Tag Archives: Solar installers Toronto

Solar Systems: What could possibly go wrong?

17 Jul

So, you’re considering investing a rather large chunk of money to have a solar system installed at your home with the benefit of receiving a preferred rate for the electricity you generate that will be guaranteed to you for 20 years through Ontario’s MicroFIT program.

Now you’re wondering what could possibly go wrong in the coming years.  After all, it’s good to know about any problems that may arise now so that you’re going into this with your eyes wide open. By planning now for potential problems down the road, you can most likely prevent nasty service issues in future years.

The good news is that for most solar systems, there is very little that can go wrong. Solar panels have no moving parts which makes maintenance virtually non-existent.  As for cleaning the panels, here in Ontario, we typically get a good rainfall once a week which naturally cleans the panels of any dust or debris. Solar panels typically come with a 25 year warranty so you’re covered in that respect.  As for the inverter(s), they often come with a 10-25 year  warranty (term will depend on the inverter you choose, so choose wisely).

Squirrel damage to solar panel wiring

Squirrel damage to solar panel wiring

If there was one thing that could potentially go wrong with your system, I would hazard to guess that it would be our furry little friends, squirrels.  If your roof is near an area accessible to squirrels, they could decide to call your solar array home and set up a nice nest underneath your solar panels to protect them from local predators and the elements.  However, a bigger concern than the nesting is what they do when in their new digs.  You see, squirrels like many rodents like to chew and the wiring under your panels make a great snack for their little chompers.  The damage that these little critters cause to wiring can result in thousands of dollars worth of repairs as your solar installer will not only be required to remove the panels, but also replace all of the wiring affected by squirrel damage.  In the meantime, you’ll be losing production which also costs you money.  Now for the really bad news, most insurance companies do not cover rodent damage which means that you’ll be on the hook for this bill. The solar industry  has been experimenting with various  solutions to this problem (coating the wires with a nasty taste that squirrel’s will naturally want to keep away from and protective wiring) but to date they have not provided us with a cost effective solution.  So is all hope lost? – Nope.

Squirrel Guard installed around solar panels

Squirrel Guard installed around solar panels by Eco Alternative Energy

The good news is that some solar companies are now providing customers with a product called Squirrel Guard which in essence is a galvanized steel screen that is installed around your panels and acts as a deterrent so that squirrels (or birds for that matter) are unable to get under your solar system to wreak havoc.  The Squirrel Guard screen is made by welding and hot-dip galvanizing, followed by PVC coating (this ain’t no chicken wire).  This high quality screen stands up to the extremes of rooftops.  It combines just the right mix of strength and weight with workability and transparency for a quick, long-lasting, secure and inconspicuous installation.  Squirrel Guard is the most effective solution so far for squirrel damage to solar panels.

Be sure to ask your solar installer if they provide Squirrel Guard before you sign up especially if you know you could potentially have a squirrel issue either now or down the road.

We make it a point to inform our customers about Squirrel Guard before signing up.  If you would like to speak to a solar specialist for a high performance squirrel protected solar system, please Contact Us or call us at 416-907-5848.

Which Solar panel type is best: Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline?

11 Jul

There’s a great deal of interest about Mono-crystalline and Polycrystalline Solar Panels. As such, we decided to do a comparison from your point of view and we will try to avoid using any trade jargon to give you a better understanding of the difference between the two options: Mono and Poly solar panels.

Surface of Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Surface of Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline cells are made from a single crystal of ultra pure silicon. They are the original silicon solar cell and they are still the most efficient today. Mono cells are typically a little more expensive since they’re a little more difficult to manufacture. The benefit of mono cells is that they perform slightly better under low light conditions equating to better production on cloudy days versus polycrystalline panels. How much better? Well that is a topic for discussion as there has been little local data to prove this here in Ontario. Suffice to say, you may get up to about .5% better production per annum using mono cells versus using polycrystalline.

A Polycrystalline Solar Panel: by Eco Alternative Energy, Ontario

A Polycrystalline Solar Panel

Polycrystalline cells are made up of multiple crystals and are generally less expensive to manufacture than mono cells. The gap in performance has narrowed significantly over the years to the point where they are very close. Since Polycrystalline panels are made up of several crystals, this means that they also absorb less sunlight and produce slightly less than mono cells per metre squared.

Many Solar panel manufacturers here in Ontario offer both mono or poly options. Ask your installer what they recommend for your roof and maybe have them quote on both. If you are in Ontario, Canada and you’d like to drop us a message you can do so here or call us at 1-888-907-5848.

In short, both are good technologies. It’s simply a matter of personal preference and budget. In case you wanted to find out how much a solar system installation typically costs, please read our post on How much does it cost to install solar panels in Ontario? We hope you find it helpful! For any questions feel free to drop us a comment below.

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.

Choosing a Solar Installer: Checklist for choosing a Solar Company in Ontario

28 Jun

Choosing your solar installer can be a big decision and we understand it’s not the simplest one either. With infinite options available just with a simple Google search, the question quickly becomes how do you choose the best one? How do you know if they’re good and how do you know if they’ll do the best job for your home?

Ontario's most trusted solar company, Eco Alternative Energy

Choosing the right solar company for your home: Ontario

In order to help you out, we decided to create a simple checklist to help you make this decision. It’s a list of short questions that you can ask any solar company or installer you are considering to see if they are the right one for you.

1. Licenses and Insurance: Ask your solar company if they have the appropriate licenses and insurance; especially for the workers involved in your installation. It’s a wise thing to do so that you do not end up with a potential liability claim. And if they are reluctant to disclose whether or not they have it, you’re probably better off with another company.

2. How long have you been installing solar?: The last thing you want is an installer working out of his basement or installing solar on the side. You need a reliable company that has been around for 5 or more years and installing solar needs to be their primary business, not a roofer who sometimes installs solar or an electrician who does it on the side. You want to ensure that they have a place of business that you can actually walk into and see a solar panel for yourself.

3. Are the installers actually employees or subcontractors?: Sometimes, solar companies subcontract their services to reduce labour costs. The trouble with choosing a company that uses subcontractors for their installations is that you might know and trust the solar company but you know squat about the subcontractors – this can create quite a dilemma and one that you want to avoid. There’s also the off chance that they won’t follow “company procedure” during an install. Always choose a solar company with in-house installers and like CanSIA (Canadian Solar Industries Association) says ‘reduce your risk’.

4. How realistic are the ROI (return on investment) projections?: This is one of my biggest pet peeves! Some solar companies (not all) tend to present over inflated ROI projections to customers to get you to sign up. Since they show your return to be higher than what it will actually be, your system purchase looks that much more attractive as they will come out with unrealistic expectations saying you’ll earn 12 to 17% return on your money when in fact, you will actually earn closer to 10%. Once they have sold you, it will take a few months before you realize that you’re not meeting their projections and by that point you’ll have no recourse to take when your monthly cheques don’t match what they suggested when you made the purchase.

Instead, ask them how they calculated the ROI, and whether or not they accounted for shading, snow etc. You can also ask for past records of solar projections and hydro payments of some of their previous customers – WITH contact information. Please have them review with you how they got to their performance projections and ensure that you understand! They should be able to go through their process with you so you have a clear understanding.

5. What does their price include?: Since you are not a solar professional you’ll probably not be as familiar with the all the details involved with your installation (building permits, engineering, connection costs, squirrel guard, etc). Ensure your solar installer clearly states what’s included in the price and more importantly what their cost does not include. No one wants surprises at the end of the day that they were not counting on.

6. Who files the microFIT / FIT application?: It’s a good thing to ask your solar company if they’ll file your application or will you have to do it, because you do not want to be struggling with paperwork – especially something that’s key to your installation. Besides, the biggest plus about a Solar professional filing your application on your behalf is that they are familiar with the process and know the intricacies involved.

7. Warranties and References: Like for any purchase; always, always, always ask what the warranties cover and for a few references. It’s the first thing that should pop in our head when we make a purchase – especially something that requires a big investment, so don’t be shy about asking for warranty information and some references you can talk to.

Feel free to print this list off and have it by your side when you speak / meet with solar companies you are corresponding with. Go over these questions with any potential solar installer one by one. At Eco Alternative Energy we adhere to all the above standards because we believe customer satisfaction comes first. And in case you are wondering what should be included in the cost of your solar system, here’s a great post that lists it for you: How much does it cost to install solar panels? For any questions that you have regarding choosing the right installer or solar don’t hesitate to drop us a message or call us at 1-888-907-5848.

And remember don’t sign up with a solar company just because they seem to be offering the best price – like they say, if it’s too good to be true, that’s because it probably is!

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.

Do Solar Panels Improve the Price of Your Home?

21 Jun

This is a great question and one asked often before making an investment in residential Solar system on the roof of a home.

Here in Ontario, we don’t quite have enough history yet to prove that adding Solar will in fact increase the value of your home. Having said that, in the U.S where Solar has been around longer than Ontario, the evidence suggests that having a Solar system could very well increase your property’s value.

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2011/04/21/bright-spot-for-solar/ ) in 2011 found that homes that have solar electric systems installed actually have a better market value and sell for better prices as compared to those houses that do not. The study brought to light the fact that homes that have PV solar panels installed sold for a premium that ranged from $3.90 – $6.40/watt of capacity, averaging to about $5/watt.

Solar Panels Improve Home Sale Prices

Solar Panels Improve Home Sale Prices ! – An Installation By Eco Alternative Energy

Another study conducted by NBER ( National Bureau of Economic Research) also found that solar panels did increase the value of a home at the point of sale by 3 – 4%. The two findings are complimentary to each other and point to one conclusion.

Why?  Well, let’s play a simple scenario for you.  Let’s say that you decide to move after 12 years of your 20 year contract with the Ontario Power Authority.  By this point, your system should be completely paid off and you are now benefiting by receiving monthly cheques from your local Hydro Company.  Now, not only are you selling your home, but you’re also selling a source of income associated with your Solar system!  You should be able to easily show past years performance numbers of how much you made.  That has value and is attractive to potential buyers because it is a potential lucrative income stream to them.  Think about it, now they may be able to afford a bigger mortgage as a result of that additional income.

You could say that Solar is kind of like having a basement apartment with a renter except unlike a renter, Solar systems don’t make any noise, and Hydro companies have lots of money so they pay their monthly cheques on time!

So it’s a win -win situation whether you decide to sell your home or not. And all this while saving the environment! – Super! Incase you are curious about how much it would cost to install solar here’s a post where you can find out : How much does a solar power system cost? And if you have any questions about solar before you take the plunge give us a shout at 1-888-907-5848 or simply drop us a message with your questions.

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.