You may not think much about your home’s energy efficiency, but doing so can have significant benefits for your wallet and the environment. At the same time, making your home more energy efficient can be an expensive and confusing process. Our goal is to make home energy upgrades easier for residents living in the Central and North Coast of British Columbia. We’re working with local and regional governments to find the most effective ways to improve energy efficiency in homes and reduce energy consumption and costs, pinpointing the major stumbling blocks and proposing actions to address these hurdles.
Ecotrust Canada has been collaborating on a study with the City of Prince Rupert as part of our work to equip communities with data and recommendations to support energy-efficient home renovations. The study includes a home archetype analysis, where we analyzed the energy consumption of different types of homes in the area and identified the most effective ways to save energy and costs in each one. We found that electric air source heat pumps are the upgrade option with the highest potential for energy and cost savings in many Prince Rupert homes. The upgrades will be paid off by cost savings between two to nine years, reducing energy expenses by over $1,000-$2,000+ per year (along with impressive potential emissions reductions) for those switching from gas. Insulation tends to be a cost-effective investment as well, and window upgrades may be worthwhile in some scenarios.
As an example of an average Prince Rupert home, the table below shows the estimated costs and savings from an upgrade to an air-source heat pump, attic and foundation wall insulation, and air sealing. Of course, actual results differ by home and depend on a variety of factors.
The study also involved gathering input from many members of the community, including a household survey, in-person interviews with over 20 representatives from different groups and organizations, and speaking directly with community members at Seafest to gather input, to ensure a variety of perspectives were considered.
We heard that energy and upgrade costs are a significant concern for many residents, with over half of survey respondents finding their costs unaffordable. Engagement also revealed several barriers to energy efficiency improvements, including many people not having heard of some or any of the available rebate programs and upgrade options, the high up-front cost of upgrades, difficulties finding reliable contractors, and navigating the complexity of the upgrade process.
Multiple residents recounted challenges getting the home energy evaluation required to access federal rebates (or not knowing this needed to be done before and after the upgrade), but the good news is there is now an Energy Advisor based in Prince Rupert. Many were not aware of provincial supports, including the $9,000 northern top-up offer, which applies in Prince Rupert for upgrading from gas to an electric heat pump, or the Income-Qualified Program available for lower-income households.
Based on our findings, initiatives to improve home energy efficiency in Prince Rupert could include providing education and outreach to residents on the benefits of energy efficiency and the available incentives and programs, offering individual guidance to households, and collaborating with businesses in the industry on training. The potential impacts in terms of monetary and energy savings, as well as benefits to health, housing, and the local economy, are impressive. The study, which will be published online in late September, provides information and strategic recommendations that create a foundation for practical on-the-ground work that can help reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions in Prince Rupert.
 Technical upgrade details for the table: 78% efficient gas furnace or electric baseboard to ASHP, HSPF 10 SEER 20. Attic R28 to R50. Foundation wall R0 to R20. Air sealing 4.01 to 3.61 ACH50.
Published July 26, 2023