Green / Eco-Friendly

How to find an environmentally responsible townhouse on Vancouver Island

  • Last Updated:
  • May 12th, 2021 12:26 am
[OP]
Deal Guru
May 9, 2007
11638 posts
3461 upvotes
Vancouver Island, BC

How to find an environmentally responsible townhouse on Vancouver Island

I’m about to put my house up for sale and I want to move into an environmentally sound townhouse. By that i mean a townhouse that uses no fossil fuels and has a garage so that I can install a level 2 charging station. I live in the Cowichan Valley and plan to remain living between here and Parksville.

I recently helped a relative buy a condo with geothermal heating and solar pre-heating of water, but that was by fluke.

Does anyone know of a resource for helping to find environmentally sound townhouses?
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair

Our house is on fire.” Greta Thunberg
5 replies
Sr. Member
Oct 19, 2020
808 posts
496 upvotes
GTA
I'm pretty sure BC power generation is mostly hydro.

So you can buy a house and do what you want with it provided it's a good candidate. (decent insulation or a way to make it decently insulated without spending too much money, decent ductwork if applicable, etc)

If the house has a gas furnace furnace and water heater, you can get an electric water heater and a basic air source heatpump with electric aux heat.
Geothermal and cold climate heatpumps are expensive and not necessary in a milder climate, size a regular heatpump for heating and it should be able to keep up most of the time without supplemental heat.

There are mini-split heatpump systems which are good if you don't have ducts.

Should have a 200 amp service if you want to go all electric.

There is no such thing as an environmentally sound house for real though since it takes resources including fossil fuels to build, retrofit and maintain. It even takes an underlying fossil fuel economy to have hydro, wind, solar, etc.
It's still better to run a house off of hydro generated electricity than fossil fuel.
Deal Addict
Jun 26, 2019
1414 posts
1143 upvotes
GTA
MexiCanuck wrote: Does anyone know of a resource for helping to find environmentally sound townhouses?
Your realtor.

All things aside, to find something like this, its going to be rare and most likely a new build. Most people will use nat gas for heating and hot water just because its cheaper, so its harder to find one with all electric where gas servicing exists. If this is a must for you, I would probably look at homes that fit all your other criteria and can be easily retrofitted this way. For most homes it is likely you could get your wish list for $10-20k.

Also, just to go a bit more into this topic, although BC and most of Canada gets the majority of their clean energy from renewables, the peak hour/demand usually comes from thermal. So this kinda muddles the equation a bit more. Heating your house on hydro during peak hours will result in a lot more carbon emissions compared to heating your house on nat gas during peak hours. That said, this can generally be easily accounted for with a smart thermostat and only heating off hours to ensure you are using renewable sources. Also, insulation, the temperature you heat/cool your house too and a bunch of other factors maybe have a much larger impact. I guess my point here is being on all electric is a good start, but its not the be all end all.
Sr. Member
Oct 19, 2020
808 posts
496 upvotes
GTA
You actually have to have a decently insulated house to use a heatpump properly - capacity is much lower than that of a gas furnace.
Heatpumps are best left at a constant temperature, raising the temp back up can really increase consumption due to use of electric elements to supplement. Best thermostat setting is HOLD constant temp with these systems.

I do not recommend electric resistance only heating, that's for sure - too expensive.
[OP]
Deal Guru
May 9, 2007
11638 posts
3461 upvotes
Vancouver Island, BC
SubjectivelyObjective wrote:
Also, just to go a bit more into this topic, although BC and most of Canada gets the majority of their clean energy from renewables, the peak hour/demand usually comes from thermal. So this kinda muddles the equation a bit more. Heating your house on hydro during peak hours will result in a lot more carbon emissions compared to heating your house on nat gas during peak hours.
I think that used to be the case in BC, but not anymore. The thermal station in the lower mainland was decommissioned.
Facilities:

13 hydroelectric facilities, originally built between 1911 and 1960.
1 thermal plant, decommissioned in 2016.
https://www.bchydro.com/energy-in-bc/op ... nland.html

That leaves only two “local system” thermal plants in BC, used during transmission outages.
BC Hydro operates combustion turbine generating stations at both Prince Rupert and Fort Nelson.

The 46 MW Prince Rupert Generating Station is primarily intended to provide short-term energy during transmission interruptions in this area; it is also permitted to operate 300 days a year using natural gas as the primary fuel source.

Fort Nelson, a combined-cycle 73 MW plant, can be run only on natural gas with waste heat being captured to generate additional power via a steam turbine. It provides energy to the Fort Nelson area during transmission outages and is continuously providing energy to the system grid.
https://www.bchydro.com/energy-in-bc/op ... ation.html
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair

Our house is on fire.” Greta Thunberg
Deal Fanatic
Jul 7, 2017
6802 posts
3091 upvotes
SW corner of the cou…
Look for LEED and Net Zero as keywords, though I think you may be hard-pressed to find it in most condos. Might search for announced leed projects and your areas of interest and see what pops up, and keep an eye for resales.

Not where you want to be but here's an example

https://victoria.citified.ca/news/james ... buildings/
I smile when I see container ships sailing past my house laden with stuff made in China

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