Why I became a sun worshipper

Tim Short, 5 Randolph Rd., invites you to visit his home on Sept. 10, 9 a.m to 3 p.m., for a free sun-energy tour during the Green Energy Doors Open event.

I became personally interested in solar energy a decade ago when I first started hearing about climate change. Digging into the subject on my own, I became convinced that change was coming to all of our lives whether we believed in it or not.

Always one to be mindful of energy and water consumption (i.e. I didn’t want to pay any more than I had to!), I wanted to do even more than I was already doing. Right then, I also committed myself to sharing my learnings along the way with my family and local community. That brought me to harnessing solar energy, something that I thought many of my fellow Leasiders could also take up given the 100s of acres of asphalt-covered roofs that occupy our village.

In 2007, my first real foray into solar, I installed a solar hot water heater on my roof. Like clockwork, it has performed flawlessly and reduced my consumption of natural gas for water heating by about half. I love the notion of squeezing some of the sun’s energy hitting my roof into my hot water tank down in the basement.

Tim Short at his energy efficient home on Randolph Rd.
Tim Short at his energy efficient home on Randolph Rd.
Then in 2009, after the government announced the passing of new legislation to transition Ontario to a more sustainable future, I took advantage of incentives and installed a PV (photo-voltaic) solar array on another part of my roof. This time, the system wouldn’t heat up my water. Instead, it would generate electricity. Although my house doesn’t actually use the electricity generated, because it goes onto Toronto Hydro’s wire running along our streets, it’s kind of cool to think that many of neighbours living closest to me have been running some of their lights, flat screens TVs, laptops, etc. off my solar array. And they don’t even know!

My most recent initiative for harvesting solar energy was installing a smaller PV system on the very back of my house’s roof earlier this summer. Without getting too technical, on very sunny days, this system actually either slows down my Toronto Hydro electric meter or often even runs it backwards. Yes, that’s right. Backwards. The electric meter goes negative. And before anyone accuses me, it’s legal. It’s called net metering, and you can expect to hear a lot more about it in the near future, because an increasing number of countries (e.g. U.S.) are doing it big-time.

So after 10 years, what have I learned? A lot! More and more people are starting to ask me questions about solar, in particular people walking or driving by in Leaside. The cost of the technology has dropped by over 50 per cent in 10 years (and continues to do so), and has also massively improved in performance. On an annual basis, the combined output of the two PV systems generates the equivalent of close to 70 per cent of my household’s total electrical needs. I could go on, but for anyone interested to learn more, please drop me a line here.

In the meantime, I’m off to catch a few rays.

Article written by Tim Short.