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Anyone in Canada have solar panels?

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
For 2016 Ontario is finally removing the debt retirement change, which is a good thing. But that will make net metering even less attractive.

Yes, and with much fanfare. What is also happening, with significantly less fanfare, is that the "Green Credit" (10% off your total, after-tax billed amount) is also going away. A net loss for most.

I wonder if we will ever get into the fights that you are seeing in some parts of the US where electrical utilities are trying to impose minimum monthly charges to be on the grid.

More bad news. Yes, Ontario will be implementing a "flat" distribution charge and it is to be phased in over a 4-year period. Right now, distribution charges are collected on the basis of a relatively small fixed charge (usually around $15) and a volumetric based rate. I see this being a thorny issue. Large users, like EV owners, will benefit while seniors, low income folks and such who use less electricity will suffer since the flat rate will be an "average" of what the utility needs to charge to recover its operating costs. Regulatory and commodity prices will remain variable. I can see this being an issue for net-metered solar customers too.

In a way, this is not unreasonable. A utility's costs don't change when consumers use less. Those poles, wires and capacity has to be there, on demand, regardless. Those costs don't go away. Rates were based on an old model of one-way electricity flows and a volumetric rate worked and made sense. But with 2-way power flows and other options consumers now have, it doesn't make sense. It does make sense to price the actual commodity volumetrically, but the connection costs are static regardless of how much power you take from the grid.

To make matters even worse, the Ontario Government is introducing the Ontario Electricity Support Program, or OESP. I call this the "Robin Hood" rate. Designated low income customers will be given an on-bill credit and it will be paid for via a rate rider on everyone else's bill. And you hoped that government meddling would end!!
 
What kind are your solar pool heaters? Mine are evacuated tube but I am wondering if that is the correct kind to get.
My solar pool system uses unglazed plastic. My father who has spent much of the last 15-20years doing solar research pointed me in this direction. The other nice thing is one of the best unglazed plastic panel manufacturers is a Quebec based company (Techno Solis).

Here is a summary of the different pool types and their strengths/weakness I found:

Unglazed Plastic
Unglazed plastic collectors can be the most efficient solar collectors available in the world. Some of these collectors approach 90% gross area efficiency! The features that make them efficient are: many tubes with no gaps in between them, thin plastic, built to lie against the roof surface - not stand above it, one-pass water flow - not flowing back and forth through a group of collectors.
Unglazed Rubber
Unglazed rubber collectors have been available for almost as long as the unglazed plastic collectors. They are typically significantly less efficient than unglazed plastic collectors (by 20% to 40%) for a number of reasons; fewer tubes, gaps or spaces between the tubes, thicker rubber in the tubes. The gaps between the tubes have two negative effects upon the efficiency of the collectors. 1) the gaps miss the sun. Both rubber and plastic are not good conductors of heat, so sunshine energy that falls into a gap between tubes is not efficiently conducted to the pool water in the tubes - heat is lost to the air or re-radiated. 2) the gaps between the tubes allows the wind to remove heat from the exposed surface areas of the tubes. In fact, an unglazed plastic panel actually has been shown to have the poorest efficiency because it has no web between its tubes at all - which allows the wind to blow right through it and cool it off like a fan on a car radiator!
Glazed
Glazed collectors should only be used on indoor pools & hot water systems. There are several reasons for this. 1.) Glazed collectors actually start out less efficient than unglazed collectors because the glazing reflects or absorbs a minimum of 10% of the available solar energy - you actually need a larger glazed solar collector area than unglazed for an outdoor pool. 2.) Glazed collectors must use metal absorbers (plastic absorbers would melt). Pool water should never be passed through a metal absorber (unless it's made of titanium). Pool water will rapidly damage copper, aluminum or steel absorbers. 3.) Pools typically are operated between 26 and 30 degrees C. (79 -86 degrees F.). Glazed collectors are designed to operate at much higher temperatures and cost much more per square foot than unglazed collectors.
Evacuated/Vacuum Tubes
Evacuated or vacuum tubes suffer from all the same issues of inappropriateness that glazed collectors do for outdoor pools, plus a couple of others. 1.) Evacuated/vacuum tubes are fragile when compared to any other type of solar collector. The tubes must never be installed close to a pool area due to the potential for glass breakage. Unlike flat plate glass, tube glass is not tempered and will break into long, sharp, dangerous shards which could harm the pool or people in or around the pool. 2.) Evacuated /vacuum tubes will create extremely high temperatures while not actively heating a pool. Starting a tube collector up after it has sat in the sun can generate dangerously high temperature and pressures! We discuss vacuum tubes in depth in this section.
 

wayner

Active Member
Oct 29, 2014
3,888
1,478
Toronto
Thanks Brian. My understanding was that evacuated tubes are better when there is more of a delta between the air temperature and the water temperature - I was told about 20F. My desired water temperature is about 85F - so that would mean they work better when the air temp is below 65F. But I don't know that the air temp is below 65F during the day when the system is on. So I think I may have got the wrong type although my guy swears that this is the best type of system for the GTA.
 

SmartElectric

Active Member
Jul 9, 2014
2,527
2,408
Toronto,Canada
What kind are your solar pool heaters? Mine are evacuated tube but I am wondering if that is the correct kind to get.
Is your ravine slope clear of trees? I have a ravine behind my house but it has lots of low lying bushes like sumacs and Manitoba Maples, plus larger trees that also cast a shadow. And cutting down trees in a ravine is a big no-no.

We have ~ 40 feet wide by 12 ft long unglazed PVC panels which contain many thin tubes/channels.
A controller switches a valve automatically between running the output of the pool filter into the panels, or bypass directly to return line.
The controller senses the heat of the panels via a simple heat sensor co-located with the panels.

Total installed cost was $2500, I did the preparation and grading. I also provided mounting materials (wood mostly from a fence I tore down and re-used).

My ravine is full of sumac and a few large apple trees (50 years old, I prune them constantly to keep them healthy) which I keep under control to cut down of excessive shading.

- - - Updated - - -

Thanks Brian. My understanding was that evacuated tubes are better when there is more of a delta between the air temperature and the water temperature .... So I think I may have got the wrong type although my guy swears that this is the best type of system for the GTA.

You will get at least 4 more weeks of 85F out of your tubes compared to the cheaper unglazed PVC panels I have.
Like I noted earlier, May and September are hard to raise the pool above 80F with my system, but that said, our pool is 82F today and will be all week due to the warm temperatures right now.
Next week, I'll be lucky to to maintain 80F and the following week, 78F and so on.

One thing to note : My kids won't swim when it's cold out anyway, so if the outside temp is not "hot", the pool is only really used by me...
 

wayner

Active Member
Oct 29, 2014
3,888
1,478
Toronto
I keep my gas heater on and set at 81. My pool pump runs from 6:30am to 8:30pm - longer in the summer months. So if the night has been cool the NatGas heater kicks in and brings it back up to 81 early in the morning. On sunny days the solar system will then get it up to 84-86 depending on how warm/sunny it is. I think my stem cost about $4500 including installation. I don't have any automated sensors - I have to turn a valve manually but I basically have it set up to always send the water through the solar system. The one downside to my system is that it introduces air into my jets as the panels are on the roof (see above picture) which is about two stories above the pool. It appears that the water picks up too much force coming back down which sucks in air.
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
My pool pump runs from 6:30am to 8:30pm - longer in the summer months.

I had a pool at my last house, but not where I currently live. I used to run the pump 24x7, but eventually put a timer on it to run one hour on, then one hour off to save electricity costs. I've often thought that with TOU rates, I would be better served to run it only during off peak times if I had a pool now. I didn't have solar heaters, so I see the need to circulate water when the sun is shining. Do these rooftop panels have a separate pump, or do they just piggyback on the main pump? Just curious.
 

wayner

Active Member
Oct 29, 2014
3,888
1,478
Toronto
Do these rooftop panels have a separate pump, or do they just piggyback on the main pump? Just curious.
On my system they piggyback off of the main pump. You are right about TOU - before I had the solar heaters I had my pool shut off during the day. That was also preferable due to the lower noise. Some people run their pool pumps as little as four hours per day. But if you have a Salt Water Chlorine Generator (like I do) then you also need it running to generate your Cl.

As was mentioned above the glass tubes are fragile. If you shut the system off for more than a few minutes during the day then you cannot turn it back on until well after sunset and the water in the tubes has cooled down. Otherwise the tubes superheat the water to close to boiling - if you turn on the system that water gets pushed out and replaced with 80 degree water and the glass shatters. You also don't want to run the system at night as it will work like a radiator and suck heat out of the water, assuming that the air is cooler than the water at night.

One thing that you don't see much, but would make sense, would be a way of shifting the heat from your house to your pool. Those of us with pools are cooling are house and heating our pools all summer - it would be nice to just move the heat from house to pool. I have seen an attic heat exchanger online but someone told me that aren't legal in Canada or Ontario.
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
One thing that you don't see much, but would make sense, would be a way of shifting the heat from your house to your pool. Those of us with pools are cooling are house and heating our pools all summer - it would be nice to just move the heat from house to pool.

It's funny you say that. When I had my old house with the pool, I'd sit there watching my a/c unit blasting all that heat out and thinking it would be great to capture it for the pool. I'd even thought of MacGyvering up an old car radiator on top of the a/c unit and circulating pool water through it! It seems there are lots of simple ideas like that which could help. For instance, why not duct the warm air from your refrigerator and/or freezer outside during the summer rather than just throwing all that heat into the house (kind of like how those portable air conditioners work, only with a more permanent vent like a dryer would use).

- - - Updated - - -

Otherwise the tubes superheat the water to close to boiling - if you turn on the system that water gets pushed out and replaced with 80 degree water and the glass shatters.

That's gotta suck if your power goes out during the day while you're away, then comes back on again.
 
As was mentioned above the glass tubes are fragile. If you shut the system off for more than a few minutes during the day then you cannot turn it back on until well after sunset and the water in the tubes has cooled down. Otherwise the tubes superheat the water to close to boiling - if you turn on the system that water gets pushed out and replaced with 80 degree water and the glass shatters. You also don't want to run the system at night as it will work like a radiator and suck heat out of the water, assuming that the air is cooler than the water at night.
The unglazed pvc works the same way in that if you run it at night it will cool the pool down, so as SmartElectric mention, there is a valve that opens when the collectors are hotter than the pool water, and that valve closes when the temp drop occurs (normally in the early evening). It is apparently common to use the systems at night to cool pools in the southern US in the summer.
 

wayner

Active Member
Oct 29, 2014
3,888
1,478
Toronto
That's gotta suck if your power goes out during the day while you're away, then comes back on again.
Yes - if I was home I could just shut the breaker off. If the outage was for less than five minutes then I should be ok. I don't know if there is a way to reconfigure the pump, which is controlled by the heater, to revert to the off state if power is lost.
 

Kalud

Active Member
May 7, 2013
1,059
293
Montreal, QC
It's funny you say that. When I had my old house with the pool, I'd sit there watching my a/c unit blasting all that heat out and thinking it would be great to capture it for the pool. I'd even thought of MacGyvering up an old car radiator on top of the a/c unit and circulating pool water through it! It seems there are lots of simple ideas like that which could help. For instance, why not duct the warm air from your refrigerator and/or freezer outside during the summer rather than just throwing all that heat into the house (kind of like how those portable air conditioners work, only with a more permanent vent like a dryer would use) .

Funny, we are getting off topic, but I did the same, watching the AC blasting hot air outside the house and the pool heatpump doing the exact opposite blasting cool air.

I fixed the problem:

IMG_1928 - small.JPG
IMG_1940 - small.JPG
web app iPhone.jpg
 

SmartElectric

Active Member
Jul 9, 2014
2,527
2,408
Toronto,Canada
On my system they piggyback off of the main pump.

Same. I bought a brand new high efficiency single speed 1/2 HP (~800W) pump this year, and it pushes water more efficiently then the old pump that sucked 1400W continuous! The actual electric motor is a simple AC motor, it's the impeller and pump housing that is far more advanced, using better flow design to reduce friction, better materials and bearings. Due to the added pressure from this pump, I needed to re-plumb about half of the existing piping due to hitting higher than 34PSI (I was able to get it down to 25PSI). I reduced the number of 90 degree turns from 14 down to 1, effectively dropping the pressure 8 PSI.

We run our pump 10 AM - 4 PM always on sunny days, and generally an hour every few days when it's cloudy/raining.
 

Peter_M

Member
Oct 10, 2013
979
292
Ottawa, Canada
That is awesome, and a lot more elegant than my hillbilly radiator sitting on top of the a/c idea!

Very cool :) idea! The other idea a co-worker had was to put black slate patio stones all around the pool and run water under them (the same kind of system you use for water-based in-floor heating) to heat the pool. He moved away and I never heard how well it worked, but it sounded pretty smart to me - keeps the stones cool and heats the pool.
 

SmartElectric

Active Member
Jul 9, 2014
2,527
2,408
Toronto,Canada
Funny, we are getting off topic, but I did the same, watching the AC blasting hot air outside the house and the pool heatpump doing the exact opposite blasting cool air.

Found this product:
Heat Recovery Pool Heater | Compare To Solar Pool Heater | HotSpot Energy LLC

The HotSpot FPH pool heater provides free pool heating by recycling the waste heat that your air conditioner throws away.In the process, it increases the efficiency of your air conditioner, saving up to 40% on electricity costs for indoor cooling.
The HotSpot heat recovery pool heater heats your pool for free.

This old house did a bit on it:
 
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