New B.C. building regulations require new homes to come solar hot water ready

Blog - June 24, 2011 - By Josha MacNab

Lurking somewhere in the depths of your basement there's a hot water heater chewing up expensive gas or electricity. But for a lucky few families in British Columbia, that old-fashioned money eating, water-heating machine will now get a helping hand from the twenty-first century, in the form of old-school sunshine.

This week, a new provincial regulation came into effect that will make it easier for some families to install solar hot water systems in B.C. The optional regulation only applies to the 36 forward-looking communities that signed up for it (you know who you are!) and requires that all new single-family detached homes in these communities come ready for easy future installation of a "plug and play" solar hot water heater.

People installing solar panels for solar water heaterTo be clear, this doesn't mean your home comes with a solar hot water heater itself. It does mean, however, that when construction starts on these houses, the roof and plumbing must be designed to make a solar hot water heater easy to install at a later date. Like a dryer outlet that's in the basement, your house comes ready for a dryer but the dryer itself is not included.

It's then up to the homeowner herself to chose to install solar hot water panels on the roof — like some B.C. homeowners chose to do before this regulation came into place.

Taking baby steps, but in the right direction

The cost of making these changes to construction — estimated at between $200 and $500 — is much cheaper than retrofitting a house for solar hot water after construction is finished.

That being said, this regulation in and of iteself will likely not have a huge impact on lowering provincial energy consumption and GHGs since it only requires the infrastructure to be built. Not to mention that only a few buildings in the province will be impacted — non-single family dwellings and commercial buildings are exempt.

Nonetheless, this is another important step towards ensuring that new buildings are built with a view to the future. Considering the amount of energy a home can consume, we need to continue to build houses that will help us transition to a low-carbon economy — not ones that keep us tied to dirty energy sources.

Josha MacNab

Josha MacNab is the national director of policy and strategy for the Pembina Institute. She is based in Vancouver.


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