You’ve thought long and hard about the growing impact of global warming and its potentially catastrophic impact on the environment. Maybe you’ve done some research on the never-ending rise in the cost of fossil fuels. Perhaps you’ve even contemplated how liberating it would be to go completely off the grid, especially during such times of social uncertainty. You’ve taken all those things into account and have come to one conclusion: you want to switch to solar energy as your primary source of power.
You’re not alone. As energy prices rise and the economics of solar become more appealing, more Canadians are deciding it makes financial sense to install solar systems on their residential properties, camps, cottages, and other off-the-grid structures.
“For some people, making the switch to solar for off-grid properties is a choice, and for others the choice is made for them,” said Bryan Maguire, company spokesman for AES Solar, a trusted installer, designer, and consultant for solar power products across the country. “It’s either having no power or running a generator for all hours which logistically can be difficult as you need to have fuel all the time.”
According to Maguire, there are a variety of small-scale solar systems now available for residential home owners and off-the-grid property owners. In most cases, however, AES Solar works with property owners to determine a custom design that is suitable for both the property and the budget.
“We look at each property on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We don’t have a single template system that’s ready to be installed on homes. We have our system designer go through a one-on-one with each property owner to discuss their actual needs. We also discuss their desire to future proof their system if they want to have the ability to scale up their system should they want to add onto it later.”
Maguire said many first-time solar power consumers install smaller systems to power lights and appliances. Inevitably, most of these solar users start to add more things that put demands on their system. To avoid having to invest in bigger systems down the road, Maguire suggests spending more on a top-quality inverter and charge controller during the initial installation to ensure the system has a higher capability to handle power demand.
Regardless of the size of the system, Maguire says rooftop installations are still the most popular style of solar installation. Ground mounted systems are available for properties that aren’t properly positioned in a south facing way to ensure maximum exposure to the sun’s rays. Although the equipment is relatively light, the AES Solar team does inspect the roof to ensure it’s able to handle the installation.
“Generally speaking, the racking includes long aluminum rails that distribute the weight evenly,” he said. “It’s not structurally demanding. We do conduct a quick overview to check for structural integrity. Sometimes roofs can be neglected. We do warn people that if their shingles are old and in need of replacement it’s advisable to do that before installing a solar system.”
While the up-front cost of an adequate solar system can seem restrictive for some consumers, Maguire says there is significant return on investment as well as incentive programs that can make installation of a solar system entirely affordable.
“It can be a pretty sizable investment, but solar power systems do pay for themselves over their operating lifetime,” he said. “The power costs of running a diesel generator in the bush continue to rise. There is now a federal home improvement grant available through the Canada Greener Homes program that potentially gives homeowners up to $5,000 to make homes more energy efficient. It’s a great way to make improvements to reduce your home’s carbon footprint.”
When you’re in the market for an energy efficiency upgrade on your property, contact the team at AES Solar. Look for AES Solar online at aessolar.ca.