First Year of Solar Energy Production

Today marks the one year anniversary of our rooftop solar project’s connection to our local utility. In that year we produce 6.55 MWh of electricity which is enough to power 217 homes for 1 day or charge a mobile phone for 203.2 years or the equivalent carbon offset of planting 119 trees. For more details about the project check out our Solar Page.

As you can see in the chart below the summer and spring months performed very well. Due to the angle of our roof when the snow arrived in December energy production dropped to near zero, until it started melting in March. The most surprising thing to me was how much the heat in the summer impacted the panel’s energy production. Overall the system has performed 4% above the model.

Beer == Solar Power

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co., located about 1 hour outside of Ottawa, produces some mighty fine beer, burp! They also have the most impressive graphic designs that I have ever seen from a beer company, their beer labels are real works of art.

As part of a new project, to lighten their environmental impact, they are adding solar panels to the roof of the brewery. They have come up with an ingenious way to get this project funded by selling memberships to their Greener Futures Project. Membership is $300, which entitles you to 30 large bottles of barrel aged beer, that are only available to members. I have had 5 of the bottles so far, 4 have been stellar, with the one sour beer being a little too much for me.  If you like beer and live in Ottawa or Toronto then this is a great way to help the planet while enjoying some very tasty brews.

Greener Futures Project

Finally Usable LED Lights From Cree

Up to now my experience with LED lighting has been pretty dismal. I had converted several pot lights in key areas of our hose to LED, but the applications were pretty limits. The cone of light produced was narrow, making it suitable for narrow hallways or above landings. The colour was cold, giving the area an icy blue feeling.

Cree C4 LightWell finally there is an LED light that works better than the halogen pot lights it was designed to replace by the company Cree.  The CR4 Four-Inch LED Downlight is sold in Canada at HomeDepot under their EcoSmart Brand.  It is designed to fit into existing 4 inch pot light fixtures, there is also a 6 inch model. The light quality is excellent, both in colour and how wide the cone is. It actually outputs more light then the 50W halogen bulbs it replaced. It works with a normal dimmer.  Total energy usage per bulb is only 9.5 watts, which means the 4 bulbs I used don’t use as much energy as a single halogen.

The installation process is fairly easy. You simply remove the existing halogen bulb and the internal parts of the pot light. The Cree bulb has a screw in base attached to wires, just screw into the existing socket. Then the bulb is pushed into the pot light housing. Metal tabs grind in to keep it in place. My only snag is that my pot light housing are a little shallow which leave the built-in trim not perfectly flush.

The price tag is fairly hefty, $45 when I bought mine. But the quality is well worth it. My only hope is that the product becomes popular enough so the price really drops.

If you have found another LED bulb that I should try then let me know in the comments below. If you try the Cree bulbs then let me know what you think.

peaksaver Plus Review

In 2009 I signed up for the peaksaver program of HydroOttawa. At the time I was mostly interested in getting a new programmable thermostat and liked the idea of the ability to control it remotely.  All free.  Overall I liked that program, you can read more in my peaksaver Review.

This year HydroOttawa started offering the peaksaver Plus program.  This program includes the programmable thermostat, that was part of the original program, combined with a wireless energy display.  Existing peaksaver customers can sign up for the new program.  I was hoping this would include the newer thermostat but all you get is the energy monitor.

The energy monitor is pretty cool.  I have used a Kill-A-Watt energy monitor by P3 International for a few years now.  That device allows you to monitor the power consumption of a single device or multiple devices running from a power bar. This is great for finding out the true power consumption of devices around your house, but is limited to things that you can plug-in to a standard wall outlet.

The peaksaver Plus energy display allows to see you whole house consumption in real-time.  It can display the amounts in watts or in dollars, based on time of use billing.  This gives you a good idea of how much you are using at any given time and over longer periods.  The display also has a feature to zero the current load so that you can figure out the impact of turning on a single appliance or device. Great for figuring out what your furnace, central air or lighting consumes.

So far the big surprise for me is the load created by lights, those little pot lights certainly take up a fair amount of power. Now I have to get my family to remember to shut off lights when they leave a room.

The energy display receives its information from a transmitter that attaches to your hydro meter. The display gives the temperature at the transmitter, which for most people means outside, in our case the basement temperature. The display has time, day of the week and current billing rate (off-peak, mid-peak and on-peak).

The only thing I don’t like about the display is that when the electricity system switches from summer to winter billing periods the user is responsible for reprogramming the display. Too bad they couldn’t figure out how to store two sets of rates and just have the user do a quick single step reprogramming.

If you have gotten the display or have questions then let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The video below explains the program. More information available, including online enrollment, on the HydroOttawa peaksaver Plus website.