Did you know that heat pump heating and cooling systems are one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly ways to heat and cool your home? Heat pumps can play a big role in helping to mitigate climate change. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits they offer both to the planet as a whole and Canadian homeowners.
The environment, climate change, and governmental goals
In recent years, climate change has become an increasingly important issue for governments around the world. As the evidence of global warming continues to mount, many countries, including Canada, have committed to taking action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the most popular policies implemented by Canadian governments is the promotion of heat pump systems. Heat pumps are a type of HVAC system that can essentially move heat from one space to another, like indoors to outdoors OR vice versa.
The beauty of this type of system is that they can both heat and cool using electricity rather than burning fossil fuels like a gas furnace. In order to truly benefit the climate, the Canadian electricity grid’s energy production must also be decarbonized.
However in many parts of the country, this is already happening and an increasing amount of electricity is produced with renewables energy sources, like hydroelectric, wind, and solar.
As a result, heat pumps can provide significant carbon emission reductions compared to traditional heating methods. And because they are extremely energy efficient, heat pumps may be able to save you money on your heating costs (depending on your electricity rates of course).
For these reasons, governments have been promoting the use of heat pumps as a way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.
Traditional heating in Canada
Traditional heating methods in Canada are partially responsible for the release of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The burning of natural gas, propane, oil, and wood produce carbon dioxide and other pollutants that contribute to global warming.
Now, in an effort to curb these harmful emissions, Canadian homeowners have access to a variety of home renovation utility company incentives, HVAC government rebates, loan programs, grants, and credits. Canadian governments and policies are attempting to make it a little easier for Canadians to switch to energy efficient heating and cooling methods.
Heat pumps and how they work
Heat pump cooling systems are becoming increasingly popular as an energy-efficient alternative to standard furnaces and air conditioners.
Heat pumps are electrically operated systems that transfer heat from one place to another. Unlike furnaces or boilers, heat pumps do not generate heat directly. Instead, they use a small amount of electricity to operate a refrigeration system that transfers heat from the outside air or ground into your home, and vice-versa. There is no burning of fossil fuels!
Heat pumps can actually be more than 100% efficient. Though seemingly counterintuitive, they use such a small amount of electricity coupled with a clever use of thermodynamics to transfer the heat, that they are able to heat an area with very little energy expended.
The key is that they are not creating heat but rather moving heat from one place to another, which is why they can effectively provide more useable heating or cooling than the energy they consume. Whereas a furnace which burns fuel to extract heat can’t be more than about 99.99% efficient, as some top modern furnaces are, because you can’t extract more heat from a fuel source than what that fuel contains.
Heat pumps are incredibly versatile and can be used for both heating and cooling. In the summer, they can transfer heat from your home to the outside air, effectively cooling your house. In the winter, they do the reverse, transferring heat from the outside air into your home.
The truly remarkable thing is that they can do this even when the temperature outside is below zero. They usually work effectively until about minus 15 degrees Celsius, which means for many Canadians they can act as the primary heating source for a significant portion of the year. A backup heat source is sometimes needed for the coldest stretches, however.
There are many different types of heat pumps, such as ductless mini-splits and whole home heat pumps. Ductless mini-splits have an outdoor unit that is connected to an indoor unit with a small conduit. Whole home heat pumps use your home’s ductwork and look and function more like a central AC, except that they can also heat.
But regardless of the type of heat pump, they’re a great way to keep your home comfortable all year round.
Can a heat pump cool a house?
Yes, you can use a heat pump for cooling. In a sense, heat pumps are air conditioning units that can also function in reverse as a heater, making them a very versatile and useful appliance to have in your home.
Most of the year Canadians require some form of air conditioning or heating, and a heat pump can effectively heat and cool your home for 90% of the year in most parts of the country.
Why heat pumps are the future of home heating
Some experts call heat pumps the future of home heating, largely due to their ability to help us accomplish climate goals by allowing us to potentially eliminate one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions by Canadians – how we heat our homes.
By gradually replacing and reducing our reliance on traditional fossil fuel-burning heating systems, we can slowly work toward environmental sustainability.
And yes, this is clearly great for the environment but it’s also great for homeowners, too. A heat pump cooling system’s efficiency and versatility means you may be able to save on your energy bills in summers and winters.
Caveats and considerations
While heat pump cooling systems are certainly an environmentally friendly option, there are some important caveats to keep in mind.
First, heat pumps themselves are very energy efficient, but a big factor in their overall environmental impact is how the local electricity is generated. For example, it makes a difference if the electricity is generated by hydroelectricity vs coal.
Furthermore, local electricity rates will also impact whether it is cheaper overall to run a furnace or boiler vs a heat pump for your heating needs.
One factor to consider though is that with Canada’s carbon pricing plan, which will effectively price-in the external cost of carbon emissions, the cost of fossil fuels will likely keep increasing which will gradually make heat pumps more cost-competitive.
Additionally, although they’ve come a long way, heat pumps don’t work well at extremely cold temperatures like below -15 Celsius. So, a backup heating system may be needed for certain stretches in certain cold Canadian regions. Overall, heat pumps are a great option for many people, but it’s important to do your research to make sure they’re right for you.
Learn more on our heat pump buying guide!