West Vancouver – Aryo Falakrou (Arch Tech AIBC), President, Myhomedesigner.com Ltd.
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Several companies and local municipalities are combining forces to electrify buildings in BC by 2030. Clean BC (a provincial government organization), BC Hydro, B2E are a few big names committing.
With this news, all new buildings and existing ones should switch from fossil fuel heat sources to electricity. Meanwhile, all new buildings will have to follow higher building standards that require less energy for heating and cooling as well as to use only electricity as their energy source. So, developers are required to get ahead of the curve by making changes now.
We are experiencing climate change in BC in the summer with the heat waves and the colder season with the atmospheric river-type rainfalls. This trend will not stop soon, and it might worsen, so it is crucial to prepare. Reducing the carbon footprint might lessen the severity of the storms. This action will include removing as many internal combustion engines on the road as possible and replacing them with electric vehicles.
This sounds like a solid plan and good for our society in general, but how will they do it?
The good news is that BC Hydro is offering up to $10K grants to homeowners who make their homes energy-efficient (check BC Hydro rebates for the home grant).
The organizations mentioned above are proposing the use of an electric heat source heat pump that can generate heat and cool simultaneously. It sounds incredible, right? You will remove your natural gas furnace and install a smaller electric unit inside your mechanical room and an external compressor in your yard. You will have heat during the cold seasons and cool air during the hot season. It is practical and useful. But it costs over $15k to install one in each home.
This is the best-case scenario and could reduce our carbon footprint and I see across the board suggested by the governments so far. What I see as trouble down the road is the followings: (applies for single-family homes):
1- The heat pump compressors units (external unit) which are installed in the yard are noisy, and imagine every single home has one in their yard, and they work simultaneously; what would be the noise level they create! Everyone whose neighbour installed one can testify that the noise of only one unit can be annoying. What would happen if all the houses in the block installed theses unites? We solved one issue but created another one.
2- The external units take space, and most of the time, people must install them on the side yard, so it is not visible nor gets damaged by foot traffic. The side yards are primarily used for foot traffic to access the backyard from the street. Installing the unit in the side yard will reduce the yard’s width. In some cases, minimum side yard widths are required for firefighters’ access, so installing this unit will not be available for some homeowners.
3- We must install an electric vehicle charging station in our house to charge our electrical vehicle, at the same time installing an electric heat pump will add more load to the grid. BC Hydro mentioned that they don’t have any concerns about added load to the grid for the next ten years as they have enough power to supply, and they leave the problem to solve after the decade has passed by the next generation.
4- BC Hydro charges its subscribers on steps billing system, and if customers use over 1,350 kWh, they will be charged $12.75 / kWh. That’s why many subscribers are afraid of using the electric source heating system as the cost goes up dramatically. Including myself, after charging my EV at home, my electric bill jumped by over $70/month and expecting more.
AS a home designer, I tried to convince my clients to go all electric and avoid using fossil fuel in homes to reduce our carbon footprint within last 10 years or so. Still, I face this obstacle with every client – natural gas is cheaper, and electricity is too expensive. So, they don’t want to make the switch to electricity because of the cost associated to it.
After talking to BC Hydro, they mentioned they know about the issue and are thinking about it. So, how can BC Hydro and the BC government expect the consumers to make the move when they don’t support them nor remove the obstacles.
I attended many webinars regarding these new initiatives the government is taking. I noticed how specific they are when offering heat pumps as the best option. I agree with the tremendous benefits of this system can offer. However, I don’t think that it is the government’s job to lead/push towards a specific system over any other solutions.
I’ve seen some builders/homeowners go fully electric in a much more efficient way than installing a heat pump system. Instead, they installed electric, solar panels on their roof to produce electricity for the entire home. They installed individual units for heating and cooling. (This system requires an upgrade to HRV system as well)
When I presented this idea in the meetings, they dismissed it as it seemed not viable. This system is at work in many other parts of the world, including areas similar to the BC climate as well as colder claimants.
It is less dependent on the grid, clean energy and requires minimum effort to transfer power from the source to the consumer.
BC Hydro net metering system can help homeowners use the grid as their backup when not generating the power. At the same time, generating electricity helps the grid when the system needs more electricity when commercial consumption is higher during the day. Most importantly, we won’t need to rely on building more dams to generate electricity for the next generations.
BC Hydro and the government are offering millions of dollars toward educating and switching to heat pumps. Instead, they could facilitate the distribution and installation of solar panels to beautify them and make them more accessible for consumers.
I was thinking of installing a system for my own house. Still, after reviewing the supply and installation cost, I put a pause on it for the time being. It is absolutely in my future plan to install a solar system in my house and encourage my clients to make similar changes to make a greener and cleaner BC for all of us. I’m waiting for the government and other organizations, including BC Hydro, to be more diversified and open to other ideas and options rather than being single-minded.
We are all working toward a better community. We can do it by opening the floor for dialogue and listening to all the ideas on the table.