Not Your Grandpa's Solar
After a 40-year hiatus, solar energy is cool again. But for those who remember bulky aluminum frames awkwardly balanced on the roof, the current look, use, performance, and value of today's solar energy systems has changed dramatically.
As a professional remodeling contractor, we keep a sharp eye on products and systems that are getting the public's attention so we can intelligently advise our homeowner clients about their validity and proper use.
Today's solar energy systems -- for both domestic hot water and electricity -- have made significant strides that, in the right circumstances, can reduce a homeowner's monthly energy bills.
The first thing to remember is that solar energy systems are most effective and only worth the investment if you add them to a house that's been designed and built or remodeled to sizably reduce its energy consumption. No solar panel or thermal collector will offset the ills of a poorly-insulated, drafty house, and it is a waste of time and money to consider it.
Also, solar panels work best if they face south/southwest and are in full daylight; any shading from trees or adjacent buildings (more so than clouds) render them far less efficient at converting enough solar energy to offset their cost. That's one of the first things we consider when a homeowner asks us about adding solar to their existing home.
The good news about solar is that today's photovoltaic or "PV" panels (for electricity) and thermal collectors (for hot water) are more efficient at capturing and converting the sun's energy while minimizing their visual impact on the roof.
A relatively new breed of so-called "roof-integrated" PV panels are so sleek that they lay almost flat on the roof. Some are even formed to look like and run flush to roof shingles and concrete barrel tiles to better integrate into the roof finish. And, because modern solar cells are more efficient at converting solar energy into electricity, a house needs fewer of them to satisfy its solar energy needs.
In Ontario, the majority of the solar systems you see on a building's roof or on there own stands do not actually provide power to that house. These solar power systems are actually providing power to Ontario Hydro power grid . Through the"Ontario Solar Fit Program" the Ontario Government pays the homeowner for the power generated. Your house is not at all connected to the solar system. Usually only homes that are in very isolated areas are totally running on alternate energy systems like solar and wind.
Solar energy isn't just rooftop panels anymore. Landscape lighting, attic fans, and other products can be powered by the sun, as well. Though not connected to the grid like larger PV arrays, their use offsets demand for utility-provided electricity to further reduce monthly energy costs.
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