With temperatures finally dropping, many British Columbians will be reaching for the thermostat for the first time in months. But a new report from B.C. Hydro found the way people heat their homes has a big impact on climate change.
The report found a majority of British Columbians believe transportation is a bigger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than home heating and over one-third of British Columbians believe natural gas is the most environmentally friendly option to heat their home.
B.C. Hydro said both ideas are false and noted in their report that heating a typical single-family home entirely with natural gas each year can emit about two tonnes of carbon dioxide. To put out the same amount of carbon from a gas-powered car, you would need to drive 8,000 kilometres.
“Many British Columbians are unaware that home heating can have an impact on their personal carbon footprint — 11 per cent of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions — or about 6.9 million tonnes are from buildings and homes,” the report states.
These misconceptions are powered by a belief that natural gas is a “clean” fossil fuel. Natural gas does emit less than other fuel sources like burning coal, but it still emits carbon dioxide when burned.
Detached homes are the biggest natural gas users with 66 per cent of single-family homes using natural gas as their primary heating source compared to 51 per cent of town homes and only 29 per cent of condos and apartments.
Natural gas usage also varies by region. In the Lower Mainland, 60 per cent of all homes use natural gas compared to nearly 66 per cent in the Southern Interior and the North. Vancouver Island is an outlier with a majority of homes using electricity, but that’s because natural gas wasn’t available to Island residents historically.
B.C. Hydro said switching to electricity is the cleaner option, touting their status as the cleanest energy producer in western North America with a 98 per cent clean rating on their energy production. The utility company is now pushing for British Columbians to make the switch to electric heat pumps. Only 10 per cent of homes in B.C. are using electric heat pumps as a primary or secondary heating source. Contrary to their name, heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling for homes.
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The main issue preventing British Columbians from installing heat pumps is cost. To combat that, B.C. Hydro is offering a $3,000 rebate top-up for homes that switch to heat pumps from natural gas. Homeowners can also utilize the provincial CleanBC rebate and federal rebates to save up to $11,000 in costs, on top of any municipal level rebates that may be available to them.