A low-income housing development in Courtenay saw the light and has become a glowing example in the Comox Valley.

MonarchLionsClubThe Lions Valley View Estates, located on Dingwall Road, recently turned its housing complex into an energy efficient community. Through the help of a grant from BC Housing, it was able to change every light in the complex with energy conserving fixtures.

“We’re excited about this because we are already seeing savings in our hydro bills,” said Ann Janssen. The complex, which is run by Courtenay Low Income Housing Society, has 32 family townhouse units and a community hall. It was built in 1990 to help support low income families with the help of BC Housing. Janssen said the society subsidizes the hydro in the complex. But tenants do pay a flat rate to the society as part of their rent. However, the amount the tenants pay is not enough to cover the overall hydro cost. They often end up making up the shortfall said Janssen.

“We’ve been operating at a loss for hydro every month,” said Janssen. “We’ve basically been paying around $4,500 in hydro and we’re collecting back in the ball park of around $1,700. And that’s the reason why we looked at ways on how to reduce our overall energy consumption.”

Janssen said before the changes were made she played the role of policeman having to walk around the complex and advising people to turn off outside lights during the day or turn the heat down when they leave the house. “With subsidized hydro, they’re only paying X amount per month and they don’t care,” said Janssen. “It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is.”

The escalating hydro cost led the society to apply for a large lighting grant from BC Housing in early 2012. By October, their application was approved and was granted $103,246. They started the project in November and hired Houle Electric to replace all the lights in the complex -inside and outside the homes, including the streetlights. “We have the biggest grant to date, because we had every light in the complex replaced,” said Janssen. “There’s not one light in this property that’s not energy efficient.” A total of 590 energy efficient lights were installed. It included sensors to turn lights automatically on and off in laundry, storage and bathrooms. Outside lights also have sensors and timers that are set to switch on and off in the front and back of every home and all the complex lighting.

“This is just one of the many things we try to keep the cost down,” said Alex Gray, the society’s chairman of the board and the president of the Monarch Lions Club. “Before we got the BC Housing grant, we received funding from BC Hydro to replace every refrigerator in the complex with energy efficient units. So we’re proud to have a complex that’s environmentally friendly and are leading the way in energy conservation.”

All the inside lights have been replaced with Glimpse fixtures, which do not need to be replaced for a least 15 years. “Since we had them installed, we’ve just started to see savings in our hydro bills,” said Janssen. “We are very happy for the savings -especially since we have heard that BC Hydro has been approved for a rather larger rate increase over the next while”. Since switching to smart lights, Janssen estimates the savings would be around 210,698 kilowatts per hour at $0.0962. That would equate to around $20,269.15 per year.

The total cost of the project was $115,635.65. But they made up the difference when they received a GST rebate of $10,582.73 and a BC Hydro rebate of $46,997.49. “This left the society with a much needed surplus of $45,190.69,” said Janssen. “We had three other projects that needed funds and this helped us in a big way.” The extra cash went towards paying for the installation of new gutters complex-wide, putting in new hot water tanks in every unit, and building a half-court basketball court for the kids.

In their quest to be energy efficient, the society is after another window of opportunity. It is seeking grants to replace windows in the complex that will help conserve energy and save them more money.

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