New program offers free heat pump retrofit assistance for Rupert homes

Prince Rupert residents can now apply for free retrofitting assistance to renovate their homes to a heat pump system, according to non-profit Ecotrust Canada.

Ecotrust Canada said successful applicants will be given a project manager for the renovations, get help sourcing contractors and working with them and receive assistance obtaining rebates and loans.

The non-profit – which has an office in Prince Rupert – said many residents in rural B.C. do not have the adequate access to energy-efficient heating systems.

“This initiative addresses the pressing issue of high heating costs, discomfort, and energy inefficiency prevalent in homes throughout the region,” read an April 9 press release.

Regional retrofit project manager for Ecotrust Canada Michael-Anthony Lutfy said there is often a dearth of licenced contractors in rural areas, which he said the program aims to address. Lutfy, who lives in rural Vancouver Island, said he and other Ecotrust Canada staff know the challenges rural residents face when trying to retrofit their homes.

“We know what it’s like to try to get the right information. We know how hard it is to try to find the right contractors,” said Lutfy, adding the non-profit is also trying to encourage more contractors to obtain the appropriate training.

“We’re here to help people understand who the right contractors are and to encourage the contractors who are not certified to get certified.”

Lutfy emphasized that the non-profit does not provide rebates, but helps residents explore which rebates they are eligible for.

A common concern about heat pumps is their ability to withstand winter weather, but Lutfy said Prince Rupert and its relatively mild climate is perfect for heat pumps.

The announcement comes after Ecotrust Canada conducted a feasibility study in partnership with the city, which was well received by city council in a fall 2023 city council meeting.

The study found that individual homes in Prince Rupert could save $2,000 a year, but that many residents felt daunted by the upfront costs of the retrofits.

“We are excited to see that there is more coming out of that work to support Rupertites in saving both money and emissions through retrofits,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

“Navigating the realm of energy rebates and analyzing what retrofits will work best for your home is complex stuff, and we are pleased this support program will help our residents through that process.”

Natural Resources Canada is putting up $431,080 for the non-profit’s program through the federal Toward Net-Zero Homes and Communities Program.

“Many Canadians want to make their homes more energy-efficient, but the reality is that making these changes is not equally accessible to everyone,” said federal Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson in the press release.

“There are homeowners in under-resourced, rural, and Indigenous communities facing barriers that require creative solutions.”

The program is only available in the Prince Rupert area and Mount Waddington region on North Vancouver Island.

Residents interested in the program can sign up through the Ecotrust Canada website.

Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View