About Small Scale Renewables
Renewable Energy technology is not new and wind and hydro power have been used for centuries. At RTJ we have found that many people are interested in installing some form of Renewable Energy (RE) at home to reduce or eliminate their hydro bills. Here’s what we tell them:
- Do an initial audit of your electricity use. This can be as easy as looking up your bills for the past year and reviewing how many Kilowatt hours (kWh) you use on average (you may use more in the winter – especially depending on how you heat your home). This can be found on your bill:
- The next step is to see if you can reduce that total by becoming more energy efficient in your habits and your technology – this is the critical step because RE is still somewhat expensive and to simply install enough RE to replace all of your current electricity needs may be prohibitive. So you want to go to our Home Energy Conservation Tips page to see if you can reduce your kWh.
- Okay so now that you’ve reduced your overall requirements of electricity you can consider what type of RE makes the most sense for you.
- Solar: there are two main types of solar RE in use today that are accessible and affordable – Solar thermal and Photovoltaic (PV).Solar Thermal: commonly known as solar hot water heating, solar thermal usually consists of one or more rooftop solar panels which heat a glycol mixture. The heated glycol is pumped to your hot water heater and using a heat exchanger, “pre-heats” your water in a separate tank. This preheated water then flows into your regular hot water tank (tip: turning your hot water heater down by a few degrees will save lots of energy over time). This solar pre-heating can save you up to 50% or more on your water heating costs which are generally around 30-40% of your total energy costs. Knowing how much you currently spend on water heating, how much water you use and the cost of a solar thermal system will give you the numbers to figure out how long it will take to pay off for you. Please click the following link for more information on solar hot water heating.
- PV: generally PV consists of solar panels installed on your roof at an appropriate angle and in a south facing location which generate electricity from the sun. Using a charge controller and inverter (batteries are sometimes included) the electricity produced offsets the power that you use from the grid (your current source of electricity). For more information on solar PV please go to the Canadian Solar Industries Association Solar Photovoltaics page. Click the following link for information on Net Metering and connecting to the grid.
- Another helpful site is the Clean Air Foundation’s page on solar programs in Ontario and what incentives are offered.
- Wind: Harnessing the energy from the wind has been done for centuries and the technology is constantly being improved. It generally works by using a turbine atop a tower. The wind turns the turbine which generates the electricity. Similar to PV above, through a charge controller and inverter (batteries are sometimes included) the electricity produced offsets the power that you use from the grid. Wind also has some restrictions. Not all locations are windy enough to make it cost effective, some local laws restrict height, etc.(please check with your local municipality) and wind turbines are also seasonal as the wind blows inconsistently across the seasons. For complete information about wind and how you can use it please go to the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s (CWEA) website. See also:
- CWEA Energy Efficiency First
- CWEA Connecting To The Grid on Net Metering and connecting to the grid.
- Geothermal: Sometimes known as Earth energy, geothermal systems use the heat trapped in the earth or water a few metres below the surface to help heat your home. This energy is moved to your home by (i) drawing ground water from a well and using a heat pump to extract heat from it or (ii) burying an underground piping system outside the home through which antifreeze is pumped to absorb the heat in the ground and transferred to your home by a heat pump. Click the following link for more complete information on geothermal.
There are other forms of renewable energy you can use in your house depending on where you live such as micro-hydro if you happen to have small stream on your property! If you have a question about small scale renewable energy maybe we can help you so send us an email and we’ll see if we can’t point you in the right direction firstname.lastname@example.org.