vancouver home heat pump

Things to think about before buying a heat pump


As the climate crisis continues, in southwestern BC we’re seeing hotter summers, wetter winters, and more extreme, unpredictable weather conditions. For homeowners, cutting carbon emissions, alongside improving the resilience of their homes to extreme weather, has become increasingly important.

In BC, more than half of the energy used in a typical home comes from space heating and cooling. The majority of heating systems in these homes are powered by natural gas or oil and are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in our province, contributing to the climate impacts mentioned above. Using more energy-efficient and low-carbon heating can help homes reduce their carbon footprint, conserve energy, and may also reduce energy bills.

One of the most effective ways to reduce your home’s emissions, and safeguard your home against extreme weather events, is to install an electric heat pump. Let’s explore some benefits and considerations of installing a heat pump in Vancouver.

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump is a heating and cooling system that can be installed on the outside of your home. It works by transferring heat from one place to another, using an internal refrigerant. In the winter, your heat pump will take heat from the outdoors and move it inside. Yes, even on a cold winter day there is still heat in the air that can be transferred. In the summer, it removes heat from your home and transfers it to the outdoors.

Heat pumps don’t generate heat, they just move hot and cold air around. This makes them much more efficient than other heating and cooling systems like furnaces or air conditioners. They are also “set and forget” systems, so you won’t need to adjust the temperature day-to-day.

Why use a heat pump?

Heat pumps handle heating and cooling in one system, saving you the hassle of buying separate appliances. They deliver three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy they consume and can cut your electricity use by 50%, depending on the heating system the heat pump is replacing.

If you live in BC, choosing an electric heat pump means it will be powered by hydroelectricity, making it a much more environmentally friendly option than heating systems that use natural gas or oil. There are many rebates available for homes that switch to heat pumps, both at the federal and provincial levels.

Access rebates for home energy renovations:

What to know before buying a heat pump

While buying a heat pump may seem like a quick energy fix, there are often smaller, more cost-effective things you can do before replacing your heating system in order to improve your home’s energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint. Check out our blog on home retrofits to learn more.

Types of heat pumps

Heat pumps come in a variety of types, sizes, and systems. Houses with built-in ducting can use central ducted heat pumps that heat and cool air through ductwork that is connected to vents in each room. Homes without pre-existing ducting, or those that want to remove or stop the use of ducting, can use mini-split heat pumps.

If you live in a place with long, cold winters, you may want to look for a cold climate heat pump. Cold climate heat pumps are built to work efficiently in conditions down to -25 degrees Celsius. They can also be used in heritage homes or homes that are less efficient in cold weather.

Air-to-water heat pumps are a great option for homeowners who want the comfort of radiant heating without increasing their carbon footprint. They are also a good choice for homeowners who are retrofitting an electric or gas-dependent home.

Finding the right contractor

Finding the right contractor to install your heat pump is just as important as finding the right heat pump. Heat pump installations can be complex, so it’s important to find a contractor who is qualified and has experience. You’ll also need to use a contractor to access many of the home retrofitting rebates.

You can find a list of registered contractors on the Clean BC website. Once you’ve found a few contractors in your area, be sure to read reviews and get referrals from friends or family before making your decision.

Quiet heat pumps

A common complaint about heat pumps is that they are noisy. But the truth is, not all heat pumps are created equal. There are plenty of quiet heat pumps on the market, just like there are quiet dishwashers and washing machines–it’s just a matter of knowing what to look for.

When you’re shopping for a heat pump, be sure to ask your contractor about the decibel rating. A standard heat pump has a decibel rating of about 60, but there are plenty of heat pumps on the market with ratings as low as 50. If you live in a duplex or will be installing your heat pump close to your neighbours, be sure to find and install a quiet model.

Green home, green planet

Looking for ways to shrink your carbon footprint and do your part for the environment? Heat pumps are a great solution. Switching to a heat pump can reduce your household’s greenhouse gas footprint by over 90%!

Thinking about getting a heat pump?? Start by getting free home energy advice from a CityGreen expert when you bank with Vancity. Plus, members get up to $400 in rebates for EnerGuide pre-retrofit and post-retrofit home evaluations.

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