ThinkEnergy: How heat pumps can reduce carbon emissions (2023)

Apr 12, 2023

Each year, Canadian homes and buildings—and theelectricity generated to power them—release 111 million tonnes ofgreenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. To limit theimpact, the Government of Canada aims to reduce GHG emissions40–45% by 2030, compared to levels in 2005. And heat pumps areemerging as a solution, increasing energy efficiency while cuttingenergy costs and lowering carbon emissions. Shawn Carr, Manager ofCustomer Experience at Hydro Ottawa, explains on thinkenergyepisode 109.

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Dan Seguin 00:06

This is think energy, the podcast that helps youbetter understand the fast changing world of energy throughconversations with game changers, industry leaders, andinfluencers. So join me, Dan Segin, as I explore both traditionaland unconventional facets of the energy industry.

Dan Seguin 00:28

Hey, everyone, welcome back. Did you know that wespend more than 80% of our time indoors, whether it's at home,work, school, shopping, or doing recreational activities.Currently, Canadian homes and buildings combined with theelectricity generated to power them, releases 111 million tons ofgreenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere every year. To protectour environment and reduce the impact of climate change. TheGovernment of Canada has committed to reducing Canada's total GHGemissions to 40 to 45, below 2005 levels by 2030 and to reachingnet zero by 2050. The building sector is the third largest sourceof emissions in Canada.

Dan Seguin 01:27

As we look for ways to shape a more sustainable futureHeat pumps are emerging as one of the climate solutions that canreduce energy costs, lower carbon emissions and increase energyefficiency. Now, I say they're emerging as a climate solution. Butin fact, the concept of using heat pumps to transfer heat from oneplace to another has been around for centuries.

Dan Seguin 01:56

Since its early conception, heat pump technologycontinued to evolve throughout the 19th and early 20th century.Today, it is widely used for both heating and cooling buildings, aswell as for various industrial and commercial applications. Sohere's today's big question. Are heat pumps the answer to reducingthe carbon emissions of Canada's built environment? And are theybeing adopted at a pace necessary to achieve the 2030 and 2050targets? Today my special guest is Shawn Carr. Shawn blends energy,sustainability, green building project management experience withbusiness experience as a team leader, manager and developer. He isa strong advocate on climate action and serves on numerouscommittees with organizations such as Building Owners and ManagersAssociation better known as BOMA, the Ontario Energy Association,and the electricity Distributors Association. He's also the managerof customer experience at Hydro Ottawa. Shawn, welcome to the show.Now, Shawn, this is pretty cool. I understand heat pump technologyhas been around since 1857. At a high level, what are heat pumps?And how do they work?

Shawn Carr 03:29

Well, you're absolutely right, Dan heat pumps havebeen around a long time. And they're actually a proven and reliabletechnology here in Canada and around the world. And they're capableof providing year round Comfort Control for your home by supplyingheat in the winter, cooling in the summer, and in some casesheating hot water for your home as well. In fact, it's likely thatmost people have already interacted with this type of technology ona daily basis. For example, both refrigerators and air conditionersoperate using the same principles and technology as heat pumps do.A heat pump is essentially just an electrical driven device thatextracts heat from a low temperature place and delivers it to ahigh temperature place. So if you think of your home as a bigrefrigerator as energy is extracted from the air inside your homeand transferred outside, it's going to cool the inside of yourhome. This is how pumps operate in essence In cooling mode.Similarly, if we were to talk about the heating mode, as heat isgrabbed from outside from the air and moved inside your home thetemperature is actually going to increase inside your home. And soessentially what that means is a heat pump is fully reversible. Itcan both heat and cool. And so in essence it has dualfunctionality. I think what makes heat pumps so different fromother heating technologies such as gas furnaces and boilers is thatthose technologies provide space heating by adding heat to the airthrough a combustion process. So for example, combusting a fuelsuch as natural gas. And although their efficiencies have improved,they are still below 100%, meaning not all the available energyfrom combustion is used to treat the air, there are losses involvedthrough incomplete combustion, and heat lost in the exhaust air.So, heat pumps work on a different principle, the electricity inputinto the heat pump is used to just transfer thermal energy betweentwo locations, there is actually no combustion process at all. Heatpumps don't generate heat, they just redirect existing heat fromone location to another. And so what that means is it allows themto operate much more efficiently. And so I thought it would bevaluable just to explain kind of how efficiency is measured with aheat pump, it's actually expressed by something called thecoefficient of performance, typically referred to as the COP . Andwhat the COPis, is a ratio between the rate at which the heat pumpactually transfers thermal energy, and the amount of electricalpower it actually consumes. So, for example, if a heat pump usedone unit of energy to transfer the heat equivalent of three unitsof energy, the COP would be three, and its efficiency would be300%. So it actually delivers three times more energy than itconsumes, in that example. Why does that matter? Well, knowing theCOP of a heat pump allows you to judge how efficiently the unit isworking. And so the higher the COP , the less electricity a heatpump consumes. So it's kind of like magic. And what I'll say is aCOP of three or higher is actually pretty common with this new eraof heat pumps, even in colder locations where there is less heat totransfer. And so it's also important to understand, though, as theoutside air temperature drops, so does the COP. And so by point ofcomparison, if you were just using electric resistance heating,like baseboards, to heat your home, they actually have a COP ofone. Okay, cool now, so why are heat pumps more popular than everright now? Yeah, I mean, Heat pumps are certainly having a momentright now, in particular, this new era of heat pumps, and that'sbecause they are a big lever for decarbonisation, and reaching netzero emissions by 2050. Technology and heat pumps have advanceddramatically, making them more efficient and more affordable evenin cold climates. So in Canada, heating our homes accounts forabout 16% of the carbon emissions in our country. And space andwater heating specifically represent about 85% of residentialgreenhouse gas emissions. So replacing fossil fuel heating systemswith electric options will significantly decrease householdemissions. We could just use more traditional forms of electricheat like baseboards and electric furnaces, but the pumps are farmore efficient options of beneficial electrification. So if we wantto drive deeper emissions cuts, and we want to do it costeffectively for Canadians, switching to a heat pump is one of themost impactful ways of reducing your home's emissions. Heat pumpsare becoming a pillar in a home electrification strategy.

Dan Seguin 09:21

Now, Shawn, answer this for me. Why is running ourhome with more electricity and choosing a heat pump a climatefriendly choice?

Shawn Carr 09:31

Thanks for that Dan. It's a good question. I mean,first of all, there are lots of different fuels or energy typesthat can power our homes we you know, we've we commonly use naturalgas propane furnace oil and electricity to heat our homes and allof these energy types have different carbon footprints and some aremuch more environmentally friendly than others. So if we talk aboutCanada, we have, as a country, one of the cleanest power grids inthe world, and our government has committed to having a netzeroenergy grid by 2035. So even in regions where there may still be asignificant portion of electricity generation that relies on fossilfuels, that electricity generation will steadily get cleaner andcleaner while burning, non renewable natural gas or propane in yourhome for heat is always going to produce emissions. And so therehave actually been reports on the different ways for Canada to getto net zero. And the modeling consistently shows thatelectrification of heating as a necessary part of the transition tonet zero and Canada's building sector. And so heat pumpsspecifically are critical to Canada's energy transition. In fact,probably critical to the world's energy transition, the technologyis proven, they use up to 70% less energy than conventional homeheating technologies, and they will probably become the defaultmeans of heating both indoor spaces and hot water systems in thenear future. The other thing I'll point out is that airconditioning demand is rising. And by providing both heating andcooling heat pumps can help people manage climate impacts inregions where people may not have air conditioning today, but arestarting to face hotter, and more frequent summer heat waves. Wewitnessed that with what happened with the fires and in BritishColumbia, and those are in regions where people traditionally mayhave not had air conditioning.

Dan Seguin 11:47

Now, what is a cold climate heat pump? And is thatwhat Canadians should purchase?

Shawn Carr 11:56

Yeah, I mean, it's a good question. And soadvancements in air source heat pump technology now means thatthere are heat pump options that are, I would say, far bettersuited or adapted to operating in the cold Canadian climate. Andthose are referred to as cold climate heat pumps. What makes themdifferent from a traditional air source heat pump is it's reallyjust some of the equipment that's contained within the unit. Sothey use variable capacity compressors, inverters, improved heatexchanger designs and controls to maximize heating capacity atcolder temperatures while maintaining high efficiencies duringmilder conditions. And so what that means is they can stillredirect heat from outside to inside your home quite efficientlyeven in conditions down to minus 20 degrees Celsius or less. So toclassify as a cold climate heat pump under the federal Canadagreener homes grant, which we can talk more about later, heat pumpsmust have a coefficient of performance a COP of 1.8 or higher atminus 15 degrees Celsius. So that means that the heat pump mustmaintain an efficiency of at least 180% at minus 15 Celsius. Andjust again, as a reminder, the most efficient gas burning furnacesout there have an efficiency of like 96 or 97%.

Dan Seguin 13:37

Okay, I've got another follow up question here foryou. Can cold climate heat pumps meet the heating demand on theirown? Or are there circumstances where backup heat is required?

Shawn Carr 13:53

Yeah, so I guess the short answer is it depends. Youknow, whether or not you need a backup heat source for your heatpump is going to depend, you know, on a number of factors, youknow, for example, the type of heat pump you purchase, the climatezone you live in, and the design and efficiency of of your home.So, in some parts of Canada that are milder, a heat pump might beall you need, but in other colder areas, you will most certainlyneed a backup system. And that's because, you know, as thetemperature drops, heat pumps start to become less efficient atheating. And when the temperature gets to a certain point, youknow, the unit will shut off altogether, or it'll work in tandemwith your backup heat system. And that shut off point is going todepend on your unit, the unit that you chose, but typically, thatshutoff point could be anywhere from minus 15 Celsius down to minus25 Celsius or lower. So, you know, what I will also say is the heatpump system is not typically sized to deliver 100% of the peakheating load that your home is designed for, because that couldlead to an oversize system that might cycle on and off. So it'sreally important, I would say that if you're considering a heatpump that you work with a mechanical contractor for selecting andspecifying a heat pump, and a backup heat source that's going to beright for your home, you know, right for your budget and yourneeds. And there are many options for a backup heat system. Someheat pumps come with an integrated electric resistance heatingsystem that functions as a backup system at very low temperature.So think of that as just like an electric resistance element like ahairdryer that's been installed inside your duck. However, thereare also natural gas backup options such as traditional highefficiency furnaces that can be used as a backup source if yourhome happens to be centrally ducted. And these are often referredto as hybrid heating systems.

Dan Seguin 16:13

Now, Shawn, what are some factors to consider whendeciding if a heat pump is the right choice for your home?

Shawn Carr 16:21

Yeah, I mean, I think like I mentioned a bit earlier,a heat pump is probably the biggest thing that a homeowner can doat home to help fight the climate crisis. On top of it, you know,if you were to do the math, and consider the upfront costs, thecurrent incentives and the ongoing energy costs associated withoperating that cold climate heat pump, you know, the choice to gowith a heat pump, in most cases is going to be pretty clear. Thatsaid, picking the right heat pump for your home requires planningand requires a mechanical system contractor that can help younavigate the heat pump journey and kind of guide you through thatprocess. And the reason I say that's important is because you know,there's a lot of different things that you need to consider in thisdecision. For example, do I want an air source heat pump or aground source heat pump? You know, will it be ducted? Or aductless? System? Can I get away with just getting a traditionalair source heat pump? Or do I need a cold climate heat pump? Whatsize of heat pump do I need? And should it be sized for the heatingload or the cooling load in my home? What are the economics aroundpurchasing and operating a heat pump in your area compared toanother type of heating system? How long is it going to take torecover the added cost of a heat pump through energy cost savings?Is my jurisdiction planning to implement any restrictions on fossilfuel heating, you know? Will a heat pump even work in my home? Youknow, will there be any added disruption to actually install itkind of like buying a car? You know what, what brand of heat pump?Should I go with? You know what warranties are available? Whatmaintenance is needed? So I think as you can see down, there's justyou know, there's a lot to consider. And I think despite all ofthese considerations, my opinion is that a heat pump will almostalways be the right technology choice for your home. But making thebest overall choice requires advanced planning. And it really hasmore to do with finding a good contractor that can help you make aninformed decision rather than a snap decision when something goeswrong with your current system. You know, this is a big purchase.And you're going to need to live with that decision for maybe 15years or more. So it's important to get it right. And I would saythat, you know, if you happen to be listening to this podcast, apodcast that already gives you a good start because you now knowthat a heat pump is another option.

Dan Seguin 19:12

How do you determine what size heat pump you need?

Dan Seguin 19:17

Well, Dan, I guess I guess in this case, I mean sizedoes matter. I mean the size is one of the most important things toget right. You can't just walk into your basement, look at the sizeof your gas furnace, and assume you need an equivalent sized heatpump. It doesn't work that way. The general rules of thumb oftenused by the industry for sizing heating and cooling loads generallyresult in an oversized system which is more expensive to operateand harder to control for comfort. So this is why it's soimportant, in my opinion, just to work with an energy consultant ora mechanical systems contractor who understands heat pumps. And sonatural resource Canada, for example, has actually developed atoolkit for Air Source Heat Pump sizing and selection. And it's tohelp the contractor community and the design community to determineoptimal sizing needs for customers. And so the guide actually helpswith defining the key Air Source Heat Pump requirements. So thingslike, you know, what configuration makes sense for my home ductedversus ductless? You know, what are the heating and cooling loadsin my home? What are the target capacity requirements, and thenwhat the tool does is it kind of matches up good heat pumpcandidates for your requirements. And the toolkit actually goes asfar as providing guidelines that also help with, you know, definingthe control strategy for your heat pump and the backup heatingrequirements. And so the federal and in fact, actually, the federalincentives that are available through the greeter homes initiativeare also contingent on getting the heat distribution right. So thesizing is important. And Enercan is looking to verify that whoeverworked on your project has looked at that through that lens.

Dan Seguin 21:19

Okay, something a little more technical here. Our airsource and ground source heat pumps are the most common types forCanadians. And maybe you can talk to us about what are some of thedifferences?

Shawn Carr 21:34

Yeah, I would say that they're certainly the two mostcommon types for Canadians. I mean, air source is by far the mostcommon type for Canadians followed by ground source. Really, themain difference with a ground source heat pump is they actually usethe ground as the source of heat in the winter, and as a reservoirto reject heat removed from the home in the summer. And so ratherthan the air being the heat transfer mechanism, it's actually theground, the main advantage of ground source heat pumps is they arenot subject to the extreme temperature fluctuations we get with airbecause the ground is a more constant temperature source throughoutthe year. And what that ends up ultimately doing is it actually candrive higher efficiencies. The downside to ground source heatpumps, typically is that they are more expensive to install,there's more labor involved, and they may also require landscapealterations, so they may not be suitable for for all propertytypes, depending on whether you've got the space in the land to beable to accommodate the loops that need to get installed in theground and so on. So, you know, that said they're, they're veryefficient, which means greater energy savings and ground source,heat pumps tend to work well and in almost all climates becausethey're not impacted by big fluctuations in outdoor airtemperature. Very interesting. Now, can heat pumps be combined withrenewable energy sources like solar? For sure. I mean, absolutely.I, you know, combining a heat pump with a solar array that will,you know, reduce your electricity consumption and costs can furtherimprove the business case over the lifecycle of the heat pumpsystem compared to, you know, a fossil fuel energy system. And so,you know, if you're in a jurisdiction with clean electricitygeneration, combining that heat pump with a solar system, it willresult in you not emitting any net operational greenhouse gasses.So yeah, I mean, pairing it up is, you know, is a great solution,if you can afford the capital to do it.

Dan Seguin 24:03

This is an important topic here. Now, what kind ofincentives and rebates exist out there?

Shawn Carr 24:11

Yeah. Well, so this is becoming harder to keep up. Butwhat I would say is, it really depends on where you live, as thereare many different incentives, rebates, you know, grants and, andfinancing options that are offered by municipalities, provinces andutilities and and they vary across Canada as it relates to heatpumps. And so I'm just going to focus on our federal programbecause the federal government has created a national green energyprogram called the Canada greener homes initiative, and it actuallyprovides grants from $125 to $5,000. For eligible home retrofitsand up to six $100 towards the cost of a pre and post retrofit homeenergy audit, their program also offers up to $40,000 in interestfree loans with a repayment term of 10 years to help you undertakehome retrofits. And so with respect to heat pumps, specifically,rebates through this program range from $2,500 for ductless, airsource heat pump system to $5,000 for a centrally ducted coldclimate, air source, heat pump. So, you know, between the federalincentive and any additional provincial or regional incentives andthe financing options that are available that are in this case, nono interest and spread over 10 years, it can make a lot offinancial sense to invest in a heat pump, you know, depending onyour circumstances. And so I'll also say for our local listenershere in Ottawa that the City of Ottawa is Better Homes program alsooffers low interest loans for home energy efficiency and carbonreducing retrofits including heat pumps.

Dan Seguin 26:13

Shawn, if memory serves me, right, you recentlyinstalled a cold climate heat pump in your home? Did you takeadvantage of any incentives? And did it make the projectfinancially viable for you?

Shawn Carr 26:30

So yes, Dan, I did install a cold climate heat pump inNovember of last year 2022. And we did take advantage of the $5,000federal incentive for the cold climate heat pump. In our case,there were two primary motivations for wanting a heat pump, ourprimary motivation was to reduce our households greenhouse gasemissions footprint, and I knew that electrifying most of ourheating load using a heat pump would have the largest impact on ourGHG footprint for the investment. The second motivator was the roleof the federal incentive program and how that allowed us to planthe project so that I could get the system I wanted within a budgetthat we were comfortable with. And in our situation, what I'll saywhen you know, what I'll share with our listeners is like weelected to pay a bit more upfront, because we wanted a highefficiency cold climate heat pump that was backed by a goodwarranty, we also opted for electric backup heat rather than a highefficiency gas furnace. And I was able to do that. I had theadvantage of my electrical service was able to accommodate thatchoice without any additional investment. And we went as far as toalso investing in a more advanced control strategy, since I likedata and I kind of you know, believe that they're kind of the proofis in the pudding with this stuff. And so yeah, so I'm paying closeattention to you know, how much energy my heat pump compressorsusing the fan, the electric backup, heat, and so on. And so youknow, I'll have more information to obviously share as we gothrough a few more heating and cooling seasons. But what I'll sayis, so for our case, after applying for the federal incentive of$5,000, after we applied that to the total project cost, andactually comparing the final system costs to what it would havecosted to just install another high efficiency gas furnace and atraditional air conditioning system, it only cost me about $3,000more to get what I wanted. So I have been paying attention to myenergy use over the last few months. And I would say that my energycosts are comparable to what they were before. In fact, they'veactually gone down a little bit. But I've also elected to maintainmy gas connection to my home, right because we have two gasfireplaces that I did not know we've elected to keep for now. Andin our project case, like we, I've already noticed that myhousehold GHG emissions have gone down by about 75%. And you know,we were able to finance the entire project over 10 years with azero interest loan. So we're pretty happy with our decision. Andwhat I'll say is that we've actually noticed some other intangiblebenefits, you know, our home is more comfortable, I would say thanit was before we no longer have to worry about setting thetemperature back at night and then having it ramp up before we getup. Our heat pump is designed to run at lower temperatures at lowerspeeds for much longer run times and they can ramp up to meet thedemand in your home as it's required. So they're really kind ofdesigned to run sort of low and slow. And for us what that meantis, you know less cold spots in different parts of our home. Warmit's kind of a constant temperature throughout. And we reallynoticed that difference. Also, since I completed my heat pumpproject, I will say that they've since announced enhancedincentives for heat pumps through our gas company. And so betweenthe gas company and the federal program, there's actually up to$6,500 Available now. So, you know, I mean, being an early adoptercost me a bit more, but I hope others will follow.

Dan Seguin 30:29

Okay, what kind of energy savings, utility costsavings and greenhouse gas emissions reductions could be expectedfrom the installation of a cold climate Air Source Heat Pump?

Shawn Carr 30:45

Yeah, you're probably getting tired of me saying this.But I guess again, it depends on a lot of different factors, someof which I touched on earlier. So you know, things like how oldyour home is, how well insulated it is, how airtight it is, youknow, what type of cold climate heat pump you have, what climatezone you live in. That said, though, like getting back to, do youknow, your question about what kind of energy savings and costsavings and emission reductions can you expect? What I will say is,last year natural resources Canada published a really good reportthat specifically assessed the cost effectiveness, energy savingsin greenhouse gas emission reductions in a variety of differenttypes of homes in different locations in Canada. And so the report,you know, sort of seeked out to answer the question that you putforward. And so what I'll do is I'll just share some of the highlevel findings from that report. So first of all, the report foundthat cold climate heat pumps generate less greenhouse gas emissionsand are cheaper to operate than oil furnaces, or electricresistance heating in all parts of Canada across the board period.For the majority of Canadians, cold climate Heat pumps are going togenerate less GHG emissions than gas furnaces, but it does dependon how clean the source of electricity is in your province. Sothat's an important consideration. But the trend is moving towardsour grid getting cleaner in areas where they aren't currentlyclean. So I think at some point, we're going to reach a point wherethat statement is going to hold true right across, you know, rightacross Canada. The report also indicated that if you're in an allelectric service scenario, meaning you're disconnected from the gasutility altogether, the results show that a cold climate heat pumpsystem is cheaper to operate than a gas furnace in most regions ofCanada. If you're like me, in a split Gas Electric scenario,meaning you've maintained the gas connection in the home forwhatever reason, you know, you're you're like having a gas stove,or you're like having a gas barbecue, or you have a gas fireplace,the results showed that a cold climate heat pump system is cheaperto operate in some areas in some jurisdictions, but in other areas,overall utility costs actually increased marginally like roughly100 to $500 a year. And I think that was the situation in provinceslike Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and some colder regions in BC. Sothat's what the report found. It also highlighted that for a gashybrid configuration, so people who opt to go for a cold climateheat pump with a gas backup furnace, that that option may be moreattractive to homeowners who opt for that split gas electricalservice due to the associated savings. And so all that to be said,the report lays out the expected savings from different scenarios.So I would encourage, you know, listeners to have a look if theywant to understand kind of you know what the findings are in theirjurisdiction for their particular use case.

Dan Seguin 33:57

Shawn, having just gone through the process, what aresome of the other things people should know? If they want toconsider a cold climate heat pump?

Shawn Carr 34:09

Yeah, well, I can't emphasize enough to plan early.You know, we started planning our own project at home a year inadvance. And so in our case, to start the process, we had an energyaudit done, which helped validate where our biggest carbon andenergy impacts were and what measures we could implement to addressthose impacts. And the number one recommendation in the auditreport we received was to consider a cold climate heat pump we didwe then did some research on the incentive program requirements tounderstand the process for receiving the incentive and I actuallygot some help from one of our internal energy consultants and youknow, they they have experience with heat pumps on the commercialside and they helped me model the performance of some differentunits and helped me with my backup heat strategy. They validatedequipment sizing, you know, looked at my utility bills and reallyand then modeled that energy and carbon reduction savings over timebased on changing energy rates. And so once we went through thatprocess, we engaged a local contractor that had heat pumpexperience. And what I'll say is applying for the incentive itselfis pretty straightforward. But there's a lot of demand for theprogram. So the process can actually take some time. The otherthing I'll mention is you will also have to pay for all the projectcosts upfront, even if the incentives and loans are approved, sothe cash isn't going to start flowing from the program until afterthe work is actually completed. The other piece of advice I'llprovide is, don't wait until your furnace or air conditioner breaksdown to think about a heat pump. You know, we had a perfectlyfunctioning gas furnace and air conditioner that was about threequarters through its statistical life expectancy. When we startedplanning this project, the majority of people make H fac investmentdecisions at a time in crisis, such as in February, when you needheat, or in July, when you need air conditioning. And in thosescenarios, you're going to be locked in to whatever system isavailable for another 15 years that won't deliver the benefits thata heat pump would. So I think those are just some of the thingsthat you know, I would advise people to take intoconsideration.

Dan Seguin 36:29

Thanks, Shawn. Okay, let's move on. What is Canada'srate of adoption for heat pumps compared to other countries? Andwhat would you say are the biggest barriers to adoption rightnow?

Shawn Carr 36:44

Yeah, good question. I mean, I've read some differentstatistics on adoption rates in Canada, but just ballpark what I'dsay is, you know, what I've read is that there's about 750,000 airsource heat pumps installed in Canada today. And by contrast, thereare over 5 million homes currently heated by natural gas. And by2030, we need more than 10% of home heating in Canada to come fromheat pumps, just more than double the current levels in order toalign with Canada's climate targets. And some jurisdictions willsay that the percentages need to be even higher than that. I alsorecently read that in the US last year, annual heat pump sales roseabove 4 million units for the first time, outpacing sales of gaspowered furnaces. So policy incentives have certainly bolsteredheat pump adoption in the US. And I think it's safe to say that theheat pump curve will take off even further. But we do need adoptionto accelerate at a much faster pace if we want to meet our climatetargets. To address the second part of your question, you know,barriers to adoption, I think it's a combination of things. Thereare barriers both on the demand side and on the supply side. So onthe demand side, more education, I think, is needed. These newgeneration of heat pumps are far better than the versions of thepast, not just in terms of efficiency, but in terms of the comfortthey provide as well. I think more customer awareness is neededaround the benefits of heat pumps. But the customer experienceassociated with adopting a heat pump can also be pretty messy. Andso I think that's something that needs to be improved. And so forexample, if you go to a contractor to ask about heat pumps, somedon't know about heat pumps, or some don't want to sell them. Andso that can result in a poor customer experience. In addition,often this engagement, as I said earlier, is done at a time ofcrisis, when something is broken, you need to make a quickimpulsive decision. And so if a gas furnace or an air conditioneris all that's available in the shop, because that's what the supplychain and manufacturers are focused on, that's likely the onlyoption you're going to have in that emergency situation. And so Ithink the thing that's frustrating about that is heat pumps are notthat different from air conditioners, they have a few extra partsthat make them a bit more expensive. So manufacturers are notprioritizing key pumps just yet. So they don't tend to be readilyavailable. So you know, again, in an emergency repair situation,that's not the best time to make a logical long term decision thatmight lock you into 50 more years of higher carbon emissions. Andso I talked earlier about the importance of sizing and selectingequipment properly and the inputs that contribute to that. I thinkthat changes the sales and adoption cycle especially if you have toplan for pre and post home energy audits in order to be eligiblefor these rebates. So the price process is different. And it'simportant that it's well understood and that that the planninghappened well in advance so that you can make the right choicesalong that journey without the recent availability of grants and,you know, low interest loans and tax rebates, heat pumps, inparticular cold climate heat pumps, I'd say have been costprohibitive for for most, but I think that's, that's starting tochange now, with the new incentive programs that will make iteasier for consumers to make the right sustainable long termdecision. I think, you know, one of the other things is I alsothink we need to expand the workforce and build more capacity fortrained installers, you know, while expanding manufacturing, whichis all going to eventually further drive down the costs of heatpumps, we need to get to a point where every air conditioner that'sbeing replaced is just automatically being substituted by a heatpump. Instead, I think that that would be the desired future, thereare still manufacturing constraints and supply chainvulnerabilities. And in my case, I had to wait six months for myheat pump. And that happened to be during the pandemic when supplychains were even more constrained. But you know, whether it's sixweeks or six months, that's not feasible in terms of the customerjourney, when taking into consideration this technology. So I thinkthat these are all barriers I don't have. There isn't a magicbullet. I think they all just need to be addressedsimultaneously.

Dan Seguin 41:29

Now, I'm hoping you can add a bit of color here,Shawn, what would you say are some of the solutions to helpovercome market constraints and accelerate adoption rates?

Shawn Carr 41:42

Yeah, good. Good question. And I think technology isalways going to be an enabler, continuing to improve heat pumpefficiency, and unlocking the supply chain will drive down the costfor that increased efficiency. And I think you know, that's goingto be particularly important at cold temperatures, because higherefficiency at cold temperatures might mean that there is less of aneed for backup heat options, or it might make those backup heatoptions more cost effective. And so for example, increasing theefficiency might mean not requiring as much electrical backup heat,which could alleviate having to upgrade an electrical service.Right. So that helps homeowners on the cost side, but it also helpsutilities and grid planning and so on. As we add more load to thesystem. I think leveraging data and analytics, I think there's someopportunities there as well. If utilities can get better atpredicting who will and who will not need a service upgrade. Itcould help with system planning. If you knew that ahead of time, wecould save customers time, cost and hassle potentially, I talkedearlier about just building and adopting the workforce. So thinkingabout how we incent H fac professionals to get additional trainingand educate homeowners on the benefits of heat pumps during routineservice calls and make it more desirable to sell heat pumps thanconventional air conditioners, we could never have enoughcustomers. You know education. I think education drives demand anddemand helps unlock supply chains. So if demand increases, or ifmanufacturers make heat pumps, the first option instead of an airconditioner may go a long way to help the manufacturer contractormodel. And ultimately, consumers won't have to navigate all thiscomplexity. So we have to make this an easy decision and a goodcustomer experience for consumers. And one of the other ways to dothat is to keep up with the incentives, the grants, the taxrebates, the long term low interest, no interest financing so thatheat pumps just become the obvious choice and uptake continues toaccelerate.

Dan Seguin 44:09

Okay. Now, what are the implications of the massadoption of heat pumps on the electricity system?

Shawn Carr 44:18

Okay. Interesting. Well, what I'll say is that thereare certainly implications particularly for heating today, wepredominantly use fossil fuels, mainly natural gas to heat ourhomes. And so when heat pumps are installed to replace fossil fuelheat, those Heat pumps are going to increase the electricity demandin the heating season. Exactly how much demand really depends onhow efficient each home is at retaining heat and the backup heatoption. people happen to choose gas versus electric for example, ifeveryone went with electric backup heat, and we had a long,extremely cold spell a lot more peak load would be added to thesystem over that extreme cold period if everyone had electricbackup heat. And so you know from a utility perspective, I thinkthe approach we are taking here at hydro Ottawa is to investigateand model the implications of all types of beneficialelectrification on the electricity system. So heat pumps andelectric vehicles, for example, for different degrees of adoptionso that we have a better understanding of the implications on gridinfrastructure planning and the overall utilization of our grid.There are many factors that are going to determine what HydroOttawa will need to do to ensure its distribution system continuesto be able to enable heat pumps for customers, such asunderstanding how customers use them, you know, planning our systemto incorporate them and integrating other technologies likedistributed energy resources and other non wire alternatives assolutions to any grid challenges.

Dan Seguin 46:10

What's the concern about heat pumps increasing demandduring peak times? Are utilities preparing for this?

Shawn Carr 46:21

Yeah, so today's grid infrastructure planning islargely determined based on peak demand, you know, which currentlyoccurs in the hottest periods of the summer months in mostlocations. That said, a heat pump draws a similar load to an airconditioner when it's operating in the cooling mode. So you know,if you were to replace your air conditioner with a heat pump,that's going to have a similar impact with respect to electricityuse during the cooling season, like in the hot summer. On thecooling side, though, as I mentioned earlier, we're also seeingdemand for air conditioning rise with more heat emergencies andextreme heat events due to climate change. So that's going toincrease demand as people start installing air conditioning, orheat pumps where mechanical cooling didn't exist before in thosehomes. On the heating side, however, electrifying more of our heatwith heat pumps might mean we could be moving towards more winterpeaks in the future, as opposed to, you know, summer being a summerpeaking province here in Ontario like we are today. The bigquestion is, how much electrification? How quick. And what's itgoing to cost at this scale and marginal grid expansion ispredictable. But when you're talking at the macro level, it's muchmore difficult, which is why we are planning for these differentscenarios.

Dan Seguin 47:59

Now, Shawn, is it fair to say that heat pumps cancontribute significantly to the electrification movement andCanada's net zero by 2050 goals?

Shawn Carr 48:12

If so, how? Dan without question, electrifying ourheating and cooling systems with heat pumps, as I said earlier, arethe most impactful way to reduce emissions in our homes space andwater heating represents about 85% of residential GHG emissions. Aheat pump for space heating alone can reduce your emissions byabout 65%. And if you add a water heater in your home, you mightthen be 85% of the way there. So if we want to drive deeperemissions cuts as a country, a widespread switch to heat pumpscould make a big difference. If uptake accelerates fast enough,this is going to require a team effort. We need stakeholdersworking together, not getting in the way, you know, governments,utilities, educational institutions, the workforce supply chains,manufacturers, contractors, we all need to work together to ensurethat heat pumps are readily available, accessible and affordablefor all Canadian households so that this becomes the defaultheating and cooling technology of choice in new and existing homes.So why not be proactive? Think ahead, take advantage of availableincentives and consider upgrading to a GHG friendly heatingtechnology.

Dan Seguin 49:40

Okay, now, Shawn, we always end our interviews withsome rapid fire questions. Sir. Are you ready?

Shawn Carr 49:51

I'm ready, Dan.

Dan Seguin 49:52

Shawn, what are you reading right now?

Shawn Carr 49:56

I'm actually not reading a novel right now. I'm justlistening to a lot of Podcasts on the energy transition Dan.

Dan Seguin 50:03

Now, what would you name your boat? If you had one?Maybe you do. Maybe you don't.

Shawn Carr 50:08

I would name my electric boat, One Planet, because weonly got one planet. But sometimes we forget about that.

Dan Seguin 50:16

What is the closest thing to real magic that you'vewitnessed?

Shawn Carr 50:21

Well, geez, I mean it since Heat pumps are top of mindright now, I would say that this technology is pretty magical.

Dan Seguin 50:28

Okay, let's move on here. What has been the biggestchallenge to you personally, since the pandemic began?

Shawn Carr 50:36

Wow, I probably would just say the social isolation weall had to experience and you know, just seeing the impact thatthat had on my two teenagers who were going through high schoolduring the pandemic, which is such an important time in theirdevelopment. I think that was something that was tough on them andtough on me as a parent.

Dan Seguin 51:00

Okay, a little fun here. We've all been watching alittle more Netflix and TV lately. What's your favorite movie orshow?

Shawn Carr 51:10

There's been so many good TV shows lately, you know,YellowStone, House of Dragons, the Bear, White Lotus. And YourHonor, we're all great. But if I had to pick one show as the bestof all time for me, it would be Seinfeld.

Dan Seguin 51:26

Lastly, Shawn, what is exciting you about our industryright now?

Shawn Carr 51:32

Well, I'd have to say it's the energy transition andeverything that is happening to electrify our economy. It'scomplex, challenging, and a very exciting time to be at a utility.But this is really important that we get this right.

Dan Seguin 51:48

Well, Shawn, this is it. We've reached the end ofanother episode of The think energy podcast. Thank you so much forjoining me today. Now if our listeners want to learn more aboutyou, how can they connect? Well, the best way to get me is probablyby email


Again, thank you so much for joining me today. Hopeyou had a lot of fun. I did, Dan. Thanks for having me on the show.Thanks for tuning in for another episode of The Think Energypodcast. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review whereveryou're listening. And to find out more about today's guests orprevious episodes, visit I hope you willjoin us again next time as we spark even more conversations aboutthe energy of tomorrow.


ThinkEnergy: How heat pumps can reduce carbon emissions? ›

A heat pump for space heating alone can reduce your emissions by about 65%. And if you add a water heater in your home, you might then be 85% of the way there. So if we want to drive deeper emissions cuts as a country, a widespread switch to heat pumps could make a big difference.

Do heat pumps reduce carbon emissions? ›

Switching to heat pumps cuts emissions of greenhouse gases and helps improve air quality. Accelerated deployment of heat pumps, in line with national climate targets, can reduce global CO2 emissions by half a gigatonne already by 2030.

How much CO2 is saved with a heat pump? ›

Globally, heat pumps could reduce CO2 emissions by 500 million tonnes by 2030 as they replace gas, oil and coal, according to new analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA). In Europe alone they could cut the need for gas imports by 21 billion cubic metres – roughly 15% of the block's intake of Russian gas.

How can carbon emissions be reduced? ›

Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by making power on-site with renewables and other climate-friendly energy resources. Examples include rooftop solar panels, solar water heating, small-scale wind generation, fuel cells powered by natural gas or renewable hydrogen, and geothermal energy.

How are heat pumps better for the environment? ›

Since heat pumps run on electricity, they have less of an impact on our environment, creating fewer harmful emissions compared to natural gas systems. An analysis found that widespread adoption of heat pumps in Mississauga by 2050 could reduce city-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 25 per cent.

Is a heat pump low carbon producer? ›

efficiency - an air source heat pump can be over 300% more efficient than a standard gas boiler and this could save you money on your heating bills(1) lower your carbon footprint.

Are heat pumps good for climate change? ›

As we've shown in this report, heat pumps are a rare climate solution: not only can they cut 142 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and create 6.6 million jobs, but they can also save American homeowners an average of $557 on their utility bill.

Are heat pumps efficient and eco friendly? ›

Switching to a heat pump can be an energy-efficient alternative to fossil-fuel furnaces and water heaters that use natural gas and heating oil, which emit CO2 directly. Heat pumps also are more efficient than electric resistance heat.

Are heat pumps really 300% efficient? ›

Energy efficiency

Under ideal conditions, a heat pump can transfer 300 percent more energy than it consumes. In contrast, a high-efficiency gas furnace is about 95 percent efficient.

What's so good about heat pumps? ›

Heat pumps are significantly more efficient than traditional boilers and use cleaner electricity, so will reduce your home's carbon footprint. A heat pump takes heat at a low temperature from the air or ground, increases that heat to a higher temperature and transfers it into your home to provide heating and hot water.

Why are heat pumps so effective? ›

During the heating season, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into your warm house. During the cooling season, heat pumps move heat from your house into the outdoors. Because they transfer heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can efficiently provide comfortable temperatures for your home.

How are heat pumps more than 100% efficient? ›

By contrast, heat pumps seemingly undertake the impossible: you get more heating out than the energy you put in. This is possible because we are using energy to move heat – rather than converting the energy directly to heat. As a result the apparent efficiency in terms of heat output is greater than 100%.

How can we reduce carbon emissions from global warming? ›

Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions. The most effective way to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Many strategies for reducing CO2 emissions from energy are cross-cutting and apply to homes, businesses, industry, and transportation.

What saves the most carbon? ›

10 ways to reduce your carbon footprint and save money
  1. Make your home more energy efficient. ...
  2. Use less energy. ...
  3. Switch energy provider. ...
  4. Be selective about your shopping. ...
  5. Make changes to your diet. ...
  6. Reduce food waste. ...
  7. Drive less. ...
  8. Holiday closer to home.

Is a heat pump zero carbon? ›

Heat pumps use less fossil fuel than most other systems, so are a more sustainable, low carbon source of heating. They work by absorbing heat from a source and transferring it to a fluid, which is compressed to increase the temperature further.

What is the major disadvantage of a heat pump system? ›

Air source heat pumps can experience issues such as icing in cold temperatures, which can ultimately damage the system. Although modern heat pumps do often have automatic defrosting. Their efficiency will also be lower at very cold temperatures, and use more electricity during those cold days.

Is there an alternative to a heat pump? ›

Solar thermal panels

This alternative heating system is the least efficient, running at between 70% – 90% efficient. But it is still a popular option. The cost of a solar thermal panel system is also covered in the long-term by the RHI, so upfront costs of installation can be countered by the payback scheme over time.

Why don t more people use heat pumps? ›

This is mainly because they have been the traditional heating system of choice for decades. They are what homeowners and installers are used to, aware of, and most comfortable with. Gas furnaces are also typically the cheapest heating system option, both in terms of installation and monthly energy bills.

Is a heat pump better than natural gas? ›

Overall, heat pumps are up to 3x more efficient than traditional heating, like gas furnaces, so they do use less energy to produce the same amount of heat (7). This can cut down on your home's energy waste—big time. Get a heat pump at no upfront cost if your house qualifies.

Is a heat pump better than a furnace? ›

Heat pumps are generally more efficient than gas furnaces, but their efficiency may be affected by colder temperatures. The cost to completely replace a central heating system should also be taken into consideration when deciding whether to switch to a heat pump.

What is the most eco friendly heat pump? ›

Ground-Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps

These systems rely on the relatively constant temperature of the earth as an exchange medium. They're highly efficient for heating and cooling, offering a 25 to 50 percent cost savings over conventional fossil fuel systems.

Is heat pump a green technology? ›

Not all heat pumps are equally environmental friendly

So, heat pumps are a more sustainable solution than a fossil fuel burner, but just how sustainable the heat pump is, varies with the technology involved.

Are heat pumps considered green energy? ›

A geothermal heat pump is a clean, renewable technology that helps a home or building stay comfortable in any season. It harnesses the constant temperature below the earth's surface to provide heating, cooling, and often hot water.

At what temperature is a heat pump no longer efficient? ›

Heat pumps do not operate as efficiently when temperatures drop to between 25 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit for most systems. A heat pump works best when the temperature is above 40. Once outdoor temperatures drop to 40 degrees, heat pumps start losing efficiency, and they consume more energy to do their jobs.

Will heat pump work below freezing? ›

Heat pump technology is efficient, cost effective and environmentally sound, but can a heat pump system perform reliably at sub-freezing temperatures? Yes — contrary to popular misconception, heat pumps are a practical option in cold climates.

What percent of US homes use heat pumps? ›

Eighteen percent of homes also used a secondary type of heating equipment. In general, the share of new homes using an air or ground source heat pump as the primary means of providing heat has increased, going from 23 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2021.

What are 3 things that help reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere? ›

Ways to Reduce Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere
  • Coastal Blue Carbon.
  • Planting Trees.
  • Forest Management.
  • Agricultural Practices.
  • Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)
Nov 12, 2018

What are the 5 R's to reduce carbon footprint? ›

1. reducing carbon emissions by learning the 5 R's: refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, recycle: Going zero waste is a great step toward combating climate change and reducing carbon emissions. Practicing the 5 R's of zero waste can help.

Is it worth putting a heat pump? ›

You'll save at least four tonnes of CO2 per year if you currently have an oil boiler, and even if you use electric storage heaters, getting a heat pump will save you more than two tonnes.

What is the pros and cons heat pump system? ›

Pros and cons of air source heat pumps
Pros of ASHPsCons of ASHPs
High efficiencyHigher upfront cost than heating/cooling alternatives
May save you money overall on energy billsIncreased electric bills
Health and wellness benefitsSusceptible to power outages
Heating and cooling system all-in-one
1 more row
Jun 22, 2022

Are heat pumps worth it or just? ›

Advantages of heat Pumps

A heat pump uses electricity to compress and heat the energy, but since it creates more energy than it uses, that's a big tick in the energy-efficient column. These systems can also run on green energy, which makes them even better! They are cheaper to run.

Do heat pumps use a lot of electricity? ›

One of the most popular questions we hear is, “do heat pumps use a lot of electricity?” We are delighted to answer that they do not. Compared to more traditional methods of heating, ductless heat pumps are much more energy-efficient, which means they have less impact on your utility bills.

Why are heat pumps cheaper than gas? ›

This is because they're much more efficient in their use of electricity than boilers are in their use of gas or oil. Additionally, heat pumps don't produce as many CO2 emissions as gas boilers do.

How much can a heat pump save you? ›

Over the course of an average year, heat pumps save our clients about 20-40% on their annual heating and cooling bills—though local utility rates impact savings. Heat pumps can also save money through reduced maintenance expenses and by completely eliminating fees for services such as oil delivery.

Is A heat pump Eco Friendly? ›

Switching to a heat pump can be an energy-efficient alternative to fossil-fuel furnaces and water heaters that use natural gas and heating oil, which emit CO2 directly. Heat pumps also are more efficient than electric resistance heat.

Do heat pumps harm the environment? ›

Refrigerant Leaks

All heat pumps and air conditioning units contain some form of refrigerant. It works better than water or other liquids for heat exchange, but the refrigerant itself can have an environmental impact if released into the atmosphere.

What is the most eco-friendly heat pump? ›

Ground-Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps

These systems rely on the relatively constant temperature of the earth as an exchange medium. They're highly efficient for heating and cooling, offering a 25 to 50 percent cost savings over conventional fossil fuel systems.

Are heat pumps clean energy? ›

A geothermal heat pump is a clean, renewable technology that helps a home or building stay comfortable in any season. It harnesses the constant temperature below the earth's surface to provide heating, cooling, and often hot water.

What is the major problem of heat pump? ›

Leaking refrigerant is one of the most common causes of heat pump problems. Your heat pump uses this liquid chemical to cool and heat air. As your heat pump's refrigerant supply slowly dwindles, it will struggle to meet the setting on your thermostat, causing it to run longer.

Why don't people use heat pumps? ›

Heat pumps loose their effectiveness (not to be confused with their efficiency) the colder it gets outside forcing you to either use the electric heat or stay cold. Systems that are designed poorly so the ductwork is too small resulting in a lot of air noise and drafts that is not as warm.

Why don t contractors like heat pumps? ›

Some contractors have an issue with heat pumps because heat pumps are not as forgiving as gas furnaces. It takes more effort to install a heat pump properly, as they don't have loads of extra capacity. I believe this is another big reason why contractors and talk consumers out of heat pumps.

At what temperature is a heat pump useless? ›

Heat pumps do not operate as efficiently when temperatures drop to between 25 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit for most systems. A heat pump works best when the temperature is above 40. Once outdoor temperatures drop to 40 degrees, heat pumps start losing efficiency, and they consume more energy to do their jobs.

Are heat pumps carbon based? ›

Taking heat from the air or ground in a constant cycle is sustainable and renewable, with low or no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – so heat pumps are both environmentally friendly and a great heating alternative to help us reach our goal of reaching net zero by 2050.

Who should not get a heat pump? ›

They don't work well in poorly insulated homes

Homes need to be well insulated for heat pumps to be effective because the devices work at lower temperatures and so will struggle to get the house warm and keep it to temperature. They work better with lower-temperature heating systems, such as underfloor heating.

What is the pros and cons of a heat pump? ›

Before you choose a heat pump over a traditional furnace and air conditioner, consider the pros and cons.
  • Heat Pump Pros.
  • Enhanced comfort. ...
  • Lower heating costs. ...
  • Cooling functionality. ...
  • Heat Pump Cons.
  • Diminished efficiency in low temperatures. ...
  • Noise.

What is the life expectancy of a heat pump system? ›

Heat pumps normally last an average of 15 years, though some can wear out after a decade. Some of the newer units being manufactured today can last a bit longer. The factor most important in determining the lifespan of your heat pump is maintenance.


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