If your home furnace or central air conditioner is reaching the replacement stage and you’re exploring options for a new system, you may have heard friends or family recommend considering a heat pump, an energy-efficient alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems.
A heat pump, which looks like a central air conditioning unit, warms your home in winter and cools it in summer. Thanks to advances in heat pump technology for cold climates and government grants to encourage Canadians to consider them, they’ve become more popular in recent years with homeowners who want to reduce their energy emissions and use a more energy-efficient system.
What is a Heat Pump? Instead of burning fuel to create heat, a heat-pump transfers heat energy from the outside air into your house in winter via a compressor system. In summer, the pump transfers warm air out of the house. So, it offers heating and cooling in one system.
While a heat pump can use existing furnace ductwork, there are also stand-alone units, which don’t require ductwork, if your home uses electric baseboard heaters, for example.
Cold-climate heat pumps can warm your house in outdoor temperatures as low as -25, though they become less efficient at temperatures colder than that. Many people have a pump that works with a supplemental system for the coldest days, such as a furnace or electric baseboards. With luck, you may need that back-up system only for a few days every winter.
What are the energy savings? Potential savings depend on several factors, including the size of your house and the efficiency of the system. An HVAC contractor can give you an idea. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance estimates you could save up to $1,000 a year or more compared with using a standard gas furnace and air conditioner. The Alliance has an online calculator to get an estimate, at https://www.cleanairalliance.org/heat-pumps-can-save-you-money/
Maintenance and lifespan? Heat pumps last an average of 15 years, when maintained correctly. As with furnaces, regular servicing and maintenance is important to ensure the pump runs efficiently.
Is installation complicated? Installing a heat pump can be more complicated than replacing an old furnace with a new furnace. It depends on your current system, house type and size. An HVAC contractor can let you know what additional work could be required for your property. This can include finding space for the unit, expanding your current furnace ducts or installing new wiring or refrigeration lines.
Cost Range? Varies depending on the model and the size of your house and requirements for installation. An average system, including installation, is in the range of $5,000 to $15,000. A licensed HVAC contractor can assess your needs and offer recommendations and estimates.
What grants are available? To encourage homeowners to switch to greener energy, the Canada Greener Homes Grant program offers grants to qualified homeowners to help cover the costs of switching. An energy audit of your home is required before any work is done or approved.
If your home qualifies, depending on the kind of unit, rebates of up to $6,500 are available for qualified and recommended models, with an additional rebate of $600 towards the cost of the energy assessments that are required before and after installation.
In Ontario, the program is co-delivered by Natural Resources Canada and Enbridge Gas under the Home Efficiency Rebate Plus (HER+) program. To start an application and get a referral for the energy assessment, go to: Greener Homes Grant – Ontario (canada.ca)
Interest-free Loans: Those who apply through the grant program can also apply for an interest-free loan of up to $40,000 through the Canada Greener Homes Loan program. The loan can be repaid over 10 years, to help pay for upgrades recommended by your energy auditor. These include heat pumps as well as other energy-saving upgrades. Information: Canada Greener Homes Loan
More information on Heat Pumps: For more about whether a heat pump could be right for you, Hydro Ottawa has an informative post that includes links for more detailed information, at Why everyone’s talking about heat pumps | Hydro Ottawa.
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