Frequently Asked Questions
General Solar Questions
What's the difference between PV and solar thermal?
Photovoltaics (PV) generate electricity; e.g.: lighting, appliances, air conditioning.
Solar thermal generates heat, usually for domestic water, and can also be used for space heating or recreation, e.g.: hot tub, pool, sauna.
What kind of system should I choose?
If your goal is to be completely energy independent then we recommend both a PV and thermal system. Using PV for heating is inefficient and requires three times the roof space of a comparable thermal system (the solar energy to heat energy conversion rate is about 70 %, whereas the conversion rate to electricity is only about 20 %), however thermal is unable to provide the electricity necessary to run your appliances. A combination of both systems can meet all your heating and electrical needs.
If your goal is to reduce your monthly energy bills or greenhouse gas emissions then geographic location should be taken into consideration. In colder climates an average of 70% of a household's energy use goes towards heating, making a thermal system a better choice. In warm climates, where heating is not as important, a PV system is likely the better choice. Factors such as building insulation and efficiency of already installed water heaters and furnaces should be taken into consideration as well.
How will solar affect my energy bills?
Energy bills are made up of several charges: energy usage, transmission and distribution (line) charges, and administration fees. PV and solar thermal will reduce your energy usage and any variable cost components of the other charges.
Using electricity while solar electricity is being generated mean that you don't have to buy that electricity from the grid, thereby reducing your energy cost. In most jurisdictions you can also sell excess electricity that you generate back to the grid.
Capturing and storing thermal energy with a solar thermal system will reduce the amount of energy you need to heat your home. Whether you're using a fossil fuel, such as natural gas, or electricity for your heating, then you'll see a reduction in how many GJ or kWh you're buying.
Is my roof suitable for solar panels?
Yes, so long as it has an east, south (north in the southern hemisphere), or west facing slope with little to no shade.
A 15° to 45° roof pitch will get the best year-round results. If your pitch is lower than this, then adding more panels or tilting them on frames can increase production, most notably in winter when the sun is at its lowest.
East facing panels will produce more power in the morning, whereas south facing panels will give the largest peak at midday and west facing panels will produce more power in the afternoon.
Your solar panels should be positioned in an area with little to no shade, so watch out for chimneys and other roof penetrations. At design stage the location of these roof penetrations can often be changed. Both solar PV and solar thermal systems can be designed to integrate into the building construction. Building-integrated solar design incorporates solar panels on windows, exterior walls, roofs, or even contained within banisters and railings.
What size system do I need and how much will it cost?
The average home in Canada uses about 30.24 GJ per year of electrical energy. The following table shows how much electrical energy you can expect to generate and how much it'll cost with different size systems. Energy generation varies depending on site location and characteristics. The cost listed in the table is for parts only. If you're not installing the system yourself then a good rule of thumb is to double the parts cost to account for installation costs.
Conventional homes in Canada use about 90 GJ per year of thermal energy. The following table shows how much thermal energy you can expect to generate and how much it'll cost with different size systems. Energy generation varies depending on site location and characteristics. The cost listed in the table is for parts only. If you're not installing the system yourself then a good rule of thumb is to double the parts cost to account for labour costs.
Can I go off-grid?
The feasibility of going off-grid will vary from region to region. An off-grid home is advisable for remote properties where utility services are not available, or when there will be substantial connection charges. However, if the grid is available then most people will find it easier to connect to the grid than to build and maintain their own energy infrastructure.
For an off-grid PV system you'll need a battery storage system and probably a backup generator. The PV system will need to be sized to supply electricity based on winter days, so it'll be larger than a grid tied system. The battery system should be sized to provide two to four days’ average electricity which is likely more costly than the PV system itself. A generator and fuel should be available in case of extended cloudy weather or if more electricity is needed than planned.
For off-grid heating, you'll want a secondary option for heating during periods of extended cloudy weather. This could be a wood or pellet stove, propane heating, or even electricity if you are connected to the electricity grid.
Solar Thermal Questions
What are the components of a Solar Thermal system?
The major components of solar thermal systems are collectors or panels, a solar tank and a solar pump station. Our patented solar pump station is known as the FREEDOM WON and uses PV panels to energize the pump.
What is the FREEDOM WON?
The FREEDOM WON solar thermal heater is Simple Solar's flagship product. Available exclusively from Simple Solar and our authorized distributors, a FREEDOM WON system is a fully automated, standalone solar thermal heater comprising four parts: a pump station, PV panel, heat dissipater, and expansion tank. The pump station, automatically powered by the PV panel, pumps your heat transfer fluid through a closed solar loop, including the thermostatically controlled heat dissipater which ensures the fluid doesn't exceed the safe maximum temperature, and the expansion tank which allows your system to absorb changes in fluid volume brought about by outside temperature changes.
FREEDOM WON systems can be installed with all flat plate and evacuated tube collectors, and, due to their low operating pressure and actively regulated temperature controls, are suitable for PEX linesets, saving you money on equipment costs and installation time, all the while providing an easily installed, reliable, automatic, cost effective, and safe solar heater.
Can my system overheat in the summer months?
No. One of the features of the FREEDOM WON system is the automatic heat dissipator which prevents the system from overheating during periods of high generation or low heat demand. The automatic heat dissipator ensures safe, consistent operation and long glycol life.
Will I need a certified electrician to install this system?
No. Most jurisdictions require PV systems to be installed by a certified electrician, however solar thermal systems can be installed by the homeowner themself. All FREEDOM WON systems come with a full installation manual to help tackle the project. Whether you're looking to heat your domestic hot water, in-floor hydronic space heating, or outdoor hot tub, we have specification sheets for every type of solar thermal application.
What are the maintenance costs of the system?
The maintenance costs are very low. We recommend a glycol change every 2-3 years for around $200. Otherwise there are no other regular maintenance costs.
Will my system shut off in a power outage?
FREEDOM WON solar thermal systems work independent of the grid, unlike other solar thermal systems. While other solar thermal systems and grid connected PV systems will shut off when the grid is down, FREEDOM WON systems continue to generate heat!
How does solar PV work?
Solar photovoltaics (PV) capture energy from the sun and turns it into DC electricity. The energy we use in our homes is AC electricity, therefore an inverter is used to turn the DC electricity into AC electricity.
Depending on your jurisdiction you'll either be covered by a feed-in-tariff regulation or a net-metering regulation. Under a feed-in-tariff regulation all solar electricity is exported to the grid and you receive credit for all your production. Under a net-metering regulation the solar energy you produce will first feed electricity in your home. If you're generating a surplus of electricity then the extra electricity will be exported to the grid and your power company will give you credit for the total amount exported. When there is less solar electricity than demand, the grid will provide the extra electricity needed to meet the demand and you will be billed for this in the normal method.
What are the components of a solar PV system?
The major components of solar PV systems are modules, several of which combine to form a panel, synchronous inverters, and racking. If you want an off-grid system then you'll need a string inverter instead of synchronous inverters, as well as an AC charge controller and batteries. Be warned, these off-grid parts will more than double the cost of your system.
Do I need a license to connect solar to the grid?
Yes. Most people who own grid-connected solar systems require a license from your electrical utility. There may be restrictions on the size of the solar system or the amount of electricity generation.
For example, in Alberta all grid connected solar systems require a license. Small solar systems require a microgenerator license that limits production to your annual consumption. The maximum size of a microgeneration system is 5 MW. For larger systems, a ‘Distributed Generator’ license allows solar production up to 25 MW. Above 25 MW a solar system must be registered as a power plant. Other provinces and states have their own licensing requirements.
Why does a microgeneration license limit my production?
Power lines and other equipment owned by the utility company can only have so much power going through them at once. It would be very dangerous to exceed the rated power and would also result in grid failure. By limiting generation, the utility company can control how much energy is going through their equipment and avoid overloading it. The alternative would be to upgrade the distribution system, but who wants to do that.
What will I need to go off-grid?
To go off-grid with PV you'll need batteries, a string inverter, and an AC charge controller. These parts do not come cheap, however, and will at least double the cost of your system. Grid-tied systems do not need batteries and so are much cheaper. In addition, your local municipal government may have placed restrictions on going off-grid.
How many batteries do I need?
If you're grid-tied, you don't need any. If you are off-grid, you'll need to know how much energy you use each day. You can then choose enough batteries to give you one or more days of battery power. These are known as days of autonomy. A typical house in Alberta uses about 36 GJ of electrical energy a year, averaging 108 MJ per day. An off grid system with batteries for one day of autonomy for such a house would cost approximately $100,000 all up. For this reason we advise most people to adopt significant energy saving strategies prior to going off-grid.
Do I need a back-up generator if I am off-grid?
The cost of batteries is a significant barrier for most people interested in off-grid. By adding a generator, you can minimize the number of batteries you need. With a generator you can size your system so that most days your electricity will be supplied from PV and batteries, however if the sun is not shining for a few days in a row then the generator can be activated once the batteries run dry and supply your electricity until the sun returns.
EV Charging Questions
What does the optional 'Installed by Qualified Electrician' include?
This option includes delivery and installation by a qualified electrician. Once your order is ready for delivery, we will contact you to arrange an installation time.
Unfortunately, at the moment we're only able to offer this option to customers with postcodes beginning with T1Y or T2A - T3S.
Can I install the EV charger myself?
Most likely, no. In order to get an electrical permit most jurisdictions require EV chargers to be installed by a master electrician.
How long will it take to charge my vehicle?
Can I add an EV charger if my electrical distribution panel is full?
Yes. Most homes have a 50 A circuit for the electric stove. You can install a Load Miser on that circuit and wire the EV charger into it. This will share the electrical connection between the stove and EV charger.
How much do you charge for shipping?
Shipping costs are item dependent and are viewable at checkout. Though we strive to be as accurate as possible, please note that these are estimates only and may not apply for rural or remote locations. In the event that the cost differs from the estimate displayed at checkout we will contact you with the updated cost. If, at that point, you do not wish to continue with your order then a full refund will be given.
How long until I receive my order?
In stock items will be shipped the same or next business day. Customers in Canada can typically expect their orders within 3 to 7 business days. Please note, solar tank purchases may take an additional 7 to 14 business days.
Do you ship internationally?
Yes, we do. Please contact us for a shipping quote.
International orders vary in cost and typically take 8 to 12 business days for delivery (plus customs clearance time). Please note, solar tank purchases may take an additional 7 to 14 business days.
Import duties and tariffs are not included in your final order price. Therefore, you may be required to pay additional duties and taxes upon receipt. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes. Unfortunately, we are unable to control the receipt country's tariff and trade requirements.
How do I track my order?
We will email you a tracking number once we've shipped your order, which you can use to track your shipment.
Can I return my product?
Not finding the answer you're looking for? Contact us!
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