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It’s Time To Talk Solar

Canada imports oil from Saudi Arabia, Libia and other foreign countries to a tune of about a million barrels a day, which comes as a big surprise to most people. While this is no doubt great news for the Saudi royal family, it is bad news for the ordinary Canadian.

It's Time To Talk Solar


It’s Time To Talk Solar

The vast majority of the Canadians recognize that now is the time to move to energy autonomy so that we are no longer subject to the greed of gas pumps, electricity price hikes, bad political decisions, Wall Street speculators or “wars for oil” in the Middle East.

Most people also know that if we are serious about addressing global warming, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and the necessity to create thousands of jobs, we need a take a more serious look towards energy efficiency and such sustainable technologies as the wind and solar.

As monthly utility bills devastate more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we are beginning to pay attention. But we don’t have to surrender to $250 per month electric bills, $500 heating bills or $1.20 per liter gas prices. There are many products and techniques we can use to reduce these costs significantly.

Clip Art Graphic of a Yellow Residential House Cartoon Character

Canada has adequate solar energy resources, with the largest resources found in southern Ontario, Quebec, and the Prairies. The quantity of solar energy varies with the season, latitude, weather conditions and the time of day. It’s a big country out there, and it’s awash in some of the world’s finest solar resources available anywhere.

There are two types of proven and tested solar technologies available to consumers; Solar Thermal and Solar Photovoltaic.


Solar photovoltaic and thermal


Solar thermal energy is the energy generated by transforming solar energy into heat. Photovoltaic solar power is the energy created by converting solar energy into electricity using photovoltaic solar cells.

Solar Thermal:

There are several solar applications you can use to take advantage of solar thermal energy. It can heat your domestic water, it can heat your pool, and can also power solar cooling systems.

A solar domestic hot water system (SDHW):

SDHW system gathers solar energy in a collector and employs it to heat water or glycol solution.


solar water heating system

An SDHW system typically consists of:

  • a collector,
  • water or a glycol solution
  • a storage tank
  • a heat exchanger
  • circulation pump
  • piping
  • control module.

There are two types of collectors:


Flat Plate Solar Collectors

Flat Plate Solar Collectors

Flat-plate solar thermal include an insulated box with a glass cover and a dark absorber plate through which liquid-filled pipes pass.

Flat plate collectors heat the liquid up to 82°C (180°F) as it flows through tubes in the absorber plate. Cold weather can reduce the performance of flat plate collectors. Most common challenges include areas with high wind loads and areas with significant snowfall.




Evacuated Tubes Collector

Evacuated Tube Solar Collector

The collectors for evacuated tube solar hot water systems consist of a number of evacuated glass tubes that collect solar radiation to heat liquid flowing through pipes running inside the tubes.

Such collectors can heat liquids to temperatures of 77°C to 177°C. Evacuated tube solar systems can offer high efficiencies even in cold weather.

How Much Can You Save?

CANADA MORTGAGE AND HOUSING CORPORATION did a study in 2012 in all major centers in Canada comparing most popular fuel sources and came to the following results: (CMHC date from 2012). 



The model shows likely savings for the house with a 58% efficient gas-fired hot water tank, an electric water tank, or a 78% efficient oil-fired water tank. The annual estimated cost savings associated a flat plate collector system in Toronto range from $116 (gas-fired water heater back up) to $361 (electric water heater back up).




Those were savings in 2012. When you take in consideration electricity and gas prices for 2016, various delivery charges, debt retirement charges and many other made up charges and taxes, the significance of not paying for your hot water becomes apparent.




If you are building a new home or refinancing a renovation, the economics are even more attractive. Including the price of a solar water heater in a new 30-year mortgage usually amounts to between $25 and $35 per month.

How Much Does It Cost?

The most cost-effective is solar pool heating. It is not uncommon to spend as much money heating the pool in the summer, as you would heating a home in the winter.

With average yearly savings of $700.00, the initial outlay of $2,000 to $4,000 for a pool heating system can be recovered in five to six years.

Residential solar pool heaters are such good value because they are used seasonally. Therefore, they are not required to produce the higher water temperatures or have the freeze-protection devices of year-round solar water heaters.

As a result, solar pool collectors cost less than domestic water heating solar collectors.

Domestic Water Heating Solar Collectors

The domestic hot-water system should be sized according to the number of people living in the household. A solar tank will be dimensioned to about the double size of the anticipated amount of use per day. Regarding this, the tank for a household with four persons and an average consumption of 50 liters of hot water per head and day should hold about 400 to 500 liters. It will reduce dependence on your existing water heater in Southern Ontario by about 3000 kWh per year.

The average four-person family would require a two-panel system, for which the installed costs starts at $5500.

Typical prices across Southern Ontario are shown below and include material and labour:

One collector ———- $6,500
Two collectors ——– $7.500
Three collectors ——- $10,500
Four collectors ——- $12,000

A large, 4-6 collector systems integrated with multiple secondary heating loads like pool, spa or space heating, is priced at $12-$15,000 installed.

However, these days, most solar thermal systems for a residential use cost between $5,000 and $10,000. Though, this is usually more than the price of a conventional gas or electric water heater, today’s solar water heating systems are cost competitive when you consider your total energy costs over the entire life of the system.

Clip Art Graphic of a Yellow Residential House Cartoon Character

Solar Photovoltaic:

Another type of solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight into electricity. PV gets its name in the means of changing light (photons) to electricity (voltage), which is called the PV effect.

The PV effect was identified in 1954 when experts at Bell Telephone found that silicon (an element found in sand) made an electrical charge when confronted with sunlight. Soon solar panels were being used to power calculators, watches and space satellites.

Solar PV

Solar panels are produced from solar cells combined into modules that hold about 40 cells. Several solar panels combined to generate electricity is known as a solar array. For large utility or commercial purposes, countless solar arrays are connected to create a full application-scale PV system.

The sections are fitted at a fixed angle to the sun, or they may be attached to a tracking device that follows the sun, permitting them to capture the most sunlight.

Today, 1000s of people power their homes and businesses with individual solar PV systems. Electricity companies can also be using PV technology for large power stations.

Types of PV systems

Determined by the system settings, we can recognize two main kinds of PV systems: OFF-GRID SYSTEMS and GRID-TIED SYSTEMS.


Solar off grid systems are the most cost efficient solution to generate electricity when utility grid is not available.  Although they’re common in far-off places without utility service, off-grid solar electric systems can operate everywhere. These systems function independently from the grid to supply all of the electricity for a home.




Either way, components and fundamental PV system principles stay the same. It might contain a backup generator, have reserve power and also might need to run both AC and DC loads.



Grid Tied Solar

Living with a grid-connected solar electric system except that some or all the electricity you use comes from the sun is not any different than living with utility power.

A PV system usually consists of 4 primary components.


  • 1. PV Panels: PV panels are the single largest expense of a PV system. Your system performance impact more than just about any other facet of the occupation.
  • 2. The Inverter: Power generated by the PV array is direct current or DC electricity. AC electricity before it can be linked to the utility grid, or that electricity must be converted to alternating current. The inverter is the heart of the system and is in charge of performing this conversion economically and safely.
  • 3. The Meter: The utility meter tells you – as well as the power company – how much electricity you are using, to how much electricity you’ve fed into the utility power system.Various types of meters that range from simple screens, to web-based and wireless computer screens data access are accustomed to monitor the operation of PV systems. There are several alternatives available to accommodate your particular needs.
  • 4. BATTERIES:The batteries are used as storage for the energy produced by the solar panels in a chemical form for a later use. For a photovoltaic system, it means that we can use solar energy at night or during rainy days.There is many different types of batteries and their efficiency can greatly affect the efficiency of the system

Net Metering

Electricity consumers in Ontario, who create a few of their power from a renewable resource, may benefit from the “net metering” initiative. Internet metering lets you send extra electricity you produce from renewable resources to the distribution system for credit toward your energy prices.

How can it work? Your local hydro business will continue to read your meter as they do, once you are linked to the distribution system. To be able to record the advice they desire they might have to modify the meter.

They’re going to subtract then the value of electricity you provide to the grid from the worth of what you choose from the grid. What you will see in your statement is the “net” difference between both of these sums.

Should you provide more electricity than that which you take during the charge cycle from the grid, you will get credit for future energy bills.


The microFIT Plan was established in 2009 as the attempt of the Ontario government to raise renewable energy in the province.

Under this particular plan, you are going to be paid a fixed price over a 20-year period (40 years for waterpower projects) for the electricity you generate and provide to the electricity grid.


The Green Energy Act in Ontario gives a unique chance: selling solar electricity to the individuals of Ontario! The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) will purchase electricity generated from FIT (10-100kW) Solar Systems in your roof at a speed of 54.8cent per kilowatt hour, or bigger FIT Systems (100-500kW) at a speed of 53.9cent per kilowatt hour. The result is a steady income flow for the next 20 years 20 years, which helps by replacing it with clean solar power, phase out filthy coal.
Photovoltaic Solar Panels price has been falling dramatically in the previous years and is anticipated to continue its slope that is down for some time; the cost of solar panels is a variant that is dependent upon a scale, place and the time of your solar panel setup.

The great decrease seen in solar panels price has been driven mainly by back-to-back technical breakthroughs in the developments in the manufacturing of solar panels as well as the generation of solar cells.

PV module prices

A commonly asked question is “How much does solar electricity cost?” There are really two questions here, which must be answered separately. The first question is: What is the upfront cost to install solar? In other words, how much do I have to pay today to have a system installed that delivers a given peak power and a given amount of energy storage.

The second question is: What is the life-cycle cost per kilowatt-hour of solar energy? In other words, how does solar compare to the cost of grid power?

The prices of PV modules are reduced significantly lately, partially by improved efficiencies, partially by improved manufacturing techniques, and partially by economies of scale in generation.

So what’s the price of solar PV panels?

The price of PV solar system is determined by the size and type of that system. Variables affecting the total solar panel price comprise the efficacy and life expectancy of setup prices including the original setup of the solar panels, the solar panels and electric connections, added equipment needed such as inverters, batteries, and wiring.

The steep cost of solar PV system still plays a big part in the verdict as to whether or not to go with this strategy.

The following is a quick calculation to demonstrate this for a 5kW roof mounted system. As the table shows, a 5kW PV system costs around $22,000.

solar cost


  1. Are the FIT and MICROFIT programs still in effect.
    If so how does one get more information on getting some panels installed at there residence in Ontario.

  2. There is no reason Canada should be importing oil. We just need a government that will allow it to be shipped across the country!!

  3. Sure , if you have Canadian house with 4 ‘ insulation it makes perfect sense to invest thousands of dollars to generate couple of kWt of electric power loosing thousands Btu on heating .

    • 1. Insulation of houses has very little to do with producing electrical power.
      2. Canada has some of the stringiest building codes in the world as far as the insulation is concerned.
      3. Apart from production and disposal after 30 or so years, PV panels produce electrical energy without a carbon footprint. No pollution. (I suspect that in 30 years we will figure out how to recycle them.)
      4. If you really think about it, wouldn’t you want to leave the world in better shape for your kids?

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