of a visionary, the senior Owens saw a burgeoning need for contractors specialized in large tonnage chillers – heat transference systems crucial to the temperature control systems found in many large buildings.
Chillers are susceptible to corrosion and electrical issues. Owens Sr. pioneered a protocol for “preventive and predictive maintenance of these central chiller systems,” his son said – and this shrewd business move laid the groundwork for future success.
Owens Companies today renders a wide variety of heating, ventilating and air conditioning services, and is one of the largest HVAC contractors in the Twin Cities market. John Owens credits much of that success to the company’s continued emphasis on proactive maintenance and diagnostic services.
In 2011, this same forward-thinking attitude toward energy technology factored into the company’s decision to invest in a sizable rooftop solar installation at its Bloomington headquarters.
Solar solutions have remained front of mind for Owens ever since, and he recently became one of Edina’s early adopters of a residential solar unit.
“I ride my bike most days past the St. Louis Park headquarters of MN Solar, one of the premier [installers] in the state,” Owens explained. It almost seemed fated. One day, he finally approached the firm about outfitting his home in the Interlachen Park Neighborhood with a photovoltaic array.
After evaluating the property, including its tree canopy, the MN Solar team recommended a 23-panel unit calibrated to derive maximum benefit from the available sunlight.
They also provided insights on the discounts, incentives and special financing options available to offset the up-front costs of a renewable energy investment. (Owens ultimately captured a 26% federal tax credit, as well as a utility rebate from Xcel Energy.)
“This was a great experience throughout,” Owens reported. “MN Solar’s procedures and communications really impressed me. I’ve been doing AC and heating installations for all these years, and like to think we have good practices in place as well – but these guys were over the top.”
As pleased as he was with the process, the final product is more satisfying still. It boasts a 7.475 kW capacity.
Granted, kilowatts and megawatts may not be particularly helpful measures for the average homeowner – few of whom enjoy anything like Owens’ deep knowledge of how energy is produced and used.
Courtesy of a tracking app on his iPad, Owens can also track performance via other metrics as well. “We have so far saved exactly 11,997 pounds of carbon dioxide” by displacing fossil fuel usage with this clean-energy alternative. “That’s the equivalent of planting new 91 trees.”
Naturally, those numbers are only going to tick up with time.
Owens’ advice for fellow homeowners is simple: Don’t feel daunted. “Solar is not new. Owens Companies invested in a solar-powered refrigeration way system back in the early 1970s.”
Nowadays, the technology is just much more prevalent. “There are so many great experts today, like MN Solar, who can talk you through solar from assessment through installation. … You just have to take the first step towards [that] future.”