Air Source Heat Pumps: What are they? Should you get one?

By: Andrew Jackson, Communications Volunteer

There are many options out there when it comes to heating and cooling your home. One viable, easy to install, and low energy consumption option is an air source heat pump (ASHP).

How ASHPs work and operate is pretty simple. They extract the heat from outside. They can do this down to -15 C, and distribute it inside the home. They are also able to do this in reverse allowing them to cool your home by extracting the warm air from inside the house and distributing it outside. Depending on the system being installed an ASHP can also provide water heating capabilities. You can also get a dedicated ASHP water heater like the one at the Reep House for Sustainable Living.

ASHP systems vary greatly in size and ability, and it is important to consider your home’s needs to ensure that you select one that operates properly and efficiently.

If you’re transitioning from an electric furnace to an ASHP, you can expect savings of up to 50%, depending on your local climate, what system you had previously, the fuel used in that system, and your local costs for fuel or electricity. Your habits also play a big role in the efficiency of your ASHP. Until December 31, 2017, a generous rebate is available to help you make this transition.

An ASHP works slower than a conventional furnace, often taking a few hours to heat a home when a conventional furnace may take half an hour. Remembering to close windows and doors, and having good insulation can greatly affect the efficiency of your ASHP system.

Traditionally, ASHPs have been considered inefficient in colder climates, like Waterloo Region. However, the technology has advanced considerably in the past few years, so many of the better models work great for most of the year. They experience setbacks only during a few of the coldest days in winter when temperatures drop below their operational level. As temperatures decrease an ASHP can become damaged due to a buildup of frost in the filters. For this reason it is important to have some form of alternative backup heating system.

Depending on the model, an ASHP will automatically shut down between -8 C and -22 C to reduce wear and tear. It is important to understand how often in your region the temperature will drop below your ASHP’s operational level to understand how often you will require an alternative heat source. Understanding your regional temperature range also greatly influences the type of ASHP you should purchase.

Incentives and rebates are available to help reduce cost of installation can be found through the Home Reno Rebate offered through a partnership of Union Gas, the government of Ontario, and Save On Energy. Depending on the ASHP system being installed rebates of up to $4000 are available to homeowners that heat with electricity.

Learn more about the rebates available through the Home Reno Rebate program.


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