Saving with Solar - It's Natural!
Though on the surface it may seem like a huge and expensive task to find a way your family can be greener and actually make a difference to our planet, the truth of the matter is … ITS NOT! Clean, renewable power is available to everyone, including you!
As a homeowner in Nanaimo, BC (working with Derek Gillette as Marketing Director), I am so excited for the installation of my new solar system! After the purchase of our building lot at The Ridge, and while recently working on the plans for our new house, my husband and I were particularly drawn to products manufactured from recycled materials, using an environmentally responsible process, and whenever possible choosing locally sourced goods in an effort to decrease our carbon footprint, all the while believing that we could still do even more. Then the proverbial lightbulb went on, and we started to explore the idea of Solar Power.
5 or 10 years ago solar was expensive and electricity was cheap, but today the price of solar components has become quite affordable, and as Canadians, we get to take advantage of the global solar explosion, riding the downward prices on components all the while enjoying access to the new products and innovations of this multi-billion dollar industry. Green, renewable energy, with little to no maintenance, no ongoing costs, no environmental impact, and for an average of 30+ years. Now, electricity which we often take for granted, is “expensive.” If you take a good look at your Hydro bills two tiered rates, the rate riders and the GST surcharges, BC Hydro has effectively increased prices by 9%, and they’re not finished yet… not by a long shot!
If you live on Vancouver Island, and install a home solar system you can participate in BC Hydro's “Net Metering Program” and here is how it works. Your systems produce lots of power during the day, but not always when you need it. Net Metering allows you to store the kilowatt hours of electricity for use later. You are essentially turning the meter backwards, and building a credit for all energy not currently needed. The energy from your system flows through the meter and out to the grid. Net Metered customers have a two way meter that keeps track of energy flows in both directions. If you sell 50 kWh during the day, at night you get 50 kWh for free. Nothing is wasted – you are simply putting power through your meter and creating credit you can use later.
In a nut shell, by installing a Solar Electric System in your home, you will effectively reduce the amount of power you need to buy…today, and for the next 30+ years.
If this hasn’t won you over yet. here are the answers to some of the most common questions about residential solar systems.
“Should we wait to get solar, will the technology get better?”
These days the media loves to hype emerging technologies, but the truth is we’re still using the same solar technology we were back in the 1960’s. Since then, solar has become only moderately more efficient (unlike computers or cellphones which experience dramatic improvements in short periods of time). Given this stable technology profile solar makes sense right now and once installed, your panels will continue to work for decade!
“Will solar work in my cool, cloudy or foggy climate?”
Solar panels work just fine in ambient light and will produce significant energy in the fog or on overcast days. In fact, solar panels are actually more efficient at cooler temperatures than hot ones. Although this might seem counter-intuitive, consider that Germany leads the world in residential solar right now, and doesn’t have a sunny or particularly warm climate.
“Will we have to store energy in large and dangerous batteries?”
Not the case at all, most residential solar panel systems are grid tied which means they’re connected to the conventional electricity grid. Your system generates power during the day and excess is fed back into the grid through a system called net metering. When this happens, your meter spins backwards and your utility company credits you for that power. At night or on overcast days, you’ll use grid power, but you don’t generally get charged for it because of all the credit you’ve generated. This grid tied method tends to be the most convenient for homeowners. Batteries, however are an option for those who really want them, but they’re expensive, bulky, and have to be replaced every five to ten years.
“Solar panels require way too much maintenance”
Actually, solar panels have no moving parts and do not require any regular maintenance. Typically the recommendation is to hose off the panels once or twice year, but many panel owners actually never clean them, instead rely on the rain to do the job. Of course, if any large debris falls onto the panels, it’s recommended you remove it. These days, solar systems come with monitoring software that allows you to spot any drops in power generation right away. Often your installer is linked into your monitoring system too, so sometimes they’ll even be aware of drops in a panel’s power output before you are! Pretty slick.
“Solar is just too expensive and will never pay for itself”
This is perhaps one of the most unfortunate misgivings, a common belief is that solar energy is only for rich people and/or environmentalists, when in reality many homeowners choose to go solar simply because it eliminates their big monthly electricity bill. In fact, solar is a very wise choice for people who could actually use the extra couple hundred bucks a month that they’re currently paying in power bills. Modern financing options have all but eliminated the barrier to entry for solar (big upfront costs), so many households are now able to go solar for little to no money down. Solar is one of the very few household purchases that will actually pay for itself. Studies show that on average, solar panels return two to four times their cost in saved electricity bills during the lifetime of the system and typically pay for themselves completely between 7 to 15 years. If you live a province with increasing energy costs that payback will only get quicker.
“If the power goes out, will my home still be powered?”
Unfortunately, NO. When the power goes out, grid-tied systems go out too. That’s because it’s not safe to be pushing electricity back out onto the wires while workers may be trying to fix the problem, so your inverter (the big box near your meter that turns DC electricity created by the panels into usable AC current) recognizes that the grid is out and shuts your system off. The solution? Spend a couple hundred on a generator or don’t worry about it too much; the power doesn’t go off that often.
“Won’t solar panels be an eye-sore, and look terrible on my roof?”
Wait a minute, haven’t you heard? Solar is the new black. In the last ten years there’s been a growing awareness of how smart renewable energy is from both environmental and economic perspective, so solar panels are finally coming into their own and being regarded as an enhancement instead of an eyesore. It’s about time! For homeowners who don’t like the look of traditional solar panels, there are now many options and styles, including thin-film and non-reflective solar panel roofing shingles. These styles are discreet and lower-profile than the panels of the 1960’s.
If you are like us, and looking for a good a way to support renewable energy, this is an excellent way to start!
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