Should you go off-grid or connect to the utility?

Should I go off-grid and save upwards of $20,000 on the service connection to my new home and put it towards solar instead?

I would say it is feasible if under the following conditions: (1) You know how to or desire learning how to use much less energy than more traditional Canadians; (2) Your proposed dwelling is smaller sized not larger and has excellent solar exposure even when the suns arc is lower in the sky; (3) You are technically savvy and want to be in charge of your power plant; (4) You are fine with using propane for cooking, water heating, and dwelling heating (code required) along with wood stove; (5) be willing to spend as much as the Fortis service connection or more depending on your storage and generator size and quality. For a set of batteries to run a home, you could spend between $5,000 (flooded lead-acid 5-7 years lifespan) and $15,000 (Lithium 15-20 years) for a smaller home. A generator is kind of the same. You can choose to go small and less durable or larger and more durable. If you go with a battery-based home power system charged by solar and a propane or liquid-fueled generator when necessary, you don’t have power outages, and you don’t have an electricity bill. You will still have a propane or natural gas bill when you refill the storage tank.

In this area, we are limited on solar in the months from November to February. There are about 100 days where there is just too low of light to do much solar charging. If this is a small summer home then it would be much simpler to go with solar and less expensive than Fortis. If you have to pump water and pump sewer that is some heavy lifting and you need lots of energy to do that. If you can ever imagine an EV parked at your house, that can be another big electric load. In sunny times an EV is a great place to put all the extra a solar array can make when the house batteries are full. In winter you either don’t drive or you need somewhere else to charge.

If you want to do solar because you think it is a great way to invest in a sustainable home and get a reliable financial return then you can look at connecting to Fortis BC and installing a grid interconnected solar power system. Fortis BC is quite happy with its customers doing this. Depending on the size and demands in your future house, you could generate most or all of your home’s annual electricity needs with solar and Fortis will act as a very big storage battery. In trade, Fortis gets to take your extra summer sunshine electons that you don’t use and sell them to your neighbours at .15 cents a kilowatt-hour with no line loss or extra transmission line maintenance.

That should be enough for you to think about. If you want to go with a solar installation for off-grid I would recommend a ground or pole mount you can clear of snow most easily. Some systems also allow for adjusting the tilt seasonally. If you are building the house in a location with good solar exposure do not settle on a house design that is ignorant of the solar potentials on the roof. No chimneys, dormers, or vent pipes in the middle or south sides of the main roof space, flat, south, SE or SW facing. I am very disappointed with architects that don’t get a solar home means they need a space that is unobstructed from shadows.

If I hear from you that you are interested in going solar I will give you a chart to fill out with your anticipated loads and hours of use per day in the wintertime when solar is critically short in supply and you are generator reliant. For a new build, I will also encourage you to pay me for consulting either with your architect or maybe you on some general house design principles for an energy-efficient home that can utilize solar energy in several ways. You do not need titled home energy experts to get you into energy-efficient designs and systems. Next, I would like to visit the property and discuss solar array siting potentials and from this information, I can get you a detailed quote for the cost. For this more extensive investment of my time and resources, I do charge. I hope it is of value to you and aids in your decision making.

I am looking forward to hearing from you,

Kip Drobish
Oso Solar
New Denver, BC

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