Stories and news from FortisBC

How can waste heat be repurposed for space heating?

February 2, 2021


Called heat recovery, it’s an innovation that captures waste heat and re-uses it where needed.

The idea behind heat recovery is simple enough. For example, if you were to use your oven at a time in the day when you’d typically be turning on the space heating, the heat from the oven warming up your kitchen and surrounding areas would mean you wouldn’t have to turn the space heating up as much. That way, you can bake your cake and save a little on your home heating bills. This is heat recovery!

Capturing the heat from a building’s air exchange system uses the same principle, but it’s a little—well actually a lot—more sophisticated and complicated to the point that you’d need a mechanical engineering degree to know how to design it.

We recently got on board with the Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) to help them retrofit their Vancouver Transit Centre with a heat recovery system.


Ian Mitchell, Key Account Manager, FortisBC and Donna Bartel, Manager, Environmental Sustainability, CMBC on the roof of the Vancouver Transit Centre by the heat recovery piping that takes heat from the exhaust air and uses it to preheat the fresh air into the makeup air unit.


The bus exhaust extraction system (funnel on the right) is placed over the exhaust of idling buses being serviced and removes the fumes from the building.

An energy audit in 2016 revealed an opportunity to capture the building’s exhaust heat, including from diesel buses that require idling for service, and use it to support the building’s space heating requirements, thereby reducing natural gas consumption.

At more than 2,100 square metres, the centre operates twenty-four hours a day and is the largest of CMBC’s six transit centres. As well as providing bus maintenance and repairs, the centre houses a training facility, computer systems and is also a central hub for dispatching drivers. Like many large commercial spaces, it uses natural gas to provide space heating to the occupants.


Inside the Vancouver Transit Centre.

By using the waste heat to help heat the building, CMBC would use less natural gas at the centre, save on energy costs and help support the bus company’s goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent over 2007 levels by 2050.

Enough savings to serve an entire neighbourhood of homes

CMBC received almost $255,000 in FortisBC rebates for this inventive upgrade through our Commercial Performance conservation and energy management program, reducing their payback period on the investment from 4.9 years to 2.4 years. At this time, the natural gas savings from this project is estimated to be 13,290 gigajoules of natural gas a year; that’s enough energy to provide heat and hot water to 148 homes1 for a year!

A shared commitment to reduce GHGs


Donna Bartel, manager, environmental sustainability, CMBC and Ian Mitchell, key account manager, FortisBC on the roof of the Vancouver Transit Centre by the heat recovery piping that takes heat from the exhaust air and uses it to preheat the fresh air into the makeup air unit.

Together with CMBC, we’re committed to supporting the BC’s climate action goals to reduce GHG emissions. In fact, we set an ambitious target to reduce our customers’ GHGs by 30 per cent from 2007 levels by the year 2030. It’s called 30BY30. Our work with CMBC is a win-win for both organizations to achieve their respective goals, and help create a cleaner tomorrow for all British Columbians.

We’ve got even bigger rebates

Whether you’re retrofitting or building new, a small commercial customer, or a large organization like CMBC, our team can help you find creative ways to save energy and money. And, when you’re ready to upgrade, we’ve got rebates on high-efficiency equipment and products. Now, until December 31, 2021, we’ve got even bigger rebates2 on high-efficiency HVAC, commercial boilers and kitchen equipment. It’s just one way we’re doing our part to help customers during COVID-19. Check out all our even bigger rebates, or contact your FortisBC account manager directly.

1Savings figures based on average size home of 2,300 to 2,600 square feet using 90 gigajoules of natural gas annually.
2Bigger rebates on select upgrades are available until December 31, 2021. Bigger rebates on commercial furnaces are available until March 31, 2021. Participants must be owner, long-term leaseholder or a builder/developer. Rebate applications must be submitted within 365 days of the purchase date of products. Only available to FortisBC commercial natural gas and electricity customers and commercial municipal electricity customers of Penticton, Summerland, Grand Forks and Nelson Hydro. Additional terms and conditions apply.

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