Solar Colwood program co-ordinator J Scott holds a model of a glazed flat plate solar panel

Colwood rolls out home energy retrofits

  • Jun. 9, 2011 9:00 a.m.

Ten years ago, the Corrigalls installed a simple solar heating system to warm an above ground pool at their Colwood home.

Since then they’ve been hooked on energy-saving technology. When Solar Colwood announced grants for home retrofits for residents installing solar hot water heaters or ductless heat pumps, they signed up for both.

Last week they were selected by lottery to be among the first 10 to have a ductless system installed. Their solar grant will be considered in the next round of offerings.

Colwood gave deeper discounts to the first installations to encourage early adoption. For the heat pumps, selected homeowners get $1,500. When combined with the $1,000 Livesmart BC grant, available to everyone in the province, the discounts pay for at least half of a system that generally cost $3,000 to $5,000.

The two-way heat pumps collect hot air and transfer it between inside and out — depending where you want it. In the summer it pushes the hot air out, and pulls it in during winter.

The heat pump will cut down home heating costs by reducing the amount of conventional heat needed to maintain a consistent temperature, but the Lylla Corrigall is also excited about using it in reverse.

“We don’t have air conditioning, so it will be how we cool down our home in the summer,” she said.

A home energy assessment — required to be eligible for the grants — showed the Corrigalls could do little to improve energy efficiency in their home, besides retrofitting. Their walls are well insulated and they recently added insulated blinds on their windows.

“There’s some weather stripping we can do, but that’s about it,” said Darryl Corrigall. “We’ve already taken all the obvious steps to save energy.”

For them, the Solar Colwood grant was the push they needed to invest in retrofits.

Solar Colwood program co-ordinator J Scott, owner of Illuminate Solar in Langford, was hired this month to help make the home retrofits as easy as possible for those selected to receive grants.

All the heating systems—both dustless and solar hot water—will be vetted by Scott, as will the dozen or so full-time installers that will be needed to get the systems in.

Installations are expected to begin this month, and Scott estimates there could be an install completed every day at the peak of the program.

In all, Colwood expects to help retrofit 1,000 homes — one-sixth of its housing stock — with the renewable energy systems, offering 880 solar grants and 120 ductless grants over the next three years.

Solar hot water grants started at $3,300 for the first 10 and are supplemented by a $500 Live-smart grant.

Those systems, which involve solar panels on the roof warming a tank that pre-heats water before it goes through the existing water tank, cost $8,000 to $10,000 before discounts.

“You always have your old hot water tank, so even if there’s 14 days of rain you’re still going to have hot water,” Scott said, addressing a common fear that deters people from adopting solar hot water.

Systems are selected based on the need of the home — how much space is available and what the water needs are — and Scott says she’s there to walk residents through every step of the way.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to convert to clean energy,” Scott said, noting there’s financing programs available to pay off solar heaters with monthly payments roughly equivalent to the savings homeowners would see on their energy bill.

Solar Colwood’s next 200 solar heating grants will be for $2,500, and its next 50 ductless grants will be for $1,000.

A series of open houses will provide residents with information about the program. The first is Saturday, June 11, 1 to 4 p.m., at Colwood city hall, 3300 Wishart Road.

This is also the project launch party and will include guest speakers at 2 p.m. For more information visit



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