Category: Solar PV System Q&A

Solar contractor

Hiring a Solar Contractor

Okay, I’m in. How do I evaluate solar quotes?

What is qualified vs. Fly by night

The first thing to examine or look for when you are seeking a contractor to install your solar panels is their reputation and credibility. It is unfortunate, but true, that there are some contractors who start company’s, obtain contracts, and haphazardly completes their jobs (if they complete them at all).

Look for a contractor who:

  1. Has several years of experience
  2. Has owned and operated the same business for several years
  3. Has positive reviews or can provide references
  4. Provides warranties on their work and can provide you with product warranty information
  5. Can provide qualifications of company and installers
    1. Labourers can be used for some of the very initial work, but most work must be completed by a Journeyman or Master Electrician with CSA Certification.
    2. Do they subcontract any work out? If so, what kind of workmanship warranties do they provide for contract workers, and how can they guarantee the sub-contractors’ qualifications?
    3. Do they use any engineers? Your solar installer should be using a qualified engineer for advice on structural integrity to protect your new solar investment, and your home.
    4. SESA and CanSIA membership can help prove company legitimacy.
    5. A solar energy specialist is as knowledgeable as any electrician but will have CSA certification and years of experience specifically with solar energy systems. This ensures you get the best system, and the best installation.
    6. Finally, verify the payment terms and that the company has WCB.

How do I find a qualified contractor?

You can find a complete list of solar energy contractors at the Solar Energy Society of Alberta. Alternatively, you can just call us!

How do I compare solar quotes?

  1. First, know that cheaper is not better. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. If a deal seems to good to be true, it likely is. A qualified solar contractor pays for a highly qualified team to complete the design and build of all solar energy systems, and will purchase the most affordable, available product that meets their customers unique needs. High quality products and workmanship is often more expensive but is well worth it. It is like purchasing a new car from an authorized and well-known brand, versus paying for a vehicle that someone has assembled in their garage out of spare parts. Do your due diligence to ensure you are getting the most reasonable price, for quality work performed by a qualified company.
  2. An on-site assessment should be conducted. Sure, a quick off-the-cuff rough estimate might help you ball-park the cost of a solar energy system in general, but when you are looking to compare estimates, the estimate should be based on your home. Your short-listed contractors should perform a site visit to assess for structure, slope, shade, among many other factors. If they don’t visit, the quote you receive may not be very reliable.
  3. Compare price, size, and quality of products used. If you see products from a chain consumer hardware store, this may be a red flag. Qualified solar energy contractors will often use solar equipment distributors, where they will get better prices, better quality products. In addition, many of these distributors will only sell products to qualified contractors which will help you verify the company legitimacy.

Can I install solar panels myself?

Not unless you are a CSA certified journeyman or master electrician and seek a qualified engineer to assist with the site assessment and system design. Solar energy systems literally harness the power of the sun with the intent of providing enough electricity to power a home. That is enough electrical current to severely injure, or potentially kill a human being. Please, seek the expertise of a certified solar contractor for the design and installation of your system for your safety, and that of your family.

If that is not reason enough, solar contractors often get less expensive products because they purchase them frequently, and from trusted distributors. That means you are likely to receive better quality, less expensive panels by using a solar contractor.
What are the different types of solar panels?

The two most commonly used types of solar panels used are ‘monocrystalline’ and ‘polycrystalline’. Learn more about what a solar panel is made of, and what the difference is here.

How does the installation process work?

When we install solar panels, we use a simple 5 Step Process that is detailed here.

Should I ask for a solar monitoring system?

You don’t have to but can! Solar monitoring allows you to check the efficiency of your solar energy system, and you would be able to tell right away if something is not functioning correctly with one of your panels. Talk to your solar contractor for more information, and to find out if a solar monitoring system is right for you.

Do I need to install batteries?

For a grid-connected system you do not need batteries, although if you would like them, it may be an option.

If you’re ready to go solar, give us a call. We’ll answer all your questions, and provide you an estimate based on your home and lifestyle.

Gridworks Energy Group
587-405-9090

Gridworks Energy Solar Panels

Pace Alberta

URGENT: PACE Legislation changes needed

While we are super excited and strongly support the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, some crucial changes are needed in legislation to ensure the PACE program works as effectively as possible for Albertan’s.

What can I do?

Write a letter!

PACE Alberta has a very easy to edit document (letter template) that you can use and all of the contacts to send it to. Let your MLA and Alberta government know what you think, and that you want these amendments made to the legislation to make sure it is successful and works for everyone!

What is PACE?

The Property Assessed Clean energy Program (PACE) is a financing tool that has been demonstrated to be effective in the United States, and has recently been brought to Alberta. Essentially, the program allows homeowners to make energy efficiency upgrades without having to put their money up front. Instead, they can get these upgrades and pay for them through their property taxes. These upgrades can include solar panels, high-insulation windows, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. Often, the savings the upgrades provide are greater than the added cost to their property taxes.

What is the Legislation?

Rural Municipalities of Alberta sums the legislation up very well: “The Government of Alberta has recently tabled Bill 10: An Act to Enable Clean Energy Improvements to provide municipalities with the ability, on a voluntary basis, to establish PACE programs”

Why is it important?

Environmental Conservation

By reducing barriers to upgrading to clean energy improvements, each household has the ability to reduce their carbon footprint

Economics

According to Minister of Municipal Affairs, Shaye Anderson: “PACE programs have been adopted by regions across North America and have generated nearly $6 billion in economic activity” (2018). This activity means more jobs, and increased economic output.

Equity

Homeowners have the opportunity to begin investing in their home immediately, without having to save up a significant up-front cost. These upgrades add value to their home and are investments with immediate returns.
What is wrong with the current legislation?

PACE Alberta and PACE stakeholders have identified 5 main areas for improvements to the legislation (Read more details here on the PACE website). One of these improvements is the option to make the PACE program retroactive.

Why Retroactive PACE?

Homeowners:

Many homeowners want to make upgrades, and some could make the upgrades right away. Waiting for the PACE program is an added incentive that would enable homeowners to mitigate their costs. This would keep more money in their pockets today in case of emergency and for other home upgrades or life needs. By making the program retroactive, the risk is removed from anyone who is afraid of missing out.

Economic:

While those who are ready to make upgrades but don’t want to miss this program wait, installers and trades people are also forced to wait for work. By making the program retroactive, those who would make the upgrades anyway can do so without fear of missing the opportunity. Businesses who provide these services can then continue working with their customers’ best interest at heart.

We encourage you to contact your MLA and let them know you support PACE and the proposed changes. In addition, please share this post, or the PACE Alberta website to spread the word!

 

solar panel

What is a solar panel?

What is a Solar Panel?

We keep hearing about renewable energy, and how solar panels can help home owners reduce their carbon footprint and save (or even make) money. But what are solar panels, solar cells, solar modules and solar photovoltaic systems? There are so many words associated with solar that it can be a bit difficult understanding they all mean. So here it is!

Solar Cell

It starts with a solar cell. A solar cell, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) cell is an electrical device that converts the energy in light into electricity. These cells are made of semiconducting material, which means they can carry electricity. Because they do carry electricity, it is very important that they are installed by certified electricians, to prevent injuries and fatalities.

These solar cells are put together to form a module, which you would see as a stand-alone square or rectangle. We put these solar modules together to form a solar panel. The solar PV units used all together form what is called a solar array. A full solar PV system includes the solar array, plus all of the mounting equipment, hardware, inverters, and grid connection.

Cell:

 Solar Cell

Module:Solar Module

 

Panel:Solar Panel

Array:

 

System:

Solar PV System

Materials

What are solar cells made of? The most prevalent material used in the production of solar cells is crystalline silicon. This is a semi-conducting crystalline form of silicon either made of small crystals or a continuous crystal. Mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline are the two most commonly used types of crystalline silicon.

Mono-crystalline cells tend to be black in colour. In this form, the silicon is formed into bars and then cut into wafers. It is often more efficient and therefore more expensive.

Mono crystalline

The second common crystalline silicon used is Poly-crystalline. This type of module is typically blue in colour. Poly-crystalline is formed by melting silicon fragments together to form wafers, and is often less expensive because it is slightly less efficient.

Which material should you look for as a consumer? You may think you need the polycrystalline in order for your solar PV system to work well, but this is often not the case. While monocrystalline modules are typically more efficient, often times polycrystalline modules are just as effective. Ask your solar PV installation provider if you have any concerns about which ones they are recommending, and why they are suggesting either product for your solar PV system.

If you’re still not sure what you need, leave it to us! We will design a system custom to your needs and property. We’ll answer all your questions, and leave you with a high functioning solar PV system that will meet all your electricity needs for years to come!

Call us for more information!

(587) 405-9090

solar installation

The Installation Process

I’m considering solar, what does the full process look like?

We aim to provide top quality products, and service. This means we will make the process as easy as possible. There are five main components of the process:

  1. Site Assessment
  2. Estimate
  3. Design
  4. Installation
  5. Rebate

We take care of as much of this as we can, so you can enjoy doing other things.

Solar Installation Process

Site Assessment

The first step is a site assessment. A site is the place you are considering having solar PV modules installed. This could be your home, garage, yard, field, business, or non-profit organization (to name a few).

Why?

You are unique. Your family is unique. This means your electricity needs will also be unique. Several factors can affect your energy needs. We will come to your site to see how much space you have for a solar array and check if you have any trees or buildings that would affect the amount of sunlight you get (now or in the future, such as when a tree is grown). Other factors we examine include roof condition, roof slope, roof direction, and past electricity consumption.

By understanding these things, we will be able to go back to the office and more accurately calculate how many solar PV modules your family will need to meet current and future electricity needs. We will also better understand if there are any limits as to how many we can place depending on the size of the space and if there is anything that might hinder us from using the entire space.

Estimate

Now that we have all the facts, we go back to our office to calculate your solar PV system needs. We make sure that our system will provide enough electricity to meet your current usage, and factor in any changes. For example, if you planned on purchasing an electric vehicle, we will help you determine how much electricity you will need to power it and can get your system set-up for it. Once we have done all of our calculations, we will present you with the estimate. At this point, we can answer any questions that have come up since we last met. Once you approve the estimate, we will begin designing your custom system.

Design

With all the facts and your approval, we now work with our engineer and a CSA qualified journey-person electricians to design your custom PV system. Furthermore the design process will lay out how the modules will be oriented (vertical or horizontal), where they will be placed, how they will be connected, and what products will be used.

Our design goals are:

  1. Safety
  2. Reliability
  3. Durability
  4. Effectiveness
  5. Efficiency
  6. Aesthetics

We aim to provide every customer with a safe, high functioning solar PV solution. Once our design is complete, we will bring it to you and explain the design. Again, we have the opportunity at this point to answer any further questions you might have. If you are happy with the design, we will begin installation.

Installation

We pride ourselves on hiring, training, and working with highly qualified, skilled trades people. As a result, you can expect to have you solar PV system installed by qualified tradespeople. Even when not required by your municipality or county, we guarantee your home or buildings roof will be assessed by our structural engineer to ensure it will support your new solar PV system. The work of any apprentice electrician is always overseen by a CSA certified journey-person electrician. Why is this important? Because a CSA certification for solar means the electrician installing your system has completed the training recognized by CSA group, the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO) and industry stakeholders. This ensures the installer has demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities to install and maintain solar photovoltaic power generation systems and equipment. Furthermore, it means your solar PV system is being installed according to the Canadian electrical code and industry best practices.

Rebates

Now that your system is fully installed and you are producing, it is time to submit for your rebate! We will help you fill out the rebate paperwork and help maximize your solar PV rebate! Sit with us as we walk you through it, then send it off, and wait for your rebate money to come in.

 

 

Solar Powered Star Wars

May the 4th be with you!

Okay, we know this line has been used again and again but to honor this year’s May the 4th, we couldn’t help but write about what big fans we are of Star Wars. After all, Star Wars is a fan of solar energy, which makes the franchise a fan of us – right?

What do I mean Star Wars is a fan of solar energy? Even The Empire and First Order use solar energy to power their ships. As they try to take control of the Galaxy, annihilating the rebels who oppose them, they are still conscious energy consumers!

How does it work?

Solar energy is captured in purified silicon cells that make up a ‘module’. These cells collect the light and energy from the sun and convert it into electricity using a process called the photovoltaic effect. Several of these modules are put together to form what’s called: ‘an array’ or a ‘solar array’.

TIE Fighters

TIE fighter ships and their variations including TIE bombers and even Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced One – use solar modules on the sides of their ships. The TIE fighters are powered by the electricity generated by these solar modules (verified by Star Wars cannon). TIE Fighter

Feasibility:

As long as the ships are near a sun long enough to harness and store energy, then absolutely they could power the TIE fighters. In fact, they are likely saving a lot of money or bartering items for the longevity and power provided by the solar PV systems. It’s actually a shame they don’t use more of them. The Death Star has a lot of outside space which could be occupied by solar PV modules to provide more energy cost savings. To be fair, that ship also receives a lot of damage, and we haven’t seen testing results for the quadanium steel armor that protects the panels. Although, we can confirm that a solar module can stand the hit of 80 mph hail without worry.

Need more concrete evidence? While we may not be sending military spaceships into war, we do have a number of solar modules in space. Solar energy is actually described as “The best source of energy for spacecraft” by NASA, which is why it is used to power not only satellites, but the International Space Station.

Solar Sailer

This starship yacht, used by Count Dooku to escape at the end of Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones also uses solar PV technology. George Lucas reports in the director’s commentary on the DVD that it uses plasma in its solar powered ‘sail’.

Dooku's solar sailer

Feasibility:

Solar Sailing is actually a real concept, although, it has not yet been proven viable. NASA has conducted solar sail tests on the ground and in orbit, but has never been flight tested. Maybe one day we will see the solar sail again?

Solar Future

While solar energy powers some of the ships in Star Wars, we hope to see it further adopted. For example, solar PV on the Planets with at least one sun. Maybe it could even save the rebels money on powering their spacecraft’s. Sun knows it would be a safer alternative to rhydonium!

 

Why not power your spacecraft with solar? 
We are TESLA certified!

Call us to find out more, or get a free estimate:
Gridworks Energy Group
(587) 405-9090

 

Edmonton Solar Array

Avoiding Roof Damage from Solar Installation

Attic and ceiling damage, mold, high utility bills and wasted energy, or worst case: fire or flood. These are just some of the consequences of a leak in your roof. No homeowner or builder wants to walk in the door one day and see signs of leaks. Quite frankly, neither do their home builders or roofers.

Leak problems are not common when a roof is first installed, but become a concern when unqualified contractors penetrate the roof to add equipment to it. If not done with care, unqualified contractors can cause damage to the roof, the shingles, or the waterproofing. Therefore, it is critical to ensure your contractor is fully qualified to install your Solar PV System.

The primary concerns of qualified contractors are:

  • Safety,
  • Waterproofing and
  • Preserving the integrity and service life of the roof.

Industry standard best practices (or higher) need to be used when installing anything on a roof. These best practices include roof design, equipment being installed, and items penetrating the roof. Equipment, such as a Solar PV System can be installed on a rooftop without jeopardizing the waterproofing or life of the roof. Make sure you are hiring a reputable, qualified contractor to install the PV system to prevent damage.

How It Works

A 7/32” hole is drilled once the roof structure has been located. The hole is not drilled through the roof member so as to prevent a full penetration. This pilot hole is then filled with roofing sealant.

A 3″ lag is installed. Then, the lag is tightened so that the EPDM washer is compressed ensuring a watertight seal.

Next, we make sure nothing will impede flashings. Using a shingle bar, the shingles are gently lifted to check for nails. The flashings are also then dry-fitted to ensure proper fit, and ensure that there are no obstructions.

By using a 100% watertight flashing system, PV system installation can be done without causing damage to a roof. Roof sealant is applied to the underside of the flashing to provide a watertight seal and encourage drainage. 

The flashing kit is installed with “L Bracket” and is ready for the racking. Finally sealed and waterproofed, this installation prevents both water leaks and un-necessary damage to the roof. This prevents costly insurance claims and damage to roofer or electrical contractor reputation. With solar panels correctly installed, the customer is able to become energy efficient without worrying about the integrity of their roof!

Who to Contract

We expect that our Solar PV systems will last so long, we recommend having fairly new shingles so that you don’t need to worry about your roof for years to come. Have old shingles? If so, consider having new ones installed. If you’re seeking a roofing expert, we are proud to partner with, and recommend LoDan Exteriors. With our Solar PV Systems and LoDan Exteriors roofing, you will have an energy efficient rooftop that will last for decades.

Looking for a qualified contractor to install a PV system on your roof, or a customer’s roof? We believe in above-and-beyond customer service. Because of this, we only have journeyman electricians who have completed our CSA approved PV design and installation course to complete these installations, and each one is treated with utmost care and attention to detail.

Connect with us to learn more!

Gridworks Energy Group: (587) 405-9090
Click here for a Solar PV System Free Estimate

LoDan Exteriors: (780) 288-2290
Click here for the LoDan Exteriors Website