Taking Natural Gas: A Guide to Taking Fossil Fuels from Your Home | Canadian National Observer: News and Analysis

2021-12-13 22:35:35 By : Mr. larry lk

This column is a bit different from my usual fare. It is more like an "operation guide" for household decarbonization. Although my writing and public speeches usually focus on how to force our government into emergency mode, ironically, one of the follow-up questions I get asked most often is, “How do I switch from a gas stove to an electric heat pump, Who is your contractor?" So, this is for all of you.

As we seek to respond to climate emergencies, retrofitting existing houses and buildings is at the core of a strong plan. In Canada, the fossil fuels we burn in buildings-mainly "natural gas"-account for about 12% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions (approximately evenly distributed between residential and non-residential buildings). This does not include carbon embedded in construction, fossil fuels burned to generate electricity in certain provinces, or greenhouse gases related to the extraction and production of fossil fuels that we burn directly in buildings. In cities, greenhouse gases produced by buildings usually account for more than half of local emissions.

Discussions about retrofitting our houses usually focus on how to improve energy efficiency—improving insulation, using programmable thermostats, sealing leaks, etc. But the problem is: Although these measures help reduce emissions and household costs, we cannot achieve carbon emissions-zero as a society that only improves efficiency. The only way to achieve zero carbon emissions in our buildings and houses is fuel exchange, which means stopping the use and burning of fossil fuels in our structures. In particular, we need to stop using "natural gas" (now mainly fracturing methane gas) to heat our houses and water and to cook our food. Of all the actions that families can take to deal with the climate crisis, this shift is one of the most important. From now on, we need all new buildings to avoid connecting to natural gas pipelines. In the next few years, we need all existing buildings to switch from fossil fuel heat sources to renewable energy, which in most cases means electricity.

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After about a year, my home no longer uses fossil fuels. It's not easy, and it's not cheap. But it can be done. In this article, I shared how my family did it. Some of the things we do are specific to the province of BC where we live, but many apply everywhere. When telling this story, I am not trying to express a virtue signal. Instead, I just want to provide some guidance because people want to know. One of the obstacles to climate action is that many of us find it difficult to imagine how our houses will function without fossil fuels. So here, I provide you with a picture to show what it looks like.

Let me state from the beginning that there is no doubt that a truly successful climate plan requires collective action at the political/policy level (see more below). Any plan that relies on individual families to voluntarily implement the content I describe here will get us into trouble. In addition, I own my own house, which provides me with privileges, opportunities and obligations that most renters do not exist. However, in the end, the comprehensive climate plan does require all our households to stop using fossil fuels. Therefore, this article will show you how to do this.

A few years ago, my home—a 12-year-old, 1,400-square-foot, well-insulated duplex house in East Vancouver—was heated with a high-efficiency gas boiler. The hot water produced by the boiler can not only meet our direct water needs, but also can be used to provide lovely radiant heating floor pipes in winter. We also have a gas fireplace in the living room that we rarely use, and we cook on the gas stove.

On average, we pay BC Hydro a monthly fee of less than US$80 for electricity usage. There is little change throughout the year. We pay FortisBC for natural gas usage. Our monthly gas bill is about US$50, ranging from US$20 in the summer to US$85 in the winter.

From the beginning, out of concerns about the climate emergency, we knew we wanted to get the gas out of the house. We also welcome the idea of ​​removing exhaust fumes from our living spaces, as well as the health and safety benefits for us and our children. We know that the main recommendation is to switch to an electric heat pump system, but which one?

First, it is useful to explain what a heat pump is. Many people confuse it with geothermal systems, which absorb heat from deep underground through pipes. The heat pump is not an underground system. It is usually an outdoor unit about 3x2.5x1 feet with a large fan (see the photo at the top), which extracts heat from the ambient air (yes, even in winter), and then the pipes are heated indoors, or take the heat Take the central duct system or the wall-mounted device the size of the air conditioner in each room. BC Hydro has a good short video explaining how the heat pump works. An added benefit is that in the summer, the same system runs in reverse, removing heat from the home and carrying cold air into it.

In many respects, the term "heat pump" is misused. It is more accurate to name it "air comfort" system or "heating and cooling" pump.

Heat pumps are more efficient than traditional skirting electric heating systems (hence lower operating costs). That's because heat pumps do not generate heat, but extract and move heat-easier!

Our conversion journey started with consulting several experts I know to gather suggestions on which heat pump system is best for us. (This may be a bit overkill; for most people, it is not necessary, but I know I want to explain what we are doing and why we do it.) We considered an air-to-water heat pump that allows us to maintain our Radiant floors, but few contractors are familiar with these systems. In addition, such a system, at least in our homes, seems unlikely to provide summer cooling particularly well. So in the end, we decided to abandon our radiant floor and adopt the more typical air-to-air system described above.

Next, we collected quotations from approximately six contractors and were ready.

The first thing we did-it is expected that the electrification process may significantly increase our monthly electricity bill-we signed a contract with a local solar company, Solar Connect, and installed a set on the roof of our garage in the summer of 2019 14 solar panels. Not cheap, but the cost is declining, and we will pay at least three times the cost with a lower monthly electricity bill during their working lives. BC Hydro provides a simple net metering plan, and any electricity we produce in excess of monthly demand will be credited to our BC Hydro account. At the peak of summer, we produce more electricity than we consume, and accumulate a small amount of credits, which we withdraw in winter.

Since the electricity system in British Columbia is a hydroelectric system, solar panels will not directly reduce our province’s greenhouse gas emissions (in provinces that still use coal and/or natural gas for power generation, solar panels do help to reduce greenhouse gases) . However, in addition to controlling our monthly electricity bills, solar panels mean that we are providing public benefit; even after our home changes fuel, we have not significantly increased the use of the BC Hydro system. If many homes and buildings do this, utilities will not need to make huge new investments in new power production capacity. In other words, this step is not necessary to exhaust the gas from our home, so please take extra consideration.

Secondly, we took out the gas stove and replaced it with a new induction cooker. I know many of you swear by the joy of cooking with gas. I said-you should try to induce electricity. As many chefs will tell you, they are amazing! The induction furnace is completely different from the old coil appliances. Like gases, they provide heat immediately, and only to the required level. And they are safer than old electric stoves or gas stoves because the induction works through the magnetic connection between the stove surface and the bottom of the pot or frying pan. Once the pot is removed, it will immediately cool down, which greatly reduces the risk of fire or injury. And there is no more breathing gas.

Next, in May 2020, the local contractor Ashton Plumbing and Heating installed the heat pump system. This process only took a few days. The internal gas pipeline is hermetically closed. Our gas boiler and supporting hot water tank were removed and replaced by a Mitsubishi four-zone heat pump system (a wall-mounted unit downstairs and one for each of the three bedrooms upstairs.) The external unit is very quiet, and four pipes are carried from the host Hot air or cold air to indoor wall-mounted equipment. (The pipes are very scattered, running along a rear outer wall, and then through the attic to the two furthest units.)

At the same time, we installed a traditional electric water heater (there is also a heat pump option for hot water, but we don’t go that way).

The last Reno: We removed the gas fireplace and replaced it with some beautiful built-in bookshelves that we liked better.

After all this is done, the last—and deeply gratifying—action: We closed the gas pipe to our home and cancelled our FortisBC account.

So, what is the price of all this? The following is a breakdown of the elements needed to get gas out of the home:

The price of the heat pump may cause the impact of some stickers. However, both the Government of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver now provide rebates for households that switch from a gas system to an electricity system. When we exchanged fuel, these rebates were US$3,000 and US$6,000, reducing the net cost of the heat pump to US$8,000. Since then, the province has provided a rebate of 3,000 Canadian dollars, so the net cost is now 5,000 Canadian dollars. And considering that in about five years, it may be time to replace the boiler anyway, and the cost will be close to the net price of the heat pump.

Regarding monthly operating costs...

The operating cost of electric water heaters has always been negligible (we wash clothes in cold water, and generally wash dishes by hand). When we switched from the gas stove to induction electricity, I did not notice the increase either.

It is true that our electricity bills increase significantly only during the peak period of winter; since our solar panels can only provide moderate electricity in the darker winter and the heat pump runs all day, our electricity consumption will definitely increase. Comparing our winter BC Hydro bills before and after the conversion, minus the gas bills we paid in the past, the cost seems to increase by 10 to 20 US dollars per month.

However, overall, in the first year after the swap, our Hydro bill averaged $105 per month, which was about $25 more than before the journey began. But we no longer have a monthly Fortis gas bill of about US$50. Therefore, even with the addition of summer air conditioning, with the help of solar panels, our monthly utility costs are still reduced by about US$25. We also charge our electric cars (although we don't drive much, so these costs are small).

Over time, as the rising carbon price in the next 10 years will push up the cost of natural gas, the cost advantage of electricity relative to natural gas may increase (although on the other hand, we also need our government to plan for their electricity development. Be wise to avoid driving up electricity bills and unnaturally preventing the substitution of fossil fuels for fuel).

There is no doubt that this conversion also increases the value of our homes, because once a strong climate policy is in place, future owners will not face the inevitable fuel replacement needs, and they will benefit from the upfront capital cost we assumed for solar energy. Panel and heat pump.

The biggest benefit is that we have eliminated greenhouse gas emissions at home, cancelled our FortisBC account, and the system is running very well! We have comfortable heat in the winter (there is no need for a backup heat source in the coastal areas of British Columbia). The summer cooling-a benefit that we rarely noticed at the beginning of this process-is very effective; during the deadly high temperature last summer, our home was still very comfortable, and many friends and family members ended up visiting for a few hours. Escape record temperatures.

In addition, our children seem to be proud of the new system and love to show it to visitors, and it is well worth it.

As mentioned earlier, by encouraging and motivating families to do what we do voluntarily, we will not win the climate emergency. Although each family can play its own role, tackling the climate crisis requires collective and state-led actions. As my family’s journey of transformation has shown, this process can be complicated and costly. If we want everyone to do this on their own, we will fail in the climate battle.

Why didn't it evade the government's actions?

First of all, if electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, it makes little sense to convert our houses and vehicles into electricity. I live in British Columbia, which means that electricity comes almost entirely from renewable sources. But in most jurisdictions, this is not the case. Making this reality ubiquitous is not something that any of us can achieve on our own, but can only be achieved through collective demands for such changes to our power infrastructure.

Second, we need to make the switch to electric heat pumps easier and more affordable, especially for low-income families. Government rebates have helped, but not enough. What if we have a new Crown company (or a subsidiary of BC Hydro) or some kind of public enterprise that mass-produces greenhouse gas-free electric heat pumps and employs a large number of installers? With the elimination of profit margins and the benefits of economies of scale, the price of heat pumps will fall. The installer can come to our home to simplify the process and provide us with clear suggestions, and each of us does not have to doubt which contractor uses us the least.

Third, innovation in public financing will also help reduce the upfront cost of capital. Most people do not have the cash to purchase these items. In addition, a factor hindering the purchase of solar panels and heat pumps is that some people worry that if they eventually sell their houses within a few years, future owners will realize most of the cost savings of these investments. Imagine if the financing for these large purchases was provided by utility companies such as BC Hydro, and the loans would be paid and repaid through monthly utility bills over time. This means that the cost of capital and loans will stay in the building instead of the original purchaser, because the proceeds will flow to the people who owned the house at the time.

In any future situation, when we are facing a climate crisis, energy costs are rising. Therefore, the energy poverty and cost pressures of low- and middle-income households are a problem that needs to be alleviated. This is something we can only do together.

Finally, while all these encouragement and financial assistance (policy carrots) are needed, fuel exchange cannot be left to voluntary goodwill. We also need the country to set a clear short-term date before the mandatory replacement of fuel (policy adherence). Solving the climate crisis and eliminating greenhouse gases in our homes are not optional. We need to accomplish this.

Three months after canceling our gas account, we received a letter from FortisBC. Well, we angrily added the red ink text to "fix" the letter and share it widely on social media. As I outlined in my previous column, the government needs to crack down on such insidious efforts as gas companies to stop electrification efforts. Natural gas companies like FortisBC are regulated monopolies and should not be allowed to hinder the progress of our life tasks.

The winter temperature in most parts of Canada is below zero, and the efficiency of the heat pump will be greatly reduced. Do you recommend a heat pump and electric skirting at the same time?

Ole, the Mitsubishi heat pump that we installed 2 years ago heats our home until it is below -25 C, and then an electronic component in the installation will step in to help. We were able to completely dismantle our oil furnace because the Carrier heat pump, which we had served us for nearly 30 years, only heated to about -5 C in winter, and then the oil furnace had to be activated. Hope this information is helpful to you.

Then there is the geothermal option, which is no longer discussed but still exists. Those are not actually geothermal. They are still heat pumps. They just take advantage of the fact that if you are far enough underground, the temperature does not change much throughout the year. Geothermal heat pumps should not be bothered by the cold winter. The upfront cost of this hole may be higher, but only once, and I think the operating cost of these things is very low.

Great article. After using the heat pump and electric hot water myself two years ago, one small addition I can make is that I installed a timer on the electric water heater so that it only uses electricity during off-peak hours. If the stored hot water starts to run out because the heater element is frequently turned off, increasing the temperature of the thermostat on the water tank will effectively increase the amount of hot water on hand without the need to go to a larger water tank. I also put another heat insulation jacket around the water tank to improve the heat preservation ability of the water tank. Therefore, we will never run out of hot water, and the cost of hot water is drastically reduced compared to using without a timer.

Yes, everyone has to do this, but the article clarifies that this is a simple procedure now; it's just about how fast our global civilization can produce 2.5 billion heat pumps, because this is the seriousness of the global problem.

I can't find the carbon footprint of the heat pump manufacturing itself (or dealing with the carbon footprint of the old heating system that is still good), so I'm not sure when the system will "break even" in terms of climate.

I do know that the two tons of carbon dioxide equivalent it saves each year is almost the carbon footprint of a round-trip flight to Glasgow, so you have about a dozen years before you pay for the large-scale travel of national observers there. A dozen people really went there?

Ha ha! I am glad that others are also paying attention. I did some calculations from the list published in "We are going to COP26!" There were 11 observer reporters and editors a few months ago. I suspect more-some may have brought family members. As far as I know, none of them are formal climate negotiators or participating representatives; all of them may be journalists visiting a place where hundreds of other journalists are already present, and some of them could have signed professional exclusive contracts with Observer. 4K videos and protected emails are linked to Observer’s FTP portal for remote reporting.

The destination (UK) was a COVID hot spot. At that time, more than 50,000 people were infected every day, which increased the moral burden, which for me was an unacceptable violation of basic principles. I am particularly sensitive to this issue because my partner has a weakened immune system and found that the mushroom cloud emitted by millions of people when they travel again on non-essential trips is shocking. A quick Google search found some media reports that about 300 people were infected with COVID on COP26 on November 16 alone, and the Glasgow Police Department's statement that it was uneasy to control thousands of protesters. Who knew the situation of COP-COVID has evolved into what it is today?

The average information I got from several online websites with different emissions indicates that the carbon dioxide emissions of a passenger's round-trip flight to the UK is 3.4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Realizing your proposal at the national level requires huge initiatives from all levels of government. A similar example of conversion from one form of energy to another is the conversion of coal or household natural gas to natural gas in the United Kingdom. It started in 1967, took about 8 years to achieve, and needed to convert about 40 million devices for 14 million customers. The rate of change reached a peak of 2.3 million per year in the 1970s. In Canada, more than 6 million households use natural gas for heating and water supply. However, unlike the United Kingdom, our population is spread over a wide geographic area and is governed by multiple jurisdictions. Natural gas also provides about 10% of electricity. In addition, we have 573,004 kilometers of pipelines, exporting 2.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. There are more than 44,000 employees in the natural gas industry. Converting all of our natural gas equipment and replacing renewable energy to generate electricity is almost an astronomical task that requires political will that is currently lacking. How do you deal with those who are unemployed, let alone thousands of discarded electrical appliances? Although I accept the fact of climate change, I believe that we tend to underestimate the economic consequences of the threat of climate change. We have dug ourselves into a large-scale consumption pit that requires mass production, which in turn requires cheap energy in the form of fossil fuels. In my humble opinion, there is no easy way to get out of that hole. I'm not sure that most people would even consider this task.

Thank you for your reality check. However, it does illustrate that a decent federal national climate action plan must solve all your problems, including embedded energy and job retraining.

I appreciate the usefulness of this article.

BC readers, please note that BC Hydro will reduce its net metering credit by 60% in 2024, thus almost eliminating the break-even point for purchasing solar photovoltaic panels. This is a step backwards in the climate battle and will only undermine Hydro’s ability to reduce the cost of building future generation capacity. The He Jin government must solve this stupid problem before then.

This spring, I studied adding about 25 solar photovoltaic panels to my ideal 45-degree south-sloping roof in East Vancouver. The best quality panels have a 25-year warranty on physical panels and their efficiency. After 25 years of use, several of them are as high as 92%. The break-even point under the 1:1 Hydro Net Metering credit line is about 20-22 years, and there is enough money left to justify the replacement of gas equipment (stoves, HW tanks and stoves) today. After retirement, for future owners, this was originally a zero-emission, balance-of-payment legacy, but it is now cancelled due to lack of sufficient electricity balance credits to cover the cost.

Perhaps 150,000 solar roofs will not be realized because of Hydro’s misleading behavior, which will force it to take on more debts and increase the cost to future taxpayers to make up, not to mention the establishment of additional ones without complementary distributed energy. The ability to power the economy of British Columbia Hydro seems to be irrationally afraid of the grid. Some farmers and at least one indigenous people were caught off guard by the plan to cut credit; in addition to making themselves energy independent, they would also generate excess electricity for the grid. Some large-scale solar systems have been installed recently, and the owners are now facing major economic losses.

Off-grid is an option, but it will require one or two battery systems, such as Tesla Powerwall (or equivalent) to run high-energy appliances and heat pumps, and you still need backup power. For ordinary families, this is too expensive. However, entire communities can use their own solar and wind energy systems to get off the grid, backed by a centralized, large-scale battery storage system. If a town provides a 1:1 credit for rooftop solar panels, and has its own small wind farm and warehouse stuffed to the ceiling with iron air or liquid metal battery packs, and if the town has a first-class pedestrian city design and Multi-zones bring homes, schools, shops, institutions, and light industries within easy reach, and a model of a truly zero-emission city will emerge. Goodbye Fortis. And (unfortunately) goodbye Hydro.

Regarding public funding, it is clear that the federal government needs to do a lot of work under the (non-existent) national climate plan. About 8 years ago, we had to replace a 45-year-old gas stove that was malfunctioning and dangerous to smoke with a high-efficiency gas stove, and received federal and provincial grants and rebates from the manufacturer (Lennox), which paid half of the total cost. That unit. A few years ago, we replaced single-glazed aluminum windows with double-glazed windows (some with windshields, basically triple-glazed), blocked an old ventilated brick chimney, and added insulation where we could Materials and have seen significant improvements through air pressure tests. We will not consider using retirement savings for air heat pumps until at least 2025, depending on the grants provided.

Interesting reply: Christine Boyle and Seth Klein.

Boyle is our favorite MP in our favorite Vancouver Citizen Party (a city). One City is a progressive party that seems to have a lot of common sense and practicality in its decision-making, voting patterns, and public commentary. In contrast, even the Greens are confusing. They often vote ridiculously enough on some rental and development projects, simply because they seem to cater to the small and noisy group of the local community NIMBY, even if it is a 42-unit. Many of the much-needed single-family rental projects mean a luxury home. Once, even the former head of the planning department, Brent Toderian (Brent Toderian) asked them: The Green Party voted against so many effective housing, how environmentally friendly is this?

When Boyle opposed a project, it was always for very reasonable reasons. She recently called on her own city staff to make the mistake of squeezing into a major artery when carrying out large-scale private developments on the city’s award-winning South False Creek land. When she said it was wrong to ask the city real estate department to write a plan and request the project to be handed over to the planning department, she was correct. A good call.

Christine Boyle, please run again-another full One City slate next time!

About 5 years ago, we used heat pumps to replace the increasingly expensive skirting heaters. Since we don't have fossil fuel furnaces or pipes to dismantle, we don't have this expense, and our installers can reuse the circuit of the old substrate to power the equipment, so we don't need additional power installations. Heating used to account for 50% of our water and electricity bills, but now it has been reduced by about half. A few years later, I received a small inheritance of about $18,000. Instead of putting it in a fixed deposit, I wanted to get a better annual return by investing in 20 solar panels. Sure enough, we now generate US$900-1000 per year, and our monthly hydropower equivalent payment is less than US$90. This is a 2,400-square-foot house with 2 adults on the main floor and a family of 3 special needs in the fully developed basement. They spend most of their time at home (occupancy rate is an important factor in consumption). A previous article correctly warned about BC Hydro’s problems, and apparently they are doing their best to prevent independent solar production. Although we should have been grandfathers before the transition date and should give an anniversary to minimize any surplus crediting, they continued to "buy" our surplus in August at 2.1 cents/kWh Instead of the agreed 10 cents. After months of complaining, they reluctantly made adjustments, but the worse may be yet to come. A survey on future net metering plans we were invited to even put forward the idea of ​​charging us for using their transmission lines! So we definitely need to take some strong political actions if we want to continue the proliferation of distributed networks

That must be maddening. I am preparing to buy solar energy with $35,000, and I know this will consist of a credit line of 9.9c/kWh, with a little left to cover most of the cost of converting gas appliances to electricity over time. When I found out that Hydro was canceling most of the credits, only keeping a token amount, it suddenly stopped-probably to get them to say, "We have net metering."

Explanation: BC Hydro is afraid of the misconceptions of "energy independent" families and even entire communities. To say the least, after people like you have paid for the cost of power generation infrastructure (and boasted that their grid acts as a huge battery), it is obviously unfair to think that they recommend charging for the use of transmission lines. The comment seems to be ignorant of the economy. If the policy is maintained, then when the entire development project, community, town and aboriginal community do unplug Fortis and Hydro to run their own independent energy system, I can really see that they are the worst The nightmare appears when the demand for clean energy is soaring.

I forgot to add that some power companies provide 85-95% credit instead of 100%, keeping changes as profit. For most people considering rooftop solar, this still works, but in order to be fair to everyone, the cut-off rate should not be less than 80%.

Great essays written in straightforward prose, easy to understand.

Many of our greenhouse gas problems stem from the design of our built environment; if the relevant rules and infrastructure-such as building codes, zoning, public transportation-are not strengthened quickly, in my opinion, "Peter" will continue to explore our The collective loophole-the carbon deficit-is as fast as "Paul" trying to fill it.

I acknowledge the comments made by others, and here I question the urgent need for the NO delegation to go to Glasgow.