Solar-ready home kits coming

Solar energy systems probably appeal to many homeowners — until they discover the cost of retrofitting a house to accommodate them.

Matt Schultz holds several Solar Ready tags that will be used to identify homes in which Solar Kits have already been installed.

Matt Schultz holds several Solar Ready tags that will be used to identify homes in which Solar Kits have already been installed.

Solar energy systems probably appeal to many homeowners — until they discover the cost of retrofitting a house to accommodate them.

That inspired Matt Schultz to start Equinox Solar Technologies, through which he’s developed a “solar-ready home” kit that can be installed during the construction phase.

“We’re already roughing in under-floor heat, central vacuum systems, speaker systems and lots of other components into homes to accommodate future accessories,” pointed out Schultz. “Why not be ready for solar?”

The kit he’s developed consists of wiring, conduits for electrical and water lines, hot water valves and controls, thermostat electrical boxes, a mechanical room panel and other infrastructure required for photovoltaic and solar water-heating systems. Installation can take place as soon as a house is framed, making it solar ready for now or years into the future.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said Schultz, noting that about 40 per cent of the cost of putting a photovoltaic system into an existing house is related to the installation work.

He expects to launch his solar-ready home kit in June, with prices between $200 and $300. One version will be designed for bungalows and another for two-storey homes.

Equinox Solar Technologies’ first customer will be Schultz himself. Born and raised in Red Deer, he’s building a home in Lacombe and plans to make it solar ready.

“It’ll be a great demonstration house for what a real simple, basic solar-ready installation looks like.”

Ultimately, Schultz hopes his kits will become commonplace in the residential construction sector. He’s currently seeking an endorsement from the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

“The goal is to get home builders to actually buy the kits and then have their staff install them or have one of us at Equinox do it.”

That said, nothing will prevent homeowners from doing the work themselves.

“Basically, the kit is very self-explanatory and the instructions I’m developing right now are very, very straight-forward.”

A certified draftsman, Schultz came up with the idea of a solar ready home kit while working for a Red Deer home builder. Although solar companies will prepare homes for the future installation of solar equipment, he could find no standardized do-it-yourself kits.

Schultz has since applied for patent protection and is working with a local engineering firm to create a kit that satisfies building codes across Canada.

“And then the sky’s the limit from there,” he said of the potential market.

He’s optimistic that demand for solar-ready homes will increase as the cost of solar equipment continues to declines. Some jurisdictions are even considering making solar-ready rough-ins mandatory, pointed out Schultz.

Ideally, he added, government incentives will become available that defray or cover the cost of such kits.

“I’m excited about the potential for it,” summed up Schultz. “I think it’s going to be a great product.”

Equinox Solar Technologies’ website is currently under construction at www.equinoxenergy.ca.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com