December 27, 2001 11:00 pm

Homeowners who were scared away from installing solar water heating systems in their homes in the 1980s because of faulty systems should consider the idea now.

Solar water earned a bad rap nearly 20 years ago when federal and state tax credits were offered. A number of new companies came on the scene, but some of their systems were poorly designed and installed.

The industry overcame problems, such as overheating or freezing, and has improved its solar panels and related equipment.

With energy costs skyrocketing over the past year and a half, Eastern Oregon residents have a good reason to turn to solar water heating. Water heaters account for as much as one-third of a homes electricity use. A homeowner with a solar system could save $150 or more per year in power costs, according to state energy officials.

Residents of Eastern Oregon should investigate the costs of solar water heating installation and their potential monthly savings. The Oregon Office of Energy recommends that a person ask a solar contractor for references, find out how long the company has been in business and request a written warranty. The office maintains a list of solar water heater contractors that have been in business more than seven years.

With rolling blackouts occurring this past year in California, power costs soaring in the Northwest and questions remaining about energy availability in the future, it makes sense to convert to solar water heating. With the sun regularly beating down on the region, residents might be pleasantly surprised when they do.

Giuliani right choice

Time Magazine made a smart move last week when it bypassed Osama bin Laden for its Person of the Year.

The magazine named New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the honor because of the dignity and courage he showed in responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Giuliani helped the people of New York face the loss of life and deal with the horrible devastation. It is only right that he be honored by Time.

While theres little doubt about bin Ladens role in the attacks and the long-lasting impacts that the events will have on America, citizens would have been appalled to see his face on the cover of the magazine.

Giuliani, who will be leaving office because of term limits, embodies what is right about America: its spirit, its resiliency and its hope for better days.

Its this kind of image that we need to see on newsstands across the nation, not the face of the enemy.