Powering the cottage

The allure of the cottage is the chance to get away from it all. But even though your remote getaway may not have access to standard electricity, it doesn't mean you have to do without power. Sustainable energy is proving to be well suited for summer havens. Capture the sun's rays Cottages are particularly suited for solar energy, since they are used in the summer with long sunny days and have low lighting requirements. Solar electricity, also known as photovoltaics (PV), is proving to be a good solution since it's easy to install and has no moving parts requiring maintenance. Most solar systems for cottages will include batteries that accumulate energy to power lights and appliances at night or during the weekends when it's needed the most. These PV systems convert the sun's energy using a series of silicon cells wired together. Each cell has a positive and negative side so when the sunlight strikes the positive side, photons activate electrons, which in turn generates electricity and charges the battery. The electricity produced is in proportion to the amount of sunlight. On a sunny day, cells will produce 100 percent power, on a cloudy day about 50 percent and on a rainy day about 20. For this reason, some people opt for a backup generator to be used on a rainy day. The savings can be considerable using a solar system, particularly for those cottages more than 400 metres (437 yards) from a hydro hook-up. Before buying and installing your system, you'll need to do some research to determine how much power you need. Consider the watts, amps and voltage of each product to find the one best suited for your cottage. Natural Resources Canada has an excellent guide to buying your PV system, with worksheets to help you calculate just how much electricity you need and how to find the best unit for your cottage. Harness the wind Wind energy is another green option that is pollution-free and relatively easy to use. Windmills are the oldest type of wind energy and the modern version of these come in the form of wind turbines, also known as wind turbine generators and wind pumps. Electricity is generated when the blades of the turbine spins the shaft. The shaft then drives a generator that produces electricity that can be is used directly (like in a water pumo) or stored in a battery. The drawback is that you must have steady winds -- gentle breezes just won't generate enough gusto to turn the blades. The more wind you have, the more electricity you will produce. You'll also need to determine the height of your turbine and battery size needed. There is the initial cost of buying the turbine but then savings are recouped with the cost of producing the electricity – between 5 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour as opposed to diesel generator's electricity, which can range from 25 cents to $1.00 per kilowatt hour. The Canadian Wind Energy Association has several online guides to help you calculate your needs while Energy Alternatives has an excellent cottage kits for solar and wind energy.