Heat pumps eclipse solar panels in housing developments – Yahoo News Canada

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Yesterday, residents living in cities along a sash-like band across North America witnessed what some media were calling the event the “Great North American Eclipse.” NASA streamed it live. For Canadians, the trajectory of the band along which people might experience a 100% eclipse or “totality” followed a diagonal line from Gander NL, to St. John NB, to Montreal PQ, Toronto and Niagara ON.

In BC, chances were slim that residents would be able discern a partial eclipse in the sky. The FOMO (fear of missing out) was real, as, despite its cloudy skies, media coverage in Ontario showed people reveling in brief moments of “totality” and glimpses of the sun’s stunning corona around the moon.

And while it’s really the moon doing the heavy lifting during an eclipse, let’s talk more about the sun, solar power and why heat pump installations far outpaces solar panels in new residential builds in the Westshore.

As of May 1, 2023, the BC Building Code required 20%-better energy efficiency for most new buildings in BC. For developers but also for individual homeowners, there are myriad ways to get to improved energy efficiency; heat pumps and solar panels are two of them.

View Royal Mayor Sid Tobias told the Westshore, “All three levels of government have incentivized heat pump installation and the CRD has a concierge service to assist the funding and rebates. To a comparative extent this has not been done for new or existing builds for solar. Solar also was not a requirement for the new building step code.” Colwood adopted the BC Zero Carbon Step Code in January 2024.

When asked why solar was not more prevalent in new builds in View Royal, Tobias said “Solar is arguably more expensive than heat pumps—$15K to $30K, without incentives. I think we also must be cautious of increasing demands for developers that will increase the costs for affordability in balance with climate solutions.”

Colwood resident Nina Moro confirmed those numbers in her community. “My partner and I qualified for the federal government’s Greener Homes interest-free loan program and will be installing solar panels on our roof in the weeks to come,” said Moro. “It has been an educational process as we’ve come to understand the opportunities and benefits of having the system installed on our roof and tying into the local grid. The cost for us to install a 9kW system with an upgraded inverter on our early-’90s-built home is about $22K.”

Installation isn’t cheap and there are a host of other things to consider when considering solar panels.

Lease or own? Leasing panels makes the installation cost more affordable, however, ownership means the equipment pays for itself and ultimately adds value to your home over a span of, on average, seven and 10 years. The province offers substantial incentives through PST exemptions, which can significantly offset the cost of installing solar systems in homes. A 10.92 kW solar system costing around $28K would save a homeowner roughly $2K with a 7% PST exemption.

The Canada Greener Homes Initiative that granted up to $5K to homeowners wishing to retrofit for solar is no longer accepting applications, however the CMHC offers interest free loans of up to $40K based on selected retrofits in your application.

Preparing for an installation means that panels should not go on a roof that needs to be fixed or replaced within a few years, so initial costing may include roof replacement.

Determining your household’s energy use helps to know what system size to get, and then consider oversizing for future investments in appliance upgrades such as an induction stove or an EV vehicle charger.

According to BC Energy, an average household in BC consumes around 11,000 kWh of electrical energy annually. By installing a 1 kW solar system, a household can generate approximately 1007 kWh per year. The City of Victoria has created an interactive rooftop mapping tool to show what capacity a given rooftop in the city has to generate solar power.

Energy Hub has published an online solar energy installation guide for residents of BC which provides information related to physical sizing and system costs.

And finally, there is the question of the reliability of the source itself. Energy Hub ranked BC #7 with a score of 66/100 (as of September 2023) among provinces on the relative feasibility of installing a solar system based on sunlight levels, actual electricity costs, installation costs and benefits and financing options.

“I am hopeful that we will find a better balance and that solar becomes more affordable, efficient and incentivized to offset the growing demand for power,” said Tobias.

Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Capital Daily

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