Solar power is probably one of the most well-known alternative energy sources. For many, capturing energy from the sun using solar panels was the first way regular residential homes could switch to a more environmentally safe process.
When it comes to fighting climate change, solar panels, along with all of the other alternative energy systems (wind, geothermal, and so on), each have a role to play.
While we may be more familiar with solar power, when it comes to deciding whether or not to include solar panels in the design of your new home, there is a lot to consider.
How Does Solar Power Work?
Light coming from the sun every day is electromagnetic radiation. Solar panels are made up of photovoltaics (or PVs). Sun shining onto the solar panel is absorbed by the PV cells, and that goes on to create electrical charges that move around an internal electrical field.
Light coming from the sun are atoms called photons. When the photons are in the PV cell, they separate electrons from the atoms in the cell, generating a charge of electricity that can power the home. The energy goes to an inverter that turns the energy into a usable form for the home.
There are a few different types of solar panels. They are monocrystalline, PERC, polycrystalline and thin-film panels.
Silicon panels are identifiable by their black color, and the pure silicon composition allows these panels to be both more durable and more efficient than the other models. But because these panels are made from pure silicone, they are also much more costly.
Polycrystalline panels use silicon fragments, so they are more affordable but less efficient.
PERC (or Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) panels build on the monocrystalline cells, making them even more efficient by reflecting light into the cell. Finally, thin-film panels are designed to be flexible to be installed more easily and suit a variety of spaces.
Around the world, every city in every country receives sunlight, but each receives very different amounts. The ideal location in Canada for solar power generation is the small town of Torquay, Saskatchewan.
Ontario is number five for the number of full sunlight hours per year, with April being the best month and December being the worst. Ontarians with larger properties have been especially able to take advantage of the cost savings of solar panels, with some supplementing their income using a solar farm by earning up to $12,500.00 annually.
Currently, China and the USA are leading the charge in solar energy generation. Those countries are followed closely by Japan, Germany, and then India.
Solar Power and Costs versus Savings
One of the major downsides to solar power that consumers encounter immediately is the high up-front costs. Solar panels are expensive, and that is simply unavoidable. Setting up solar panels for energy generation also requires an inverter, meters, wiring, and gear within the house. For this reason, it is ideal for incorporating solar setup at the outset during the initial build.
However, once those costs are covered, there is smooth sailing except for replacing parts and maintenance every few years.
Some even opt to buy a special battery for storing captured energy to make it available on non-sunny days. Some homes have enough solar panels that they generate more energy than they need and are able to sell it back to the town for profit.
Bottom Line: Pros and Cons
On the negative side, while solar is better for the environment than traditional energy sources, there is an energy cost to creating the solar panels, which some belief negates any benefit. Of course, the cost/savings will differ depending on many factors, so it is challenging to say outright.
Buying and installing the panels can be quite pricey, and power is only generated when the sun is out, which makes them inefficient in many locations.
When it comes to maintenance, parts of the solar power home system will need replacing every few years. This will incur more costs that may or may not be recouped in savings.
On the plus side, solar power is firstly and foremostly good for the environment and lowers the household carbon footprint.
You will save money on your energy costs and possibly even be able to sell power back to the grid. While currently there are no tax breaks for solar power usage in Canada, that is not to say that there will not be any in the future, especially as our government attempts to meet more and more rigid energy usage caps.
Investing in solar panels can be a great part of your arsenal in decreasing your energy bill and ensuring your family is doing all it can for the environment. If you are interested in leveraging solar power for your new home, contact Gencorp Homes Inc. to discuss your options.