Oil to Heat Pump Incentive warms local homes

New incentive encourages homeowners to move from oil to an electric heat pump to reduce emissions

Marc Owen-Flood

Marc Owen-Flood

For many Oak Bay residents who will still rely on oil to heat their homes this winter – or buyers looking for a new Oak Bay home – a new Oil to Heat Pump Incentive Program may provide a cozy alternative.

The incentive of up to $1,700 per home to switch is available to help British Columbians upgrade from oil heating to efficient electric air source heat pumps.

The program is funded by the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines’ Innovative Clean Energy Fund and administered by City Green Solutions, a non-profit energy efficiency organization.

“An oil-to-heat-pump upgrade is one of the most important things we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing homes,” explains Glenys Verhulst, Oil to Heat Pump Program Manager.

“Participating homes’ typical carbon reductions will be better than taking a car off the road for 15 years.”

The Oak Bay Fire Department, which monitors both above-ground and buried oil tanks in the municipality, says oil is still a common heating choice in Oak Bay, with an estimated 40 to 50 per cent of homeowners opting for oil, says Capt. Rob Kivell.

The incentive is intended to make it easier for British Columbians to lower their heating bills and reduce household greenhouse gas emissions.

“Heat pumps are very efficient home heating systems because they use only a small amount of electricity to move a large amount of heat, to provide comfortable temperatures in the home year-round,” Verhulst says.

“An oil-to-heat-pump upgrade will reduce a typical home’s energy bills by $1,300 to $2,700 every year, and will eliminate the risk of costly damage to air, soil and waterways from home heating oil leaks.”

Oak Bay realtor Marc Owen-Flood, with Newport Realty, says for homeowners looking to move from oil, “technology is really helping the efficiency of heating homes along with greater comfort.”

In a community of older homes, many homeowners who had used oil in the past are turning to other options, such as natural gas, however, as “many parts of Oak Bay are built on rock and cannot get gas to their properties, this will be great for those types of homeowners. “I think this is a great option for homeowners wanting to upgrade their current heating systems,” Owen-Flood says.

To qualify for the incentive, homeowners must install a qualifying central or mini-split heat pump and remove their oil tank and oil heating system.

Incentives are available on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last.

The Innovative Clean Energy Fund is designed to support the B.C. government’s energy, economic, environmental and greenhouse gas reduction priorities and advance B.C.’s clean energy sector.

To learn more, or to register for the Oil to Heat Pump Incentive Program,visit oiltoheatpump.ca or call 1-877-545-6247.


Buried tanks concerning for buyers and sellers

During home sale transactions for many of Oak Bay’s older homes, the prospect of a buried oil tank often arises.

Many homes once used in-ground tanks, rather than above-ground models, and to date, about 2,000 have been removed or “rendered inert,” says Oak Bay Fire Capt. Rob Kivell, in the Fire Prevention Division.

It’s expected that approximately 5,000 may still be in the ground.

In-ground tanks began to be cause concern for soil and water contamination in the late-1990s. A letter was sent to Oak Bay homeowners urging removal, or that tanks be rendered inert by having residual material drained from the tank and, if it was still in adequate condition, filling it with sand, as was accepted practice at the time, Kivell says.

Today, some insurance companies and lenders are also raising concerns with those inert tanks. “The tide has changed and banks and insurance companies are reluctant to insure or loan funds with an inert tank in the ground,” says Oak Bay realtor Marc Owen-Flood.