24 Cameron Cres., Toronto
Asking price: $2,895,000
Taxes: $11,906.31 (2023)
Lot size: 32 by 135 feet
Listing agent: Parry Lowndes, Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.
After a recent showing of their Leaside home, the owners of 24 Cameron Cres. got a question they were truly not prepared for: “How much would it cost to take the solar panels off the roof?”
Derek Wilson and Jane Wilkins were stumped as much as they were aghast: Why would you want to take off a green energy system that still has a handful of years left on a 20-year contract that pays the homeowner between $5,000-$6,000 a year. It’s like asking: “How much to remove the money tree?”
“I’d take them off for free,” said Ms. Wilkins, who would happily reinstall the units on her next house (her husband, Mr. Wilson, is a consultant in the solar industry and points out newer panels would probably work better as they are twice as efficient). “A question like that … there’s still some education that needs to be done. Lots of people are completely unaware of green energy,” she said.
The couple were relatively early adopters of modern solar power. They bought the 1930s home in the early 2000s, and Mr. Wilson started a commercial solar power company in 2006. When they renovated their house in 2008, there were government programs to help pay for the roughly $35,000 in upfront cost to go greener. By now, the system has more than paid for itself.
The house has two solar systems: one that generates electricity that feeds back into Toronto’s grid, and a vacuum-tube system that generates hot water that feeds into the house’s in-floor heating system. The revenue generated by the photovoltaic panels more than covers the house’s electrical bills and together the two systems greatly reduce their need to burn greenhouse gases. And even though the Toronto Hydro program that pays money directly to the homeowner has since been cancelled, when the contracted annual cheques stop flowing the new system is called “net metering” so that, into the future, any power generated will offset the utility bills paid to Toronto Hydro.
Currently, the house not only pays for its electricity but fuels their electric car as well, essentially for free. “A full charge at night costs around $5-$6 of electricity,” Mr. Wilson said.
The house today
The front yard is filled with wildflowers and was landscaped for climate-change resiliency, with bands of brick in the concrete drive to limit rain runoff. But once through the ecological plantings, the interior is much like you’d expect in any tony Leaside home.
Dark oak hardwood floors run across the main level, with white walls pulling in as much light from the front and back windows as possible. A formal dining room is off to the right of the main entrance, stairs climb up to the second level on the left, and a long hallway connects front to back.
From the dining room there’s a doorway to the kitchen, which sits in the middle of the floorplan. A peninsula countertop with bar seating separates the kitchen from the rear family room, with a smaller dining/breakfast table. Windowed doors on the back wall offer access and transition to the backyard deck and Jacuzzi.
Upstairs are four bedrooms, three standard for the era of home (about 10-foot squared) and one large primary suite that takes up the back third of the floorplan with a walk-in closet and four-piece bath flanking the doorway and a wide bedroom with a sitting room facing the rear yard. These rooms are all carpeted except for the bathrooms.
There’s a second side entrance to the house off the driveway that connects to a mudroom and also connects to the basement. This allows for the finished basement to become its own apartment.
Currently, there’s no kitchen down there, but the rough-ins exist and the current configuration of the large rec room, and another full bathroom with a separate gym and office, lends itself to “your home is your castle” living. There’s another exit from the rec room to the backyard as well.
Despite the house’s “green soul,” it still has a carbon footprint: A natural gas furnace and water heater supplement heating, as well as gas for fireplaces and the kitchen stove.
“I didn’t get that one right back then,” Ms. Wilkins said. “I wasn’t quite so aware of the impact of that. My next stove won’t be gas.” She does point out that the gas fireplace is connected to the HVAC system, adding some efficiency to its use, and the upgraded insulation and windows they added when they renovated the house make the entire home less wasteful.
With just a few changes, such as an electric heat pump to replace the furnace and an induction range to replace the gas burners, the home could be even greener and closer than ever to carbon-neutral. And with the solar metering, all that new electric infrastructure is likely to stay cost-neutral, too.