City of Vancouver considering requiring energy-efficient heating for existing houses

Feb 4 2022, 11:29 pm

New regulations by the City of Vancouver could require property owners of existing detached houses to install energy-efficient replacement equipment when furnaces and hot water tanks are in need of replacement due to age.

Depending on the size of existing houses, there could also be an added requirement of using renewable energy.

For existing houses undergoing major renovations, there would be additional energy efficiency improvement requirements.

Switching from the existing use of a natural gas heating system to an electric heat pump costs about $18,000 before accounting for the rebates eligible in Vancouver. However, the costs vary and can be substantially higher on a case-to-case basis.

Heat pumps can be used to both heat and cool a house, as they are similar to how a refrigerator moves heat from the inside to the outside.

Heat pumps can provide summertime air conditioning and filter the air to reduce the respiratory impacts of air pollution and wildfire smoke.

Examples of greener heating equipment include tankless hot water heaters, which are about $4,000, while a heat pump water heater is about $3,000.

The city says the greener equipment carries a higher initial cost, but that can be at least partially offset by lower operating costs over the lifespan of the equipment, due to both the lower cost of electricity compared to natural gas and the energy efficiency of the equipment.

“Past experience has shown us that voluntary climate programs will not get us to local, regional, or provincial targets at the necessary scope, scale, or speed. Decades of incentives have yet to yield meaningful emissions reductions on the urgent timelines required to address climate change,” reads city staff’s rationale for the requirement.

According to the city, 60% of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from burning natural gas to heat buildings and water, with 98,000 existing detached houses within the city generating about 30% of these emissions.

An online survey on the proposed “Climate Emergency: Home Heating and Cooling” policy is open now until February 28, 2022. Vancouver City Council is scheduled to review and decide on city staff’s final policy in May 2022.

The proposed regulations are one of the 32 action items under the city’s Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP), which addresses the energy efficiency of buildings by beginning with policies and regulations that address detached houses and large commercial buildings. The cancelled mandatory residential street parking permit policy and the proposed road tolls for downtown Vancouver are both projects under CEAP.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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