We get a lot of questions regarding solar alarms when it snows. Alarms for snow-covered solar panels are normal. With the solar panels covered in snow, there is minimal or not enough light hitting the panels to turn on the optimizers, micro-inverters, or string inverters. As such, you will see a low power error or a communication error depending. Some string inverters will generate a low or no production error/warning during daylight hours. This is expected.
Solar PV systems are installed in much colder climates than ours, so the cold weather will not damage the equipment. Furthermore, solar panels are rated for snow load – assuming that the rails supporting the solar panels have been installed correctly and as per the solar panel clamping specifications.
Winter days are short on the Island and Lower mainland. So, you will not be missing out on much energy production by having snow-covered solar panels. If you want to take advantage of the cold clear winter days, you can clear the snow off the solar panels with a push broom or like. Only do so if it is safe!
Don’t worry about the alarms until all the snow melts off your solar panels. In the meantime, enjoy the snow!
Solar Photovoltaic systems (photo meaning light and voltaic meaning electricity) produce direct current or DC electricity when exposed to light. On residential systems, this electricity is converted into alternating current or AC by using micro-inverters. This electricity can now be directly absorbed by house appliances, for example an EV charger, or the utility grid, in this case BC Hydro.
The process is referred to as Net-Metering:
If the solar panels produce more electricity than the house needs, excess electricity is absorbed by the grid (BC Hydro) and credited against future consumption. Whether it’s day or night, summer or winter, this means all electricity produced by the solar panels is of direct benefit to the homeowner.
See infographic below:
Yes, BC Hydro still credits users with using a net billing framework. The smart meter measures power going out to the grid (outflow) and coming in from the grid (inflow). Every bill, total outflow is subtracted from total inflow.
Excess outflow is carried forward and automatically deducted off of the inflow of the following bill. Homeowners can generate an amount of electricity up to the amount that they consume over an annualized period.
See sample bill below:
No, as the electricity grid provides an equal-exchange bill credit for any power that needs to be stored. The grid is a cheaper way to store excess solar electricity, which also does not have a shelf-life or any associated maintenance payable by the customer.
The short answer is YES! Solar photovoltaic technology has improved by 3x over the last ten years. Manufacturers have reached better low light performance. Our system monitoring database shows that during cloudy and rainy days, the solar panels typically produce 10-20% of peak output.
Yes, each individual system has lifetime monitoring with no subscription, which can be accessed through a smart phone, tablet or computer. Internet is required.
No, as a safety feature, the solar panels de-energize within 0.16 seconds of a power failure. This protects powerline technicians from working on a live circuit.
Shift is an experienced Tesla Powerwall Certified Installer and has installed several residential and commercial battery back-up systems which can provide full or partial home emergency power during power outages. These systems typically also harness the electricity from the solar panels to increase battery life during extended outages.
All of our equipment is sourced from Tier 1 Internationally recognized manufactures deploying the latest in technology.
UV is the biggest contributor to roof degradation, so covering your roof with solar panels increases its lifetime.
Rooftop solar panel attachment method depends primarily on the type of roofing installed. A reputable solar contractor will always follow manufacturers installation conditions and instructions, keeping the following in mind:
preserving the integrity of your roofer’s warranty
preventing water ingress, which could lead to serious damage
ensuring the strength of the attachment can withstand wind and snow loads
Our most commonly installed product here at Shift is the RT-MINI. This solution is engineered to withstand wind speeds up to 180 mph and ground snow up to 70 psf. The assembly consists of a metal bracket, wood screws and Butyl Tape used to seal any penetrations created during the installation process.
One of our attachment methods for composite shingle roofs use an anodized aluminum flashing with a 3-layer protection from water ingress, pictured below.
As a result, there is no damage to the seal on asphalt shingles so the roof warranty remains intact. RT-MINI is fully waterproof and certified by the International Code Council (ICC) for Flexible Flashing. Stamped PE letters are available for 37 states in the U.S. and four provinces in Canada.
Link to brochure: https://design.roof-tech.us/PDF/Brochures/Brochure-RT_MINI.pdf
In 2020, Roof Tech raised their warranty to 25-years, which includes the RT Butyl Tape or “flexible flashing”. They have deployed their attachments for well over 1,000,000 Solar PV systems and continue to bring new and innovative products to facilitate PV installations and revolutionize the industry globally. They have been an active supplier since 2011.
While there are a wide variety of metal roofs out there, our network of solar attachment and racking manufacturers typically have an attachment engineered, tested and designed for any metal roof profile.
The most common type we use is commonly referred to as an S-5! Clamp.
S-5! metal roof clamps attach to the seam of metal roofing panels by tightening a rounded-tip stainless steel set-screw against the seam material. The set-screw compresses the seam material against the opposite wall of the clamp, which in effect “dimples” the seam material without penetrating and breaking the seal.
Set-screws are tightened while following torquing specifications, which will vary based on the manufacturer of the roofing panel and gauge (thickness) of the metal.
Only S-5! offers a comprehensive 25-year materials and workmanship warranty on all of its products, which aligns with that of the rest of your system.
S-5! has been in the industry for over 25-years and have clamps and brackets engineered for a variety of applications, including:
Link to web-site: https://s-5.com/products/solar-solutions/
Flat roof installations are typically completed using a “floating” racking system, commonly referred to in the industry as a “self-ballasted” array. A sub-structure assembly is installed and weighed down using a specified number of concrete blocks based on a structural engineering report which factors all site-specific variables; including wind, snow and seismic loads, as well as building height, roof setbacks, building type, and more.
Yes, ground-mounts are often a great solution when a rooftop solution is not practicable. These are built with thoughtful attention to site-specific soil and ground conditions, may involve a geotechnical report, and offer the flexibility to install the solar panels at their optimal tilt angle and orientation to the sun.
Bonus: cleaning your solar panels can be more within reach when mounting them on the ground.
As of September 2020, Tesla has only made installations available is select US states. As a Tesla Certified Powerwall Installer we expect to be kept apprised of plans to bring the product to market in Canada. At this time, no timeline has been set. Stay tuned for an exciting alternative Shift will bring to market in 2021!
Yes! The federal government has come out with a new program called the Canada Greener Home Grant and it allows Canadians to receive up to a $5,000 cash rebate for home energy upgrades (including solar!). For more info, check out their website or reach out to us and we can help you understand how to take advantage of all grants available to you.
Also, all renewable energy equipment is PST Exempt.
There are preferential business taxation rules that allow organizations to fully depreciate the cost renewable energy system in the year in which the cost was incurred. See CRA Class 43.1 or 43.2
Yes, we offer fast, secure and affordable financing. To see if you qualify for financing visit our page here and get approved in minutes:
Preliminary design information about your existing electricity usage, site and system needs can be determined without a site visit and allow us to narrow down your best options but we will generally then require more detail that is best completed on site.
We are happy to tailor the assessment process to you needs and are flexible in our approach to accommodate individual requests!
Typically residential installations require 2-4 days to complete the physical install on site, variables such as electrical requirements, weather and complexity of design will reflect how long an install will take.
Once installed the commissioning is also done during that period and your system will be online and producing right away!
The physical install of racking, inverters and solar panels as noted above takes 2-4 days given a few system design variables.
We can begin feeding solar electricity back into your site and offsetting electrical loads as soon as electrical inspections are complete. Electricity credits back to the grid are recorded through BC Hydros Net metering program.
Net metering approval can take anywhere from 1 or 2 day to a 1-2 weeks. This can vary due to BC Hydro’s schedule as well as if we are applying for simple net metering (less than 200A service) or complex Net-metering (above 200A service). Shift takes care of all of the Net-metering paperwork, submission and approval as part of our turn key offering and is completed during the week of your install.
Below is a table displaying the annual sun-hours for Vancouver compared to other worldwide cities which have demonstrated widespread use of solar technology:
- Vancouver, Canada -1,938 sun hours
- Berlin, Germany – 1,728 sun hours
- Melbourne, Australia – 2,200 sun hours
- Milan, Italy – 1,915 sun hours
- San Francisco, USA – 3,062 sun hours
Solar Potential decreases as you move north and west in the province and increases as you move south and east. Richmond has the greatest solar potential across the lower mainland. For example:
- A 1kW solar system in Vancouver would produce about 1,007 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Surrey would produce about 996 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Burnaby would produce about 991 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Richmond would produce about 1,027 kWh/yr
- A 1kW solar system in Abbotsford would produce 996 kWh/yr
These systems use micro-inverters, which employ a maximum power point tracker on every panel. This creates redundancy as every panel operates independently regardless of the others in the system. If solar panels are covered by a leaf, we suggest waiting for rain or wind to naturally clean the panel. Snow cover has been accounted for in our performance modelling and should also be left to melt away.
Yes. Shift Energy Group is one of a select few companies across Western Canada that is a certified Tesla Powerwall installer.
When it comes to solar one size does not fit all. Every home is unique. Every wire runs differently. Personal objectives vary and aesthetics matter more to some than others. This is why we feel it important to custom design each system to suit the needs and requirements of each individual client. We’ll listen to what you want and provide the most cost effective project we feel will add the most value to you.
Installing solar is one of the safest and most reliable investments you can make. Enjoy financial returns starting day 1 and protect yourself against yearly electricity rate hikes.
Average home system: $15,000 and range to $22,000
Larger home systems: can start as low $24,000 and range to $40,000
For commercial installations, please contact us to discuss your specific requirements and we can provide a no-obligation quote.
A single Powerwall costs $9,350 + tax. This price does not include supporting hardware, shipping & handling, installation, electrical upgrades, permit fees, utility application/connection charges, taxes or optional solar power system. As per Tesla’s website, the final design and pricing will be based on your electrical panel, home energy usage, number of Powerwalls and where you would like your Powerwall installed. Here is a more detailed breakdown of typical costs associated with a turnkey Powerwall installation in Canada:
$9,350 – Powerwall (13.5 kWh battery with integrated inverter)
$1,550 – Backup Energy Gateway (Tesla’s supporting hardware that allows you to monitor, control and update your Powerwall via the Tesla app)
$700 – $1,500 – Shipping & handling (Tesla Gigafactory USA to installation address)
$1,300 – $3,900 – Labour (it typically takes 1-3 days to install Powerwall, depending on project complexity)
$900 – Materials (conduit, cable, sub-panels, breakers, etc.)
$500 – $1,000 – Permit fees (regional electrical safety authority)
$500 – $1,000 – Connection charges (utility application and connection)
Pricing above assumes that Powerwall is being located within 5 feet of your main electrical panel and that all existing electrical panels and wiring are up to code.
Given that these panels are made up of tempered glass encased by an anodized aluminum frame, rainfall will passively keep the panels clean. Depending on the level of particulates in the air, it may be worth having them visually inspected when gutters or windows are being cleaned. The panels can be cleaned with a soap and water mixture and a microfibre cloth. Do not pressure wash them!
These solar panels carry a 12-year warranty on product workmanship, covering the physical integrity and hardware on the panels. Given that these systems are stationary and have no moving parts, the risk of failure is very low.
These solar panels carry a 25-year warranty on performance, which on average, guarantees power output degradation to be no greater than 0.6% per year for 25 years.
Micro-inverters carry a 10-year product warranty which we extend complimentary to our clients to 25-years.
Racking carries a 20-year product warranty.
Shift is providing a 25-year labour and workmanship warranty on your systems. What’s more is that we will guarantee the production of our systems for 25 years as well. Should your system not produce as expected. We will compensate you the difference!
A grid-tie inverter turns itself off within milliseconds of detecting a power outage, and automatically turns back on once the utility (BC Hydro) has restored power. This is referred to as “anti-islanding” protection in the solar industry and is a requirement for interconnection in Canada. Inverters go through testing to gain a certification standard through CSA and UL. When the power shuts off, it disconnects power at the DC-input terminal of the inverter, putting the panel into an open circuit condition. When a solar panel is at open circuit, there may be voltage but no means for current to flow, so the electricity is never developed. Ie the solar panels don’t convert the photons from the sun into electrons.
As it’s currently configured, there is no way to redirect power for local use. We could make some adjustments, and there are two ways to achieve this:
a) Tesla PowerWall
This could be installed in sequence with or as a retrofit to the existing system. This would provide a battery-based back-up generator, enabling you to draw up to 5kW continuously in your home. Each Powerwall has 13.5kWh of useable electricity storage. This option, in giving you a battery, means that even at night you would have power available. If the power is out, and the solar panels are producing electricity, the power gets re-directed to the Powerwall to re-charge it’s battery. Read more here: http://mpowersolutions.ca/faq
b) SMA Sunny Boy Inverter with Secure Power Supply
This option would not include a battery, but rather re-directs solar power to a single 120V outlet installed near the inverter – which would be likely mounted in the garage. The outlet can provide up to 2,000W of power, so long as the solar panels are generating electricity. This could be used to charge small electronics and I’ve also seen our clients trickle recharge their electric vehicle, but not meant for large loads. Read more here: https://www.smainverted.com/
If your solar system is connected to the grid, it will shut down in the event of a blackout. This is to prevent an electric shock from being inflicted on the response crew repairing the power lines.
However, “multi-mode” inverters have the ability to power critical appliances in the event of a power outage. If this is something you’re specifically in the market for, ask us for more information on how this technology can suit your goals.
Yes, the panels work in any sort of daylight conditions; however, output is reduced in the winter (or overcast days) due to less available irradiance (energy) from the sun. Some say a bright moon might generate a little bit of power.
Solar PV produces clean energy without the use of moving parts – no noise, no gearboxes, no belt drives, no turbines. Beyond being virtually maintenance free – they have an extensive lifespan, eliminating costs incurred by upkeep and maintenance.
The panels are made of durable tempered glass and require little to no maintenance for the 25 to 40 years that they will generate power. In most cases, you don’t even need to clean your panels regularly. If something does happen, your system will likely be covered under warranty.
Typically, in our climate, rain showers take care of the removal of any soiling accumulated on your panels, provided your system is installed at a reasonable pitch. In certain circumstances, your panels may need to be cleaned monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually. If your home is surrounded by trees, leaves and pine needles will soil the panels more frequently.