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Whistler, SLRD adopt solar heating regulation

All new single-family homes must be solar hot water ready



In a move that's good news for the solar industry, Whistler and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District are adopting a regulation to make single-family homes solar hot water ready.

The provincial government announced this week that 36 B.C. communities have agreed to adopt a new building regulation that requires all new single- family homes being built within their boundaries be "solar hot water ready."

During construction, homes must be built to allow future installation of a solar hot water system including an area designated for a solar collector. Homes are not required to have solar components installed and it is not a requirement under the building code, as not all communities in the province can benefit from solar power because they don't all get enough sun.

"Greening the building code is an important part of the provincial goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Energy and Mines Minister Rich Coleman said in a statement. "It is one of the many steps the government is taking to help us meet our energy conservation targets as our population expands and demand for electricity grows."

The Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District are just two of the many communities voluntarily taking on the new regulation. Also joining in are the Cities of North Vancouver, Richmond, Chilliwack and New Westminster, as well as the Greater Vancouver Regional District and the District of North Vancouver.

Two days after issuing the news release announcing the solar hot water regulation the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) put out their own statement applauding the provincial government for its efforts. The association said the regulation would result in environmental benefits and "tremendous economic and employment benefits" for participating communities.

"Solar energy creates more jobs than any other energy resource through production, installation and research," Elizabeth McDonald, CanSIA's president, said in a statement. "This policy sends a positive message - the solar thermal industry is the place to invest in B.C. and will contribute to the creation of jobs."

Eric Prall, the owner of Glacier Creek Contracting and president of the Sea to Sky chapter of the Canadian Home Builders Association, said that his company has been accommodating solar water heating systems on homes for a year and a half already and that he thinks a regulation is a "very good idea."

"It's relatively inexpensive to do and it provides the owner with the option of taking the next step and spending a little extra money and going to the solar hot water package, and they can do it on their own time," he said in an interview. "It involves, basically, a supply and return water line that goes from the hot water tank location to the appropriate location for the roof. So it would be insulated copper water lines, that's the majority of it right there."

Frall estimated that building the capability for a solar water heating system would add hundreds of dollars to a home, while installing the system itself could cost anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000, although grants to install such systems are available from SolarBC.