Frequently Asked Questions

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:

Absolutely. As well as being covered in the Solar Home Design Manual designer Don Roscoe has written an article addressing exactly that challenge.

Building a greenhouse is very easy. When you take the Solar Shelter Course you'll pick up all the information you need on the way. One other resource is the book, "Sunwings: The Harrowsmith Guide to Solar Addition Architecture" ISBN 0920656374, which you may be able to buy a copy of or get from the library.

  1. Advertising on the Solar NS website and the resulting interest for clients.
  2. Supporting your industry, locally.

Contact us at to become a corporate member. We'll need a logo, a paragraph describing your business and your geographic range, and the preferred ways of contacting you.

There are several stores, and Solar NS will also ship them directly. See the page for the The Solar Home Design Manual for the particulars.

The Construction Course is a followup to the Solar Home Design course, either for contractors interested in building solar homes, or individuals interested in doing the contracting for their own home or building it themselves. The Solar Shelter Course isn't a prerequisite, however, because the first module of the Construction Course is a review of Solar Basics. The Construction Course also has visuals and detail drawings for ground insulation techniques, heat source slabs & foundations, air recirculation systems, and an active hot air collector system.

No you do not need to have a licensed solar technician. It is okay for a licensed plumber to install them but it would be best to look for one who has experience in installing this type of system. For details, see this CANSIA page.

"Active" solar power involves mechanical systems like domestic hot water heating or photovoltaic panels for electricity production. Houses that use "Passive" solar take advantage of the sun through simple methods like window orientation, building location, thermal mass for heat storage, and restricting heat loss through insulation. Refer to the Solar Home Design Manual for more details.

Solar powered swimming pool heaters are cheap and easily available. Some services that provide swimming pool heating system installations are: Sun Ross Energy Systems Ltd., Sonideft Solar and Nova Sun Power.

Yes. Not only is it possible, but quite a few people already have. How cost-effective it is depends on how far your building site is from existing power lines. As a general rule, if your site is more than 800 or 900 metres from a power line, it is likely to be less expensive to install off-grid solar and/or wind power than to pay Nova Scotia Power to bring in a power line. And then you don't have power bills to pay! Contact NS Power at 1-800-428-6230 (428-6230 in Metro Halifax) to find out how much it will cost to bring power into your home then contact a local renewable energy dealer to find out the price of an off-grid system. Renewable energy dealers are listed in our Corporate Member list.

Yes you can build your own solar hot water panel as well as solar electric (photovoltaic) panel and you do not need to be an expert to do it! However, it is difficult to build them up to the quality and performance of a commercially manufactured one. Search the web using a phrase such as "build your own solar panel", or borrow a book on Do-It-Yourself active solar from the library.

There are a few options.

  • Get an Energy Audit: Solar energy cannot practically heat a house which wastes a substantial amount of heat. Therefore The first step is to cut down on how much heat your house is leaking. You can get a home energy audit to determine how to improve the energy efficiency of your home to the point where solar can make a difference. Go to Efficiency Nova Scotia and look up "Home Energy Evaluations" or call Clean Nova Scotia at (902) 420-3474 or 1-800-665-5377 toll free.
  • Install a solar water heating system: Solar power can be used for hot water. Domestic Hot Water is relatively easy to install and can dramatically cut your DHW energy needs. Pick a vendor from the Solar Nova Scotia Corporate Member list to design and install such a system.
  • Install a thermal wall: If you have a south-facing wall, consider a thermal wall. Bring up the Solar Home inventory, click on "By Category" and look at Air Space Heating to see some examples.

Send a note to and we will send you a data collection form. We'll need some beautiful pictures of it too!

Log homes are a very difficult fit with solar. The main problems are that it is difficult to get them really energy-efficient, especially with regards to air infiltration; secondly they typically do not have the large south-facing windows that passive solar needs. Log home manufacturers can produce much tighter homes than those direct from the woodlot, and, as such, offer better solar potential.

Of course, all things are possible and a creative designer (yourself, for instance, if you took the Solar Home Design Course) could overcome these problems.

Solar home designers and any interested people meet at The Lion's Head on Robie near Young St in Halifax every Friday evening to hear and discuss questions and to share information, news, and ideas. We're always at several tables put together near the windows. The first members show up around 5:00pm and we're usually there until about 7:00pm.

Yes! See the Solar homes inventory for existing solar projects in Nova Scotia.

Yes. We need about fifteen people to make it worthwhile; if you organize the promotions and venue, we'll supply the instructor. Contact us at

Although Nova Scotia is our main focus, we make connections to promote renewable energy everywhere in Atlantic Canada and our Solar Home Design Manual is applicable to all of Canada.

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Refer to Efficiency Nova Scotia for various programs for home energy improvements.