One of the regrets of my recent house build was not looking into the heating system a bit closer.  When I was evaluating the heating options pre-build, the options were basically electric heat, oil furnace, or the more efficient heat pump systems.  I went with electric as it was the easiest (and cheapest) at the time as it’s the option that most new houses go with around here.

Even though the house is fairly new, I’m already thinking about what my next build would include!  This is a common problem with people who have built; they never want to stop building because there are always improvements to be made.  With that, I’m convinced that my next house will include a heat pump type heating/cooling system.

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a heating/cooling system for a home that works very similarly to your refrigerator.  When it’s cold outside, it can efficiently extract the warmth out of the air, amplify it by compressing the refrigerant, and releasing the heat it into the home with a forced air system.  What’s neat about a heat pump is that it can work in reverse and provide air conditioning inside the home during the warmer summer periods.

The Numbers

The cost to install a heat pump initially can be quite expensive.  You need the heat pump, the forced air furnace, the duct work and heat control throughout the home.  From phoning around local stores, the equipment and installation adds up to be around $6,500 – $10,000 depending on the size of your house.

Air source heat pumps (as opposed to ground source/geothermal) is, according to a government of Canada publication,  known to have 50% greater efficiency than traditional electric heat sources.  In other words, if it costs you $2,000 / year in electric heating costs, a heat pump will incur approximately $1,000/year in energy costs.   In this case, the heat pump will pay for itself in 6-10 years.  If you look at the government of Canada link above, that table includes the pay off period for different regions within the country.

Advantages

  • Environmentally friendly where it reduces household carbon footprint.
  • Reduces monthly heating costs.
  • The ability to be a source for heat and air conditioning all in one unit.

Disadvantages

  • Upfront expense.
  • If the outside temperature gets too hot/cold, the heat pump becomes less efficient.
  • In places with an abundance of snow (like Newfoundland), the heat pump must be kept clear of snow.

Final Thoughts

If we do decide to build again, I think that we will take the hit upfront and use the heat pump system.  I like the fact that it’s environmentally friendly, there’s a significant monthly cost savings, and it has the ability to have air conditioning for those muggy nights.  In addition to those immediate benefits, the heat pump will pay for itself over the years.

Do you have a heat pump installed in your house?  If so, am I missing anything?

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