June Guest Editor, Chris Tyrell Answers Your Energy Questions

Many of you wrote questions in for our guest editor Chris to answer! Here are 5 of the most popular questions answered.

1. What is a Feed in Tariff?

As part of the Green Energy and Economy Act, the Ontario Power Authority developed the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff or (FIT) program to increase renewable energy generation in Ontario and help phase out dirty coal plants.  FIT provides the generation developer a guaranteed electricity price for all renewable generation produced over a long-term (20 year) contract term.  The Ontario Power Authority’s FIT programhas its own standardized program rules, prices and contracts for those interested in developing a qualifying renewable energy project.

2. If I want to install solar panels, what do I need to do to let my power provider know?

Your power provider or local electric utility should be able to help you get started with your project; however they typically do not install solar panels.  Solar project design and installations are typically done by qualified contractors in your area. The local utility may also have a list of contractors in your area and can help you understand the process you need to follow as well as answering other utility related questions as described by The Ontario Power Authority (OPA)

It is also important to note that before you hire a contractor, be sure to ask these important questions.

Remember that if you live in Ontario and want to take advantage of the OPA’s FIT or microFIT program, fill out an application. Once you’ve submitted your application form electronically, you’ll be contacted by the FIT Program team.

3. What is the most efficient alternative energy source for a home?

Solar thermal panels are most efficient at capturing solar energy (peak efficiency of up to 70%) and are typically used in houses to preheat domestic hot water.  Solar thermal uses energy from the sun to heat your domestic hot water supply. However, these projects having a longer payback (15-20 years) than a small scale solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system.  These systems are also more complicated than a PV system in terms of operation and maintenance.

Solar PV panels can have efficiencies in the 15% range for high quality crystalline panels.  With a FIT contract (see answer #1 above) your payback is in the range of 12 years.  Without a FIT contract the payback is much longer. 

PV is not the most efficient of the renewable technologies, but it can be the most attractive from a financial perspective.  It is also very reliable, maintenance free, and there is a limitless supply of energy.  Read more about solar power on the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and the OPA websites.

Ground source heat pumps are also an efficient technology as you are getting about 2.5 units of heat for every 1 unit of electricity input and on the cooling side the ratio is as high as 5 to 1.  However, they are fairly complicated systems, and are currently best suited for new buildings. 

4. What is the appliance that drains the most energy in homes and why?

If you’re looking for ways to cut down on your electricity bill, start with your refrigerator and freezer.  These are two of the most significant energy-draining appliances.  Typically these use the most energy because they’re always in use, they may not be well-maintained or they may be an old, inefficient model. In fact, today’s refrigerators and freezers use at least 50 per cent less energy than those produced in 1990.   Better design, more efficient compressors and improved insulation as well as door seals all help improve energy efficiency.

If you want to get rid of an old, energy-guzzling fridge and save up to $150 on your electricity bill, take advantage of The Great Refrigerator Round Up we’ll pick it up from your home free of charge.

I should mention that while heating and cooling systems are not technically appliances, they do account for about 60 per cent of your yearly energy bill.  Use our heating and air conditioning.

You can also take advantage of our peaksaver and Great Exchange programs.Our Great Exchange program allows Toronto residents to exchange their old, inefficient room air conditioners for a $25 gift card.   For dates and locations visit torontohydro.com/exchange

Toronto residents who sign up for peaksaver - a small wireless device installed near your central air conditioner to reduce its energy use during times of peak electricity demand - can receive a $75 credit on their electricity bill.  Sign up today at torontohydro.com/peaksaver.

5. What does it mean to be off the grid when it comes to electricity?

Most of us live on the grid, meaning that we power our homes using the electricity from our local utility’s grid - a network of wires used to distribute electricity generated from a variety of sources (e.g. nuclear, hydro) to customers.  When you live ‘off the grid’ it means that your home or business is not powered by, or connected to your local utility.  Instead, you generate your own electricity using other energy sources (e.g. solar, wind).  

Torontonians are invited to take part in Toronto Hydro's Great Exchange at all Toronto Rona, The Home Depot and Walmart stores the first 3 weekends in June from 10 am - 5 pm.

The Great Exchange invites Torontonians to:
1.  Exchange up to five incandescent light bulbs from home for five FREE CFLs;
2.  Exchange their old, inefficient room air conditioner for a $25 gift card and;
3.  Exchange their old dehumidifier for a $10 gift card 
The Great Exchange is also taking place at 7 community environment days in Toronto, visit torontohydro.com/exchange for more details.