The term ‘secondary property’ used to conjure up images of skyscrapers and subway stations, but times are changing. Now, when looking at buying a second home, many people are thinking less about condos and more about cottages. As remote work becomes commonplace, some are even opting to work overlooking an idyllic lake or green forest.

According to a 2019 RE/MAX survey, 56% of Canadian Millennials are looking for a vacation property, which is a massive jump up from 14% in 2018. While 2020 numbers aren’t available yet, the pandemic has made working from your cottage an enticing possibility.

But not all cottages are connected to the grid, and those that are may cost you more in hydro fees than you expect. Rate increases and electrical outages are one of many reasons some cottagers are going solar. Here’s what to consider when deciding if solar works for you:

Cost

Currently, in Ontario, many cottagers are classified as seasonal residents, but Hydro One will soon be reclassifying them as either low or medium-density residential zones. If identified as a low-density customer, you’ll be forced to pay a higher rate. According to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), this could mean an increase in the range of $5 to $79 a month.

While going fully off-grid on an already-electrified vacation home doesn’t usually make financial sense, cottagers have other options that can help them save on hydro bills, such as adding solar panels or lithium iron batteries. But for those buying a cottage that isn’t connected yet, going off-grid could be a viable opinion. According to a Cottage Life article, if bringing in outside power is going to cost more than $20,000 to $30,000, it’s worth considering an off-grid lifestyle.

Sun Exposure

The position of your vacation home makes a big difference in whether or not you should go solar. If your cottage is fully shaded by large trees, there may not be a point. But if shading is restricted to 40% or less of available roof space, you’re good to go. According to Cabin Life, sun exposure is the most important solar criterion. If the sun can’t reach you, it can’t help you. For those set on solar and looking for a vacation home, consider house positioning. Ideally, you want a south-facing roof with no obstructions, but an east-west orientation is more than adequate.

Environmental Footprint

Solar isn’t just a financial decision. For those with children, going solar is also an opportunity to teach kids about going green and repairing the environment.

Between 1990 and 2018, carbon emissions went up by 20% (126 tonnes CO2 eq.) according to Canadian government statistics. In 2018, Ontario’s carbon emissions were the second-highest in the country, accounting for 23% of the nation’s total (Alberta was leading with 37%).

Solar, along with other forms of renewable energy, is an important step in reducing carbon emissions, something that hits home for many, particularly Millennials. A 2017 Canada 150 Climate Change survey found that respondents aged 18-34 were the most passionate about protecting our environment, with 70% asking for more national action. Solar fits this population’s values.

Stability

Having a stable energy source is the main driver for why many people go off-grid or install an energy storage system for backup power: it protects you from any hydro outages, which is a big plus in cottage country. Rural Ontario experiences more frequent, longer-lasting power outages than cities. For those trying to work remotely, this can be infuriating. If this is a concern, going solar is definitely worth looking into.