Marilyn Shepherd will be opening her home to the public on Saturday (Sept. 20) as part of a solar tour

Doors thrown open for tour of Colwood solar home

Homeowner thrilled with the benefits of “green” power

Colwood resident Marilyn Shepherd is opening her home to anyone who’s ever wanted to learn more about solar power and improving energy efficiency.

Shepherd, who upgraded to solar hot water and high-efficiency ductless heat pumps nearly three years ago, says this Saturday’s (Sept. 20) open house offers a chance for people to see how solar power actually works.

“It’s an easier way, an informal setting, for people to just walk over and take a look,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to come and learn.”

Visitors can not only see solar power at work and speak with a homeowner experienced with the technology, they can chat with Royal Roads University researchers who have studied the energy savings, as well as representatives from Solar Colwood.

And with Solar Colwood giving out grants until March 2015, there’s still time to upgrade to solar hot water, ductless heat pumps, solar photovoltaic (electricity), or a combination of the three. Solar CRD also offers incentives to residents and businesses throughout the Capital Region.

For Shepherd, once she heard about the grant program, upgrading to solar was a no-brainer.

“We’ve been wanting to be greener for a long time,” she says. “With climate change, it’s a huge thing in our house. We talk about it all the time.”

Shepherd and her family bought into the Royal Bay area in 2005 when they moved over from the mainland.

“Being new, our house was quite efficient already. Our concern was that we had baseboard heating, which isn’t that efficient. And we have between five and seven people in the house, so we go through a lot of hot water, even if we’re careful.”

With heating so expensive in the wintertime, Shepherd says, she just wouldn’t turn on the baseboard system. “The heat pump made a huge difference in our comfort level. Before we would just be cold.”

The difference in her gas bill has been substantial too.

“Our hot water here is gas, and particularly from April to October, we virtually pay no extra gas bill beyond just the basic charge every month,” Shepherd says.

Her savings aren’t unusual. Royal Roads has been researching the utility bills of participating homeowners and has found they’re saving an average of 40 per cent on utility bills, says Glenys Verhulst, spokesperson with Solar Colwood.

“Those are significant savings. We’ve seen a lot of folks who are nearing retirement choose to do these upgrades so they lock in energy savings for the future,” she adds.

For those who install the solar photovoltaic system for electricity, an extra bonus is available. Whatever excess energy the system produces goes back into the hydro grid, Verhulst says. It’s shared amongst the neighbourhood and – the best part – BC Hydro credits you for the excess.

Verhulst recommends anyone interested in upgrading to solar power get an assessment first to figure out the best options for the home.

“It’s really house-specific,” she says. “We can help you figure out if it’s right for you.”

The open house runs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, at 475 Royal Bay Dr. in Colwood. For more information, visit solarcolwood.ca or crd.bc.ca.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com