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Heat pumps for Hartley Bay

PRINCE RUPERT – You’ve probably never been fortunate enough to visit Hartley Bay, a remote village on British Columbia’s north coast accessible only by aircraft or boat.

Hartley Bay is a long way from where most people live and work. The First Nations community at the mouth of the Douglas Channel is 630 kilometres north of Vancouver and 145 kilometres south of Prince Rupert.

It is home to the Gitga’at First Nation, part of the Tsimshian peoples. The community made the decision to leverage funding from the Province’s CleanBC Indigenous Community Heat Pump Incentive to equip each of the 52 homes in the community with an energy-efficient heat pump. Heat pumps are a good option for heating and cooling homes and buildings here, saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from BC Hydro’s diesel generators that power the community.

Hartley Bay features an oceanic climate with chilly winters and mild summers that occasionally – to the delight of all – crank the thermometer into the 30s. The community’s coastal location means the village gets a lot of rain, and likely more than you’re thinking: an average of 4,500 mm of precipitation falls each year. Heat pumps cope just fine with seasonal differences in temperature and precipitation, keeping homes cozy and comfortable all year long.

Lynne Hill, a Gitga’at Elder, is one of the community members enjoying the benefits of a new heat pump. On the transition to a more efficient heat source, she said: “Previously I had an electric furnace. The great advantage of the heat pump is that it has virtually cut my power bill in half. The actual size is less than the electric furnace and took up less room in my basement.”

Thinking outside the winter box, Lynne Hill said: “I am very excited to look forward to the air conditioning feature when the hot summer days make my house terribly unbearable.”

Beyond the residential upgrades, some larger community buildings have added heat pumps to their buildings. One example is the Hartley Bay school. “We now have a good, reliable heating system that does not use extensive amounts of power or fossil fuels to provide heat,” said Cameron Hill, school principal.

Students, teachers and staff at the school are thrilled. “The heat pumps are quiet and easy to use and have given our school the power to show that new technologies can be applied to older buildings to meet our heating needs,” Cameron Hill said. “We are very grateful for the financial support from the B.C. government to have been given this opportunity to not only provide green energy to heat our school, but also to use the savings to spend on other avenues of education.”

The Hartley Bay residential heat pumps were supported in part by funding from the CleanBC Indigenous Community Heat Pump Incentive. The CleanBC Indigenous Community Heat Pump Incentive provides funding for heat pump installation projects in residential and community buildings, including:

  • fuel-switching projects (e.g., switching from oil, natural gas or propane to electric heat pumps) in communities served by renewable electricity (either grid or remote);
  • efficiency projects (e.g., baseboard or electric furnace to electric heat pump) in remote communities served by diesel-generated electricity; and
  • woodstove primary heated homes switching to electric heat pumps in communities served by renewable electricity (either grid or remote).

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the total maximum incentive available for each Indigenous community application is doubled to $400,000 for installations completed by June 2021 to support the restart of B.C.’s economy and help Indigenous communities save energy.

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