Renewable energy: Solar systems

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Save with free fuel from the sun

picture of roof top solar panels
picture of roof top solar hot water heater
illustration of battery storage system
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Harness the sun's energy for state of the art energy savings

Solar PV panels

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert energy from the sun into electricity. Solar PV panels have few operating costs and can be installed on any kind of home or building, providing a safe and reliable source of electricity that produces no on-site pollution or emissions. And the fuel – sunshine – is free!

When the system produces more renewable electricity than you can use, Hydro companies will take the surplus and issue a credit on your bill. The credit will help to offset the cost of purchasing electricity when your system doesn't produce enough to meet your needs.

What to look for

  • Work with a qualified system designer to select the appropriate technology and system size for your home. The Canadian Solar Industries Association provides guidance on selecting qualified solar energy service providers.
  • Make sure your home is as energy-efficient as possible before you add solar. To determine the right size system for your home, review your energy bills for the past 12 months to see how much energy you use.
  • Hire a solar contractor and install and connect your system to the utility.

Things to consider

  • Consider adding energy storage (batteries) to store electricity generated by your system for future use.
  • Before you install, make sure your roof is in good condition. It should be less than five years old.
  • The orientation of your roof matters – the priority should be south-facing roofs, followed by west and then east.
  • Trees and buildings that shade your roof can lead to a less powerful system.

Average cost

$25,000 to $30,000 with installation.

Source: Natural Resources Canada

Solar water heaters

Water heating accounts for approximately 20 per cent of your home's energy bill. Solar hot water heaters, also known as, solar domestic hot water (SDHW) systems, use the sun's energy to generate hot water, which lowers your energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.

Several solar hot water systems are available, but for year-round water heating in Canadian climates, it is important to pick a system that can be protected from freezing. Only freeze-protected systems will generate hot water when the temperature dips well below zero.

While solar water heaters have longer life expectancy than other models, they are generally designed for use with a back-up water heater, either electric or gas. A tankless (on-demand) model may be used as the back-up.

What to look for

  • An ENERGY STAR® certified solar water heater will use 60 per cent less energy, on average, than a standard model.
  • Choose a freeze-protected system for year-round use.
  • Make sure you purchase a tank-size appropriate for the number of people in your house.

Things to consider

  • Hire a qualified solar thermal systems contractor to install your system, as they will need experience in electrical, plumbing and carpentry. Solar hot water heaters must be installed to CSA standards.
  • Solar water heating systems almost always require a backup system for cloudy days and times of increased demand.
  • If you have a heated swimming pool, solar systems can drastically reduce your utility bills and save you even more.

Average cost

$6,000 – $10,000 with installation.

Source: Natural Resources Canada

Energy storage batteries

Have you installed or are you considering installing solar PV panels on your home? Then consider solar-plus-storage options.

Energy storage, also known as home battery storage, or home batteries, are rechargeable batteries that can store energy to power your home when needed.

With a rooftop solar system, power from your panels flows into the home to meet your energy needs, and any excess solar energy is sent to the grid. During hours when the panels don't generate electricity (at night or on overcast days), your home draws power from the grid. Storing your solar power in a home battery, allows you to power your home on overcast days or at night, making your home less dependent on grid power.

Energy storage technologies have improved significantly in recent years, making them less expensive and more efficient than previous models. There are two types of energy storage batteries available:

  • Lead batteries, which have a 5 to 15-year life expectancy, are cheaper but need more maintenance.
  • Lithium-based batteries, which are more expensive but compact, maintenance-free, and charge and discharge faster.

Whether your home has solar PV or not, home battery storage is a reliable, emissions-free source of backup power.

What to look for

  • Find the appropriate size battery or batteries for your home.
  • The capacity of a single home battery storage unit can range from 5 kWh to 13.5 kWh (the average home uses about 30 kWh of energy a day), but multiple units can be added together to create a larger home storage system.

Things to consider

  • If you don't have solar PV, charge you batteries at night when the rates are lower.
  • Use your battery to charge your electric vehicle at night, which will save you money and energy.
  • Replace a generator with energy storage to provide power during power outages, as they don't produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Factor in the life expectancy of the model you wish to buy – home batteries can only be charged a specific number of times – so you know when you have to replace the unit.

Average cost

$6,000 to $30,000 per system, including hardware and installation.

Source: Natural Resources Canada

Financial help available for renewable energy