Small Home Upgrade that can Save Big Money on Heating and Cooling-

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Heat pumps are an alternative to air conditioners and furnaces. Here’s all you need to know about how they function and how much money they can save you.

  • Heat pumps can assist you in reducing your carbon footprint.

Heat pumps, a form of heating and cooling system that can help you save money while simultaneously decreasing your environmental imprint in the face of the climate crisis, may be of interest to homeowners seeking for an energy-efficient alternative to traditional furnaces and air conditioners.

How do heat pumps work?

Heat pumps are a proven technology that have been used for decades, both in Canada and globally, to efficiently provide heating, cooling, and in some cases, hot water to buildings. In fact, it is likely that you interact with heat pump technology on a daily basis: refrigerators and air conditioners operate using the same principles and technology.

A heat pump is a type of home heating and cooling system that regulates temperature using water and air. It’s similar to an air conditioner, except it also has a heating system built in. Heat pumps are put on the exterior of your house.

A heat pump converts cold air into hot air in the winter and hot air into cold air in the summer using electricity and refrigerant. It accomplishes this by dispersing heat in the air or ground and heating or cooling it as needed with refrigerant.

The standard heat pump has several parts:

  • Outdoor unit: Equipped with a coil that powers evaporation in heating mode and condensation in cooling mode.
  • Indoor unit: Includes both a coil and fan to circulate air throughout your home.
  • Refrigerant: A type of fluid needed to absorb and release heat as necessary to keep the system running.
  • Compressor: A pressurizing agent to prepare the refrigerant for use.
  • Reversing valve: Controls the direction of the refrigerant in your system, allowing you to switch between heating and cooling modes.
  • Expansion valve: Controls the movement of refrigerant in the heat pump.

When compared to electric resistance heating systems such as furnaces and baseboard heaters, a heat pump is a long-term investment that can save you up to 50% on electric costs.

Air-Source Heat Pumps

Air-source heat pumps use the outdoor air as a source of thermal energy in heating mode, and as a sink to reject energy when in cooling mode. These types of systems can generally be classified into two categories:

Air-Air Heat Pumps. These units heat or cool the air inside your home, and represent the vast majority of air-source heat pump integrations in Canada. They can be further classified according to the type of installation:

  • Ducted: The indoor coil of the heat pump is located in a duct. Air is heated or cooled by passing over the coil, before being distributed via the ductwork to different locations in the home.
  • Ductless: The indoor coil of the heat pump is located in an indoor unit. These indoor units are generally located on the floor or wall of an occupied space, and heat or cool the air in that space directly. Among these units, you may see the terms mini- and multi-split:
    • Mini-Split: A single indoor unit is located inside the home, served by a single outdoor unit.
    • Multi-Split: Multiple indoor units are located in the home, and are served by a single outdoor unit.

Air-air systems are more efficient when the temperature difference between inside and outside is smaller. Because of this, air-air heat pumps generally try to optimize their efficiency by providing a higher volume of warm air, and heating that air to a lower temperature (normally between 25 and 45°C). This contrasts with furnace systems, which deliver a smaller volume of air, but heat that air to higher temperatures (between 55°C and 60°C). If you are switching to a heat pump from a furnace, you may notice this when you begin using your new heat pump.

Major Benefits of Air-Source Heat Pumps

Installing an air-source heat pump can offer you a number of benefits. This section explores how air-source heat pumps can benefit your household energy footprint.


The major benefit of using an air-source heat pump is the high efficiency it can provide in heating compared to typical systems like furnaces, boilers and electric baseboards. At 8°C, the coefficient of performance (COP) of air-source heat pumps typically ranges from between 2.0 and 5.4. This means that, for units with a COP of 5, 5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of heat are transferred for every kWh of electricity supplied to the heat pump. As the outdoor air temperature drops, COPs are lower, as the heat pump must work across a greater temperature difference between the indoor and outdoor space. At –8°C, COPs can range from 1.1 to 3.7.

On a seasonal basis, the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) of market available units can vary from 7.1 to 13.2 (Region V). It is important to note that these HSPF estimates are for an area with a climate similar to Ottawa. Actual savings are highly dependant on the location of your heat pump installation.

Energy Savings

The higher efficiency of the heat pump can translate into significant energy use reductions. Actual savings in your house will depend on a number of factors, including your local climate, efficiency of your current system, size and type of heat pump, and the control strategy. Many online calculators are available to provide a quick estimation of how much energy savings you can expect for your particular application. NRCan’s ASHP-Eval tool is freely available and could be used by installers and mechanical designers to help advise on your situation.

How to maintain a heat pump

Heat pumps, despite their energy efficiency, nonetheless require maintenance to ensure effective operation. Here are some simple strategies to keep your heat pump in good working order for a long time:

  •  Clean filters on a regular basis and replace them as needed.
  •  Clean outdoor coils on a regular basis.
  •  Follow your manufacturer’s directions for basic maintenance.
  •  Clearing the area around your system so it can operate effectively.
  •  If necessary, turn off the fan to clean.

Able air offers regular maintenance packages to assist with your heat pump.

Final takeaways

As the world continues to witness the growing effects of climate change, it has brought renewed attention to the reduction of harmful emissions. Heat pumps are one technique to eliminate harmful fossil fuels while simultaneously saving money on energy. Today’s improved technology allows households in more harsh climes to benefit from the cost savings and environmental benefits that heat pumps provide. It’s only a matter of deciding which is best for you.

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