Heat Pumps and a Changing Climate

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Our changing climate is prompting action by all levels of government address what is more and more being referred to as the “climate emergency”.  Rising temperatures, forest fires, flooding, increased migration and more are predicted for the Lower Mainland.

We write today about the first and most obvious impact, rising temperatures along with the related impact of forest fires.

The summer of 2021 was an unforgettable one for many in BC- especially those in and around the Lower Mainland where temperatures soared above 40 degrees for several days straight, unprecedented in modern times.  This resulted in hundreds of deaths, many more hospitalizations, and a growing awareness that something has to change.

The City of Vancouver is adopting aggressive new zero emission targets for new buildings.  You can read about that initiative at their website.

Recently, Vancouver City Council voted to implement even more rigorous requirements for new building– most notably that they will all require active cooling and air filtration.  There is no indication yet on whether or not retrofits will be required to help the Province and City meet their respective emission reduction targets.

In addition to the above, more and more Strata Corporations are wrestling with the complicated subject of heat pumps which are becoming more popular (especially with BC Hydro offering significant incentives for their installation).  A heat pump can replace existing heating systems and add cooling as well, a benefit to homeowners.  They are also efficient in their energy usage, helping to reduce the carbon emissions associated with heating and cooling buildings (they operate off of the electrical grid, while many/most building systems still rely on natural gas for heating).  Unfortunately, installing heat pumps can be a difficult process- especially because they usually require some alterations to Common Property- notably compressors being placed on the common property and the penetrations required to run conduits for refrigerant and/or electrical, depending on the type and style of heat pump.

Strata Councils who are receiving heat pump installation applications would be well served to seek independent legal advice to implement bylaws and procedures to address these requests.  That way, Owners can be provided with installation standards that are predictable and consistent- necessary to receive quotations and to have the work performed.  Our friends at the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association (VISOA) have compiled these “Top 10 Tips for Heat Pump Bylaws for Stratas“, which we encourage you to review. Most notably, legal and sometimes engineering advice is required to implement a workable path for Owners to install heat pumps.

The technology is now mature and inexpensive enough that Strata Councils should expect more applications- and on occasion, those applications may be accompanied by compelling human rights arguments- especially in light of the danger posed by increased temperatures to human health and safety.