solar panel installation victoria bc

Solar Panel Installation Can Lead to Big Savings

Advantages of Installing a Solar Energy System


Solar energy is a great way to reduce your electricity bills. Installing solar panels on the roof of your home or business will allow you to generate free, clean and renewable power for use in your house. The savings from this are significant as it reduces your monthly bill by up to 70%! If you’re looking at ways to cut down on your electric costs, then solar could be an ideal solution. Here we look at how solar works, what benefits there are, and why people choose to install them.

Solar Energy Definition

What Is Solar Energy and How Does it Generate Power?

The sun provides us with all our energy needs – without its rays we would not survive. However, most of that energy comes in the form of heat rather than light which means that only around 5-10% of sunlight reaches the Earth’s surface. This leaves 90-95% of the available energy trapped within the atmosphere where it cannot reach ground level. The photovoltaic cells in solar panels can gather and store this energy for immediate or later use.

What Type of Solar Panel Do I Need?

It’s your choice. All solar panels are made up of tiny cells, called solar cells or photovoltaic cells. There are two main types of photovoltaic cells in solar panels: crystalline silicon and thin film PV. Crystalline silicon cells have been used since the 1970s and were originally developed for military purposes. They consist of a single layer of semiconductor material sandwiched between two conductive electrodes.

Thin film technology was introduced in the 1980s and uses multiple layers of different materials including metals, oxides, nitrides and polymers. Both technologies work using the same principle – when exposed to sunlight, electrons move from one electrode to another creating an electric current. Solar panels made of thin film PV are the most popular today, since they’re more economical and easier to install. However, with the lower cost comes a lower efficiency. To learn more, take a look at this excellent post on the types of solar panels at Solar Reviews.com

Why Do People Install Solar Panels on Their Homes or Businesses?

There are many reasons why people decide to invest in solar panel installations. Some may want to offset rising fuel prices while others see it as a long-term investment option. Whatever the reason, if you’re considering investing in solar, it pays to know exactly what you need to consider first. You should also take time to research the best options available and find out about any incentives offered by local authorities. Once you’ve decided to go ahead, it’s important to get quotes from several companies who offer solar installation services. 

How Much Can I Save By Having Solar Panels Installed?

Generally speaking, the return on investment is very good. Thanks to the Canada Greener Homes Grant, you could even be eligible for thousands of dollars in rebates for the purchase and installation of solar panels and energy-storing batteries. 

You could also be eligible for a rebate for improving the energy efficiency of your home through the Better Homes BC and Better Buildings BC programs when renovating or building a home or business. Renewable energy products are PST exempt too. Own a business? You could be eligible for tax credits as well. 

Best of all, you’ll see continued savings after installation, since BC Hydro will credit you when your energy production exceeds the amount of energy used. Combined with the use of smart home products, today’s solar panels go a long way towards creating a net-zero building that generates more power than it uses. 

Solar Panels Can Help Save on Home Maintenance Costs Too

Did you know that solar panels can increase the life expectancy of your roof? Roof replacement is a major project for many homeowners and one that comes with a high price tag. 

A longer life span for your roof can generate additional savings that many people don’t realize. In our opinion, it’s another tick mark for the “pros” column when you’re trying to decide whether to invest in solar. 

The reason is simple: UV rays degrade traditional roofing materials, so having the solar panels cover the roof and absorb the sun’s rays translates to a longer-lasting roof. If you absolutely can’t have solar panels mounted on your roof, you can still use a ground-mounted solution, as directed by a geotechnical specialist and photovoltaic technician, who can advise on the optimal placement to take advantage of all that clean energy.

Will My Solar Panels Work Even When It’s Not Sunny?

The amount of energy produced depends on factors like location, weather conditions and other variables. With the changes in our climate in Victoria BC and increased hours of summer sunshine, it’s a good idea to start harnessing all that solar energy to power your home or business. Even if it’s cloudy, your solar panels will still be working hard for you. 

Today’s solar panels are up to 3x more effective than earlier models and have much better low-light performance than they used to. On a rainy Victoria day, you can expect about 20% of peak output, which is just fine when you have stored solar energy as well. This 20% can drastically reduce your energy consumption and your average cost on your electric bills. 

Solar panel installation at your home or business is a smart economical decision, provided you have the right conditions and adequate sunlight. Not sure if you want to go full-tilt on a whole-home solar power set up? Some of our clients have chosen to use solar energy to heat their pools and hot tubs, reducing the impact these creature comforts have on their energy bills. As highly experienced electricians, we can take care of the installation of your solar panels, so you can start saving on your energy bills immediately. For more information, email Kobalt Systems or call us at (250) 213 – 3788.

wiring a hot tub - electrical

Wiring a Swimming Pool, Hot Tub or Spa? Our Electricians Can Do It All

Trust your Hot Tub Wiring or Swimming Pool Wiring to a Professional

Yes, we do swimming pool / hot tub wiring. In the last few years, pools and hot tubs / spas have become more popular than ever for homeowners. As we spend more time at home than ever before, we begin to rely more on our homes for those extra luxuries, like having swimming pools and hot tubs right in our backyard. Having your own pool is like having a party spot ready to go all the time.

It’s also an excellent way to wear the kids out on those endless summer days and to float your way through heat waves, like that intense heat dome we experienced in late June. That one will go down in the memories of British Columbians everywhere as everyone flocked to the rivers, lakes and ocean.

Heat wave aside, if you’re reading this, you’re either shopping for a pool or hot tub, or you’re approaching the installation stage. Whether you’ve chosen an in-ground pool, above ground pool, plug and play hot tub, or an extra large, extra luxurious spa model, electricity and water is a sensitive combination. It’s crucial to have the swimming pool / hot tub wiring done by professionals.

Do I Really Need a Professional for the Electrical Wiring of a Hot Tub or Pool?

Knowing what extra electrical safety precautions to follow means that a licensed electrician can install your pool or hot tub in the safest way possible. Note that in some municipalities, permits are required to install ANY type of pool or hot tub. Your local electrical inspector may require you to hire a licensed electrician.

It’s important to consider whether your home can support the additional load of a swimming pool or hot tub. Particularly for older homes or commercial buildings that could require an electrical service upgrade. This is something that will need to be taken care of to prevent disappointment and to prevent your new pool or hot tub from overloading your service. We can also take care of any connections to electrical components and extra amenities like solar panels used to power water heaters or lights.

For larger hot tubs or pools that require a 50-amp, 240v feed to power the motors, lights, to link to solar panels or other amenities, they’ll be hardwired to a junction box. The junction box is usually mounted in an access panel on the side or underneath the hot tub unit. 

Even though you can simply plug in a smaller, no-frills, hot tub to any standard 15-amp, 120v Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet, we can make sure the outlet is properly grounded, then we can fix it if it’s not up to par. You’d be surprised how often we discover an exterior outlet that isn’t up to electrical codes and is unsafe for use anywhere near water.

What is a GFCI Outlet?

A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) is used around the home and around any places where water is present (bathroom, spa room, swimming pool, etc.)

This can be in the form of a breaker feeding a circuit of outlets, or a separate device in your home. They often look like a regular outlet you’d have around your home, but with a reset button and a test button. The device can be connected to your house wiring differently from your normal outlets, protecting itself and other outlets downstream, electrically. The GFCI can block power during a ground fault in less than 1/40th of a second. This means that if you’ve accidentally dropped your radio into your hot tub, the power will be cut immediately. For best results, replace your GFCI outlets every 5-10 years since their useful lifespan is a max of 15 years. Another safety feature is the Disconnect Switch.

What’s the Disconnect Switch?

This all-important switch is located at least 5 feet away, usually in the form of a timer that lets you turn power to the hot tub or pool on or off.

You’ll see these in rec centres or resorts, usually in the form of a digital or analog timer on an adjacent wall. Ever noticed that you have to interrupt your soak to change the timer? That’s a safety feature because if anyone came in contact with part of the circuit while in the water and while operating the switch, they could potentially be electrocuted. This disconnect switch might be something that a general handyman or a DIY electrician may not know about. 

Regulations for Pools and Hot Tubs

Pools and hot tubs are often the hit of any neighbourhood and are the perfect addition to any block party. Regardless of whether the pool or spa is in-ground or above ground, certain municipal regulations need to be followed. Any overhead electrical lines or telecommunications lines must be a minimum clearance distance of 25’ (7.5m) above the water level and any ladders or diving boards, etc. 

If lines are lower, something as simple as a pool skimming net with a long metal handle could be dangerous. If you’ve got the option to install the pool away from these lines, that’s your best bet. In some cases, BC Hydro may be able to relocate the hydro lines for an additional cost.

What About Underground Wires?

You’ve got plans for the most feature-loaded pool deck money can buy. You’re planning for deck lighting, surround sound, maybe even a stunning waterfall lit up with LED’s. Electrical installations for these types of amenities need to be run at least 5’ from the outside edge of the pool or hot tub. Any wiring for the pool pumps, pool heater, interior lighting or filter can be attached to the pool or spa itself with no issues.

Wiring hot tubs, swimming pools and spas is a lot more complex than it looks. At Kobalt Systems, our technicians have combined decades of experience with pool and hot tub wiring, and they know exactly what your new swimming pool or hot tub needs.

From the gauge of wire to how to bring your vision for your new pool space to life, you can trust us to take care of your new investment and your safety. Contact Victoria-based Kobalt Systems today to inquire about the wiring of your new commercial or residential pool, hot tub or spa.

How a Whole House Generator Can Increase Your Home’s Value

A Generator for your Home is a Wise Investment

A whole house generator can increase your home’s value. In today’s heated housing market, it could mean the difference between the sale of your house or the sale of the house down the block. A whole house generator can increase your property value and provide you with total peace of mind during a potentially disruptive power outage. Don’t be left in the dark during the next power outage!

In this post, we’ll walk you through all the basics of a whole house generator.

What is a Whole House Generator?

A whole house generator is installed outside of your home like an HVAC unit would be. It’s much larger and more powerful than a typical standby generator. It’s connected directly to the electrical channel of your house and can be powered by either diesel, liquid propane or natural gas. 

A whole house generator can keep your entire home running even during an extended outage. On Vancouver Island, the weather can be unpredictable, with high winds, torrential rain and even the occasional heavy snowfall. Because the climate is mild most of the time, the vast majority of Vancouver Islanders are underprepared or unprepared for a power outage.

Do you remember the December 2018 windstorm? More than 260,000 Vancouver Island residents were without power for days, or even weeks in some cases. It was a disaster and one that BC Hydro has said was the worst in its history. Those who had standby generators were able to power on major appliances or a few lights in their homes. Meanwhile, many of those without standby generators were dismayed to find that stores were completely sold out. It was a stressful and upsetting time for many families.

Now imagine having a whole house generator always ready to go. You’d never have to worry about losing power again!  Like others, you may already have a small portable generator. Maybe you’re one of many who bought one after that big outage in 2018. While portable generators are useful for keeping one or two appliances running for a short period of time, there’s nothing like a powerful whole house generator for keeping your entire home running smoothly.

How a Whole House Generator Can Increase Your Home’s Value

Now for the big question – will a whole home generator add value to your home? Yes. A whole house generator is a very smart investment. It can:

  • Lower your insurance rates
  • Make it faster and easier to sell your home
  • Save money by preventing losses caused by a power outage
  • Provide a solid return on investment

According to Generator Advisor, Consumer Reports reported that in some cases, your home’s value can increase by 3% to 5% after installing a whole house generator. According to Builder Online, in a 2018 Cost Vs. Value Report done by Remodeling Magazine, a $12,860 (USD) generator increases resale value by $6,940. This means you’d recoup about 54% of your investment.

Do I Need a Whole House Generator?

In an emergency where the power is out for days, you run the risk of losing all the contents of your fridge and freezer. You also risk running out of running water if your home relies on a well system, since the pump would be non-operational. With a whole house generator, you can keep all the necessary power functions of your home running strong, and even a few creature comforts depending on the size of the generator.

Other than storms, there are a few different scenarios when your home and surrounding area may lose power:

  • Blown transformer
  • Hydro equipment failure
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Earthquake
  • Other natural disasters
  • Fallen powerline
  • Construction mishap

How Much Generator Do I Need?

The size and power requirements vary depending on the size of the house and what your individual needs are. If you’re looking for a generator that can provide coverage only for essential circuits, a generator with a small load capacity would work just fine. If you’re looking for full house coverage with maximum load capacity, you’d need a larger generator.
*Note: always check your local bylaws regarding the installation and operation of generators.

Some of our clients prefer to power the entire house, while others prioritize things like the fridge, freezer, hot water tank, sump pump and other bare necessities.

Consider Your Home-Based Business

If you run a home-based business or work from home, a whole house generator is an especially sound investment. This will ensure that your office equipment and other necessary equipment continues to work during a power failure. This can prevent loss due to circumstances that you can’t control, like a harsh winter storm or a failure of the power grid. Software engineers, dentists, lawyers and financial investors are just a few examples of professionals who may work from home and could incur costly losses if the power went out at their home-based business. For them, an outage can result in cancelled appointments, equipment malfunctions, lost time and of course, lost income.

At Kobalt Systems, our experts will work with you to determine what will work best for your needs. In the meantime, you can estimate the size of whole house generator you’d need using this simple formula:

  • Add the total watts to see how much power your home will use during an outage
  • Multiply the total watts by 1000 to find the kilowatts
  • Multiply the kilowatts by 1.25 to add a buffer and account for any future power needs

The answer will be the minimum generator capacity needed for your house

Investing in a Whole Home Generator from Kobalt Systems

At Kobalt Systems, we know that purchasing a whole house generator is a big investment. This is why our electrical experts are behind you every step of the way. From choosing the best option for your home to the final installation and periodic maintenance, you’ll be able to rely on Kobalt Systems for every aspect of your new generator.

When installing generators, we go the extra mile to weatherproof them by replacing all the surface screws with stainless steel screws. This helps to prevent rust and corrosion caused by the salty west coast air. The generators are also designed with a corrosion-proof enclosure. We pay special attention to all these details, so you don’t have to worry.

Whole house generators can increase your home’s value and give you peace of mind. You can choose to power the basic appliances or choose a generator to power all your favourite creature comforts. At Kobalt Systems, we supply and install top-quality generators in Victoria and surrounding areas as well as provide annual inspections to keep them running perfectly. With expert installation and servicing, you’ll have total peace of mind with Kobalt Systems. Contact our team today to discover the best whole house generator solution for your specific needs.

 

Electrical Wiring Upgrade

Does Your House Need an Electrical Wiring Upgrade?

Is The Electrical Wiring In Your Older Home A Safety Risk?

Your house will more than likely need an electrical wiring upgrade if it was built more than 20 years ago. This is because over time, electrical wiring can deteriorate or become damaged. Also, your electrical panel may no longer be able to support the increasing amount of energy needed to power your home effectively. 

Overloaded electrical systems and old or faulty wiring can increase the risk of electrical fire in your home. According to Makeitright.ca, an incredible 20% of all house fires in Canada are electrical fires caused by faulty wiring. To keep your family safe and sound, our team of electricians at Kobalt Systems recommends regular electrical inspections and an electrical wiring upgrade for older homes. 

What Should You Consider When Deciding Whether Your Home May Need An Electrical Service Upgrade?

How Old Is Your Home And What Type of Wiring Does It Have?

1940’s and Earlier
Homes built before the 1940’s may still have knob and tube wiring, which doesn’t feature a safety casing or ground wire, making it dangerous to work with.

1960’s- 1970’s 
In the 1960’s and 1970’s many homes were built with aluminum wiring, which can become a safety hazard as it ages. This is due to the tendency for its connections to loosen, which can cause electrical fires.

Older electrical wiring isn’t automatically dangerous or faulty, but be aware that some insurance companies won’t offer coverage if your home has knob and tube or aluminum wiring.

Have You Experienced Any Warning Signs?

Warning signs that your wiring may be faulty or overloaded include: 

  • Circuit Breakers trip or fuses blow regularly
  • Electrical panel is crackling or sparking 
  • Lights flicker or dim when you turn on another appliance
  • Outlets or switches are warm to the touch, discoloured or are sparking
  • You get a tingling sensation when touching an appliance
  • You still have two prong outlets in your home
  • There is a persistent burning smell in your home
  • There are no Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) in kitchens or bathrooms
  • You rely on power bars and extension cords due to having too few outlets

These are all signs that something is wrong in your electrical system and should not be ignored. In an emergency situation, you can always call a qualified electrician for help on our Kobalt Systems emergency line

Do You Have Enough Power For Your Home?

Older homes don’t have the electrical capacity that our modern lifestyles require. Historically, homes only needed around 60 amps to run all the necessary electronics and even as recently as 20 years ago, homes didn’t have the same requirements we need in our current technological age.

With all the electrical appliances, equipment and smart additions that modern families use, around 150 – 200 amps of electricity is needed to safely and successfully run them. If modern appliances are run on a system without enough voltage, they are at risk of damage.

What Will Your Power Needs Be In Years To Come?

When planning an electrical wiring upgrade, consider future-proofing your home’s electrical system to ensure it’s not only up to building codes but able to meet your growing needs.  Consider what other electrical requirements your household might have in the coming years:

  • Additional computers for a growing family
  • Entertainment equipment, smart televisions
  • An electric car
  • A hot tub or pool
  • An in-law suite or rental suite
  • Additional light fixtures
  • Additional electrical outlets and switches

Kobalt Systems Can Assess Your Electrical Wiring Upgrade Requirements

If answering the questions above has given you any concerns at all about the condition of your home electrical wiring, contact Kobalt Systems for an electrical wiring upgrade consultation today.

What Does an Electrical Wiring Upgrade Involve?

Kobalt System’s team of qualified journeyman electricians will visit your home and conduct a thorough electrical inspection to determine whether your type of wiring and current electrical system is safe and suited to your needs. Among other things, our electricians will search for loose connections, any issues with the circuit breaker panel, test outdoor outlets, determine the types of wiring and determine whether your entire house has proper grounding. 

If it is determined that you require new electrical wiring or additional panel amperage in your home, Kobalt Systems will work with you every step of the way.

Our Electrical Panel Upgrade Service Includes:

  • An electrical load test to determine your electrical needs
  • Working with customers to design a solution that fits your lifestyle and budget 
  • Coordination of permits and upgrade requests via the City of Victoria, Technical Safety Authority and BC Hydro and arrange for inspection and sign off of completed work
  • Minimal disruption when the work takes place at your home. Kobalt Systems offers ON TIME and SATISFACTION guarantees for its work. We arrive on time and leave everything tidy and clean

The thought of rewiring your home may be daunting. You’re likely concerned that it will be a long, messy and expensive task. Rest assured that our careful planning means your electrical upgrade can be completed with minimal disruptions on time and on budget.

While upgrading, you may also want to integrate some smart-home devices into your home. In-home smart technology is more popular and useful than ever and is increasingly built directly into newly built homes. 

Smart Home Technology Includes:

  • Home automation such as smart appliances
  • Lighting control such as motion sensors 
  • Climate control such as smart thermostats and fans
  • Smart security systems with Wi-Fi integration that can be monitored from anywhere on a phone or tablet
  • Safety sensing systems such as fire, carbon dioxide or electrical surge alarms that send alerts when triggered

Having smart-home technology and products in your home may lead to reduced insurance bills and can add value to your home too. You could also consider planning your rewiring project at the same time as that kitchen renovation you’ve been dreaming about!

Financing a big home improvement project like an electrical wiring upgrade can be an intimidating prospect, but Kobalt Systems can ease some of that concern by offering full financing through FinanceIt. With no money down and options for monthly or bi-weekly payments, there is no need to delay those important electrical safety upgrades.

If you have any concerns about electrical safety or capacity in your home, Kobalt System’s team of licensed electricians would be glad to visit your property and assess your needs for an electrical wiring upgrade. Based in Victoria, we’re glad to offer services to residents and businesses in the capital region and the South Island. Contact us today to find out more.