Are heat pumps worth it in Canada?

Canada is cold, and while it’s colder the more up North you get, very few cities are exempt from below freezing temperatures come the winter months. Canadians are exposed to plenty of stereotypes, such as those myths claiming that we live in igloos or that it’s snow year-round – but that’s not how we stay cozy! In Canada, it’s necessary to have great indoor heating for the winter, and the options here are aplenty. In this article, we break down the benefits of heat pumps and whether they’re worth it up here in the Great White North.

Does a heat pump work in Canadian winter?

In Canada, heat pumps are not considered very popular. Forced-air furnace systems or central heating systems tend to be the go-to, and there's a very good reason for that. However, heat pumps have gained some traction and interest in recent decades. This is because heat pumps are known for their efficiency, plus the fact that they have the ability to both heat and cool. They are also more cost-effective to a certain degree. However, “worth it” is a whole different subject entirely, since something that’s popular isn’t always necessarily the best option.

Heat pumps, in a nutshell, are systems which use heat that’s in the air and through a series of complicated systems they move it into the house. In contrast to this, a furnace creates heat (it doesn’t pull heat that already exists) and it recirculates that then-heated air through the rest of the house. A heat pump is also efficient at working in reverse, in the hotter months it can pull hot air from inside the house and move it outside of the house, effectively cooling the home.

Where heat pumps tend to become less popular is in the extremely cold weather. After all, if there’s nothing but freezing outside, what kind of warmth can they even bring in? To make a long answer short, yes, heat pumps work in Canada’s winters, but they will work less efficiently the colder it is. 

What is the major disadvantage of a heat pump system?

Heat pumps have been more popular in warmer climates, such as in some areas of the United States, but their popularity has been growing in Canada as well. Partly, this is due to improving technology, making heat pumps more efficient and more capable of withstanding lower temperatures.

Before we get into the disadvantages of heat pump systems, let’s look on the brighter side: heat pumps are highly efficient, because they don’t produce their own heat and instead transfer it from one location to another. They tend to be more efficient than appliances that create their own heat (like gas furnaces) and can even have AFUE ratings of over 95% or higher.  Better efficiently means lower costs.

With that comes a downside, and that’s the cost of electricity. Furnaces use natural gas, where heat pumps use electricity. Yes, that can be more environmentally friendly, and more efficient, but if your area sees significantly higher electricity costs then you may not end up saving a ton of money.

Here’s another disadvantage: heat pumps won’t work if there’s a power outage. That being said, furnaces and boilers won’t work during outages either because many of their components still depend on electricity to function, but if you currently depend on a wood stove or other gas-powered source for heat, then that will continue to produce heat – even if the power has gone out. 

Heat pumps, while they don’t use fossil fuels, are not entirely carbon-neutral since they do use refrigerants, which can have negative environmental impacts. Refrigerant leaks can be problematic, which is why it’s important to schedule maintenance regularly and ASAP if you notice any issues. Dispose of your heat pump properly once it’s reached the end of its life. 

And, finally, the major disadvantage: in colder temperatures, you’ll need either a really special model of heat pump, or a backup system, since heat pumps may not work after -25 Celsius. Your older models may not work past -15 Celsius, or even warmer. There are plenty of areas in Canada where it can get so cold that your run-of-the-mill heat pump won’t be powerful enough and will fail to keep your home comfortable. 

What is the best type of heat pump to buy in Canada?

Truthfully, the best type of heat pump to buy in Canada depends on your personal needs, budget, home, and local climate. As each homeowner is different, it’s hard to say what will work best for you before viewing your home in person. Therefore, if you’re considering a heat pump for your home in Canada, we recommend scheduling a consultation appointment with a home comfort advisor to learn more about the options available to you! 

We’ll help you find the right HVAC system for your unique needs and you can rest assured knowing that we have your back every step of the way! Furthermore, if you want to save money on your new equipment, make sure to ask us about our fantastic discounts and financing options! You’ll also receive a complimentary new system purchase quote from one of our home comfort advisors during your at-home consultation appointment!