Frequently Asked Questions
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Q: What are some of the benefits of installing solar panels?
A: If you're lucky enough to have the right roof orientation, you have the ability to meaningfully reduce your environmental footprint and retain your energy dollars by installing a solar system.
The benefit of these long term savings increases as electricity rates rise and can yield greater economic returns than many investments with much lower risk. Over 25 years, a system can provide an internal rate of return of between 4% - 10%. When compared with historical returns on investment over 20 years of Canadian Government Bonds: 4.5% and S&P/TSX Composite: 7.6%, solar panels are attractive as a reliable, tax free, low risk investment.
Additionally, studies have shown that houses with solar panels have a higher value. So money spent on the system is actually retained when you sell your home. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Study found that every dollar of energy saved adds 20 dollars to your home's value. It also differentiates your home from others in the market (a great selling feature) providing you with a further advantage.
Learn more about the benefits of solar here.
Q: How much energy can solar panels in the Okanagan actually produce?
A: Your biggest limitation to producing solar is the amount of suitable roof area you have. If your home uses LED lighting and other energy efficient products, it's possible to offset all of your household electricity demand on a yearly basis with a rooftop solar system without much compromise. For a typical BC home without any special energy efficiency measures and electric heating, a 5 kW system could offset more than half of its annual electricity demand.
Q: What happens to the power I produce?
A: Through net metering, all the power produced by your panels are either used by you or sent to your utility (Fortis BC) and credited to you when you need the power. This means all the energy you produce works toward offsetting your electricity costs without the need for batteries. Generally, you'll be producing more of what you use in the spring and summer and less of what you use in the fall and winter. A two tier rate system means that power costs much more when you use more than 1,600 kWh every two months. The power you produce offsets the expensive Tier 2 power first. A small system sized to shave off your Tier 2 power can therefore provide you with great benefits. Watch our video to learn more of what it looks like for a typical system.
Q: Can I make more money off my system by producing more than what I use?
A: The net metering program is setup to discourage people to sell power in excess of their use on an annual basis. While it's possible, Fortis BC will only buy it at a significantly discounted rate that makes not economically viable to produce more than what you need at this time.
Q: Are there any incentives for solar?
A: The federal government has an Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance to encourage the installation of renewable energy systems like solar. If you own a business and purchase a solar system that means you can tax deduct the depreciation of your system at 50% per year. Depending on your tax rate, this could result in up to 30% benefit that could be obtained with 5 years. For a typical system the benefit could range between $2,000 and $6,000 increasing payback and rate of return. It would be worth talking to your accountant about your specific situation, particularly if you have a home based business. Natural Resources Canada has a great guidance document here.
Q: Aren't solar panels expensive?
A: Prices of solar panels have dropped drastically over that past five years to the point where it's possible to have a good size roof top system for less than $15,000. Depending on the size you're looking for, you can spend more or you can spend less. Economies of scale however, mean that larger systems will have lower unit cost $/watt installed than smaller systems, resulting in a better return on investment. Rates of return over a 25-year period can range between 4% - 10% depending on the value of electricity your offsetting, system size, and your roof's solar access. Typical paybacks range between 8 and 16 years. That may seem like a long time, but those benefits are tax free, predictable, and higher than many investments. On of top of that, the value of the system itself increases your house's value, provides your home with a market differentiating asset, can extend the life of your roof, and will likely continue to produce power past 25 years. These benefits are far greater and enduring than granite counter tops or any other home feature.
Request your free assessment which works out all of this information to find out if solar PV makes sense for you.
Q: How do I know if I have a good roof for solar?
A: Ideally you have a southish facing roof (within 30 degrees of south either way) with few obstructions (such as vents and chimneys) and not too much shading. Solar panels can be mounted on just about any roofs and come in different looks to achieve an aesthetic that suits your home. As part of our assessment we provide you with a system design and estimated annual power production.
Q: How do I pick the right contractor to install my system?
A: If you have ever had to hire trades in the past you probably have had good and no so good experiences. You should expect more from your contractor than just a quote. Ideally you can find a contractor you can trust, is well informed to provide the best system for your needs, provides a competitives prices, and can deliver on time and budget. The growing interest in solar power has resulted in many new contractors trying to get into the business. Contractors who have installed systems before the 'solar rush' have been through the trenches. They are more likely to be around for a long time, and are able to get better access and pricing of equipment. While solar energy is a proven technology, a contractor's experience with installing different types of equipment and their performance, experience in working on various roof types, and experience to seamlessly integrate a system with your existing electrical system is invaluable when you are considering such a long term investment. Ask for references and make sure that you feel confident that the contractor is able to fully answer your questions to your satisfaction.