New water heater standards for Vancouver homes approved

Sweeping changes will soon be in place for replacement water heaters in homes across Vancouver.

Earlier today, Vancouver City Council approved City of Vancouver staff’s recommendations to adopt new efficiency standards for replacement water heaters.

Major home renovations with a construction value over $150,000 will be required to install higher-efficiency water heaters starting on February 28, 2025.

Then, on January 1, 2027, all replacement water heaters in detached houses and duplexes must also meet the highest efficiency standards.

The municipal government’s new requirements will permit equipment such as gas heat pumps, hybrid heat pumps, electric heat pumps, and electric resistance water heaters. Some exceptions to the new regulations will be provided, such as situations where there is a lack of space in the house for a new water heating tank, existing combined heating and hot water systems (common with radiant floors), and an existing water heating installed within the last five years.

“As modern, cleaner technologies become available, it makes sense to upgrade our home appliances,” said Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim in a statement. “This new update to Vancouver’s building code is a step in the right direction. It won’t add costs for residents, streamlines existing renovation requirements and makes it simpler to get a permit, while helping to cut our emissions.”

According to the municipal government, the upfront and ongoing operating costs of the higher-efficiency equipment are comparable to the older conventional equipment. Homeowners are expected to see reduced heating costs over time, and it will reduce emissions.

Estimated cost for water heaters

Estimated cost for water heaters. (City of Vancouver)

The provincial government is expected to adopt similar new heating and hot water requirements for equipment sold in BC after 2030.

Currently, there are about 79,000 detached houses across Vancouver. City staff estimate about 90% or 70,000 detached houses and duplexes use gas-fired water heaters. Based on the average 15-year lifespan of water heating equipment, City staff believe the policy changes could achieve a 50% reduction in emissions from water heaters by 2035, which could be equivalent to the emissions of 3,700 cars.

Other recent policy changes include requiring electric heating and hot water in newly built detached homes starting in January 2022, requiring all new permanently installed air conditioning systems in existing detached homes to be a heat pump starting in January 2023, and requiring upgrades to electric heating and hot water for all home renovations worth over $250,000 starting in January 2023.

As well, starting in 2025, builders will be required to install mechanical air cooling equipment in all new multi-family homes within Vancouver.