HPAC Magazine

Top Story of 2023: New report promotes Canadian shift from Air Conditioners to Heat Pumps

December 21, 2023 | By HPAC Magazine

The Cool Way to Heat Homes: installing heat pumps instead of air conditioners in Canada, was developed by the Building Decarbonization Alliance, Canadian Climate Institute, Efficiency Canada, and Greenhouse Institute.

Installing heat pumps instead of central air conditioners is a rare “win-win” opportunity, states a new report that promotes a rapid transition away from central air conditioning units to heat pumps across Canada.

The report, The Cool Way to Heat Homes: installing heat pumps instead of air conditioners in Canada, was developed by the Building Decarbonization AllianceCanadian Climate InstituteEfficiency Canada, and Greenhouse Institute.

The report notes that nearly 7,000 Canadian households install a central air conditioner every week, and suggests they could have installed a heat pump instead, adding that “for many people this isn’t a conscious choice: many don’t realize there’s an alternative, and a “heat pump” doesn’t sound like something you’d buy to cool your home.”

The lack of awareness was apparent in 2022, as it reports that Canadians bought 36,000 new ducted heat pumps in 2022, but they also bought 10 times as many central air conditioners.

The authors of the report say that swapping air conditioner installations with heat pumps would save Canadians $10.4 billion in energy bills and cut the country’s emissions by 19.6 million tonnes of CO equivalents, producing what they lay out as $12.6 billion in net benefits.

According to the report, improvements in heat pump technology is making the transition more affordable. “Single-speed heat pumps are now only marginally more costly to manufacture than comparable central air conditioners. And more efficient variable- speed and cold-climate units are becoming increasingly affordable, making the transition to clean heating more feasible than ever,” cites the report.

The report explains: “Traditionally heat pump performance declined when temperatures got really cold. But now there are specialized “cold-climate” models that can maintain their full heating capacity down to -15C, and can still operate effectively down to -25C. Cold-climate performance is no longer confined to expensive high-end units either. There are increasing numbers of “mid-range” cold-climate models available whose costs are not far above that of non-cold climate units. When combined with existing rebates, these units can even be cheaper than single-speed alternatives.”

As for impacts across the supply chain, the authors suggest manufacturers can make the switch to heat pumps from air conditioner with little cost difference, distributors can streamline inventory by reducing their AC line-up, and for contractors: “Selling and installing heat pumps is not vastly different from selling and installing central air conditioners. But the change does require additional training, and contractors need to prepare to help consumers navigate incentive programs and use their new HVAC systems. As long as sales of central air conditioners outpace those of comparable heat pumps, contractors have less incentive to commit to selling heat pumps. A market transformation strategy would provide a clear incentive to build familiarity with heat pumps, and certainty that investing in appropriate training and sales processes is worthwhile.”

The report closes with proposals for governments to adopt to expedite the transition to heat pumps. Of note, it suggests that “Canada is facing a deficit of workers in skilled trades, including HVAC installation and repair. Governments can do more to support training more HVAC contractors to ensure households can get heat pumps installed quickly and properly, especially through well-funded vocational education.”

View the entire report: The Cool Way to Heat Homes



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