The small community of Bella Bella, located on the Central Coast of BC, is the home of the Heiltsuk First Nation. This First Nation’s community has been the home of the Heiltsuk for hundreds of years and are the largest First Nation in this area. The community is known for traditional values, a tight-knit familial atmosphere and self-sufficient citizens.
However, a modern problem has been plaguing these proud people for several decades now, increasing in severity as the years press on. This problem is rising heating and energy costs, by way of the scarcity of fuel on this remote island. The biggest reason for the tremendous heating costs that the Heiltsuk people face is the fact that fuel – such as the oil many homes have long been heated with – is difficult to acquire on the island. This means residents pay a premium for every gallon of fuel they use, whether for vehicular travel or to heat their homes. Astronomical heating bills often caused Bella Bella residents to choose between home heating and other basic necessities such as food for their families.
In 2018, the Tribal Council of the Heiltsuk partnered with Ecotrust Canada in an initiative positively impacting the Heiltsuk First Nation by switching residents from oil furnaces to energy efficient heat pumps.
Coastal Heat Pumps is proud to partner with Ecotrust Canada and the Heiltsuk First Nation as the heat pump provider and installer for the initiative. Since inception, and with the help of local Heiltsuk residents Coastal Heat Pumps has already installed 156 new HVAC systems. Replacing costly oil furnaces, reducing energy costs, and providing additional jobs and training to local residents through the project.
According to Ecotrust Canada, these hydro-powered pumps have saved an average of $2500 per year.
“The practice really demonstrated both the benefit and the opportunity for efficiency retrofits in households in rural and remote communities in B.C.,” said Gary Anderson. “With the COVID-19 crisis and the increasing challenges that people have been facing over the past few months with employment, the need is only greater.”
With heat pumps in place, families no longer feel the financial strain. Heating bills have been reduced across the board, being cut in half in many cases.
“I went to phone BC Hydro and it said we had $1.80 credit. I swear, I could have got up and done a jig because that’s never happened to me before,” said one of the recipients of a new heat pump. Another recipient said, “For the kids, since we’ve gotten this new heat pump, yeah. The cough is gone. Their runny nose is gone.”
The efficiency and air quality of these systems is far superior to the oil-driven heaters of yesteryear, delivering warmer, comfortable air during the chillier months and cleaner, healthier air throughout the year. Children who previously experienced chronic respiratory and other health problems are now living healthier, happier lives – all because of their new heat pumps.
The program continues to be expanded to include additional homes in the island community.