New programs shed light on going solar

Having a sloped, southward facing roof that receives full sun light between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. are just some of the requirements that Diane Gillies and her fiancée, Rock Jethwa, need in order to install a hot water solar system on their East York home.

Gillies, a lawyer for the provincial government, attended a workshop last year to learn about this renewable energy system.

She felt that there was enough information to go to Topham Park Community Centre Clubhouse with Jethwa so he could learn more at a solar hot water system workshop, hosted by Solar Neighbourhoods.

“I wanted to have the process (installation) clarified and also to have a description of the other different types of heating systems available,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with any of the prices for the systems because of the programs being offered by the (provincial) government.”

Solar Neighbourhoods, a pilot project of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, held its first East York solar hot water system workshop in early October.  The workshops are being offered to residents in wards 29, 30, 31, and 32 and are designed to educate homeowners about new provincial programs that will allow them to access more than $4,000 in incentives if they install these renewable energy systems.

According to Rob McMonagle, program manager for Solar Neighbourhoods, installing a solar hot water system can cost a homeowner $7,000 to $10,000 depending on the size of the system, installation parameters and the difficulty of the panel installation. The estimated payback for the system could be 12 years with the Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) program.

“With solar, you are going to lose money in the first year. Sorry, that’s the reality,” McMonagle said. “But look at future energy savings when considering. Your savings will accumulate as energy prices go up.”

Three different types of collector panels that can be installed onto a homeowner’s roof include seasonal-use, drainback and closed loop systems.

McMonagle says all of the systems are most effective in the summer months. The drainback and closed loop system work all year round and use special liquids such as glycol to provide freeze protection in the cold winter months.

To get started, one of requirements is to get an ecoEnergy audit. After Oliver Mariano, also a resident of ward 31, had his audit done, the auditor suggested that Mariano install a solar hot water system.

Although Mariano is already committed to registering for the program he was surprised to find out about the cost of maintaining the system.

“I expected to pay the $8,000 to $10,000 but they didn’t add in the maintenance costs,” he said.

“You have to change the glycol in the systems every three to five years. You start adding in a few hundred dollars for that and that sort of extends the payback time.  But there’s still the fact that you’re not buying the gas to heat your water now.”

Gillies, hopeful that she and her fiancée will have a solar hot water system on their roof in the near future, feels that society needs to reduce energy consumption and reliance of natural gas and fossil fuels.

But she and Jethwa will have to wait until they get their roof re-shingled before they start looking for contractors.