FAQ

Understanding how renewable energy works and all the terminology that goes along with it, is essential when you are considering switching. At EnergyCostSaver, we want you to be comfortable and informed when you make a decision, so we’ve provided the answers to the many questions we often receive, below. If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch.

PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM TYPES

RESIDENTIAL GRID TIED SOLAR ELECTRIC SYSTEMS

Residential - How Does It Work

  1. Solar panels are typically installed on the roof of the home and/or garage. These photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power.
  2. The inverter(s) convert DC electricity from the solar array to the AC electricity found in the building.
  3. The inverter feeds electricity into the electrical distribution system.
  4. The bidirectional meter which is supplied free of charge by the utility, keeps track of both the energy imported from the grid and the energy exported to the grid. Savings and export credits are reflected on your electricity bill.
  5. If you own an electric car, you can charge it up with solar power generated on your own home.
  6. Your home remains connected to the utility grid to supply you with electricity when you need more power than your system is producing, such as at night.

COMMERCIAL GRID TIED SOLAR ELECTRIC SYSTEMS

Commercial - How Does It Work

  1. Photovoltaic (PV) modules convert sunlight into direct current (DC) power.
  2. The inverter(s) convert DC electricity from the solar array to the AC electricity found in the building.
  3. The inverter feeds electricity into the electrical distribution system.
  4. The bidirectional meter which is supplied free of charge by the utility, keeps track of both the energy imported from the grid and the energy exported to the grid. Savings and export credits are reflected on your electricity bill.

PLANNING

A detailed and comprehensive solar site assessment is a necessary component for any solar electric installation. A typical site assessment includes the following:

  • Accurate measurements of roof or ground space including locations of plumbing stacks, chimneys, skylights, attic vents, etc
  • Shading analysis from proposed location for solar (sometimes several points need to be analyzed to determine the best location) – this data is used to provide accurate energy production estimates
  • Discussion with home or business owner to determine route of cable from site of solar electric array to location of inverter/mains panel
  • Determine location of inverter(s) and integration in to the building’s electrical system.

EnergyCostSaver will provide preliminary ballpark cost, energy production, and an economic analysis specific to your home/building through email as a first step. We would be pleased to provide a free and comprehensive site assessment after this initial step. For new construction residential and commercial projects, EnergyCostSaver can provide a design and quote directly from the drawings for the building. – Contact us to get started today!

Making the decision to switch to solar is an awesome one. However, getting started and understanding the process can often be fraught with uncertainty for those unfamiliar with the industry. EnergyCostSaver provides turnkey systems and takes care of all of the permitting, grid connection application, etc. Here is a list of the steps for a typical residential installation:

  1. Initial estimate – If high quality satellite images are available, we can provide accurate estimates for system size and energy production for your specific house.
  2. Site assessment – We visit the site to obtain detailed site specific information required for a solar installation including detailed roof measurements, electrical capacity of your electrical system and a shading analysis (if required). For a new construction home, EnergyCostSaver can design a system right from the architectural drawings.
  3. System design & quote – EnergyCostSaver will design a system specific to your roof space, budget and electricity needs. This is an iterative process and multiple options can be presented. 
  4. Permitting and grid connection application –  EnergyCostSaver takes care of ALL the permitting required (Electrical, Building and/or Development permits) and the application to connect the system to the grid.
  5. Installation and commissioning – By our highly trained and experienced installation crews.
  6. Final walk through with the homeowner and delivery of system manuals

SOLAR PERFORMANCE IN CANADA

Canada may not be your top choice for a tropical destination, but luckily for us warm weather actually has very little to do with our ability to generate solar power! Surprising to many, latitude has only a small effect on solar production. For example, a solar PV system located in Calgary will produce approximately the same amount of energy on an annual basis as that same system in Miami, Florida. Calgary receives lots of sun all year round and solar PV modules actually produce more energy when they are cold!Canada also compares extremely well when comparing production potential of leading solar industry countries. For example, Alberta’s solar resource is significantly better than Germany’s (up to 50% more) despite the Germans leading the solar industry globally!canada-solarAdditionally, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver all rank higher in yearly photovoltaic (PV) potential than Berlin. Calgary even has higher solar potential than Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Rome, Italy Even remote areas of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon rate high in yearly PV potential. A solar PV system designed and installed by SkyFire in Fort Simpson, NT has produced ~980 kWh/kW in the year since its installation – that’s more than the PV potential of cities such as Tokyo, Paris and London! These examples illustrate the importance of investment in Canada’s solar energy resource in the years to come. Data and images: CanSIA and Natural Resources Canada

 

Canadian winters are synonymous with snow so it is important that consideration be given for the effects of snow on winter and year round energy production from solar electric and solar thermal systems. Although clearing the snow from a solar array can help you squeeze a few more kiloWatt-hours (kWh) from your solar PV system, this blog entry will hopefully prove to you that this isn’t worth the hassle or the risk! We do not recommend that any of our customers get up on their roof to clear the solar modules (panels) of snow during the winter months – this is extremely dangerous and not necessary.With a grid-connected solar electric system, the total annual energy production from the system is most important. The majority of the energy produced by a solar electric system in Canada is produced from March to October. Lost energy production due to snow during the darker months of November to February is not as important. With all that said, solar electric and solar thermal systems will actually clear themselves of snow! There are a number of factors that affect when and how quickly this will happen such as:

  • ambient temperature – the warmer the better
  • amount of sunlight (insolation) – the snow isn’t usually cleared on a cloudy day but the energy production from a cloudy winters day is negligible anyways
  • angle and orientation of the solar array – the steeper the angle, the quicker the snow clears; facing directly South or slightly West of South helps with snow clearing
  • solar module backing colour (dark or black modules will get hotter) – black solar modules might clear snow faster but solar modules actually produce less energy when hot, more when they are cold so their are tradeoffs here
  • How much snow is on the modules – thesun can penetrate a couple of inches of snow to heat up the modules but penetrating through 6 inches of snow or more is less likely – a big dump of snow might stick to the modules until the wind blows some of it off or until warmer weather moves in

 

The more perpendicular to the Sun’s rays a solar module is, the greater the output. Having your modules face directly South (Azimuth = 0) and at a 45 degree tilt from the horizontal is ideal in Calgary. As we can see, the overall effect of deviating from the ideal is not altogether significant.performance-3d-geometry

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