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Do Heat Pumps Work in Canadian Winters?

By now you probably have heard about some of the many benefits heat pumps provide and perhaps you’ve considered them for your own home. They’ve become increasingly popular over the past few years and for good reason. They’re much more energy-efficient than traditional heating and cooling systems and they can also provide long-term cost savings on your monthly bills. However, if you live in colder climates, such as the one here in Canada, you might also be wondering how well they work during winter months. Air source heat pumps work by absorbing heat from the outside air and then transferring that heat indoors to warm your home. Therefore, it makes sense to wonder how much harder they’d have to work when the outside temperature is very cold and if they’d be able to heat your home at all.

In fact, part of the reason why some people still are apprehensive about heat pumps for cold climates is that a few decades ago the units manufactured weren’t nearly as efficient as the ones available today. Unfortunately, for some, that reputation has persisted but it’s no longer true.

The good news is that heat pumps work great in pretty much every environment, including in very cold climates. Heat pumps have been used as far north as the arctic circle and they’ve become extremely popular in countries with cold climates such as Norway as an ultra-sustainable heating source.

Although the basic principles of heat pumps haven’t changed in recent years there have been significant improvements in their individual components and these changes have greatly improved their performance. Some of the components that have been improved include better compressors, improved coil design, ultra-efficient fans, and better motors. Specifically, cold climate heat pumps have been designed and classified to work in temperatures way below freezing. Even better, many of these heat pumps qualify for the generous home energy rebates currently available in Ontario.

How do Heat Pumps Work?

First to understand why heat pumps work well during Canadian winters we first need to understand a bit about how they work.

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Essentially, heat pumps do not produce heat, which would require a lot of energy, especially during colder conditions. Instead, they transfer heat from one place to another. And even in very cold temperatures like the ones we experience during Canadian winters, there is still heat that exists in the air that can be transferred into your home.

That being said, there are certain things you’ll want to consider when choosing a heat pump solution that will work for both hot and cold weather conditions.

What to Consider when Choosing a Heat Pump for Winter

Now that we understand a bit about how a heat pump works well in cold climates there’s some important factors to consider to ensure you have the right system installed in your home.

Choosing the Right Installer

Arguably, the most important factor is making sure you go with a reputable HVAC installer. Every home has its own specific heating and cooling needs to consider and a good installer will help design a solution that’s optimal and gives you the best value for your dollar.

You’ll want to choose someone that has installed a lot of these systems successfully and understands how best to optimize them. Ways to do this include looking at their reviews online, comparing multiple installers, and of course calling them and speaking with them directly.

In addition to providing you with the right technical information, a good installer will also be able to guide you when it comes to other factors, like getting access to financing for the project and helping guide you with home energy rebates.

Feel free to contact us here at Marx Mechanical if you’d like to learn more about heat pumps for your home.

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Choosing the Right System

From ducted heat pumps vs mini splits systems, cold climate heat pumps, hybrid gas and electric heat pumps, there are a lot of differences between models and unit sizes and so on, the options and choices can be confusing.

Many homes have very different designs, duct layouts, insulation, existing fuel source as well as other factors that affect which heat pump you should purchase for your home. There is a solution for almost all configurations. Below we mention a few scenarios to consider.

Ducted Heat Pumps

If you are looking to convert your home from a conventional forced air or propane/natural gas heating system a ducted heat pump system might be the right option for you. A ducted heat pump has an indoor unit or air handler which will replace your furnace and can be retrofitted into your existing ductwork. Common systems include full electric heat pumps or a hybrid fuel source heat pump. You will want to consider a cold climate heat pump in most of these cases to ensure you have efficient operation even in very cold weather.

When converting from a traditional forced air system, you will want to discuss with your contractor if electrical upgrades are required as well as what should be done with the oil and propane tanks, if you no longer require those fuel sources in your home.

Ductless Heat Pumps

Many older homes do not have ductwork and it would be cumbersome and costly to install them, as well as the bulkheads required to accommodate the ductwork. In this scenario ductless heat pumps, also known as ductless splits, are a great option. Ductless units have multiple configurations from single head units to multi heat units allowing for room-level control of both heating and cooling. The indoor heads come in a variety of configurations, including cassette units for seamless integration into the ceiling, traditional wall heads and even ducted cassette units for minimal ductwork in special situations. Cold climate options are also available with ductless systems.

Supplemental Heating

Let’s talk about supplemental heating. Most of the time during winter, a heat pump will provide you with the majority of heating in an ultra-efficient way thus saving you money. However, in extremely cold temperatures, the efficiency of a heat pump will begin to drop and backup heating will be required to maintain your set temperature. Please note, this would not be the case with a hybrid system. Supplemental heating, like an electric auxiliary heating element incorporated within the ducted system or electrical baseboards for ductless, is a fail-safe measure to ensure you have heat during all weather conditions.

Maintaining your Heating System

In any climate, maintenance is another factor to consider when choosing a heat pump solution but especially for those in cold climates. For example, there’s nothing worse than having family and friends over during the winter holidays and having your heating system stop working. In order to ensure your system is working properly at all times you’ll want to ensure components like filters, coils, fans, ducts, and other components are clean and working properly.

Whether you decide to maintain the system and do regular checks yourself or opt into a preventative maintenance plan ensuring your system works well at all times is important.

Feel free to contact us if you’d like to learn more about our Marx Comfort Club program.

Heat Pumps: A Great Choice for Winter Heating

Heat pumps have quickly emerged as one of the best options for both heating and cooling here in Canada as well as many other countries all over the world. They’re much more energy-efficient than traditional systems which are great for the environment as well as providing substantial cost savings to homeowners.

In addition to those benefits, they work quietly circulating air and providing a comfortable environment in your home.

With the right installer & the right system, you’ll be able to enjoy the many benefits of a heat pump system, no matter how cold the weather gets.

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