Consider Your Options
Updated: Feb 19, 2019
When considering energy efficiency / clean energy for your home or business look at different options.
- Heating takes a big portion of your monthly expenses?
- You are approaching retirement and concerned about rising utility bills?
- Your grid connection is not reliable and frequent power disruptions affect your life and business?
- You live in a community with no natural gas where you must rely on diesel or propane delivery, or even wood for heating?
- You run a business which needs a lot of hot water, such as laundry, car wash, restaurant, or seniors facility?
- You don't want more pipelines, oil spills and power, dams flooding pristine nature or power lines throughout the country?
- You care about the future of your children?
In all those cases you might look at on-site clean energy generation.
There are a number of technologies on the market offering to solve some of energy related problems in one way or another. Some of the better known are: solar photovoltaic (PV), solar thermal systems, wind turbines and geoexchange. In recent years air-source heat exchange systems have become much more efficient and are recognized as a renewable source of energy. However every technology has its own advantages and limitations in efficiency, cost and availability.
You have definitely heard about the so called “solar panels”. But do you know there are many other options which, depending on your specific needs, can make your project more cost-effective?
According to NRCan Energy Fact Book, more than 60% of an average Canadian household’s energy consumption is used for heating. Add 20% more is used for hot water, and it makes more than 80 %.
While we need electricity for lighting and appliances, it is the least efficient way if use it for heating space or water. Taking into account the relatively low efficiency of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules (”solar panels”) it makes using them for heating impractical in terms of very large area required and even if you do have enough space, it will be very expensive. Even at today’s prices such investment can take 40-50 years to pay back.
One of the most efficient clean energy technologies on the market today is Solar Thermal System (STC). It is based on the effect of direct absorption of electromagnetic radiation and converting it into thermal energy. It has much higher efficiency much higher than PV technology. Therefore to generate the same amount of energy solar thermal collectors need about ¼ of the area of a PV array. This thermal energy is then passed to the end-user and can be used for heating water for domestic or commercial needs, space heating as well as cooling.
STC typically consists of the following main components: solar collectors (mainly one of two types – flat panel or vacuum tubes), circulating pump(s) to transfer thermal energy from the collectors, heat exchangers, thermal storage and a controller. One of the most efficient solar thermal technologies on the market today is evacuated tube collector. The energy collected by the absorber plate inside the glass tube heats the fluid inside the copper pipe and is passed through the dry connection to the heat exchanger. Due to effectively trapping incoming radiation inside the vacuum tube the efficiency of such system can potentially exceed 95%.