Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is solar energy?

Solar energy uses sunlight to generate heat or electricity. It is a sustainable renewable resource and is unique for its ability to generate energy in a clean, quiet, and consistent manner over long periods of time.

 
2. Why use solar energy?

A solar energy system is economical and it is good for the environment. Solar energy is a sustainable renewable resource. The equipment used in solar energy systems are very durable and are capable of supplying reliable energy for years after the initial financial investment has been recouped.

 
3. Is my home a good site for solar?

That depends. An ideal site for solar faces true south or close to true south. Solar Panels can be tilted up to an angle equal to your latitude.

We recommend that you consult a solar professional and have a site assessment done. Many sites are not 100% ideal; however, a solar energy system can still be a worthwhile investment.

 

4. What is a Solar Energy System Design Brief?

Solar Energy System Design Brief contains all the necessary information to adequately describe the design and performance of a solar energy system. It should describe the solar technology, mounting system and any associated equipment. In addition, it includes the results of a site assessment, any assumptions, a calculation of the system’s energy production and a financial analysis.

In order to calculate the energy production and complete a financial analysis it is typical to use the information from the site assessment in conjunction with modeling software. There are a variety of software models available. A few examples are:

Lastly, it is important that any issues that may affect performance and production be identified and factored into the calculation of energy production. For example shading can be an issue.

 
5. Is the design process for an on-grid system the same as that for an off-grid system?

No, the design process for an independent system (not hooked up to the utility grid) is substantially more involved. It will require a complete load analysis to accurately size the system components such as batteries, charge controller, solar array, etc.

 
6. Can I install my own solar energy system?

It is generally not recommended. There are specific codes and requirements that must be followed by law for safety reasons. For example solar PV systems utilize potentially lethal high voltage DC electricity (up to 600V).

 
7. My building's roof needs replacing soon. Does it make sense to combine the installations?

Yes. If you're planning to replace your roof in the next few years, it may make sense to move that up. Since solar modules can last over 25 years it is in your best interest to not have to remove the solar modules and rack to replace roofing.

 
8. How long will my system last?

Typically, solar modules will last more than 25 years when installed properly and checked periodically. The other components of a solar energy system will have varying life spans.

 
9. Will a grid-intertied solar system power my home during a power outage?

No, if the utility grid goes down your solar system will also shut down until the grid is once again available. This is to comply with safety regulations. If power back-up is a concern you should consider a special synchronous inverter with an appropriately sized battery bank.

 
10. How do I get professional design and installation help?

Click here for Solar Nova Scotia’s Business Directory

 
11. Is Nova Scotia a good place for solar energy?
Yes! See the Solar homes inventory for existing solar projects in Nova Scotia.
 
12. What is the optimum tilt angle for my solar panels?

The usual rule of thumb is, relative to your latitude (e.g. Antigonish and Halifax are at 45, Sydney is at 46) 15° more upright in the winter, 15° flatter in the summer. But of course hardly anyone adjusts their racks by the seasons. Most people compromise on 45 or a few degrees flatter, e.g. 40, but, the panels will shed snow better if they’re steeper in the winter. Here’s a long but accurate discussion of it: http://www.solarpaneltilt.com/

 
13. Do I have to clean my solar panels?

Panels can require a small amount of maintenance. They can get covered in dirt, dust, bird droppings or snow. Usually, rain will do most of the cleaning for you. Rare occasions where regular cleaning is required may happen in the proximity of certain trees, spraying operations or soot.

 
14. What are the effects of snow on panels?

A layer of snow can reduce your solar system’s energy output to zero. However, it is typical for the snow to melt off within a few days given some sun. The decision to manually clear snow will vary from system to system and owner to owner. Clearing the snow by getting on the roof can be a risky business and is usually not recommended.

You can clear snow from ground-mounted panels much more easily than from roof-mounted ones.

 
15. I'd like to be a solar contractor / carpenter / technician. What is my first step?

The Nova Scotia Community College offers a program called Energy Sustainability Engineering Technology. Look up the details of this program on the NSCC Programs and Courses Index.

The Canadian Solar Industries Association offers Solar Installer Certification Programs. Look under Solar Training and Education.

Contact any of the corporate members listed in our Nova Scotia Solar Directory to inquire about qualifications for their installers.