Questions and Answers
Switch It Up BC!
January 19, 2022
Q. Do heat pumps work at -10C and below?
A. Yes, they can. Work with a qualified contractor to help you size a heat pump for your specific location.
Q. The City of Vancouver is not ‘proposing’ zero emissions; they have a regulation in place I thought – June 2021 – Council votes on Building By-law, as set out in sections 19through 42 of By-law No. 12692, relating to mandatory zero emission building construction guidelines for all NEW homes.
A. This by-law took effect on January 1, 2022 . James was referring to an additional proposal regarding existing homes.
Q. As electricity rates rise, how will people living in poverty or those struggling with finances be able to afford the heat pump retrofit and operation of electric home heating/cooling?
A. In its October 2021 Electrification Plan, BC Hydro pledged it would provide up to $8 million in support for low-income customers. On a recent webinar hosted by the Building 2 Electrification Coalition, a BC Hydro spokesperson said all its new incentive offers, including this one, will be available Spring 2022, and details could be available in February 2022.
Q. A large barrier to switching to electric heating is the electricity rates of BC Hydro. The rates kick into a higher step $ .014 vs .09 per kWh once you pass a 1350 kWh threshold. which you will do for at least 8 months of the year once you electrify your home. so we need a big campaign to increase the threshold for folks who can prove with receipts that they’ve switched off the gas.
A. Residential Inclining Block (RIB) Rate for power above the threshold of 675 kWh of electricity per month (and Step 1 for power below the threshold). BCSEA has supported the RIB Rate because it is designed to promote conservation and efficiency. However, it is true that the RIB Rate may be an impediment to wider adoption of electric heat pumps (i.e., in place of natural gas heating) and EVs.
BC Hydro is currently developing an application to the BC Utilities Commission to flatten the RIB rate, and BCSEA has been participating in BC Hydro’s stakeholder workshops on it. The application is expected to be filed in February 2022. For more information, see BCSEA’s December 12, 2021 article BC Hydro RIB Rate: On the Chopping Block? on the at the BCSEA website .
Q. Can on-demand tankless hot water be electric? I think most of them run on fossil methane.
A. No, tankless water heaters are all run on natural gas. More information here.
Q. What efficient options do I have for electric baseboard heaters in a condo?
A. Your best option is to have a discussion with your Strata Council about options to improve energy efficiency and reduce your heating bills.
Q. How about condo buildings? We would like to replace our gas furnace with a heat pump for space and water heating. Would this be air-source or ground-source heat pumps for a MURB? Like the fact we can use it for AC in summer.
A. Have a conversation with your strata council about building electrification. For a crash course in the technologies, financing, challenges and barriers and more, see “Electrification of MultiUnit Residential Buildings,” Published in October 2021, it is specifically written for landlords who own MURBS but it addresses all the issues. There is also a Summary Guide.
Q. What is the average cost to upgrade/install an electric heat pump in an existing 2-story home?
A. Many variables are taken into consideration; we recommend engaging a qualified contractor to provide a quote.
Q. Can I sign up with Make the Switch if i have electric heating, but i am committed to staying electric and getting more efficient (going to induction cooking) and further improving the efficiency of my home.
A. We would love to have you on board. Please visit our website and share with your network.
Q. Are there any incentives for induction stoves? I’m thinking about trying to flip how gas stoves are used to cross-sell gas furnaces and hot water heaters.
A. Unfortunately not yet. There is a gap at the moment.
Q. Would you recommend a ‘hot water on demand’ system instead of the standard hot water tank?
A. An all-electric hot water on demand water heater is a specialized product well-suited for cramped spaces where hot water is only occasionally needed, such as an accessory building. The required electricity draw is high, but only for short periods of time. The one I installed a few years ago required two 40 Amp double-pole breakers and a run of (very heavy) 8 gauge wire. No provincial incentives are available for these units. Instead, ask your contractor about whether your home might be a candidate for a hybrid heat pump water heater, the province has incentives available for those. Make certain whatever you buy is ENERGY STAR certified.
Q. With the transition to electric technology, homes are experiencing a shortage of power to their homes to make it all work, Can COV help with Power upgrades?
A. Older homes may not have adequate remaining electrical service capacity needed to run electric heating and cooling equipment such as a heat pump. A qualified licensed contractor will be able to assess your situation. The City of Vancouver and the City of Victoria both offer rebates specifically for increasing a home’s capacity. Use the incentive search tool at betterhomesbc.ca to see what is available.
Q. What can we do to discourage NG hookups in new construction at the municipal and provincial government level? I’ve raised the topic in my Saanich advisory committee but it hasn’t gotten far.
A. Many participants were interested in the development of municipal requirements for low-carbon or zero-carbon heating that would promote the adoption of electric heat pumps. The City of Vancouver is the leader. It already has requirements for new buildings to meet stringent GHG intensity requirements. This legal regime doesn’t yet apply to existing buildings or to existing and new houses and duplexes, although the City strongly encourages reductions in GHG emissions from energy used for heating in these other categories. The City of Vancouver is unique in having legal authority to adopt limits on the GHG intensity of energy used to heat buildings. Other local governments don’t yet have this authority, at least in broad form. However, it is understood that the BC government is developing legislative amendments that would allow (but not require) municipalities to impose GHG intensity limits on buildings and housing. Presumably the starting point would be GHG intensity limits regarding new construction. It would be timely for residents to lobby their local government to support these legislative amendments and to make full use of the new powers when they are granted.
Q. Do you have any rough costing to 100% switch to a heat pump & electric hot water tank?
A. Many variables are taken into consideration; we recommend engaging a professional to provide a quote.
Q. I have a single family home built in 2021 with a heat pump as the primary source of During colder temperatures, 2 degrees and lower, the heat pump does not do a great job of keeping up with our heating needs. What can I do to improve the overall efficiency of my current system to address colder temperatures? Should I be looking at more efficient systems such as the Mistubishi Zuba?
A. Confirm that your heat pump system is appropriately sized, and check with your installer about any issues with the heat pump itself.
Q. It sounds like using an electricity powered space heater could be a more climate-friendly alternative to my natural gas furnace, but is there a hidden down side?
A. Any resistance based technology is going to increase the energy bill.
Q. I have a gas hot water tank and a gas boiler with hot water space heating. Would it be possible to combine this equipment?
A. There may be options, we recommend engaging a qualified contractor to investigate further.
Q. Close to 95% BC electricity is generated from renewables, but how come most houses are still functioning on fossil fuels?
A. Historically, natural gas has been cheaper than electricity, as this was the primary decision point by home builders as to what type of home heating system was built into homes. Environmental considerations were never a part of home design.
Q. We heat with a combination of gas fireplace and baseboards. We can’t afford heat pumps right now. How do we find the quietest one? Our neighbour has a noisy one.
A. BC Hydro heat pump tips provide some answers here.
Q. Fortis claims to sell green gas (bio gas) for an extra premium. Is this really a good strategy? Should I sign up as my house is 110 years old and may not be worth upgrading to a heat pump?
A. This is a very specific question that would require a detailed evaluation by an energy advisor to answer. To find a certified energy advisor in your area, please go here.
Q. Older House /w/ natural gas furnace and (large) radiator – not forced-air system. Are there heat pumps to handle replacing the furnace?
A. Yes – but you would need to upgrade the radiator (or hydronic) system to work with a lower-temperature heat source. Air source heat pumps provide heating that is lower temperature than from a natural gas system.
Q. Can you utilize the heat pump rebates to help with home heating and cooling? Is this economical? We live in the East Kootenays where it hits -30* and we doubt we can fully rely on this. For context, we live in a new home (8 months old) with radiant heat (gas water heater).
Q. Could you comment on FortisBC’s application to BCUC to modify/increase the % of NG which is RNG, including “100% RNG” to new residential dwellings attached to the gas distribution network?
A. Some participants with natural gas heating asked for a comparison between switching to an electric heat pump and switching to 100% Renewable Natural Gas (RNG or biomethane). BCSEA can’t give a one-size-fits-all answer. Both electricity from the BC Hydro grid and 100% RNG from the FEI gas distribution system are close to zero carbon, but they each have other environmental and financial pros and cons. An individual homeowner would need to get information specific to their own situation. Someone facing replacement of an old gas furnace might be happy to invest in a heat pump solution. Someone with small, well-insulated premises, a new high-efficiency furnace and low gas consumption might prefer an RNG solution.
At the BC policy level, BCSEA has supported FEI’s biomethane program since it began in 2010. Customers voluntarily pay extra for RNG to reduce their GHGs. A key plank of the CleanBC Plan is to displace 15% of fossil natural gas with biomethane (RNG) by 2030. BC’s CleanBC Roadmap to 2030, issued in October 2021, puts increased emphasis on RNG and hydrogen as a way to reduce the use of fossil natural gas in BC. Under the Clean Energy Act s.18 and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Clean Energy) Regulation (GGRR), the BCUC is required to allow public utilities such as FEI to recover their costs of RNG programs up to a defined quantity and price.
In December 2021, FEI applied to the BCUC for approval of significant changes to the RNG Program. In addition to expanding the quantities of RNG available under the existing voluntary purchase approach, the proposal would allocate a small but growing proportion of RNG to the general natural supply to be received and paid for by all customers. Controversially, the proposal would also provide 100% RNG to new residential gas customers for the life of their premises, to be paid for (cross-subsidized) by other gas customers. The proposal is presumably aimed at enabling gas heating in new residential construction (i.e., single family dwellings and duplexes, not multiple unit residential buildings) to meet possible future municipal GHG intensity requirements applicable to new houses and duplexes. BCSEA is intervening in the BCUC proceeding and is actively consulting with groups and individuals in the field.
Two other key issues regarding RNG are how to find enough RNG to meet the ambitious targets, and how to confirm the actual GHG intensity of RNG from various sources. However, it will be challenging for BCSEA and other interveners to have the BCUC resolve these issues, given the legal support for RNG in the GGRR Regulation (see above.) In any event, BCSEA intends to participate fully in the BCUC proceeding regarding FEI’s upcoming Long Term Gas Resource Plan, which is expected to be filed early this year.
Q. Will induction work with enamel coated iron?
A. Yes, you can use enamel-coated iron on an induction stove
Q. Is a heat pump hot water tank really efficient when it’s installed inside the house ? It would be extracting heat from the air in the house into the hot water tank. Might be best in the summer, but not in winter ?
A. It is preferred not to have a heat pump water heater installed in a conditioned part of a house, but they can still be installed in such an area of a home. Please find more here.
Q. Shouldn’t range hoods always be used even with electric/induction cooktops to evacuate particles and volatiles from the cooking?
A. Yes! More information here.
Q. Can’t you put a ductless heat pump in a strata unit?
A. A ductless mini-split heat pump differs from a mini-split, or traditional, heat pump in that the “head unit” has an outdoor system that gathers heat from the surrounding environment. A ductless version has the head unit installed in an attic or crawl space instead. Which type can be used in a strata would depend on your strata’s bylaws.
Q. How do we find qualified contractors?
A. BC Hydro has a good web page describing their recommended procedure.
Q. Any case studies of how fully electric homes/buildings maintain operations during the occasional power outages?
A. If heat pumps experience a prolonged power outage (>30 minutes), the refrigerant will be too cold to flow. When power comes back on, a heat pump should be placed in its emergency heat setting, so the refrigerant can be brought up to minimum operating temperature to flow. Find more information here.
Q. What is the price range for induction stoves?
A. Check your local appliance retailer, but broadly speaking, costs range between $1,600 and $20,000 depending on size and features
Q. Can you utilize the heat pump rebates to help with home heating and cooling? Is this economical? We live in the East Kootenays where it hits -30* and we doubt we can fully rely on this. For context, we live in a new home (8 months old) with radiant heat (gas water heater). To clarify, I would be interested in adding a heat pump, if the rebates could cover most of the cost, which would reduce reliance on my radiant heat system (but I wouldn’t be pulling out the new water heater).
A. BC Hydro has rebates that might be applicable. If you live in a part of BC that is not served by BC Hydro, contact your local utility for rebates.
Q. Some electric on-demand water heaters introduce significant harmonics into the grid and so check with BC Hydro if you are thinking of installing them. They also have significant peak surges of power, asn while residential customers do not pay a demand charge, this could change in the future.
A. This is referring to the Power Factor. Inductive loads tend to have a poor Power Factor that is subject to surcharges. See BC Hydro’s explanation here.
Q. How do you address resiliency? IE when the power goes out, how do you keep warm without gas or wood stove options? Do you suggest solar PV with a battery?
A. To be fully fossil-fuel free, some sort of battery back-up storage will be needed, and sized properly to allow the heat pump to be operational even during a power outage. Work with a qualified contractor to discuss the issue and determine how to size your battery system.
Q. Is EMF radiation a problem with heat pumps or induction stove tops?
A. EMF radiation is not an issue for heat pumps or induction stove tops at all. More information here.
Q. Is natural gas taxed? Will it be taxed more heavily in the future to deter people from using it?
A. Yes. Natural gas is subject to the BC Carbon tax, and is scheduled to rise to $170/tonne CO2 equivalent by 2030.
Q. Heat pumps has minimum outside temperature for it to be efficient, what will happen to the standard minimum going by the recent low temperature trend experienced in Vancouver?
A. Long range climate change projections through 2050 suggest a significant reduction in freezing temperature days in winter, and higher minimum temperatures over this period of time. More information here.
Q. I live in an older House /w/ a nat gas furnace and (large) radiators – not forced-air- space heating system. Are there heat pumps to handle replacing the nat gas furnace?
A. Yes, but you need to confirm that your existing radiators can run with a lower temperature heat source that an air source heat pump provides compared to your natural gas furnace. Work with a qualified contractor to evaluate your specific situation.