Whistler2020 On-The-Ground 

Taking a giant LEAP on energy efficiency

Strategic Energy & Emissions Manager, Whistler Centre for Sustainability

Earlier this winter an exciting new opportunity was identified by the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) and the Whistler Centre for Sustainability (WCS) to help improve the energy efficiency of select resident restricted rental housing units in Whistler. Leveraging new funding provided by the Province of B.C. through the LiveSmart Efficiency Assistance Program (LEAP), the WHA was able to install more than $30,000 worth of energy efficient upgrades on Whistler Creek Court - a 20-unit rental project on Sarajevo Drive in Creekside owned and managed by the WHA.

The intent of LEAP is to provide grants for energy assessments and basic energy efficient upgrades, to improve the energy efficiency of lower income households and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the Province. Similar to other LiveSmart B.C. initiatives, LEAP fundamentally seeks to save energy, improve comfort, reduce energy bills and contribute to the achievement of our greenhouse gas reduction targets (33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020).

In the case of Whistler Creek Court, LEAP provided $1,700 per unit to fund detailed energy assessments, as well as the parts and labour costs associated with the installation of programmable thermostats; low flow shower heads and kitchen faucets; improved air sealing around all windows, doors, and attic hatches; installation of outlet and switch gaskets to further reduce air leakage; replacement of incandescent bulbs; as well as increasing the attic insulation from R32 to R50.

A month after the installation was completed, Pina Belperio - one of the residents - commented, "I like the new features and the increased insulation in the attic has made a big difference to the overall warmth of the house," Belperio says. "We like the programmable thermostats as well. Those improvements were well worth it and will hopefully go a long way to reducing our energy bills".

The great news is that LiveSmart B.C. funding is available far beyond LEAP - when you combine LiveSmart B.C. incentives with the federal ecoENERGY rebates and the federal home renovation tax credit (and if you're really keen, add in the SolarBC rebates) - there are some serious savings to be had for nearly all property owners .

For example, let's say you're considering replacing your gas-fired furnace. You could choose a more traditional 80 per cent efficient furnace for about $3,800. However, it you chose to install a 95 per cent AFUE Energy Star certified furnace with a variable speed motor (approximately $5,000) you would be eligible for a $1,130 rebate from LiveSmartBC, plus another $500 from the ecoENERGY program (total $1,630) - plus an additional 15 per cent tax credit on your 2009 income taxes (for this example that translates to approximately $600 in additional tax relief).

The total rebates and incentives for the upgrade are far in excess of the incremental cost of the higher efficiency furnace, and you will enjoy even further savings as your ongoing gas expenses are reduced by an additional 15 per cent from now on (say another $250-$300 per year) - not to mention the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with your upgrade.

Want to save even more? Take a look at the air source heat pump options. Currently heat your house with electricity? No worries, rebates and incentives are available for a wide variety of upgrades from programmable thermostats and increased levels of insulation, to solar water heating and Energy Star windows and doors - and a bunch of things in between.

So, if you want to follow the leadership shown both by the WHA and the growing number of other local homeowners that have already taken advantage of these great opportunities to improve their home's energy efficiency, visit the RMOW's site (www.whistler.ca/energygrants.htm), or visit the LiveSmart B.C. site directly (livesmartbc.ca). Get assessed, make changes, get money - it's really that simple.

Want to take advantage of even more energy rebates and incentives? Consider joining the nearly 200 Whistler residents that have signed up for B.C. Hydro's Team Power Smart (www.bchydro.com/powersmart).

If you still have questions, give me a shout at new Whistler Centre for Sustainability at tbattiston@whistler.ca . Happy savings!

To see other ways that Whistler is moving toward the community's vision of success and sustainability, visit www.whistler2020.ca.

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