Two booths at the National Home Show in Toronto – the iSun Oasis Canopy and Free-Light – offer great ways to take advantage of solar power without requiring an electrical engineering degree. If you are interested in using solar power as part of your electricity mix, you should take a look.
We’ve written about the iSun Canopy before. It’s a solar-panelled outdoor structure – carport or patio enclosure or poolside cabana – that easily connects with your home electrical system to provide solar-sourced electricity.
The idea for the canopy came about when iSun’s ‘Innovation Architect’, solar pioneer Sass Peress, was looking out his window at his Tesla sitting in his (non-solar) carport and wondering why the two couldn’t work together.
Solar powered canopy
Having seen his creation live at the Show, it is impressive. It’s a very handsome structure that stands out on looks alone from the other (non-solar) outdoor living spaces on display in the Enercare Centre. While the solar power aspect is obviously integral, it’s almost like a bonus.
The roof of the Oasis is covered with flexible weather resistant solar panels (read snow-resistant as well as rain-resistant…they were designed in Montreal) that provide enough power to run the ‘base-load’ of your house.
Obviously every home is different, but think of base-load as the things that are on in your house that you don’t think of as drawing energy. Those various lights, computers, TVs, monitoring systems that each use small amounts of power actually add up to about 25% of an electricity bill.
The makers of Oasis say that the canopy generates enough electricity to take care of those items. So if you’re interested in solar energy, you don’t have to get into complex calculations about how much is going to go back to the grid and what the utility is going to refund you for power. The Oasis is a simple idea – you have a handsome gazebo-like structure that also generates electricity.
The structure is made of sturdy anodized aluminum that can be assembled by a fairly proficient handyman with a regular toolkit. A qualified electrician is needed, though, to wire the canopy’s inverter to your home supply. Other than that, this is as close as it gets to plug-in solar.
The iSun Oasis Canopy costs $9,749 CAD and the makers have announced during the show that they have made arrangements with FinanceIt for a $90 CAD monthly payment.
Exceptional solar lights
Free-Light also has great looking products, a collection of affordable high quality solar lights. They do not have the ‘game-changing’ innovation of the Oasis, (or do not appear to on the surface) but the product came about in a similar way.
In 2004 David Aggerholm moved into a rural property and needed a light at the end of the drive. He looked into solar as an option when he found out it was in excess of $4,000 to run cable from his new home!
David is an Electrical Engineer, so of course when he did purchase a solar light he couldn’t keep himself from pulling it apart to see how it worked. And couldn’t prevent himself from figuring out some improvements. The result is exceptionally high quality solar lights that will last for years in any conditions.
His collection of lights are the result of many years of experimentation and improvement in durability, efficiency and design. Because free-light is still his ‘baby’, it is nimble enough to be able to continuously improve its products by incorporating all of the advancements in LED lighting and batteries.
Many of the innovations Daivd has come up with are not apparent on the surface, but withiout giving away any trade secrets, these lights are built to last and work in the most arduous conditions. There are equally satisfied customers in Cold Lake Alberta, where temperatures can drop to -30C as well as parts of California where it can reach 40C on the plus side of the thermometer.
As with the iSun canopy, free-light also pays attention to esthetics. The solar lights come in a variety of styles, from Frank-Lloyd-Wrightesque pathway lights to Modernist driveway lights and Colonial styles for columns, posts or wall mounts..
There are a number of show specials in the free-light booth.