Warming up to cold climate heat pumps

How a rural community centre made the move from fossil fuels to clean energy.

The story

You might not expect a community centre in a rural Ontario village to embrace technology as modern as cold climate heat pumps – but the facility had a challenge. It needed to lessen its reliance on fossil fuels, improve building energy efficiency, and still meet its heating and cooling needs for year-round comfort.

With no access to natural gas, the centre relied on a heating system consisting of two aging oil furnaces and a roof-top unit. While it considered replacing the old units with new oil furnaces, the decision would have locked the centre in for decades to old technology that’s harmful to the environment.

After assessing its options with the help of Envari, the association decided to install two air-source cold climate heat pumps.

It was a visionary choice. Air-source heat pumps use long-proven technology to absorb heat from the outside air – even in cold temperatures – and move it inside to provide heat.

The process also works in reverse, as a cooling system, so there’s no need to install a separate air conditioning unit. Because they don’t burn fuel like natural gas, oil or propane furnaces, heat pumps provide a cleaner source of heating and air conditioning. An innovative building solution.

Traditionally, heat pumps were primarily effective at maintaining comfortable temperatures in moderate climates. Today’s cold climate heat pumps, however, can be used in considerably colder conditions – though to a certain degree. In the case of the community centre, a backup heating system was needed for extremely cold days.

By combining air-source cold climate heat pumps with an electric backup source, the community centre took a balanced approach.

This wasn’t the cheapest route, but it future-proofed the sustainability of the centre’s energy system for many years to come.

Today, more and more organizations – in both urban and rural settings – are implementing innovative solutions like cold climate heat pumps to drive building energy efficiency and sustainability. There’s a growing urgency to do so.

The Government of Canada is committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

While 2050 seems far away, it’s actually a tight timeline; much more needs to be done to reach net zero.

To support the transition to net zero, Envari also issued a call to homeowners to join a unique pilot project. Hundreds of people applied to participate in the two-year study assessing the performance of cold climate heat pumps. The results showed that cold climate heat pumps perform well not just in the controlled lab setting but also in a real-world environment. Data from the studies show that heat pumps operate quietly and efficiently, producing approximately three times the heating energy output for every unit of electrical energy needed to run them, which means lower utility bills.

The big revelation: cold climate heat pumps now provide comfortable heat with outside temperatures as low as -25 Celsius!

That’s a game-changing result that bodes well not just for home heating, but also for future industrial/commercial applications.

Are you looking to decrease your reliance on natural gas, oil or propane? Consider a sustainable engineering project involving cold climate heat pumps.

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