What is Standard F379?
The old incentive scheme ended for solar water heating ended March 31st 2011. It was replaced shortly afterwards with a new scheme but it had some radical changes to the program.
The old program said any solar collector named on a list kept by ecoENERGY was eligable for receiving the $1250 incentive towards the cost of your system. However the new incentive changed all this. They scrapped this list and now only solar systems that "qualify" for the new CSA F379 will qualify. This is a huge change which has not really helped you, the home owner, in any way whatsoever.
The old system meant that you could design almost any system in your house to suit your needs. Larger systems, smaller systems, swimming pools, infloor heating could all easily be designed and could qualify for the grant so long as you used collectors that were on the list.
Now however, the new F379 severely limits what you can do.
F379 is a product specific piece of paper. Its has nothing to do with safety. We wrote about this earlier in the year - (click here). Even if every component of a companies solar system already has CSA approval, it does not matter, you cannot claim the grant. The solar company has to pay the CSA over $50,000 PER SYSTEM in order to say the system is F379 approved.
Basically to get onto this F379 list we would have to send away to the CSA.....
- 1 x 30 tube collector (a specific model and size)
- 1 x Pump station (specific model xyz)
- 1 x 50ft length of pipe (a specific length and type of pipe)
- 1 x Tank (a specific make and model and size of thank)
- 1 x cheque for $50,000
In 2 years time they will give us a piece of paper saying this very specific system meets F379.
What this means for you is that if you want the EXACT system described above then you can claim the $1250 grant / incentive (after you pay $400 for the home energy audit). So in effect you can get a $850 rebate on your system.
Why F379 is a waste of paper?
Lets say you want a different system... for example...
- a 2nd or 3rd or 4th collector
- or a longer length of pipe.
- or a different model of tank
- or a different size of tank
- or the tank manufacture stops selling that model of tank
- or want to use the collector to heat a pool or hot tub
- or you want to feed the collector heat direct into infoor heating to heat you home
- or any one of a dozen or more different ways that you want to install the solar system
then this INVALIDATES the F379 certification and you don't get the rebate.
All this certification is about it limiting who can supply solar systems in Canada. If has nothing to do with safety because even if all the components already meet the "CSA" standards, they don't care, you don't get the government rebate. Its simply a cash grab and a control issue for a hand full of larger solar companies who have full control over every single item in the system. The pump station we sell is already CSA approved, the inspectors in calgary at one point told us we cannot install it because it is not "being used in a F379 system"
If we spend $50K to $80K to get F379 and the tank manufacture changes the model of tank we use, or they stop making that model then we have to send another $50K to the CSA and wait another 2 years! It is totally pointless to even apply for this.
What is the F379 showing the consumer?
The Natural Resources Canada website says this......
The ratings in this directory have been determined using the standard day specified in that Standard for the 300 litres/day hot water load.
For system models that were not tested, detailed computer models were developed and the standard day test was simulated using TRNSYS software. "
There are a few important things you need to realize about what this website is telling you.
Minimum 6 GJ Per Year
Only systems on this list which ALSO produce MORE THAN 6GJ per year qualify for the grant / incentive. Out of 14 systems on this table only 8 qualify?
The ones that DONT qualify are usually either
- Single Flat Plate Collector Systems, most flat plate collector installers will always install 2 flat plates for this reason.
- Small evacuated Tube Collectors - for example the Globe Solar collector is only 2.55 m2 in size. Our collectors are 4.67 m2 in size.
- A common problem is using a small water tank. For example - Copper Hill is still a bit smaller (3.43 m2) evacuated tube collector than ours (at 4.67 m2) but the tank they submitted with the testing is only a 155L (40 gallon) tank to the heat out put per year is listed only at 3.43 GJ.
Why you need a preheat tank for solar water heating
Also note that All these systems are "Solar Preheat" - This means that if you buy one of these solar systems they will install a SECOND tank next to your existing hot water heater.
While we have been recomending this all along, we were often competing with pricing from other companies who tell people they do not need a second pre-heat tank installed and this reduces the cost of the system by about $2000.
This is true, to a degree, you dont have to have the second tank,
but without it the system produces such a small amount of solar hot water it is probably not worth installing the system at all.
The pre-heat tank means the solar system has all day to heat the EXTRA tank.
With a pre heat tank installed.
- You wake up and have a shower, use all the water in your MAIN tank.
- The PREHEAT tank is now full of cold water.
- You go to work and the sun has all day to heat the Pre-tank (hence bigger tank = more stored energy)
However with a bolt on heat exchanger pack on your main tank, ie No PREHEAT Tank Installed, this happens....
- You wake up and have a shower, you use all the water in your MAIN tank.
- Your gas / electric tank then heats your tank back up to 130 Deg F. (No solar yet as the sun is not shining yet!)
- You go to work, now the tank is already hot,
- When the sun finally rises the collectors get hot, HOWEVER until the collectors reach 130 Deg F NO heat will be stored in your water tank. You natural gas or electric water heater is normally set to heat water to 130 Degrees F by default)
- If the sun never gets the collectors hotter than 130 Deg F then the collector will do nothing all day to your tank - all wasted heat.
- The only way you can make this system work is by having a special solar controller that also controls your gas / electric water heating tank so it keeps it turned off by monitoring the sun & collectors until it decides to turn the gas or electricity on.
- Most peoples existing electric or gas water tank is too small to really be cost effective for adding a solar water heating system to.
For more information on the importance of tank size for solar water heating please read this. - Solar Hot Water Tanks.
What this means for you and your home?
- Tank size is very important - Your system should be a preheat tank layout and the tank should be larger. There is really not much point installing a single, Latitude51 Solar, 30 tube collector on a tank less than 80 gallons in size.
- All these systems on this list are for small residential homes. If you want a bigger system to heat more water then extra collectors mean they are no longer on this "approved list" and no longer qualify for the grant.
- These systems are all Pre-heat systems, this likely means that now you cannot simply add a system to your existing home, you will need to buy the second pre-heat tank - which is a good thing.
- Remember most these systems produce in the 4GJ to 6GJ per year range. In Alberta right now with gas at $4 a GJ this is a very small amount of money $16 to $24 a YEAR !!!! However if you live on PEI where all the water is heated by very expensive electricity, and you also heat your homes with electricity, then a solar water heating system could reduce your electricity bill by 70%.
So, do you need the solar hot water grant.
You need to check the price of buying one of these "approved F379 Systems". There is no point claiming a Solar water heating system grant which amounts to about $850, if F379 system adds thousands to the costs. If a company is paying out $50,000 oer more to get F379 on their systems, it has to be paid for somehow. The customer ends up paying for it in the price of the system.
Remember this F379 is adding NOTHING to the safety of a system, it is simply a "performance standard" which for the bargain cost of about $50,000 per configuration, the CSA will tell you the output of a very small, limited system that you cant modify.
The unfortunate thing is that the inspectors in various towns are trying to enforce regulations that say ONLY F379 systems can be installed - period. This is what is happening in Calgary now, the regulations are being modified and enforced meaning we can pretty much guarantee this is the death of solar in Calgary. More details on this will be provided soon once we have the final insane regulation list from the city!
In summary, if you want the small grants that are available from the government then you will need the F379 certification. However if you want to buy good quality solar hot water collectors that are F378 approved then we can help out.
This article was originally sent out to subscribers to our email list along with an discount offer for products on our store.