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Home Energy Retrofits Begin in Colwood

Goldstream News Gazette, July 26, 2011

First ductless split heat pump installation
Home Energy Retrofits Begin in Colwood
With Colwood homeowner Ed Paquette and Precision Refrigeration boss Darcy Smith looking on, Greg Wong attaches the final fitting to a ductless heat pump system, the first under the Solar Colwood project.
Edward Hill/News staff

With the flick of a switch last Thursday, a nearly-silent heat pump whirred to life, ushering in Solar Colwood’s first home energy-saving device.

Linked to an outdoor heat pump, three air source “heads” retrofitted into three levels of Ed Paquette’s home started drawing out heat on what was a warm, sunny day. In the winter the process is reversed, where air is heated and drawn into the home.

Paquette is the first to chip into the $3.9 million Solar Colwood project after receiving a $1,000 grant. He tripled that discount with a $1,500 LiveSmart BC grant and a $500 federal ecoEnergy grant.

“I think this is an awesome initiative,” says Paquette, 64, a 35-year resident of Colwood and a retired navy man. “Colwood should be applauded for showing leadership on this.”

The three grants cut the installation and equipment cost at his Delora Drive home by about 43 per cent, although this particular install was more complex than most. A $3,000 grant would usually cover at least 50 per cent of the price tag, said Darcy Smith of Precision Refrigeration.

Smith estimates the efficient heat-pump system will reduce the need for electric baseboard heating by a half or more, which equates to recouping the investment in five to seven years.

“With grants, it’s a three to five year payback,” Smith said “In winter people will pay $300 or $400 per month to heat a large house. Now you are looking at $100 to $125.”

Paquette said he wasn’t nervous about being one of the first on the Solar Colwood bandwagon –- he’s happy to reduce expenses and save energy. He was also frustrated at the challenge of staying within BC Hydro’s lower first-tier pricing.

“People with electric heat can’t be in the first tier. It’s not possible. I saw how good this program was and how we’d reduce our reliance on BC Hydro,” Paquette says.

“This program showed a lot of initiative on the part of the mayor and the city. We need more projects like this to get people thinking about conserving energy.”

Solar Colwood is offering varying levels of rebates for 880 solar hot water systems and 120 ductless heat pump retrofits within the next three years. Upping the savings, homeowners can also apply for federal ecoEnergy and provincial LiveSmart BC grants, although those require a home energy audit.

Solar Colwood co-ordinator J Scott says energy auditors walk the homeowner through the dual grant application process, making the paperwork as painless as possible. At least 300 homeowners have signed up for Solar Colwood and 200 of those are in the queue for a home energy audit.

Scott says the Solar Colwood program was holding off on audits and installs until the federal government approved the ecoEnergy program, to maximize potential savings for homeowners. With the pieces in place, she expects a regular schedule of installs to start ramping up this month.

“Colwood has bundled together as many cost-saving grants as it could. It makes it more complicated, but people have got me (and the auditors) to help them along,” Scott says. “Colwood really has gone above and beyond to get people as much money as possible.”

For more on Solar Colwood, see or call J Scott at 250-884-0784.

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