New homes must be solar ready

All future residential homes must be able to accommodate a solar heating system after city council voted last week to change its building bylaw.

All future residential homes must be able to accommodate a solar heating system after city council voted last week to change its building bylaw.

Campbell River is one of 36 B.C. communities governed by the provincial Solar Hot Water Ready Regulation which applies to new single-family dwellings and those with secondary suites.

“This is a major step forward for the City of Campbell River,” said Peter Woods, chair of the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee. “Every new home in Campbell River will now be solar ready. This saves the homeowner thousands of dollars in retrofit fees and energy costs, minimizes the carbon footprint by using alternatives to conventional energy and helps to stimulate local economy for qualified solar technicians.”

Construction of new residential homes must include a roof area designated for future installation of solar collectors, or panels, as well as a space directly adjacent to the building’s hot water tank and the installation of two conduits between the areas.

The new regulations will be applied to homes built on or after Oct. 3.

“This grace period would allow for builders to accommodate changes in upcoming projects while not impacting projects that are midstream in design,” said Sara Brodie, the city’s land use services supervisor, in a report to council.

The cost of adding the new building requirements during construction is between $250-$500, said Brodie. The cost of retrofitting an existing home with solar hot water is about $6,900, according to Brodie.

Existing homes are exempt from the new bylaw but Woods said some homeowners may opt to go with solar power because of the huge cost savings for the average home.

“As BC Hydro rates continue to rise, retrofitting to solar becomes more financially viable,” Woods said.

Solar panels are already being used on four city buildings – the downtown Fire Hall, RCMP stations, the Sportsplex and the new Simms Creek lift station along Highway 19A. The panels collect the sun’s heat to warm up the buildings’ water supplies.

The city was recently named B.C. Solar Community of the Year for 2010 in recognition of its effort to use solar panels as well as for using solar-powered crosswalks in 12 different locations.

Adopting the Solar Ready Regulations falls in line with the city’s goal of demonstrating that solar power is a viable renewable energy source, even in colder, rainy climates because the energy is generated from the sun’s light, not its heat, when it hits the solar panel.

“I think it’s time to show we’re leaders, not followers, and we’re leading the way,” Coun. Roy Grant said.

The Solar Hot Water Ready Regulation was approved in June 2010 by the B.C. government as a tool for local governments to further the development of solar energy in their community.