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November 2007 - Nr. 11


The Editor
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Human Right Trumps Trade
The Imprisoned Writer
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Enviro Law
Power of the Sun

Power of the Sun

Harness the Power of the Sun - Using photovoltaic systems to power your home

With increasing concerns about energy costs and the environment, more and more Canadians are becoming interested in learning about how photovoltaic (or PV) systems can supply power to their homes.

PV systems convert sunlight into electricity. Safe and reliable, PV systems produce no pollution or emissions, have few operating costs and are easy to maintain in most Canadian homes. But how can you know if a PV system is right for you? To help you make a more informed decision, here are some tips from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) regarding photovoltaic systems for homes:

  • PVs are ideal for homes or cottages that are located some distance away from utility power lines. Power line extensions typically cost $5,000 to $10,000 per kilometer, so PV systems for these "off-grid" homes can be a highly cost-effective choice.
  • For homes that are off-grid, it is common to use appliances that do not need electricity to operate. For example, off-grid homes can be heated using a combination of wood, propane and passive solar design, and hot water is often provided through a mixture of propane and solar hot water heaters. Propane can be used to run refrigerators and cooking appliances as well. Any appliances that do require electricity should be as energy efficient as possible.
  • PVs can also be used to provide additional or supplementary electricity for homes that are connected to the power grid. Internationally, the number of homes that use a combination of utility and PV electricity is growing at a rate of more than 30 per cent each year. Some PV systems can also automatically isolate a home from the utility grid during power outages to ensure a steady supply of electricity.
  • Homes with PV systems connected to the utility grid can use either energy stored in battery banks to help power their homes at times when the sun is not available to generate electricity or household consumption is higher than that produced by the PV system. In off-grid applications, it is also a good idea to have a reliable back-up power source such as a gasoline, diesel or propane generator.
  • The most popular type of grid-connected solar power is a "synchronous" system, which blends the power generated by the PV system with traditional utility power. Electricity produced by the PV system is used to reduce the home's energy load, and any excess power can be fed back into the grid. In essence, you can run your electricity meter backwards thereby reducing your net energy consumption and bills.

Whether or not you choose to install a PV system, reducing electrical loads can be an excellent way to cut down on energy use in your home. This can include switching to more energy-efficient lighting and appliances, turning off appliances and lighting when they are not needed and using setback thermostats to control heating and cooling systems.

If you're considering photovoltaic power for your home, consult an experienced PV professional. In addition to answering your questions, an expert in the design, installation and operation of PV systems can also help maximize your home's efficiency and cost-effectiveness for years to come.

For more information or a free copy of the "About Your House" fact sheet Photovoltaics (PVs) or other fact sheets on virtually every facet of owning, maintaining or renovating your home, call CMHC at 1-800-668-2642 or visit our Web site at For more than 60 years, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been Canada's national housing agency, and a source of objective, reliable housing expertise.


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