We believe that emerging, or improved, technology has a critical role to play in the battle against climate change, but have also always maintained it isn’t a silver bullet. We all need to make the best personal behaviour decisions we can every moment without waiting for the next invention to make our lives easier.
Having said that, if technology comes along that will improve your household energy efficiency EVEN THOUGH you already have a very good system, it is worth considering. This is the conundrum we found ourselves in. Our Home Energy Audit included a new heat pump as a recommended upgrade, but we kind of ignored that initially. Why spend that kind of money, even with the healthy rebate it comes with, if you already have a functioning heat pump? Why spend money on a tankless system to replace our gas hot water tank when despite being WAY more efficient, the tankless system still uses gas?
For us the answer ended up being a blend of efficiency and divestment. We learned that even though our hot water tank wasn’t epically old it still was likely noticeably less efficient than when it was newer. The same was true about our heat pump. When we learned that replacing them would be more energy efficient and improve the home’s comfort we opened our minds to the idea. Then we also learned that instead of a gas-fueled tankless on-demand system we could get an electric heat pump hot water tank. Now the idea that we could ditch the use of fossil fuels in heating and cooling our home and our hot water needs took hold, and when we learned about the Canada Greener Homes interest-free loan program we decided to dive in.
We’ve been getting questions about the various things we’ve opted to have installed and it made us realize that to many people that heat pumps are somewhat still an emerging technology that comes with built-in concerns about their efficiency in our Canadian winters. With that in mind let’s look at how heat pumps work, and why, in Canada, they are an important part of reducing our carbon footprint.
An air source heat pump is an efficient heating system that, instead of heating air using fossil fuels, pulls the heat out of the air outside. It then goes through a refrigerant coolant that is compressed to increase the heat even more, and then the warm air is pushed into the house. In the summer, the system changes direction, and now pulls heat from inside the house and pushes it outside.
This short video from BC Hydro is helpful.
It reduces the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling dramatically. Combined with the home envelope changes we have made, and will continue to make, the energy we use to heat our home will be much less. The original heat pump that we had, which was installed approximately 12 years ago, has been effective at reducing the amount of fossil gas we have used to heat the house. When the temperature outside would drop below -5 to -8 degrees Celsius, the furnace would turn on. We still used fossil gas, and in the dead of winter the gas bill would be quite high. For example, in January 2023 our Enbridge gas bill was $206.57, and in February 2023 it was $368.86.
That bill will now be gone: the fossil line is being capped, and our home will be heated with clean Ontario power. Our savings in fossil gas will be applied to the aforementioned interest free loan from the federal government we have been approved for.