Grid Tied vs Off Grid Solar Electric Systems: Which option is better for you?

19 Jun
Solar Electric System Installed by Eco Alternative Energy in Spring 2011

Grid – Tied Solar Installation Completed by Eco Alternative Energy in Spring 2011

If you’re wondering which of these two options are better for you, then you’re at the right blog!

Let’s face it, we would all like to be off the grid generating our own electricity and telling our local hydro company not to bother sending us another bill – ever! It’s also nice to take comfort that during a thunder-storm when the lights go out, you’ll be watching T.V with your lights on while your neighbours sit in the dark. It’s a pleasant thought however not always practical, economical or to your benefit.

First of all, just in case some readers are not sure about what Grid Tied or Off Grid Solar electric systems are, here’s the difference

Grid Tied Solar Electric System: In this case, your solar system generates power through your solar panels and you sell ALL of that power to your hydro company at a preferred rate (often guaranteed for 20 years). You will then buy electricity (including your clean solar electricity that you produce) as you normally would however you will buy this power at the standard lower rates for electricity that we all pay.

To take part in this Provincial Solar incentive program, (called the MicroFIT program in Ontario), you would be required to apply to the Ontario Power Authority for approval. To be eligible, you are required to own your home and your system cannot exceed 10 kW’s in total. Your Solar installation company can help you navigate through the approval process. ( In case you want to know if your home is fit for solar you can find out the requirements here)

Solar Electric System Ontario

One of our head installers installing a Grid Tied Solar Electric System

If you look at your hydro bill, you’ll see that here in Ontario, we all buy our electricity at a rate of 6.7-12.4 cents per kWh (depending on the time of day). Under the MicroFIT program, generating electricity with solar power and selling it to the grid will pay you a premium rate per kWh (current June 2013 MicroFIT rates are at 54.9 cents per kWh) and that rate is guaranteed for 20 years! Since the average Solar system costs between $25-$40,000 before taxes, you can expect your investment to pay for itself in about 8-10 years. As your OPA contract runs for 20 years, the remaining 10-12 years will be money in your pocket.

Off Grid Solar Electric System: For Off Grid systems, you are completely off the grid as your system generates power through your solar panels and that power is used for your own consumption. In this case, you will require batteries to store that power to be used in the evening or on cloudy and low producing days.

The trouble with Off Grid Solar systems is that you need to truly understand your electricity consumption and then you need to build the size of your array to the worst month of the year (let’s say January) so that it will still meet your minimum daily requirements. With Off Grid systems, you now need to purchase and hold a bank of batteries (amount and size of batteries to be determined by the size of the system) to store the electricity you generate. Batteries are not cheap and they typically only last about 10 years before they need to be replaced. Chances are, you will need a back-up generator for the times when your system is not be able to meet your requirements in the worst producing months of the year. These batteries can add at least a third of the cost of what a Grid Tie Solar system would be. Lastly, an off grid system is a lifestyle change as you need to conserve electricity wherever possible.

At the end of the day both systems have their merit. Off Grid systems work best in areas of the Province where you cannot connect to the grid in any other way, typically in rural settings. Grid Tie systems are better in an Urban environment where Hydro is readily available.

If you’re curious about your home and want to see how much a Solar system on your roof can generate, please feel free to drop us a line here or call us at 1-888-907-5848.

How much does it cost to install solar panels in Ontario (home / residential) ?

13 Jun

If you’ve been considering solar for your home or business, we’re pretty sure you’ve also been thinking about how much it’s going to cost you. We’ll try and narrow the basics down as much as possible here so you have a fair idea of the costs involved.

How much does Solar cost in Ontario, residential?

Cost of installing solar panels on a roof in Ontario

First of all, the question is a little tricky because it depends on a number of factors, namely –

  1. How many panels you can fit on your best roof faces
  2. The type of panels you choose
  3. The type of inverters used

Before we go too far talking about installation costs, it is important to note that the price of solar panels fluctuates in the Ontario market so we suggest you contact a reputable solar installation company and have them quote you based on your particular installation. Even so, let’s look at some numbers so you have more information than just the fact that it “depends on a couple of factors”.

At today’s pricing, a solar system would typically cost you anywhere from $20,000 – $40,000 in Ontario depending on the size of the system (40k for a 10 kW system and 20K for a 4.5 kW system). We understand that the cost may seem a little bit high but here’s the good news – depending on the size of your solar system, a homeowner can expect to earn a 10% or greater return on their investment under Ontario’s Solar incentive program. Your actual return will depend on the pitch of your roof(s), how your roof(s) face in relation to due south and if there are any shade factors to consider (shadows are a solar panels worst enemy). Where else in today’s economy can you expect to earn 10% or better return on your money!

How much does it cost to install solar panels

Enjoy a great return on investment with Solar in Ontario

So let’s say you have enough space on your roof(s) to install a 10 kW solar system (Ontario’s MicroFIT program allows for a system the size of 10kW or less). In this case you would be looking at an investment of $ 40,000 plus tax (don’t worry about the tax as you can apply to receive all of this back). In this case you can expect to earn over $4,000 each year for 20+ years meaning that it will take you about 8-10 years to pay back your initial investment (with the money you earn each month by selling the electricity your system generates back to your hydro company) and after your system is paid for, the remaining 10+ years of income you’ll receive will be money coming to you. Ontario’s micro-FIT program guarantees the rate that your Hydro company pays you for 20 years so long as you are willing to sell them your electricity. Solar panels come with a 25 year warranty, yet you can expect them to last for 25-35 years.

When you are in talks with your solar installer be sure to ask them what costs are included in the price and what costs are not. There should be no expensive,nor unpleasant surprises. At Eco Alternative Energy, we believe that our customers have the right to complete transparency which is why we include the following components in all of our installations (this is also a good checklist to go over with your solar installer):

  1. Solar Panels (we’ll go over options & pricing with you)
  2. Rails & Flashing units
  3. Inverter(s) & monitoring
  4. Permits (varies per jurisdiction)
  5. Design
  6. Complete system wiring, disconnects & sub panels
  7. Engineering (if required)
  8. Labour
  9. Electrical
  10. Assistance with OPA & Hydro paperwork
  11. Squirrel Guard

We hope this post provided you with some added knowledge on solar pricing and the approximate rates of return. If you have any more questions, feel free to drop us a message here and we’d be happy to answer your questions! You can also call us toll-free at 1-888-907-5848. To read more about solar and related topics follow our blog !

Tip: Be sure to checkout our post on How do I know if my house is right for Solar? to know what the basic requirements are for getting solar panels installed on your roof.

If you are in Ontario, Canada and would like a free online evaluation of your property for solar, feel free to fill out the short form below and one of our experts will get in touch with you in 1 business day.

How much money can I make under the microFIT program in Ontario?

6 Jun

Eco Alternative Energy is back to answer your questions about Solar.  A lot of our customers at the earlier stages of reaching a decision wonder if its true that they can make money under Ontario’s microFIT program. And once we tell them IT IS TRUE, the next question they have is , well ” How much? ” The answer, though it depends on a couple of variables, is pretty simple – your payments will depend on the size of your system, the pitch of your roof and any shade considerations.

Earn with microFIT, Ontario Solar

Under Ontario’s microFIT program, you get a cheque from your Hydro company every month

It might sound a lot here, but it’s not. The size of you system means – what kind of solar panels you decide to go with and how many. This can be easily figured out via satellite imagery and we have specialized tools to calculate shading. So it only takes us a few moments to come up with a close approximate for your proposal once we have all the information. Once you install a solar system, under the microFIT you will get a cheque from your Hydro company every month. Isn’t that great? We think so too!

If you are a homeowner or an eligible participant, you have the opportunity to develop a very small or “micro” renewable electricity generation project (10 kilowatts or less in size) on your property. Under the microFIT Program, you will be paid a guaranteed price for all the electricity your project produces for at least 20 years and in the current phase the rate being offered is 54.9 cents per kWh guaranteed for 20 years.

Going back to the ” how much money question” – your cheques will typically be larger in the summer months (longer days, more sunlight) and less in the winter months. The average household can expect to earn approximately 10% return on their investment each year of their 20 year contract with the OPA. We will provide you with a realistic estimate based on actual conditions for your home or business.

If you’ve read our post about how to find out if your house is a good fit for solar you already have an idea on how a house is evaluated but you can always Contact Us if you still have questions about solar.

How do I know if my home is right for Solar ?

23 May
Solar Panel Installation by Eco Alternative Energy

Solar Panel Installation by Eco Alternative Energy

We’ve been doing solar installations for homes for a long time in Ontario. One of the most common questions we are asked by our customers is ,” How do I know if my house is a good candidate for solar? Or  How do I know solar can be installed on my roof?

Well it’s easy. All you need is a quick look at your house by a solar professional – via satellite or in person. Before installing Solar on anyone’s home, we at Eco Alternative Energy first conduct an inspection of the property either through satellite imagery (first) or in person.
We basically look for :

  1. A good Southern, Western or Eastern exposure (although south is best, east and West roofs can still be very rewarding).
  2. The pitch of the roof (25-50 degrees is typically optimal).
  3. Any shade considerations to avoid? (trees, chimneys, plumbing stacks)

Our Solar inspectors have specialized tools to perform a shading analysis to determine if shading will be a problem for your site. Cutting back trees may be a solution and we will advise accordingly.
After determining the size of the best system for you, we can then determine your systems estimated production in kilowatt hour ’s (kWh’s) based on your roof pitch, azimuth, and shading and provide you with an fairly accurate projected return on investment. Once you have a sense of how much energy your system will generate, you can evaluate the cost of purchasing.
Installing systems smaller than 2kW may not be worth your while. If you’re trying to do the math yourself, then figure each panel as is about 5.5 feet tall by 3.3 feet wide.

We hope that was helpful! If there are any more questions you have regarding solar, please feel free to leave a comment below or Contact Us.

If you are in Ontario, Canada and would like a free online evaluation of your property for solar, feel free to fill out the short form below and one of our experts will get in touch with you in 1 business day.