With prices for home heating, air condition and gas continuing to rise, many are looking for ways to reduce our monthly bills. Rooftop solar panelling has been around for a long time, and I wrote about this a decade ago.
The playing field for solar providers has widened, giving home owners more options and more rebates. While the technology has changes only moderately, the principles making residential solar power appealing remain the same: reducing your carbon footprint while reducing your energy bill.
The benefits of solar panels
Solar power is a renewable, green energy source, kinder to the environment and emissions free. While the province of Ontario already enjoys clean energy generation from hydro plants, the supply is limited. Switching over, or supplementing, your home’s energy pull prepares you to better handle rising rates. If you can reduce your reliance on the grid through self-generation, everyone wins in the long run.
Installing rooftop solar panels is becoming more common and less of an eyesore. While they can reduce your monthly costs, solar panels will likely increase the value of your home over the long term. As cost continue to rise — through rate increases as well as infrastructure — your home and your budget can weather the storm through a self-sufficient energy supply.
While once considered an expense that might never yield a return on investment, solar panel pricing has stabilized over the years. According to the Ontario Energy Board, the average Ontario household consumes about 9,000 kWhs of electricity per year. To offset 100% of your electrical use, you would need to install approximately a 7,500-watt solar array. With the current installed cost of solar generation at between $2.50 and $3.00 per watt, a 7,500-watt solar array will run somewhere between $18,750 and $22,500.
Most solar systems are built to last 30 years and depending on electricity rates, can pay for itself in less than 20 years. To calculate your cost versus savings, use the solar panel calculator on the Ontario Solar Installers Website.
Adding solar panels to your roof will not damage your roof. In fact, depending on placement and array, solar panels may extend the life of your roof. Before you set up solar installation, it is advised that you assess the current condition of your roof. Shingles should be no more than 10 years old, so you may need to re-shingle before installing panels. South facing roofs are ideal, east and west facing are good, but north facing roofs will not yield great results.
Solar companies will tell you that installing solar panels on your roof will increase the value of your home when you decide to sell. While there is no solid data, it’s reasonable to expect that savvy buyers see them as a valuable upgrade that will save them money over the long term.
And finally, the technology has advanced, but the amount of power solar panels can generate will depend on the size of your home, the demand for power, the number of panels that are installed on the roof, and how much sunlight the panels are exposed to on a daily basis. A typical solar panel system installed on a house can supply between 20 percent and 50 percent of a home’s power.
Savings & Net Metering
In order to know if solar is worth the investment, you’ll need to understand grid parity. Grid parity is when an alternative form of energy — such as solar — generates power at a rate that’s equal to or less than the price of buying power from the electric grid. Ontario, at the time of writing (March 2022), has achieved grid parity, with the cost of electricity at peak times at 17.0¢ per kWh, while solar’s levelized cost (a snapshot of cost spread out over 20 to 30 years of your solar panels’ lifetime) is just over 8¢ per kWh.
Net metering involves earnings credits toward your energy bill or selling extra energy back to the grid. Your meter will be read, then the value of solar electricity you supply to the grid will be subtracted from the value of what you take. Your bill will show you the net difference, acting like an electricity trade. So if you supply more power than what you use, you’ll receive a credit that can be carried forward for up to a year. But pay attention, because net-metering credits in Ontario expire yearly.
Through the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP), Toronto homeowners can get a low-interest loan of up to $125,000 to cover the cost of home energy improvements, including solar panels.
Talk to a Pro
It can be confusing when it comes to trying to figure out if solar energy is the right choice for your home. There are many installation companies in the province, so seek the advice of a professional before you proceed.