Market Snapshot: Steady growth for heat pump technology

Release date: 2018-02-21

Heat pumps are a highly efficient technology that extract heat from one place and transfer it to another. They can heat or cool buildings and industrial processes. More than 700 000 residential heat pumps are installed in Canada. This number has increased steadily since 2000.

Using heat pumps instead of a natural gas furnace or electric heating, reduces energy use. Although heat pumps are generally more expensive than electric or gas heating systems, they usually have lower energy costs. Heat pump systems can range from $5 000 to $16 000. Energy cost savings can be as high as 60% compared to electric baseboard heating, and total energy use can be 50% lower than a natural gas furnace.Footnote 1

The vast majority of heat pumps in Canada are air source heat pumps. These pumps extract heat from the air and release it inside for heating or outside for cooling. Less common, and more efficient, are ground-source heat pumps that use the ground as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. The performance of heat pumps has improved significantly over the last decade. Cold-climate heat pumps now are now rated for operation to -20 degrees C. There are some limitations to the technology; generally in cold temperatures the efficiency of air source heat pumps is reduced. With ground source heat pumps there is a potential to alter the ground temperature which lowers efficiency.

Source and Description

Source: Natural Resources Canada, Comprehensive Energy Use Databale - Table 21

Description: This stacked column chart shows the number of total installed heat pump units in Canada broken down by province from 2000 to 2015. The number of residential heat pumps in Canada has been increasing linearly, from 415 000 in 2000, to 733 000 in 2015. The two provinces with the largest number of installed units in 2015 are Ontario with 339 995 and Quebec with 222 740, accounting for over three quarters of the Canadian total. In declining order, heat pumps are also used in British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.

The widest uptake of heat pumps has been in markets that have extensive fuel oil heating or electric baseboard heating. The two provinces with the largest number of installed heat pumps are Ontario and Quebec. Together these provinces account for over 550 000 units, almost three quarters of the total.

Canada’s Energy Future 2017 – Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2040, includes a High Technology case where a larger share of commercial and residential space heating demand is met by electricity. The Technology Case assumes heat pumps installations increase to 15% of new heating device purchases in 2025, for both new buildings and retrofits in existing buildings. The share of installations increases to 30% by 2040. This compares to around 5% in both 2025 and 2040 in the Reference Case.

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