General
Solar FAQ
Wind FAQ

General FAQ

Q. Where are you located?
A. We are based in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Please note that we do not have a public shop, so appointments are necessary. Please phone or email first so you’re not disappointed in your visit!

Q. What kind of services do you provide?
A. Anything renewable that you need, we can help with. We can install, service, maintain and commission your:

  • solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) system
  • grid-tied systems (electrical systems that integrate with your electricity provider)
  • off-grid systems (electrical systems that aren’t tied to your utility, such as a remote cabin or a home that isn’t already connected to the utility). These are often also called battery-based systems.
  • residential or commercial wind turbines
  • deep cycle battery bank

Our approach keeps us very specialized on the services we excel at while being able to offer parallel services through other industry experts we have come to trust.

Q. Do you charge for estimates?
A. No. We recommend a site assessment (free of charge) in order to make accurate recommendations for your site.

Q. Can you fix my [insert size here] generator?
A. As certified, factory-trained Generac sales/service dealers, we can install and service generators made by Generac up to 150kW in size, including the Guardian line, the Quiet Series, Eco-Gen, as well as portable generators. We have experience with a variety of generator sizes, for both residential and commercial use. If you have a generator that is from a different manufacturer, you can send us the manufacturer and model information and we’ll see what we can do.

Q. Can you fix or service my wind turbine?
A. SAGE Energy has serviced several makes and sizes of wind turbines, and we have associations and partnerships with various wind manufacturers. If you have questions about your existing turbine and aren’t sure what steps to take to service it, just ask us!

Q. Can you install my wind turbine?
A. Yes. We are a small business but we have several associates with whom we work closely on larger projects. We can also service your 50kW or larger turbine as well. Whatever your equipment, we can certainly work with you and our associates/partners to get your project done safely and effectively.

Q. I’m trying to be a conscientious consumer and have received three quotes for an installation. Why are they completely different from each other?
A. Ah, grasshopper. Without any familiarity with the solar energy industry, it can be very difficult for clients to interpret and fully understand how to compare various proposals. Do your homework. Call your companies and ask questions. Try to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples – and in the end, it comes down to your own confidence in the company and your own choice. Read some advice about Hiring Contractors here.

Q. Why don’t you list any prices on your website?
A. This requires a two-fold answer. For one, although we update our website on at least a weekly basis, the costs of renewable energy equipment fluctuates very frequently. For another, the factors involved in building a system can be numerous. Even giving a ballpark can be very misleading.

We don’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach, either in life or in our business– –which is why we advise a site assessment to enable us to give you the most suitable recommendations for YOUR site.

Q. What kind of rebates are available?
A. Much as we like websites that provide lots of detailed information, we find that the programs available for rebates are changing too frequently, and we prefer to direct our clients to the websites that are responsible for those programs, to ensure that you get accurate and up-to-date information.

Our first stop is generally Efficiency Nova Scotia, and from there we can also direct you to organizations that can aid you with energy-wise building construction (for new construction) or programs for existing homes.

Solar FAQ

Q. How much does a solar electric system cost?
A. Since many factors affect pricing, it’s difficult to provide an exact price for a solar electric system without performing a site evaluation. Factors that affect pricing include: how much electricity you currently use, how much you want to reduce your electricity bill (for instance, 50, 80 or 100 percent?), the solar panel brand you choose, the orientation of your roof, your roof’s material and age, the size and type of your service entrance and much more.

Q. What’s the difference: solar electric vs solar hot water?
A. Many people get confused between these and use the terms interchangeably. However, “solar electric” means that the electricity is generated from sunlight (seems obvious, right?). This includes direct generation using photovoltaics (“PV”) like solar panels.

Solar hot water doesn’t provide electricity; instead, the sunlight heats water for use in in-floor heating, swimming pools, etc. It’s also an excellent choice for supplementing domestic water.

Q. Are solar panels right for my home?
A. There are many factors that go into whether or not solar is a good fit for your home. These are just a few:

  • Does your roof get much sun exposure? (South-facing is ideal)
  • What’s the condition of your roof?
  • Is your roof shaded at all (chimneys, gables, nearby structures)?
  • If your roof isn’t suitable, do you have enough suitable space on the ground for a ground-mounted array?
  • Does solar make sense for your budget?

Q. Can I add more solar panels to my system later on?
A. Adding solar panels or expanding your array is possible but can be complicated. It’s easier to size your system correctly the first time, which is why we as your solar installer will make sure we understand your current usage and any reasons that your usage might change in the near future.

For a grid-tied solar electric system, an Enhanced Net Metering application through Nova Scotia Power is required prior to installation.  As of 2013, the application is based on the current system size, and any future additions require a new application at the time of installation.

Q. How many solar panels do I need?
A. The size of your solar system depends on a number of factors:

  • How much electricity your home uses
  • Angle, pitch, and direction of your roof
  • Unobstructed roof space that is available

A typical system size can range anywhere between 10 to 20 panels, though many systems are smaller or larger. The most accurate way to figure out how many panels your home will need is to get a site assessment. First, though, feel free to check out our Solar Power page for some more information.

Q. I need a new roof. Can I put solar panels on it now or wait until the roof is in?
A. Your home solar system could last for twenty years or more, so it would make sense to have at least twenty good years left on your roof. If your roof needs to be replaced or repaired, it’s best to do so before you get solar, so you don’t have to remove and re-install the panels later on.

Q. How long will a residential solar electric system last?
A. Most solar photovoltaic modules currently available are warranted to last at least 25 years. Although the modules themselves will degrade over time, they will likely still be producing power even after 35 years or more. Other components of a system may need to be replaced sooner–for example, inverters are usually warranted around 10 years. In an off-grid system, well-maintained, good- quality battery banks can last a decade or more before needing replacement.

Q. Will my solar panels produce enough energy to cover all my electricity needs?
A. Maybe – but only if it’s been sized and designed to do so. It is important to understand that a solar electric system does not need to provide all of the electricity you need to be of great value. A small system that displaces an average of one-quarter to one-half of your average demand reduces your electric bill significantly, not to mention increasing your warm fuzzies.

Cutting your electricity consumption by implementing good energy conservation is always the best approach before investing in any alternative energy solution–and may be a requirement if you are choosing an off-grid lifestyle.

Q. Will my solar system work (ie., produce power) at night?
A. No. Sunlight must be present for your solar electric modules to produce power. At night, you draw power from your utility (unless you’re on an off-grid system using batteries for storing power).

Q. Will my solar array work on cloudy days?
A. Yes, although they’ll produce less electricity. According to some sources, under a light overcast sky, panels might produce about half as much as under full sun.

Q. Can I generate heat for my home with my residential solar electric system?
A. No. Solar power systems are designed to provide electricity to run your lights, appliances and other electric devices in your home. Other solar technologies (solar hot water, solar hot air) are designed to turn the sun’s light into heat instead of electricity.

Q. You keep saying my roof or ground-mount needs to be shade-free. Why is shade a problem?
A. This is the current reality of solar module design: ALL of the individual solar cells on a module must receive full sunlight for the module to work properly. This is due to the electrical wiring within the module. If any portion of the module is shaded, the entire module power output is lowered, and can even be cancelled out entirely. Microinverters can negate some of this problem, but the individual module will still be affected.

Q. What if my roof doesn’t face south?
A. PV panels should be oriented to true (not magnetic) south to max out the sun’s rays. East- and west-facing panels are possible but will produce less energy than a more southerly array. A site assessment will provide us with the information we need to give you the best layout and angle for your solar array.

Q. How do I clean my solar modules?
A. Generally, no specialized tools are required. A garden hose will typically do, though some customers prefer to use a high-pressure sprayer from the ground when the array is accessible. Our solar installers will ensure that customers are advised on how to care for their systems properly.

Q. Will snow build up on my panels over the winter?
A. In Maritime Canada, the polite answer is “Probably”, depending on a few factors including the angle of the array. Modules produce enough heat that light coverings of snow will melt enough to slide off. However, heavy snow cover that doesn’t easily melt away can sometimes be a reality. There are products out there that are specifically designed for removing snow, but if you have access to the panels a squeegee on a telescoping pole can do the job.

Q. Should I choose ground-mount or roof-mount?
A. If your roof isn’t suitable for solar (it’s shaded, or there isn’t enough physical real estate, or for another reason) and if you have the space, a ground-mount system might be a suitable option. Try out our Want to go solar? tool to start figuring out what might work for your home.

Q. I have a three-bedroom, normal home, three computers and would like to go off-grid. What will it cost?
A. We get various forms of this question very frequently. The problem is that living off-grid is a lifestyle choice, not just an equipment choice. And if you’re an average homeowner (ie., your home has electric heat, electric hot water, an average refrigerator, a chest freezer, incandescent light bulbs, TV, entertainment unit, air conditioner etc.) it will cost you an arm and a leg–even assuming you have the solar “real estate” (the actual available space on your roof or property for solar panels) and/or the wind resource. AND you’ll likely never see the return on investment, as you’d probably spend upwards of $100,000 and still struggle with adjusting your habits. It’s not a matter of simply switching your power source from NSPI to an alternative green source, it’s actually a pretty complicated maneuver.

The reality is that you must have realistic expectations before you can successfully live off-grid (financially as well as logistically). It’s not impossible–there are a lot of people, in Nova Scotia and elsewhere, who are not only successful but ultimately completely happy with their choice.

Your best advice is to tackle your home’s energy efficiency FIRST, preferably before you even begin to invest in solar panels or wind turbines. The more efficient your building’s “envelope” is, the easier (and cheaper, and more cost-effective) it will be to incorporate an alternative energy system.

Q. What kind of maintenance is required for a solar hot-water system?
A. A solar hot-water system requires very little maintenance, especially closed-loop systems. Closed-loop solar hot-water systems are designed to operate so almost no maintenance is required. The controls operate the pump and monitor the system’s activities on a daily basis.

Q. How hot can solar heated domestic water get?
A. Water heated by the sun can reach temperatures exceeding 212° F, but the normal temperature for household use is only 120° to 130° F. Solar energy can easily achieve these temperatures, even on cloudy days.

Q. Will solar heating affect how much water I will have?
A. Actually, you will have much more hot water than ever before. If the system is sized well for your family, you will no longer need to wait for the water heater to reheat between showers.

Solar water heaters are always installed in addition to your regular water heater. That means that even during bad weather you will still have hot water.

Wind FAQ

Q. How much will it cost to install a wind turbine?
A. This is a simple-sounding question with a rather wishy-washy answer: it depends. A wind turbine can be perfectly suitable, depending on the application (off-grid or grid-tie), and of course, the available wind resource. Equally important: the product chosen and how it is installed.

This question is usually also tied in to the previous question about going off-grid with an existing home. There are too many factors to be able to provide a simple answer, so if you ask us this question be prepared for a ballpark estimate that may or may not be reasonable for your situation.

Q. Is a wind turbine right for my home?
A. This is a question we get very often, as there are so many great properties in Nova Scotia with excellent wind resource. Generally speaking, larger wind turbines (such as those that were part of Nova Scotia’s discontinued COMFIT program) are a great idea. Small wind turbines, on the other hand, can be extraordinarily difficult and each potential project needs to be very carefully examined. Read more about our opinions on our Wind page.

We have had a great deal of experience with many makes of wind turbines, and not all of them are suitable for our Maritime climate–never mind approved for use in Canada. Wind turbines are a major investment, and the cost of solar is often more feasible.

There are many turbines installed in the Maritimes with happy customers, both on a residential scale as well as a business one. Proceed with caution and do a lot of homework, and we will help you along the way to make the most appropriate choices.

If you think a wind turbine is a perfect choice for your property, a site assessment is your next step!