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Renewable Energy for your Green Home

solar panels turbinesThe reason for using renewable energy is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being discharged into the air that cause climate change. Also, if you feed power back onto the grid, it can provide a nice supplemental income stream for many years, once the initial investment is paid off.

Did you know that air is a renewable source of energy?

Similar to the ground and water, air contains heat. We know that geothermal systems harness energy from the earth and water to create heating and cooling. They use heat pumps (an air conditioner working in reverse). Heat pumps can also be made to use the air around us.

Air source heat pumps have been around for a while but would only work down to freezing temperatures (0°C). In countries like Canada they require an auxiliary heat source for most of the winter. Recently, the technology has improved so that they can work down to sub freezing temperatures. The technology is called “inverter” and enables heat pumps to work as low as -35°C. This eliminates the need for a backup source, saving money. The heat pump can also be reversed in summer to provide air conditioning (cooling). They are not as efficient as ground source units (geothermal) but are less expensive because they don’t require pipes or wells in the ground.

A heat pump typically works in the 200% to 300% range. For every unit of energy put in (e.g. electricity), it takes 2 to 3 units of heat from the air which is a renewable source.

Heat pump water heaters are also available.

By using an electrically driven heat pump, clean energy from the Ontario grid is used in addition to the use of clean air. The Ontario grid, since the shutdown of the coal plants, now produces electricity with greenhouse gas emissions close to half that from burning natural gas.

Solar Energy

The sun is also a source of renewable energy. It can be used to heat water directly using solar collectors or it can produce electricity using photovoltaic (PV) panels. In Southern Ontario, solar hot water can provide about half the water heating needs of a home at reasonable cost.

Solar PV is more expensive but the Ontario government has a program to purchase the electricity produced from rooftop and ground mount systems. The payback period is under ten years and the homeowner is the first to draw on those “green electrons” feeding into the grid. Off-grid or net-metered systems are expensive but costs are coming down due to the growing renewable energy business in the province under the Green Energy and Economy Act.

Learn more about the microFIT program HERE.

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