Catherine Gibson hopes she and her husband can grow old in their south Regina home.
That’s one of the main reasons you installed an air source heat pump last summer.
“I had been hearing… about heat pumps and how they were the thing of the future,” Gibson said. “We had an old furnace and an even older air conditioner, so it seemed like a no-brainer.”
Gibson uses the electric heat pump, along with a natural gas furnace he purchased in 2022, to heat his home in the colder months. He also cools his house, like an air conditioner, in summer.
A heat pump cools a home by absorbing heat from inside and releasing it outside, but it reverses that process in winter: it extracts heat from outside air, even when the temperature is well below freezing, and transfers it inside.
Gibson says he has noticed a drop in his electricity and gas bills with the new gas boiler, and is hopeful they will continue to drop now that his pump is carrying some of his heating load.
Simon Landsman, salesman at Regina Plumbing and Heating, has also noticed the increasing popularity of pumps. He estimates that he has sold about two dozen so far this year.
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“Many people want to be more ecological [and get] a little more savings on your energy bills,” he said. “It’s just clean energy.”
Landsman believes their popularity will only increase, especially since the outdoor units are smaller than an air conditioner.
Pumps can work in prairie winters, experts say
In a statement to CBC, the Saskatchewan government says it will not offer rebates through SaskPower and SaskEnergy for heat pumps because they “simply do not function as a primary source of heat in the climate of the Prairie Provinces.”
The Government of Canada, which offers up to $5,000 in rebates for installing pumps and now up to $15,000 for those changing heating oil – notes about your heat pump website Newer models can provide heating at temperatures as low as –15 C to –25 C.
“Below this temperature, a supplemental system must be used to provide heating to the building,” he says.
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But Sarah Riddell, a clean heating policy researcher at Efficiency Canada, says laboratory and real world Studies have found that newer models of cold climate heat pumps can heat down to around -30 C due to improvements in technology. Even if the temperature drops further, its backup resistance will activate.
“You would still have a completely warm home that can heat up to any temperature you might see in Canada,” Riddell said.
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There will be no immediate strain on power grids from the heat pumps, he said, because about 40 percent of households Electric baseboard heating is already used in Canada, and boilers and heat pumps will not be installed all at once.
Martin Luymes, vice president of the Institute of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, agrees that heat pumps are an effective substitute for any other heating source.
“To suggest that we cannot heat a house without natural gas or oil is false,” Luymes said. “In reality, every household in the country should at least consider purchasing a heat pump.”
Greenhouse emissions would increase in some cases: study
But in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Luymes said heat pumps may be a “less attractive” option, in part because electricity in both provinces is generated from fossil fuels.
A 2022 Canada Natural Resources Study (using data from 2020) found that greenhouse gas emissions would actually increase if a two-story home built after 1980 in cities like Regina, Calgary and Edmonton switched from natural gas heating to an air heat pump to Cold weather.
Despite this, Riddell points out a 2022 report from the International Energy Agency showing that heat pumps still reduce emissions by at least 20 percent worldwide compared to gas and up to 80 percent in countries with cleaner electricity.
The Natural Resources report noted that it is possible to reduce greenhouse gases if Prairie homes switched to heat pumps from other heat sources, electric (a reduction of up to 11.2 tons per home per year) and oil (from 2 .7 to 12.2 tons per year).
The report also notes annual savings of more than $3,000 on energy bills by switching from oil to a heat pump in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Cost was a priority for Jake Dingman, who lives on a tract of land near Saltcoats, Sask.
This fall it made the switch from oil heating to a ground-source (or geothermal) heat pump, which uses the sun’s heat stored in layers of the earth near the surface to heat a home.
He paid almost $4,000 a year to heat himself with oil.
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“I looked at natural gas, but it’s about four miles to get it in here, which would cost over $100,000,” Dingman said. “I just decided to go with geothermal because I thought at least the price would be fixed once I had it.”
After paying $45,000 to have the pump installed (with the help of a federal government loan), he estimates it will cost him between $100 and $200 a month on his electric bill.
Savings with a heat pump compared to a natural gas boiler are not high in the Prairies, as a unit of energy for gas is cheaper compared to electricity, according to the Natural Resources report.
“In western Quebec, the estimated operating costs of heat pumps and gas boilers are approximately the same,” the report says.
A cold-weather heat pump would save homeowners in most regions between $50 and $150 a year compared to gas heating, he says.
TO Report from the Canadian Climate Institute A study published earlier this year found that a gas-backed heat pump was about $100 cheaper per year than gas heating alone for detached homes and townhomes in Edmonton built around 1980.
Gas was still the cheapest heating option for a 20-unit building built around the same time.
The same report found that initial costs for air source heat pumps nationwide range from $5,000 to $19,000, while an air conditioning unit costs about $5,000.
The cost of a natural gas boiler ranges between $4,000 and $6,500, according to a survey of customers in oven prices.ca.