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© 2004-2017 John Ford

 
Become an Educated Energy Consumer    OttawaEnergyAudit     Friday 15 December 2017
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Published Columns: March 2005
Curbing Your Consumption:
What about Solar?

By John Ford

One of the ways to reduce your consumption of electricity and fossil fueled energy for the home is to maximise your use of solar power.

The simplest way to use solar energy is to regulate its natural effects in the summer and the winter. Make sure you are getting as much solar gain in the form of heat in the winter from south facing windows. I have an unheated sunroom which climbs to well over 20°C even when outside temperatures are -20°C. Special window coatings and insulated drapes used at night help to keep the heat in. Remove the gain in the summer by placing deciduous trees or adding an awning to create shade and lessen your A/C load. Well placed windows and skylights will eliminate electric lighting requirements during daylight hours.

Solar hot water can typically supply 30 to 50% of your hot water needs but is still quite rare here in Ottawa. As energy prices rise and we try to meet Kyoto targets, government will integrate solar hot water into our building codes and introduce incentives. Despite our climate, solar hot water can be very effective here. There are a few different types of systems for different situations and needs. If you have a swimming pool, solar heating is a very viable option and less expensive to install compared to house systems as it uses simpler components.

Many people look into photovoltaic (PV) cells which can supply electricity directly from panels facing the sun. They can be cost-efficient as part of a complete system for people living off-grid. While expensive, they can provide a very reliable backup system even for those of us on the grid. As the technology changes, the efficiency will improve and costs will come down. Home PV systems can be integrated into the grid to move power back into the public system when your home does not require the energy. This can help distribute the province's generation capacity and increase overall redundancy.

For the more adventurous, there are other solar energy using devices which can be very functional. There are many types of solar ovens available to buy or build which can be very effective. They can be built into the side of a wall for very convenient inside use. There's something that can be quite fun about harvesting this 'free' energy.

Something to think about: This week the market price for electricity very briefly hit $1.80/kWh. Our residential capped price is $0.047/kWh.

Ask the Miser
If you would like to see answers here to your questions about energy consumption, email them to questions@oea.dyndns.org

John Ford is a technology consultant, and owner of a small energy conservation business.