Solar Energy Panels
The technology behind solar panels is advancing and evolving as seen with the increased efficiencies of turning light into electricity, and the growing demand. The interesting thing about solar is that you can utilize it in two different ways:
Use the heat for warming up your water without wasting gas or electricity,
Use Photovoltaic cells on your roof for generating electricity to power your home. In this case, electricity is used in your home and any excess is supplied to your local grid, resulting in future energy credits for you and your family (that means more savings!)
In Toronto, we get sun for more than 2000 hours in a year and all of that is for completely free. As we head towards decarbonization, it is essential to invest in systems such as these for maximum benefit for you and your home.
It goes without saying that adding a solar panel or multiple photovoltaic cells to your homes is going to substantially increase weight on your roof. It is very important to consult a building professional prior to installing a system such as this. It is also important to ensure that the cell or panel orientation is kept at an optimum location for maximum exposure throughout the year.
Solar panels installed on the roofs of homes. Image obtained from Unsplash, click on image for reference
If you’re in the City of Toronto, check out our Grants page for funding related to renewable energy installation in your building. Your local municipality may also provide consultation regarding solar energy retrofits in your home.
Upgrade from Space to Radiant Heating
Space heating, as the name suggests, is heating of a large area and since it involves heating the air and transferring the heat through convection which results in losses, there is a lot more energy going into achieving a stable, comfortable temperature. Essentially, warm air is being circulated throughout your house using a temperature and pressure gradient and as can be expected, air will lose its temperature as it travels through the house - meaning that to ensure a comfortable temperature for the farthest corners of your home, you'll have to set the thermostat much higher than it needs to be to account for losses along the way.
This is where another form of renewable energy - in this case, geothermal - comes into play. A heat pump controls the temperature of your home using external temperature - something that is again, available for free! There are two main kinds of heat pumps:
Air Heat Pumps: These control internal temperature using outdoor air. The pumps, located outside your home, use thermal gradients to reject heat during summer and absorb heat from outdoor air during the winter.
Ground Source Pumps: These involve a system of underground pipes that perform a similar function to air pumps but with the ground as a medium. Generally, the ground stays at a more stable temperature during the year than the air.
A heat pump installation can be a very capital intensive project so while these may not be optimum for a single family home, multi-residential and commercial buildings can reap many benefits. There is upto 60% potential in savings from energy costs using these pumps.
Radiant heating configuration.
Image obtained from Watts, click on image for reference
In contrast, radiant heating is much more effective since they directly heat up the floors (in typical cases) and other house components (in less typical cases), such as panels installed in walls. Since they are much closer (and sometimes in contact) with people, they require much less energy to provide the same amount of heat due to minimum losses. Reduced travel time for warm air and heat means reduced losses, which ultimately results in more savings.