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 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: 3.2% and S&P/TSX Composite: 8.1%, solar panels are attractive as a reliable, tax free, low risk investment (as of December 31,2021).
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 or land area you have. For example, 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. An average BC home without any special energy efficiency measures and electric heating will use roughly 11,000 kWh per year meaning that the average 5 kW system could offset approximately half of its annual electricity demand.
Once again though, solar PV systems can be customized to best fit your energy needs and goals. So if you had additional electric needs to be met like an EV charging station or you wanted to offset more of your grid intake that can easily be done!
To find out what system might be best for you and your home's energy needs click here to get a free solar assessment.
Q: How will forest fires impact my solar system?
A: When talking about solar systems in relation to forest fires the biggest element to look at is the smoke impact. Unfortunately there have not been enough studies done on this topic to fully understand the effects that the smoke from forest fires have. Without that research we have found the best comparison to understanding the potential impact is by looking at how the systems work on cloudier days.
Cloudy days – like smokey ones – will come and go, which is okay because what matters more is how much sunlight your system gets annually. There are also solar modules that are designed to enhance energy production even if weather conditions are cloudy. It is found that on cloudy days solar PV systems will produce roughly 10-25% of their rated capacity, depending on the amount of cloud coverage and the type of modules installed.
Q: What happens to the power I produce?
A: Through net metering, all the power produced by your panels is either used by you or sent to your utility and credited to you when you need the power – like in lower solar energy producing months from October to March. This means all the energy you produce works toward offsetting your electricity costs without the need for batteries or a backup powerwall. 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. Therefore a small system size that shaves off your Tier 2 power can provide you with great benefits.
Q: Can I make more money off my system by producing more than what I use?
A: Solar provides many attractive benefits including making money off the excess energy your grid-connected system produces. Net metering programs, like the one offered by BChydro, allow homeowners with solar PV systems to sell any excess energy they produce back to the larger grid and provide a generation credit in return for future energy you may need to import from the larger grid.
Q: Are there any incentives for solar?
A: Both the government of British Columbia and the Canadian government offer a variety of incentives to help in transitioning your home to solar. There is a PST exemption in B.C. on a variety of material and equipment such as solar photovoltaic collector panels, controllers, wiring and much more. Additionally, BCHydro and the District of Summerland both offer net metering programs that allow you to sell back your systems excess energy and receive generation credit in return. Seem daunting? Don't worry, we'll handle the engineering, permitting and net metering application.
The federal government is currently offering a new loan to help in the renewable energy transition and individuals wanting to retrofit their homes for solar. Offered through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) the, up to $40,000 interest free loan allows for solar to be more accessible and affordable to everyone, especially those that might struggle with the upfront cost. There is also the Greener Homes Grant Initiative that provides Canadians who are retrofitting their homes for solar with up to $5,000.
For more information on the Summerland Net Metering Program click here
For more information on the BCHydro Net Metering Program click here
For more information on federal incentives click here
For more information on the Fortis BC Net Metering Program click here.
For more information on the Penticton Net Metering Program click here.
Q: Aren't solar panels expensive?
A: Prices of solar panels have dropped drastically over the past decade to the point where it's possible to have a good size roof top system for less than $15,000. 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. Depending on the value of electricity, your offsetting, system size, and your roof's solar access, rates of return over a 25-year period can range between 4% - 10%. Typical paybacks range between 8 - 12 years.
Though that may seem like a long time, those benefits are tax free, predictable, and higher than many other investments. On top of that, the value of the system itself increases your house's value, provides your home with a market differentiating asset, and can extend the life of your roof.
Q: How do I know if I have a good roof for solar?
A: Solar panels can be mounted on just about any roof! The best roofs for solar are ideally south facing (within 30 degrees of south either way) with few obstructions (such as vents and chimneys) and not too much shading. Solar panels also come in a variety of different looks to achieve an aesthetic that suits your home. As part of our consultation we provide you with a system design and estimated annual power production.
Q:. What happens in the event of a power outage, will I lose power?
A: The answer to this question is two-fold as again like many other questions it depends on what type of system you have. Many systems that we see today are referred to as “grid-tied”, which means they are directly connected to your home's electrical distribution panel. By being connected to your electrical distribution panel means that your home is connected to the larger grid
Given that these types of PV systems are tied to the larger grid they are vulnerable to power outages and require that the panels be disconnected from the grid to ensure safety of workers who will have to fix the grid distribution system.
However, there is certain equipment that allows you to design a system that will continue to function if a power outage were to occur. Adding a battery storage system or Tesla Powerwall into the design of your system would allow for your home to work independently from the larger grid, allowing you to continue to power your home. Though these types of additions are more costly due to the cost of materials, design and installation, adding a custom backup option can allow your home to produce and consume 100% of its own energy.
Q:. What are the differences in micro-inverters?
A: To know which inverter to choose to pair with your solar PV system can feel overwhelming given there is a sizable amount to choose from, let alone information to digest in understanding what is the right fit. Micro and string inverters are amongst the most common for grid-tied residential systems, and there are pros and cons to each. The chart below highlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of these two types of inverters. If you are interested in other types of inverters and want to know what they are like comparable to each other and string and micro inverters check out these blog posts: Hybrid Inverter's Comparison Chart, Best Solar Inverters of 2022.
For installations using micro inverters, there typically are as many inverters installed as solar panels as micro-inverters is installed under each panel. However there are micro inverters that are capable of accommodating two to four panels.
Installations using string inverters typically only require one inverter (possibly two, depending on system size. The string inverter is typically installed near your homes main service panel and electricity meter. With string-inverters each modules electricity production gets capped by the lowest energy producing module.
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 not so good experiences. You should expect more from your contractor than just a quote, ideally you want to find a contractor you can trust, is well informed to provide the best system for your needs, provides competitive prices, and can deliver on time and budget.
With the growing interest in solar power it has resulted in many new contractors trying to get into the business, however, 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 in working on various roof types, and experience to seamlessly integrate a system with your existing electrical system is invaluable when you are considering a large long term investment. Additionally established contractors who have worked in the trade since before the “solar rush” have a better guarantee that they will be able to continue to support and serve you throughout the lifetime of your system. When looking for the right contractor don’t hesitate to ask for references and make sure that you feel confident that the contractor is able to fully answer your questions to your satisfaction.