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This column is a little different from my usual fare. It’s more of a “how-to guide” to decarbonize one’s home. While my writing and public talks generally focus on how to press our governments into emergency mode, ironically, one of the followup questions I am most frequently asked is, “How do I swap my gas furnace for an electric heat pump, and who was your contractor?” So, this one’s for all you folks.

As we seek to confront the climate emergency, retrofitting existing homes and buildings figures centrally in a robust plan. In Canada, the fossil fuels — mainly “natural” gas — we combust in buildings account for about 12 per cent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions (split roughly evenly between residential and non-residential buildings). That doesn’t count the embedded carbon in building construction, the fossil fuels burned to produce electricity in some provinces, or the GHGs associated with extracting and producing the fossil fuels we directly burn in our buildings. In cities, GHGs from buildings generally account for more than half of local emissions.

Discussions about retrofitting our homes often focus on how to enhance energy efficiency — improving insulation, using programmable thermostats, sealing leaks, etc. But here’s the rub: while measures such as these can help reduce emissions and household costs, we can’t achieve carbon-zero as a society by efficiency improvements alone. The only way to get our buildings and homes to carbon-zero is to fuel-swap, meaning, to stop using and combusting fossil fuels in our structures. In particular, we need to stop using “natural” gas (which these days is mostly fracked methane gas) to heat our homes and water and to cook our food. Of all the actions households can take to act on the climate crisis, this shift is one of the most important. Effective now, we need all new buildings to refrain from tying into gas lines. And within the next few years, we need all existing buildings to switch from fossil fuel heat sources to renewable, which in most cases means electricity.

After a process that took about a year, my home is now off fossil fuels. It wasn’t simple or cheap. But it can be done. And in this piece, I share the steps of how my family did it. Some of what we did is specific to B.C., where we live, but much is applicable anywhere. In telling this tale, I’m not trying to virtue signal. Rather, I just want to offer some guidance because people want to know. One of the barriers to climate action is that many of us find it hard to imagine how our homes operate without fossil fuels. So here I offer you a picture of what that can look like.

And let me state from the outset that, without question, a truly successful climate plan requires collective action at the political/policy level (more on that below). Any plan that relies on individual households voluntarily doing what I spell out here will see us fry. Also, I own my home, which provides me with privileges, opportunities and obligations to act that do not exist for most renters. Ultimately, however, a comprehensive climate program does require that all our homes cease using fossil fuels. So this article walks you through how that can be done.

Where we started from

A couple of years ago, my family’s home — a 12-year-old, 1,400-square-foot, well-insulated duplex in East Vancouver — was heated with a high-efficiency gas boiler. The boiler produced hot water for both our direct water needs and for pipes that provided lovely radiant heated floors in the winter. We also had a gas fireplace in the living room we rarely used, and we cooked on a gas stove.

We paid BC Hydro an average of just under $80 a month for our electricity use, which varied little throughout the year, and we paid FortisBC for our gas use. Our monthly gas bill was about $50, ranging from a low of about $20 in the summer to a high of about $85 in the winter.

From the get-go, driven by concern for the climate emergency, we knew we wanted to get the gas out of our home. We also welcomed the idea of getting gas fumes out of our living spaces and the health and safety benefits that would result for us and our kids. We knew the main recommendation was to switch to an electric-powered heat pump system, but what kind?

First, it’s useful to explain what a heat pump is. Many people confuse it with a geothermal system, which pulls heat from deep underground with pipes. A heat pump isn’t an underground system. It’s usually a single outdoor unit about 3x2.5x1 feet with a large fan (see photo at the top), which extracts heat from the ambient air (yes, even in winter), and then pipes that heat indoors, either taking that heat to a central duct system or to wall-mounted units about the size of an air conditioner in each room. BC Hydro has a nice short video explaining how a heat pump works here. The added benefit is that in the summer, the same system operates in reverse, extracting heat out of your home and carrying cool air in.

A how-to guide to rid your home of fossil fuels by @natobserver columnist @sethdklein. #ClimateEmergency #fossilfuels #Netzero

In many respects, the term “heat pump” is a misnomer; it would more accurately be named an “air comforting” system, or a “heat and cooling” pump.

Heat pumps are dramatically more efficient (and therefore less expensive to operate) than conventional baseboard electric heating systems. That’s because the heat pump isn’t generating heat, but rather, extracting and moving heat — way easier!

Our conversion journey started by consulting with a few experts I know, collecting advice about what kind of heat pump system would work best for us. (This might have been overkill; for most people, this wouldn’t be necessary, but I knew I wanted to be able to explain what we were doing and why.) We considered an air-to-water heat pump that would allow us to keep our radiant floors, but few contractors were familiar with these systems. Further, such a system, at least in our home, looked unlikely to deliver summer cooling particularly well. So in the end, we decided to abandon our radiant floors and went with a more typical air-to-air system described above.

Next, we collected quotes from about six contractors and were ready to go.

This single wall-mounted unit delivers heat and cooling to our whole downstairs floor. Photo courtesy Seth Klein

What we did

First thing we did — anticipating the electrification process risked substantially ramping up our monthly electric bills — we contracted with a local solar company, Solar Connect, and installed a bank of 14 panels on our garage roof in the summer of 2019. Solar panels aren’t cheap, but the cost is coming down, and ours will pay for themselves in lower monthly electricity bills at least three times over the course of their working lives. BC Hydro offers a simple net metering program, whereby any electricity we produce in excess of our monthly needs is credited to our BC Hydro account. In the peak of summer, we are producing more electricity than we consume and accumulating a modest credit, which we drawdown in the winter.

Given that British Columbia’s electricity system is hydro-based, the solar panels don’t directly lower GHGs in our province (in provinces still using coal and/or gas generated electricity, the solar panels would indeed help to lower GHGs). However, in addition to keeping our monthly electric bill in check, the solar panels mean we are providing a public benefit; even after fuel-swapping our home, we have not significantly increased our draw on the BC Hydro system. Were many homes and buildings to do this, it would save the public utility from needing to undertake huge new investments in new electricity production capacity. That said, this step was not necessary to get the gas out of our homes, so consider it an extra.

Second, we took out the gas stove and replaced it with a new induction electric stove. I know there are many of you who swear by the joys of cooking with gas. To which I say — you should try induction electric. As many chefs will tell you, they’re fabulous! Induction stoves are nothing like the old coil electrics. Like gas, they instantly provide heat, and at just the desired level. And they are safer than old electric or gas stoves because induction operates by magnetic connection between the stove surface and the bottom of a pot or frying pan. Once a pot is removed, it instantly cools, dramatically lowering risks of fire or injury. And no more breathing gas fumes.

Next, in May 2020, the heat pump system was installed by local contractor Ashton Plumbing and Heating, a process that took only a couple of days. The inside gas lines were sealed shut. Our gas boiler and accompanying hot water tank were removed, replaced by a Mitsubishi 4-zone heat pump system (with one wall-mounted unit downstairs and one in each of three bedrooms upstairs.) The external unit is very quiet, and four pipes carry the hot or cold air from that main unit to the wall-mounted units indoors. (The pipes are very discrete, running along one back external wall and then through the attic to reach the two farthest units.)

At the same time, we installed a conventional electric hot water heater (there are also heat pump options for hot water, but we don’t go that route).

The final reno: we ripped out the gas fireplace and replaced it with some beautiful built-in bookshelves that we like much better.

With all that done, the last — and deeply satisfying — act: we shut off the gas line to our home and cancelled our FortisBC account.

The costs and benefits

So, what did it all cost? Here’s the breakdown of the elements needed to get the gas out of our home:

  • Induction electric stove: $2,000 plus tax
  • Electric hot water heater and tank, including installation: $3,400 plus tax
  • Heat pump system, including installation: $17,000 plus tax (minus $9,000 in rebates)
Ron Sims of Ashton Heating shuts off our gas line. Photo courtesy Seth Klein

The price of the heat pump may elicit some sticker shock. But, both the BC government and the City of Vancouver now provide rebates for homes converting from gas to electric systems. At the time we did our fuel swap, those rebates amounted to $3,000 and $6,000 respectively, bringing the net cost of the heat pump down to $8,000. The province has since sweetened the pot with a further $3,000 in rebates, so today, the net cost would have been $5,000. And consider that in five years or so, it probably would have been time to replace the boiler regardless, the cost of which would approach that net heat pump price.

With respect to monthly operating costs...

The operating cost of the electric hot water heater has been negligible (we wash clothes in cold water and generally hand wash the dishes). Nor did I notice an increase when we switched from the gas stove to induction electric.

It’s really only been at the peak of winter that we saw a notable jump in our electric bill; with our solar panels delivering only modest power in the darker winter months and the heat pump operating all day, our electricity draw certainly went up. Comparing our winter BC Hydro bills from before and after the switch, minus what we used to pay in gas, the costs seem to be up $10 to $20 a month.

Overall, however, in the first full year since the swap, our Hydro bill averaged $105 a month, about $25 more than before this journey began. But we no longer have a Fortis gas bill of ~$50 a month, so on net, we are spending about $25 less in monthly utility costs, even with the addition of summer air conditioning, but helped by the solar panels. We also charge our electric car on that bill (although we don’t drive much, so those costs are minimal).

Over time, the cost advantage of electricity over gas will likely increase as the escalating carbon price over the next 10 years hikes the cost of gas (although, on the flip side, we also need our governments to be smart about their electricity development plans, so as not to drive up electricity costs and perversely discourage fuel-swapping off fossil fuels).

No doubt this conversion has also increased the value of our home, as future owners will not face the inevitable need to fuel swap down the road once robust climate policies are in place, and they will benefit from the upfront capital costs we assumed for the solar panels and heat pump.

And the greatest benefit — we’ve eliminated GHG emissions from our home, cancelled our account with FortisBC, and the system works wonderfully! We have cosy heat in the winter (no need for a back-up heat source in coastal B.C.). And the cooling in the summer — a benefit to which we paid little heed at the start of this process — is incredibly effective; during last summer’s deadly heat dome, our home remained very comfortable, and numerous friends and family ended up visiting for a few hours of respite to escape the record temperatures.

Also, our kids seem proud of the new system and like showing it to visitors, and, well, that’s worth a lot.

No substitute for collective action

As stated up front, the path to victory on the climate emergency will not be won by encouraging and incentivizing households to voluntarily do what we did. While individual households all have their part to play, confronting the climate crisis requires collective and state-led action. As my family’s conversion journey makes clear, the process can be complicated and it is costly, and if we are hoping everyone will do this on their own, we’re going to lose the climate fight.

Why is there no escaping government action?

First, there is little point converting our homes and vehicles to electricity if that electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels like coal or gas. I live in B.C., which thankfully means the electricity is generated virtually entirely from renewable power. But that's not yet true in most jurisdictions. Making that reality a widespread one isn’t something any of us can achieve on our own, but only by collectively demanding such changes to our electricity infrastructure.

Second, we need to make switching to electric heat pumps simpler and much more affordable, especially for lower-income families. Government rebates help, but not enough. What if we had a new Crown corporation (or a subsidiary of BC Hydro) or a public enterprise of some sort that was mass-producing GHG-free electric heat pumps and employing an army of installers? With the profit margins removed and the gains that come from economies of scale, the price of the heat pumps would come down. And the installers could come to our homes and simplify the process, giving us clear advice without each of us having to wonder which contractor was taking the least advantage of us.

Third, public financing innovations would also help with the upfront capital costs. Most people don’t have the cash on hand for these purchases. Also, one factor discouraging the purchase of solar panels and heat pumps is some people worry that if they end up selling their home within a few years, a future owner will realize most of the cost savings of these investments. Imagine if, instead, financing for these large purchases were provided by public utilities like BC Hydro, and loans were carried and paid back over time on one’s monthly utility bill. Meaning, the capital cost and loans would stay with the building, not the original purchaser, as the benefits flow to whomever owns the home at the time.

Under any future scenario, as we confront the climate crisis, energy costs are going up, and thus, issues of energy poverty and cost stress for lower and middle-income households is an issue that needs to be mitigated. And that’s something we can only do together.

Finally, while all this encouragement and financial assistance is needed (policy carrots), fuel swapping can’t be left to voluntary goodwill. We also need the state to set clear near-term dates by which fuel-swapping will be mandatory (the policy sticks). Tackling the climate crisis and eliminating GHGs from our homes isn’t optional. We need to get this done.

Postscript

Three months after cancelling our gas account, we received a letter from FortisBC. Well, the red ink text we added in an irate effort to “fix” the letter and share it — widely ­— on social media. Governments need to crack down on insidious efforts like this by the gas companies to discourage electrification efforts, as I outlined in this previous column. Gas companies like FortisBC are regulated monopolies, and as such, should not be allowed to block progress on the task of our lives.

Seth Klein marked up the letter from Fortis urging him to go back to gas. Photo by: Seth Klein

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Most of Canada experiences below-zero winter temperatures at which heat pumps become much less efficient. Do you recommend both heat pumps and electric baseboards?

Ole, Our Mitsubishi heat pump we installed 2 yrs ago heats our home until it gets below -25 C then an electric element in the unit cuts in to assist. We were able to remove our oil furnace completely , since our previous Carrier heat pump that served us for nearly 30 yrs only heated in winter to around -5 C before the oil furnace had to come on. Hope this info helps you.

Then there's the geothermal option, which isn't talked about as much any more but does still exist. Those aren't actually geothermal really, they're still heat pumps, they just take advantage of the fact that the temperature doesn't change much year round if you go far enough underground. Geothermal heat pumps shouldn't be bothered by cold winters. There's probably a bigger up front cost for the hole, but just once, and operating costs on those things are I believe pretty low.

The Great Ice Storm of January 1998 caused massive damage to trees and electrical infrastructure in eastern Ontario, southern Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Millions were without power for days to weeks. My downtown Ottawa condo lost power for only a few hours but co-workers in the suburbs and outlying areas bought generators and used gas or wood fireplaces for heat. Over two thirds of Quebec homes are heated electrically and have either gas or wood for back-up.

Great article. One small addition I can make, after going with a heat pump and electric hot water myself 2 years ago, is that I installed a timer on the electric hot water heater so that it only uses electricity during off-peak times. Should the stored hot water start to run out due to the fact that the heater elements are off a lot of the time, increasing the thermostat temperature on the tank will effectively increase the amount of hot water on hand without going to a larger tank. I also put another insulating jacket around the tank to improve the tank's ability to retain heat. As a result, we never run out of hot water and the cost of hot water drops considerably when compared to use without the timer.

Yup, everybody has to do this, but the article clarifies that it's now a straightforward procedure; it's just all about how fast our global civilization can manufacture a quarter-billion heat pumps, because that's how big the global problem is.

I couldn't find the carbon footprint of a heat pump manufacture, itself, (or the carbon footprint of the disposal of the still-good old heating system), so I'm not sure when the system "breaks even" in climate terms.

I do know that the two tonnes of CO2e it saves per year is almost exactly the carbon footprint of a round-trip flight to Glasgow, so you have about a dozen years on it before you pay for the National Observer's mass trip there. Was it really a dozen people that went?

LOL! I'm glad someone else was paying attention too. My count from the list published in the "We're going to COP26!" piece a couple of months back was 11 Observer journalists and editors. I suspect more -- a few probably brought family members. To my knowledge, not one of them was an official climate negotiator or participating delegate; all were likely journalists destinating to a place where there were hundreds of other journalists already in attendance, several of whom could have struck professional exclusive contracts with the Observer to report remotely in 4K video and protected email links to the Observer's FTP portal.

The added ethical weight that the destination (the UK) was a COVID hotspot where at the time over 50,000 people a day were getting infected clinched it for me as an unacceptable violation of basic principles. I am especially sensitive to this issue because my partner is immune-compromised and finds the mushroom cloud emanated by millions of people travelling again on non-essential trips appalling. A quick Google search turned up several media reports of ~300 people who were infected with COVID at COP26 just by November 16th, and statements by the Glasgow police services of their discomfiture of controlling thousands of protestors. Who knows what the COP-COVID situation evolved into today?

The info I got from averaging a few online sites with varying emissions numbers pins a round trip flight for one passenger to the UK at 3.4 tonnes CO2e.

Achieving what you propose at a national level will require an enormous initiative by all levels of government. A comparable example of such a switch from one form of energy to another is the conversion of coal or home gas to natural gas in the UK. It began in 1967 and took ~8 years to achieve, necessitating the conversion of approximately 40 million appliances for 14 million customers. The rate of change reached a peak of 2.3 million a year in the 1970s. In Canada there are >6 million households that use natural gas to heat their houses and water. Unlike the UK, however, our population is spread over a large geographic area and subject to multiple jurisdictions. Natural gas also provides ~10% of electricity. In addition, we possess 573,004 km of pipeline and export 2.4 trillion cubic feet of gas. The natural gas industry employs over 44 thousand people. Converting all of our natural gas appliances and substituting a renewable source of electricity generation would be an almost astronomical task and require a political will that is currently lacking. What do you do with all those unemployed people, not to mention the thousands of discarded appliances? Although I accept the facts of climate change, I believe that we tend to trivialize the economic consequences of meeting the threat that it poses. We have dug ourselves into a hole of mass consumption that requires mass production that in turn requires cheap energy in the form of fossil fuels. In my humble opinion, there is no easy way out of that hole. I'm not sure that the vast majority of people are even willing to contemplate the task.

Thank you for this reality check. However, it does illustrate that a decent federal National Climate Action Plan must address all your points, including embedded energy and job retraining.

I appreciate this article for its practicality.

A word of caution to readers from BC, note that BC Hydro will decrease its Net Metering credit by 60% in 2024 and thus will virtually eliminate the break-even point on the purchase of solar PV panels. This is several steps backward in the climate fight and will only hurt Hydro's ability to mitigate the cost of building future power generation capability. The Horgan government must address this stupidity before then.

In spring this year I researched adding about 25 solar PV panels to my ideal 45-degree southward-sloping East Vancouver roof. The best quality panels are warranted for 25 years on both the physical panels and their efficiency, several as high as 92% after 25 years of use. The break even point under the 1:1 Hydro Net Metering credit would have been about 20-22 years, leaving enough money on the table to justify changing out the gas appliances today (furnace, HW tank and stove). Being retired, that would have been an emissions-free, break even legacy for future owners, now cancelled because of the lack of an adequate power balancing credit to cover the cost.

Perhaps 150,000 solar roofs will not materialize as the result of Hydro's misguided act that will force it to assume more debt and raise charges on future ratepayers to make it up, let alone build extra capacity to electrify the BC economy without the assistance of a complementary distributed power grid that Hydro seems to irrationally fear. Some farmers and at least one First Nation were caught off guard by the plans to slash the credit; they would have produced excess power for the grid on top of affording themselves energy independence. Some large solar systems were recently installed, and the owners are now facing major financial losses.

Going off-grid is an option, but that will require one or two battery systems like the Tesla Powerwall (or equivalent) to run high-energy appliances and a heat pump, and you'll still need back up power. That's too expensive for average individual households. However, entire communities could go off-grid with their own solar and wind power systems backed with centralized, large-scale battery storage systems. If a town offered a 1:1 credit for rooftop solar panels and had its own small wind farm and warehouses stuffed to the ceiling with iron-air or liquid metal battery banks, and if that town has superb walkable urban design and poly-zoning to allow homes, schools, shops, institutions and light industry within close proximity, then a model for truly zero-emission cities would arise. Goodbye Fortis. And (unfortunately) goodbye Hydro.

Regarding public grants, obviously the feds need to kick in a lot under a (currently non-existent) National Climate Plan. We had to switch out our 45-year old malfunctioning and dangerously fumey gas furnace for a high-efficiency gas furnace about eight years back and received both federal and provincial grants and a rebate from the manufacturer (Lennox) that cumulatively covered half the cost of the unit. A few years before that we replaced single-glazed aluminum windows with double glazed (some with storm windows, essentially triple-glazing), blocked up an old draughty brick chimney and added insulation where we could and saw a marked improvement with air pressure testing. It will be at least 2025 before we consider spending our retirement savings on an air heat pump, depending on the grants offered.

C-est la vie.

Interesting re: Christine Boyle and Seth Klein.

Boyle is our favourite councillor in our favourite Vancouver civic party (One City). One City is a progressive party that seems to possess a lot of common sense and practicality in its decisions, voting patterns and public commentary. Even the Greens by comparison are mystifying with their often-enough nonsensical votes against some rental and development projects merely because they seem to be catering to small but vociferous groups of local neighbourhood NIMBYs, even a 42-unit much needed rental project on a single family lot meant for a mansion. One time even former Planning Dept. chief, Brent Toderian called them out when he asked, How Green is it for the Greens to vote down so much valid housing?

When Boyle opposes a project it's always for very justified reasons. She recently called out her own city staff for erring on the side of massive private development on city-owned award-winning South False Creek lands that would have privatized most of the land uses and shoved existing housing co-ops and subsidized units into tiny pockets crammed up against a major arterial. She called it correctly when she said it was a mistake to allow the city's Real Estate Division to write the plan and demanded the project be given over to the Planning Dept. An excellent call.

Christine Boyle, please run again -- and with a full One City slate next time!

Cheers

We went with a heat pump about 5 years ago to replace our increasingly expensive baseboard heaters. Since we had no fossil fuel furnace or ducts to remove we did not have that expense, and our installer was able to repurpose a circuit from the old baseboards to power the unit so we didn't need extra power installation either. Heating used to comprise 50% of our hydro bill, and that was reduced by about half. A couple of years later I received a small legacy of around $18k, and rather than having it sit around in a term deposit I figured I would get a much better annual return by investing in 20 solar panels. Sure enough we are now generating $900-$1000 annually and our monthly hydro equal payment is down below $90. This is for a 2400sq ft house with 2 adults on the main floor and a special needs family of 3 in the fully developed basement, all of whom are home most of the time (occupancy is an important factor in consumption).
A previous post correctly warned about problems with BC Hydro apparently doing everything they can to discourage independent solar production. Although we were supposedly grandfathered until a transition date and were supposed to be given an anniversary date which would minimize any surplus to be credited, they went ahead and "bought' our surplus in August at 2.1 cents/kwh instead of the agreed 10 cents. After months of complaining they grudgingly made an adjustment, but worse may be in store. A survey we were invited to participate in about future plans for net metering even floated the idea of charging us for use of their transmission lines! So there definitely needs to be some strong political action if we want to continue the proliferation of distributed networks

That must be maddening. I was just about prepared to depart with $35,000 for solar knowing that it would be made up with the 9.9c / kWh credit with a bit left over to cover most of the cost of converting gas appliances over to electricity over time. It came to a screeching halt when I came across the fact that Hydro was removing the majority of the credit, keeping only a token amount -- probably to permit them to say, "We have Net Metering."

Interpretation: BC Hydro is scared senseless about the mistaken notion of 'energy independent' households and possibly entire communities. To think they suggested charging for the use of their transmission lines after people like you already covered the cost of the generating infrastructure (and bragging about their grid acting as a gigantic battery) is patently unfair, to say the least. The comment seems economically illiterate, and if the policy is maintained, then I can truly see their worst nightmare arise when entire developments, neighbourhoods, towns and First Nations communities really do pull the plug on both Fortis and Hydro to run their own independent energy systems at a time when demand for clean power skyrockets.

I forgot to add that some power companies offer an 85-95% credit instead of 100%, keeping the change as profit. That would still work for most folks considering rooftop solar, but the cutoff should be no less than 80% to be fair to all.

Its possible that BC Hydro plans to lower the credit for solar electricity may result in more households implementing local energy storage solutions. This may support innovation and expand the market for household level energy storage. California is using this logic to propose decrease in subsidies for solar panel installations in the state.

Great article written in a straight forward prose that's easy to follow.

So much of our GHG problem results from the design of our built environment; if the related rules and infrastructure -- e.g. building codes, zoning, public transportation -- aren't enhanced quickly, it seems to me that "Peter" will continue digging our collective hole -- the carbon deficit -- as fast as "Paul" tries to fill it in.

I recognize the comments of others, here, questioning the burning necessity of the N.O. delegation to Glasgow.

A few years back, we had a massive winter storm, in early December, cutting electricity to most of the city.

My own power was off for 15 days. The only thing that saved me from massive damage to water pipes, etc., was having an all-gas hot water tank, that also made it so when I got too cold living in the house, in my snowpants and parka, and winter boots, I was able to have a hot bath and go again. The drains didn't freeze, the water pipes didn't freeze, and I was able to donate bucketsful of hot water to neighbours who had electricity-dependent hot water tanks.

Because I still have an old copper-wire phone, I also didn't lose all communications when the cell towers "bled dry."

People in BC complain about the price of electricity: they should try living in Toronto, where people in my income bracket live with one bulb burning at a time. I don't have a lot of electrical appliances. Hardly ever use the oven, cook in bulk quantities and keep the icebox full (more efficient, I'm told), have a fridge and a freezer, keep the TV on a power bar, along with radio and computer peripherals. And that costs me more than no "conservation" measures at all, with 6 people in the house 15 years ago.

AFAICT, the only reason for the high costs is that our provincial government (Liberal) privatized the hydro system that was given to the people of the province, with the proviso that it remain in perpetuity a public resource. Right.

I had to replace my 45 yo gas furnace 4 years ago, and got a "high efficiency" model. It warms the house faster after the thermostat's been turned 'way down for a while ... but it didn't reduce the amount of gas it takes to keep the house reasonably warm in winter: the same temperature I kept it at with the old furnace.
So much for "paying for itself" in X-number of years.

There's something wrong, somewhere, when a furnact that's supposed to run at 90-something percent efficiency costs as much to do the same job as one that was never more than 70% efficient, and that sent a lot of heat up the chimney.

It was likely very efficient at creating profit for the company I bought it from, though.

Our gas furnace replacement was a similar financial experience. Nearly identical gas bill for a 'high-efficiency' furnace. The big difference now, though, is that we are safe from CO fumes and the hazard of explosion or fire. That alone was well worth the cost.

If we were to start renovations over I'd have insisted on a super insulated Passive House building envelop with a continuously filtered, heat-exchanged air supply and all-electric appliances. The furnace would not have been an issue because central heating is less an issue in super energy efficient buildings.

In 22 years the worst power outage we've had was 10 hours long. In coastal BC's stormy winters the main cause of outages are tree limbs falling on pole-mounted wires. In newer developments the hydro lines are in underground conduits and there aren't nearly as meany outages. Of course, this is the big city, not rural areas where U/G conduits would be too expensive. Still, there are way too many overhead power wires in Vancouver that resulted in too many big trees that were butchered by Hydro to keep branches away from wires.