Pumped Up: Are Heat Pumps the Next Step in Alberta’s Green Tech Push?

Pumped Up: Are Heat Pumps the Next Step in Alberta’s Green Tech Push?

Table of Contents

We all know the drill by now – with summers seemingly getting hotter, and winters somehow getting colder, energy costs are a hot-button issue. With average energy prices in Alberta rising by nearly 30%, homeowners who are already feeling the inflationary crunch are seeking out ways to be more budget-conscious with home maintenance.

While your standard baseboard and gas furnace-based heating systems are still the norm in the province, the press around heat pumps has been picking up. With neighbouring British Columbia leading the charge with BC Hydro’s heat pump push, the tech is gaining traction. Coastal First Nations and communities have been the first to adopt heat pumps on a larger scale in the province, and the BC provincial government is leaning heavily into federal rebates and grants. 

But what about Alberta?

There has been a great deal of back-and-forth about the efficacy of heat pumps in the Albertan winters, with detractors saying that the technology becomes significantly less effective below 25°C – although that is a mark that isn’t met consistently or for a sustained period of time, even in the north of the province. 

There’s also the matter of the cost, with most new heat pump installations ranging to between $6,000 – $18,000. The federal government has worked to offset part of this with its ‘Canada Greener Homes Initiative’, which offers grants of up to $5,000 and interest-free loans of up to $40,000 over ten years for new installations. So the incentives are there. But will there be large-scale buy-in?

The efficiency of heat pumps in both summer and winter makes them an attractive option in varied climates, with the technology proving equally as efficient at pumping in cool, moist air in the summer as it is at circulating warm air in the winters. Improvements in heat pump technology is making them more viable in colder climates, though most installers will tell you that a supplementary heating system for the winters – like a gas furnace or electric resistance heating – is still recommended. 

If your current furnace is failing or reaching its end of life, then replacing it with a “hybrid” heating system consisting of a heat pump, supplemental electric heat coil and condensing fossil fuel (natural gas) furnace would be an ideal option. The heat pump should be sized based on the home’s heat demand after all building envelope upgrades have been completed. That way, once the building envelope is fully upgraded, the fossil fuel connection can be terminated and disconnected, and the house heated via the heat pump and furnace fan.

For Alberta’s realtors, it is still a rarity to find a home with a pre-installed heat pump, particularly farther North. Still, questions are invariably raised about the technology as consumers become more familiar with it. The provincial government has been quiet on heat pump tech, with no organized rebates or incentive programs being pushed in the public or private sectors. But don’t be surprised if we see one in the near future, as other provinces and the federal government push for renewable options that lessen carbon footprint. 

Still, with 89% of Alberta’s energy currently produced by fossil fuels, the drive for a renewable alternative to natural gas heating is only going to increase in concert with energy costs. With the press around heat pumps picking up, now might be the time to ask if they’re right for you.

Lightspark can help answer any questions you might have about heat pumps, as well as provide you with information on how they can save on your energy bills through our revolutionary Lightspark Score system.

Why Lightspark →

Share this article with your friends to help them get to NetZero Carbon Emissions! →

Learn About Energy-Efficiency