Credit: Nitya Harris

Guy Dauncey and Carolyn Herriot celebrating their new solar hot water system

Newly doubled SolarBC incentives make now a smart time for BC residents to invest in solar hot water

If you’ve been wondering about solar hot water but haven’t yet taken the plunge, now is a smart time to investigate it for your home because the SolarBC incentives for solar hot water have just been doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 for a limited time offer.


Pictured above: The author, Guy Dauncey, and Carolyn Herriot celebrate their new solar hot water system.

We’ve just had a panel installed on our house and are totally happy with the result.

What’s SolarBC? It’s one of our programs in the BC Sustainable Energy Association, a non-profit association I founded with a group of sustainable energy enthusiasts five year ago. Our mission is to facilitate the transition to a sustainable energy future in British Columbia through education, advocacy and tangible community projects.

And what’s solar hot water? It’s water that’s heated by the sun from a panel or a set of tubes on your rooftop that will reduce the amount of gas or electricity needed to heat your hot water. And that’s gotta be good…

Most people don’t realize that heating water accounts for about 30 percent of a typical BC household's energy use. A solar hot water system can provide up to half that energy (and all of it during the summer months), cutting your energy costs by up to $300 a year and reducing your annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to a tonne.

7 easy steps to solar hot water on your rooftop

Step 1

Check that your home has good solar potential. Does it get lots of sun? Is it shaded by trees? If it’s not obvious, check it out at www.solarrating.ca for a free DIY solar evaluation.

What if you rent your property? Send this to your landlord, and see if you can interest him or her in doing an installation while the incentives are there. If you are paying the utility bills, you might offer to contribute something based on the energy saved, which in most cases you’ll be able to read from a meter attached to the system.


Step 2

Learn about the residential SolarBC program by taking 15 minutes to explore it here.


Step 3

Call a Natural Resources Canada certified energy advisor, and ask if you are likely to qualify for an additional $1,250 rebate for solar hot water on top of the SolarBC discount (restrictions apply). To obtain the additional grant, you’ll need an ecoEnergy assessment of your home, which will cost $300 ($150 at the start and $150 at the end), but this will also give you a Home Energy Rating, guidance on how to improve your home's energy efficiency, and open the door to up to $5,000 in grants for other green retrofit projects.


Step 4

Look at the solar rooftop photos to get a sense of what’s available in BC, and study the choice of systems. In most instances a plumbing permit will be needed, but your installer will take care of that for you. You’ll find that you can choose between three types of system:

(a) a tank on the roof with a set of evacuated tubes that directs the hot water directly to your in-house hot water tank;

(b) a flat plate panel on your roof, that transfers the heat to a special solar hot water tank that’s installed next to your regular tank, using glycol to transfer the heat; and

(c) a panel made up from evacuated glass tubes, that works in the same way as the flat plate panel.

Which is best? All three types have their enthusiasts, so you’re really best learning about each and then talking to some of the registered SolarBC contractors in your area.


Step 5

Learn about the average cost of a system ($6,800), and how the incentives can reduce this by $2,000 to $3,000. If you’ve not got cash in the bank, learn about the SolarBC Low-Interest Financing and learn how the SolarBC incentive can be converted into a zero-interest loan, with a monthly repayment of around $110 over five years.


Step 6

You’re now ready to pick up the phone, call a SolarBC Registered Installer, and talk to them. They’ll come out to your house, look at your roof, and give you a quote.


Step 7

Decide! From this point on, your installer will look after all the details, and you’ll soon be enjoying water heated directly by the sun. It might take one day to do the installation, or maybe two, depending on how easy it is to feed the pipes down from the roof to wherever your hot water tank is.

Then if you’re feeling happy you can submit your story to the SolarBC website, so that others can learn from your experience!

But don’t delay: these steps take time and the doubled SolarBC incentives are only available for a limited time.


Guy Dauncey

Guy Dauncey is a speaker, author and organizer working to develop a positive vision of a sustainable future and translate that vision into action. He is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association and author of a bunch of books on sustainability, including his latest, The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming. He is also the publisher of EcoNews, a monthly newsletter that promotes the vision of a sustainable Vancouver Island. In February 2010, he held The John J. Rhodes Chair in Public Policy and American Institutions in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

You can follow him at www.earthfuture.com, Twitter, his blog and on TEDx.

Recommended reading on Granville:

Read Guy Dauncey’s optimistic vision for a sustainable Future Vancouver in “My Journey to 2030.”