Rick Scarlet and Gloria Johnson paid their electric bill last month, just like most people.

It was $3.35.

That took care of heating the couple’s energy-efficient Springfield home and charging their electric car using solar power.

The key is a home solar system that went up behind their home in 2009.

The home solar system is tied into the power grid. When their system generates surplus power — more than they use – the couple receives credit on their electric bill. When they use more than they generate, they pay the difference.

The difference last month: $3.35.

The home solar system is one of a number of steps they have taken to save energy and cut the carbon footprint in the bargain.

Another appliance will also be installed soon: a wood cookstove.

This is not grandma’s wood stove. After some home remodeling, the sleek, black cooker will also help heat the house. With the addition of water jackets, it can also heat water. If another ice storm like the 2007 disaster comes along, they’ll be ready.

They also have an electric car and do a lot of bicycling. Scarlet will soon add an electric assist to his bicycle. Powered by a lithium battery, it can take you 15 to 30 miles for about 3 cents, he said.

They like discussing their conservation measures and answering others’ questions about them. People are often curious, Johnson said.

“They’re kind of interested, but they don’t know anybody who’s done it,” she said.

Aside from high-tech solutions like their home solar system and cutting-edge cookstoves, plenty of other steps can conserve power.

Insulate your house. Install energy-efficient windows. Weather-strip. Rein in phantom power waste.

Appliances like televisions, computer monitors, and DVD players can draw power when plugged into an outlet and account for about 10 percent of a home’s electricity use. Plug them into a power strip and turn off the strip when the devices are turned off.

Saving energy is a choice they made and one others can make, Scarlet and Johnson said.

“It’s not going to solve all the world’s problems, but we’ll do what we can,” Johnson said.

Others are doing what they can, too.

Jim Evans of rural Republic added a massive home solar system array — 140 thin-film panels on a 16 by 93-foot structure — near his all-electric home last summer.

Altogether, it cost about $20,000, he said, but the savings have been dramatic. He had no electric bill in November and December and his January bill was just $36. By comparison, a neighbor’s monthly bills were $150 to $450.

The economy must be sustained, but it’s going to happen through private citizen efforts, he believes. The government may well become a prime mover in the effort, he said, but it has not been one up to now, either through spending or practice.

Whatever your reason for saving energy, there are a couple of points to remember about a home solar system:

* Taxes: The government can’t tax money you didn’t spend.
* Energy-saving projects and purchases pay for themselves.

“That’s not true of anything else you buy. It’s a pretty good investment.”

To learn more about how you can benefit from a solar panel system, take the free solar webinar to educate yourself solar’s technology and advantages. Then, find out how much a solar system will cost—and how much it will save—with the solar calculator.