October 26 2018, 11:28 AM
Is solar power the right option for your home or business? Due to the size of the initial investment to install solar at your property, there are a few important things you should consider. We’ve rounded them up here, so you can make the right decision based on your location, property type and lifestyle.
1. Conservation and Energy Efficiency
These are the most important steps. People often overlook conservation and energy efficiency as a step in integrating renewable generation. What good is it to pay a premium for a solar system if the energy is simply wasted? Since most homes would use more than they produce, the first thing you should consider before looking at installing a solar array is “Can I reduce my energy use?” Have you done everything you can to reduce your annual energy consumption? As we’ll look at below, it can be much cheaper to save a kilowatt hour than it can be to produce one.
Cost to avoid purchasing a kWh :
- Energy Conservation (insulation, air-sealing, changing habits, etc.) = $0.02/ kWh
- Energy Efficiency (HVAC, lighting, etc.) = $0.07/kWh
- PV Generation (Net Metering) = $0.12- $0.16/kWh
- PV Generation + Storage = $0.20/kWh
As you can see from the numbers above, the biggest bang for your buck in terms of reducing your building’s energy use is found through conservation. Combined with energy-efficient improvements, you could see a big pay-back for your initial investment. We offer a suite of energy-efficiency programs for homes and businesses that help offset the costs of making these investments.
2. Types of solar
There are two categories of solar - Passive and Active Solar.
- Passive solar harnesses the natural energy from the sun to heat an area of your home. If you have a larger window in one of the rooms in your home, and you’ve ever felt the room get warmer on sunny days, you’ve likely already experienced the effects of passive solar. Passive solar is something to consider if you’re building a new home, where you can position the building toward the sun. Passive House Certified buildings consume up to 90% less heating and cooling than conventional buildings do.
- Active solar is the second, and most familiar type of solar. This type uses mechanical or electrical devices to store or convert solar energy into electricity or heat. The most common example of active solar are solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays you may see on roofs. These arrays convert solar energy to electricity for use in your home or business. Another example of active solar is thermal solar, which can be used for space or water heating. (use photo of solar wall for space heating and solar water heater for home water heating)
Solar wall used at Saint John Transit. This example of thermal solar is great for commercial buildings
with large surfaces facing the sun.
Solar water heating. Great for large water heating loads like hotels and apartment buildings.
Can also be used for seasonal use like cottages and pools.
3. Location/ Orientation
Just like with real estate, location is incredibly important when considering solar. Get familiar with how the sun moves around your building and pay attention to how much sun it gets each day. Solar might work for you if you have an unobstructed roof (no shade), with proper slope that faces anywhere from Southeast to Southwest. Or it might work if you have a barn or yard that is unobstructed by shade, or a hill on your property.
4. Roof Pitch
Do you know how steep the pitch of your roof is? In New Brunswick, there are a few pitches that would work for installing a solar PV array. They are highlighted in the image below. If your roof pitch falls outside of this range, don’t despair, as there are newer options for racking hardware that your installer may be able to recommend for lower pitched roofs.
5. Roof area
If you’re looking at a solar system on your roof, you will definitely have to consider the size of your roof in addition to its pitch. The average roof only has enough space to accommodate an array of 4-12 kW. A one kW solar PV array produces about 1,200 kWh of energy per year as long as it’s at optimal orientation and slope. A 4 kilowatt array could produce up to 4,800 kWh of electricity a year, while a 12 kilowatt array could produce up to 14,400 kWh of electricity a year.
11k array in New Brunswick
6. Your energy use
Do you know how much energy your home uses each year? New Brunswick homes average between 9,000 and 25,000 kWh of electricity use annually. R-2000 homes are on the lower end, with existing homes not built to current codes are on the higher end of that spectrum. The majority of New Brunswickers use some form of electric heating, which can account for 50% of their total energy use for the year. Looking at how many kilowatt hours of energy an array in New Brunswick could produce annually, most homes would use way more energy than they could produce.
Want to learn more about solar? Leave your question in the comments below to be considered for a future blog post!