We’ve heard a lot recently about heat pumps and how they can help Nova Scotians save energy. So we spoke with Don MacKenzie of Eastwing Products Limited to learn more about heat pumps and how they can work for us.Q: So what is a heat pump? And how do they actually work?
A: Basically, a heat pump is a heating and cooling system that uses refrigerant to move heat from one place to another. When it’s cold, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the air, water or ground outdoors and circulates it inside, where the heat is released to warm the house. During the summer the system works in reverse, absorbing heat from the air inside the home and releasing it outside, cooling the house down.
Q: Why do you think more and more Nova Scotians are choosing heat pumps for their homes?
A: First of all, heat pumps are one of the least expensive ways to heat your home. Even though every home is different, we’ve heard that our customers save significantly on their heating bills with their heat pumps. And they’re often much easier to maintain than other traditional forms of heating. Finally, we’ve seen air conditioning become dramatically more popular – people drive air conditioned cars and work in air conditioned offices, and understandably they want the same comfort in their homes. Heat pumps can provide all of this efficiently and cost-effectively.
Q: Who do you think should consider using a heat pump?
A: There are several different types of heat pump systems available today that can be a great fit for almost any type of home. Whether you’re in a fully furnished home with existing electric baseboard or oil hot water baseboard heating, or building a new home, there’s likely a heat pump system that will work well for your unique situation. They can be used as a complete replacement or as a supplement for an existing heating system.
Q: How do they help increase energy efficiency in homes?
A: Traditional ways to heat our homes have never been incredibly efficient. Heat from traditional furnaces can escape up the chimney, for example, and never make it into our home. With the advances we’ve seen in heat pump technology, the systems are remarkably efficient. For every watt of electricity needed to run a heat pump, two watts of heat are transferred into the house. Because of this, they help increase the EnerGuide rating on homes as well.
Q: Why are they a good choice for Nova Scotians?
A: We’re lucky that Nova Scotia has a fairly moderate climate year round. This means that a heat pump system can be efficient all year long, since the milder climate makes it easier for the heat pump to extract heat from the outside air, water or ground and transfer it indoors.
Q: What should people consider before getting a heat pump?
A: People should think about how they heat their homes now, and talk to an expert about what kind of heat pump would be most suitable. For example, if there is already a ductwork system in the home a central system might be the best fit. If the house has some form of baseboard heating then a wall mounted ductless system would probably make the most sense.
Q: How does installation work? Are they harder to install in older homes?
A: Installation will vary depending upon the type of system you choose. Some systems require ductwork installation, others do not. The age of a home itself is not critical but insulation levels in the walls and attic will impact the effectiveness of any system.
Q: What’s the maintenance like for heat pumps? Are they easy to manage?
A: They really are easy to maintain. Day-to-day, the system will just run like clockwork and you don’t have to think about it at all. And like other appliances, we do recommend regular yearly maintenance to make sure it stays clean and running efficiently.
Q: Are there other benefits people might see with a heat pump?
A: Heat pumps can help improve the air quality in your home, making them an effective way for people with asthma or allergies to heat their homes. Since no fuel is burned in the house, there are no pollutants added to the air in your home. Also, when the system is used as an air conditioner it dehumidifies the air in your home as well, eliminating the need for a stand-alone de-humidifier in many cases.
Q: How can people find out more about heat pumps or talk to someone about their specific project?
A: Get in touch with an experienced professional if you want to learn more. You can visit HeatPumpsSetYouFree.ca for a list of heat pump contractors across Nova Scotia.
Eastwing has been selling and installing heat pumps since 2001 and has worked with MacFarlane, Rooftight, Stonewater and Whitestone builders to install heat pumps in homes featured in NSHBA’s 2013 Energy Efficiency Showcase of Homes.