Powering You Through: The Old and The New

June 25, 2021

Whether you’re taking over the family farm or building your dream home, Stearns Electric Association is proud to provide the electricity you need and expect. Since 1937, our Cooperative has been powering our residential member-consumers in homes both old and new.

Stearns Electric Association serves over 27,000 member-consumers including residential, agricultural, and large and small commercial accounts. Our mission is to safely deliver reliable electricity, provide beneficial energy solutions and a positive member experience to all types of members.

As technology continues to improve and adapt to our changing wants and needs, we find ourselves using more electricity than ever before. At Stearns Electric Association, we want you to have the electricity you have come to expect. But we know this convenience comes at a price. That’s why we offer energy-efficient equipment and rebates, for both new construction and old-to-new retrofit projects, for members who are looking to manage their electricity use and save money.


John and Kristie Schiffler always knew they wanted to take over the family farm in Albany. Three years ago, when they purchased the dairy side of the business, John became a fourth-generation owner. Today, John’s dad is still involved in the day-to-day operations, and John and Kristie’s five children also help out on the farm.

Farming and agriculture have changed significantly over the years. John and Kristie knew they needed to make some upgrades and retrofits to their farm operation in order to grow sustainably into the future.

“Five years ago, we started researching and planning a robotic milking system for the dairy side of our operation,” John explained. “We spent a lot of time designing our new dairy barn.”

The Schifflers made several energy-efficient choices to not only help them save energy and money in their farming operation over the long-term but also improve the comfort of the dairy cows year-round, which leads to better overall milk production.

“When building the new barn, we took advantage of several energy rebates available through Stearns Electric,” John said. “Those decisions included installing LED lights and four robotic milking stalls in the barn. Additionally, the entire barn is temperature controlled, which keeps the cows cooler in the hot Minnesota summers and warmer in the cold Minnesota winters. We will soon install a new manure pit, too.”

Despite the updated technology and equipment available, some things on the farm have stayed the same.

“The overall tasks haven’t really changed much on the farm over the years, but new technology adjusts the way we complete those tasks. For instance, instead of emptying a manure pit every four days, our new manure pit will allow us to empty it only once per year,” John shared. “Likewise, even though the robot is milking cows now, we still have to manage the herd and troubleshoot problems when they arise.”

“Overall, I spend less time up in the barn and more time with my family,” he concluded. “I also get an extra hour of sleep, and am able to attend my kids’ sporting events at night, now that I don’t have to milk the cows every morning and evening.”


Nathan and Tracie Lynnes moved into their newly constructed home in Long Prairie last June. They now have several acres of undeveloped land surrounding their dream house.

“We are really looking forward to having 21 acres to enjoy out here in rural Minnesota,” Tracie said. “We enjoy hiking and being in nature in our free time, and our new home location reminds us of the rolling landscape we enjoy along Minnesota’s North Shore.”

Many decisions go into building a new home – from purchasing land and designing a floor plan, all the way down to deciding on fixtures and finishes. From an efficiency perspective, building a new home is also an opportunity to consider making energy-efficient upgrades that can save both energy and money.

“In our previous home, we were enrolled on the Dual Fuel program, so we were somewhat familiar with Stearns Electric’s EnergyWise programs,” Nathan explained. “As we built our new home, I looked at what was available for additional rebates through the Co-op. We wanted to make efficient choices that would pay us back over the next few years.”

Some of those energy-efficient choices the Lynnes’ made were to install an energy-saving Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP), an electric plenum heater with a propane backup, and an ASHP water heater. In addition to rebates provided by Stearns Electric for installing the equipment, the Lynnes’ also qualified for the EnergyWise electricity rate, which is lower than the Co-op’s standard rate for residential consumers.

“I work outside all day long, all year round. When I get home, I want the heat on in the winter and air conditioning on in the summer,” Nathan continued. “We knew we would be using a year-round system. I wanted to move toward electric systems because I’ve seen what happens to propane prices in the middle of a very cold winter. With the erratic prices of propane, I knew the price of electricity was more stable.”

Although they are saving both energy and money by making these electric choices, the Lynnes’ can’t even tell a difference compared to the gas counterparts they were accustomed to.

“In our first summer in our new home, we didn’t even notice the temperature changes with the air source heat pump,” Nathan explained.

“The cost of electricity is already lower in our new house than the last house we lived in,” Tracie concluded. “And now, we have even more items that use electricity.”

Whether you’re building a brand new home or retrofitting the 100-year old barn, making energy efficient upgrades are a win-win for both you and Stearns Electric. After all, it’s your power. Our mission is to help you use it wisely.