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Some Canadians switched to heat pumps, others regretted the choice. Here’s what they told us

By Dorcas Marfo

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    TORONTO (CTV Network) — In light of colder temperatures and recent debates over government-imposed pollution pricing, Canadians’ choices on how to stay warm and heat their homes have come to the forefront. Many Canadians say they’ve turned to heat pumps, a system billed as being greener than traditional heating that, on average, operates three times more efficiently than electric resistance or electric boiler heating, according to Efficiency Canada, an energy and policy tracker with Carleton University’s Sustainable Energy Research Centre. Canadians reached out to to explain the challenges they are facing since switching to heat pumps, why they’ve made the switch, and factors they are considering before they do. The emailed responses have not all been independently verified. Paul Jenkins of Bancroft, Ont., said the primary reason he recently installed a heat pump was to reduce his carbon footprint, he wrote in an email to “While we are located in central Ontario (Bancroft) our winter temperatures mimic those of areas much further north. I have read many of the negative sentiments from some politicians who don’t believe they will work in cold climates – I disagree,” Jenkins wrote. Kate Rhodes of London, Ont., also echoed comments of having no issues with heating or cooling. “We owned a rental property for several years that had baseboard heat – we switched it over to ductless heat pumps more than 10 years ago and had no problem keeping it warm in the winters, and reduced our electric bill by over half,” Rhodes wrote. Rhodes cited that the monthly costs to run all electric heat pumps were the same price as hydro and natural gas, in her experience. While others like Tish Jonsson of Winnipeg, Man., said that despite making the switch at her cabin and putting two heat pumps it was “useless for heat in the prairies and northern Canada.”. “Went to the cabin on a Friday evening. Overnight low was -20 C. everything was fine. Next night, it went to -30 …. woke up freezing. The units were off and had to turn on back up baseboards and ceramic heaters. After hours of troubleshooting. Found out that the units don’t work past -25 and a few are rated -30,” Jonsson wrote. Steve Huffman of Courtenay, B.C. said he’s had a heat pump since 2009 and although it works great in the summer with central air conditioning, said winter’s temperatures prove to be a challenge. “As winter approached and temps dropped to a range of 5 C to -5 C or colder on occasion the heat pump’s efficiency dropped exponentially with it. For each degree the temps dropped below 5 C the (heat pump) ran longer and longer to try and keep the selected 20 C on the thermostat,” Huffman wrote, and added that it took a strain on the heat pump compressor. Huffman said with heat pumps it’s important to factor in a home’s insulation and the max amperage of a home’s electrical service. Some readers, meanwhile, reached out about struggles with rebate programs meant to make purchasing heat pumps easier. Colleen Fisher of Deep Cove, B.C., said she made the switch to a heat pump earlier this year but didn’t anticipate a pre-inspection was required in order to qualify for a $5,000 rebate—which was one of her reasons for switching, among environmental and comfort factors, she said in her email. “They refused to provide me with the rebate. The total cost of my heat pump installation was $27K, so I was really counting on receiving the $5K rebate,” Fisher wrote. John Murrell of P.E.I said in his province’s government has a free heat pump program, but he ran into issues with the system. “Once the weather turned cold below -10 C, the unit failed to produce heat, and went into frost mode. We ended up with all the plumbing in the house frozen solid and even the toilet. Then we had to get electric heaters as back up and the January electric bill was $850,” he said. “So now we have had to buy another heat source, and turn off the heat pump when the cold sets in. So, trying to be green and save money has cost $3,000 of borrowing for a biomass stove.” Meanwhile, some Canadians say they are currently considering making the switch. John Labrosse of Ottawa said a home energy audit is in his and his wife’s plans to see how well their home does and to potentially take advantage of grants. “We currently heat with a forced air propane furnace, which is getting very expensive due to skyrocketing cost of propane. We also find the idea of an environmentally friendly system very attractive. We currently have solar panels to help with our hydro use-costs,” wrote Labrosse in an email to Living in a small bungalow in a small town with no natural gas, Rachel Corbett of Marmora, Ont., said she is “100 per cent in favour” of making the switch from propane furnace to a heat pump. “We have obtained one quote – about $18k which struck me as high! – but we cannot swing that without some financial help so we are definitely hoping some subsidies might become available soon,” she said in the email to A heat pump is defined as an electric device that extracts heat from a low temperature space and delivers it to a high temperature space. reports that a modern heat pump can reduce the amount of energy used by 50 per cent, particularly with electric baseboard heating. According to the government of Canada, “the higher efficiency of the heat pump can translate into significant energy use reductions,” but actual savings could depend on a number of factors, including, local climate, the efficiency of your current heating system and the size of the heat pump. With files from Mitchell Consky

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