Are Heat Pumps worth it in Canada?

Canada is known for being cold. And, despite Canadians not liking the stereotypes of living in igloos or it always being freezing, it is true! All parts of Canada experience four seasons, so it gets cold in the winter – some areas colder than others, of course.

But no matter where you live in Canada, it’s necessary to have indoor heating. There are a bunch of different systems that you can use to heat your house, and heat pumps are one of them. Depending on where you live, a heat pump can definitely be worth it as a temperature control system in Canada.

Heat pumps are not as popular as central heating, or forced-air furnace systems, but they are rising in popularity in recent decades. Heat pumps are known as effective systems that can both heat and cool a home and can be more energy-efficient and cost-effective. But are they worth it? Let’s look a little further into heat pumps and some of the different factors to determine if they are worth it.

What are heat pumps?

The most popular heating system in Canada is the forced-air furnace system, with 55% of Canadian homes in 2017 using this system. That same year, just 4% of homes used heat pumps. So, it follows that many people are not familiar with what a heat pump is. 

Basically, a heat pump uses heat in the air or ground outside of the home and moves it into the house. This is in contrast to a furnace which creates heat by warming up the air already in a home and recirculates it through the house. A heat pump can also work in reverse as an air conditioning system. So, in the summer, it will find cool air outside of the house and bring it in. 

A lot of people think that a heat pump can’t work during extremely cold weather. After all, when it’s in the negatives outside, how can there be heat to bring into the house? Well, Natural Resources Canada states that the heat content of air when it is -18°C still contains 85% of the heat as when it is 21°C. So while it may not seem like there is any heat in the air to us, there still is a heat source to bring in!

Heat pumps work on either air systems or ground systems. The difference is whether they pull in heat (or cold) from the air outside the home or from the ground outside the house.

Where can heat pumps be used in Canada?

As described, heat pumps work by pulling in heat from the air or ground outside of a home. They can work in very cold temperatures, so they are appropriate to use in any area of Canada. However, most heat pumps work efficiently down to a temperature of -25°C. As temperatures get colder than that, they may not be very effective, and supplementary heating systems like an electric baseboard heater might be necessary.

With this in mind, a heat pump will work effectively in provinces that do not get as cold during the winter, such as British Columbia. Other provinces like Saskatchewan or Manitoba can have extremely cold temperatures, and so might be where supplementary heat systems are necessary. 

Do heat pumps work effectively?

Yes, heat pumps work very effectively. The reason they are effective is that they distribute heat that already exists rather than creating heat as a furnace does. Pulling in heat from the air or the ground is a more efficient way of heating a house and requires less energy than “creating” heat from scratch. 

Heat pumps can also work in the summer as an air conditioner system. Because it works the same way, but just in reverse, they are also effective in cooling homes as needed. 

Heat pumps are designed to create a steady temperature, so they work slowly but keep the temperature stable. Users are directed to set their temperature and forget about it. Although it may take a while to reach the desired temperature, once it is set, it will remain stable and not fluctuate as much as other systems.  

Do heat pumps save money?

The short answer is yes, heat pumps save money. How much money they save will depend on what current system you have and where you live. But because they are so efficient in heating a house by drawing in warmth rather than creating it, it logically follows that less electricity will be use and your energy bill will be lower. 

This article outlines the results from a study done across Canadian cities, comparing air heat pumps that replaced oil or gas furnaces. The results showed energy savings between 57-81%, depending on the city. This translates to nearly $2,000 of annual savings!  Ground heat pump systems are more efficient than air ones, although they can cost more to install and might not be possible to set up in all areas. 

Another way heat pumps can save money for homeowners is through rebates and green energy initiatives. Because heat pumps are efficient and use less energy, some provinces offer money-back programs to incentivize switching over to a heat pump system in your home. For example, BC Hydro offers up to $2,000 if a homeowner installs a heat pump in their home. 

The federal government also has an extensive rebate program for home retrofitting, which includes heat pumps. 

Are heat pumps worth it in Canada?

Overall, heat pumps are worth it in Canada. A lot of people are not familiar with them, but they are gaining in popularity. Because of their clever design that simply moves heat that already exists in the air and ground surrounding a home, they are very efficient. 

Compared to furnaces, which create heat, heat pumps use less energy. Therefore, homeowners can expect lower bills. Heat pumps are also useful during hot summer months as air conditioners!

So, if you’re looking for an effective, energy-efficient, low-cost system, heat pumps are worth looking into!

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