February 9th, 2023

A cold-climate air-source heat pumps from outside the house.

Many homeowners are switching to cold-climate air-source heat pumps, shown here, to save money and to keep their home warm during the winter while remaining climate-conscious. (Photo: Clara Blakelock / GreenUP)

By Clara Blakelock, Registered Energy Advisor at GreenUP

It was only in the deep freeze of mid-January that Katherine Orgill noticed her gas furnace firing up. Most people turn on their furnaces in October and leave them on until May. Orgill, however, had a cold-climate air-source heat pump installed in her century home in the spring of 2022, to provide both heating and cooling.

She has been heating her home with clean electricity for most of the winter and only uses the furnace as a backup heat source. Katherine is one of many Peterborough homeowners making the switch to a heat pump.

Air source heat pumps work similarly to an air conditioner. In addition to cooling, they can extract heat from the outdoor air and move it inside the house in winter. They are powered by electricity rather than a fossil fuel.

Cold climate heat pump models like Orgill’s work well in temperatures down to -20C or lower. Since heat pumps are moving heat rather than generating it, they can operate with 200-300 percent energy efficiency. Backup heat can be provided by gas, propane, or electricity.

Air source heat pumps can easily be installed in most homes. They can use either ducted or non-ducted “mini-split” systems and allow you to control the temperatures in individual rooms or spaces.

The indoor unit of a mini-split heat pump.

The indoor unit of a mini-split heat pump. Most mini-split or ductless systems have an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units (heads). This system is meant to work well in cold climates, like those in Peterborough. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

Mike Dodington also took the opportunity to adopt a heat pump sooner rather than later in his Peterborough home. When Dodington’s 17-year-old furnace stopped working, he opted to go with a cold climate heat pump with electric backup, replacing his aging air conditioner at the same time.

“It’s common sense, really. If you can get anything off gas these days, do it,” says Dodington.

“I knew it would be another 15 to 20 years before I would get an opportunity like this again.”

To meet Peterborough City and County greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, all homes and buildings will stop heating with gas or other fossil fuels in the coming decades. If you have a furnace or air conditioner that is 10-15 years old (or older) it is a good time to start planning for your next system, which may look a bit different than your last one.

Judy Amsbury was also looking to get her home off gas when her furnace and air conditioner needed replacement. Amsbury opted for a hybrid system – an air source heat pump for heating and cooling in milder temperatures, and a gas furnace for very cold temperatures.

Both Orgill and Dodington took advantage of grants available through the Canada Greener Homes Grant, now known as the Home Efficiency Rebate Plus program, to offset the cost of their new systems (https://www.enbridgegas.com/residential/rebates-energy-conservation/home-efficiency-rebate-plus). These grants provide rebates for heat pumps as well as other measures such as insulation and air sealing which improve a home’s efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. GreenUP provided Orgill and Dodington the EnerGuide home assessments which they needed in order to access this grant.

Registered Energy Advisor Bryn Magee discusses energy efficiency with a home owner in Douro-Dummer during an EnerGuide evaluation.

Registered Energy Advisor Bryn Magee discusses energy efficiency with a home owner in Douro-Dummer during an EnerGuide evaluation. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)

With a new grant program launched in 2023, homeowners who are clients of Enbridge gas can receive up to $10,600 in rebates to help cover costs associated with improving their home’s insulation, replacing windows, and adding a heat pump. Non-Enbridge clients are still able to access rebates, and can receive up to $5,600.

The first step to accessing these grants is to have an EnerGuide home energy assessment completed on your home. During this process a Registered Energy Advisor will help determine the recommended energy-saving measures for your home and guide you through the rebate process.

GreenUP has three Registered Energy Advisors who are certified by NRCan to perform Energy Assessments and work in our region. Appointments with GreenUP’s Energy Advisors can be booked online (https://shop.greenup.on.ca/collections/home-energy-assessments).

For heat pumps specifically, you can now get up to $6,500 back in rebates. Non-Enbridge customers are again included in this opportunity and can get up to $5,000. All customers will also receive a $600 rebate to help cover the costs of the EnerGuide assessments such as those provided by GreenUP.

With all these opportunities available, it is easy to see our homes becoming much more comfortable, and fossil-fuel free in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about heat pumps, join us for our “Heating your home with an Air Source Heat Pump” webinar on February 17 at 12:15p.m. (https://www.greenup.on.ca/event/heating-your-home-with-an-air-source-heat-pump). GreenUP’s Registered Energy Advisors will answer some of the most common questions homeowners have about heat pumps. Everyone is welcome!

GreenUP Registered Energy Advisor Clara Blakelock sets up a blower door while laughing.

GreenUP Registered Energy Advisor Clara Blakelock sets up a blower door. The blower door test is used to assess the air leakage in a home. (Photo: Lili Paradi / GreenUP)