For decades the typical Ottawa home featured a gas furnace in the basement with a standard air conditioner tied into the system for cooling. In the cold winter months, the gas furnace takes care of the heating and when our sweltering summer heat sets in, the air conditioner kicks on and the furnace fan delivers that beautiful cold air throughout the home. As of about 2021, we started seeing more and more homeowners opt to ditch the old air conditioner and install a heat pump instead. Each year that has passed since then has seen the popularity of these heat pumps absolutely skyrocket! As of mid 2023, we are seeing the installation of air conditioners decrease by drastic numbers, with the installation of heat pumps making up nearly 90% of cooling units we install. There are numerous reasons for this that we discuss in this article and explore the big question, are air conditioners a dying technology?
Why are heat pumps so popular in Ottawa?
The major driving force for the increase in heat pump popularity is the current rebates. Government rebates ranged from $3250-$7100 depending on your heat pump and home. This subsidy allows heat pump installations to occur for virtually the same cost as an entry level air conditioner or sometimes even less!
Furthermore, as a whole, society is interested in reducing the collective carbon footprint. Most homeowners now understand the impact of fossil fuels and are interested in doing their part to reduce emissions.
Finally, the technology has advanced so rapidly that heat pumps have become a much more viable option as the primary source of heating in an Ottawa home. They can produce heat at lower temperatures and for less money than ever before. This is giving people the option of installing heat pumps in tandem with their gas furnace or taking the plunge into a fully electric system that eliminates the gas furnace completely.
Are heat pumps better than air conditioners?
Heat pumps are air conditioners! But they can also heat too. Just by design they are more capable than air conditioners. Combine this with the fact that the majority of Ottawa home owners are purchasing high end heat pumps to take advantage of the grants/ rebates, they are getting much better equipment.
With rebate, qualifying systems, clients can enjoy incredibly quiet, fully variable equipment that is hyper efficient for virtually the same price as an entry level air conditioner. These entry level air conditioners are generally louder, less efficient and operate as a single stage unit.
In summation, not all air conditioners and heat pumps are created equal, but the equipment Ottawa home owners tend to purchase are: entry level air conditioners or high end heat pumps. Because of this, in our market, heat pumps tend to be “better” than air conditioners.
How expensive is a heat pump in Ottawa?
Prior to rebates, a heat pump added to your furnace can range from $5000-$10,000 on average. The heat pump additions that qualify for rebates tend to average $8500-$10,000 (and qualify for $7100 rebates). This means most people are getting a top of the line heating/cooling system for an average of $1400 out of pocket!!
Ottawa homeowners that are transitioning from natural gas to fully electric cold climate heat pumps with electric backup tend to pay a little more. We have seen the average cost of these fully electric heat pump systems to be $16,000-$22,000 pre rebate. These systems also qualify for $7100 in government rebates!
Finally, the very popular hybrid system includes a new furnace and new heat pump. This technology allows homeowners to run the gas furnace when temperatures get very cold and is generally slightly more economical than running electric back up heat. These systems average costs from $13,500-$18,000. Once again these qualify for $7100 in government rebates.
Can I run my heat pump like an air conditioner(only in cooling)?
We have lots of customers that would like to participate in the rebate program but are not looking to increase their energy bills. Any qualifying heat pump system will be very efficient in cooling mode and chances are it will save you money over your current air conditioner. In terms of winter heating, there is something called the economic balance point which determines when it is cheaper to run the heat pump or the gas furnace. Our designers or technicians can help you determine the economic balance point of your system to ensure you are reducing your carbon footprint and saving as much money as possible.
Should I keep my gas furnace?
Many Ottawa homeowners are unsure of the process when switching to a heat pump. It seems to be a common misconception that you need to either remove your furnace completely(convert to electric) or that your heat pump will always run and the furnace will never turn on again. We always explain the pros and cons of keeping your furnace, switching to electricity or replacing the old furnace with a new one. Every house and person is different and determining whether you will eliminate fossil fuels is a very individual decision. Allow our team of experts to help guide you through the process and make a choice that is right for you, your family and your home!
Are Air Conditioners a thing of the past?
Overall, we believe that heat pumps will continue to gain popularity and eventually very few air conditioners will be sold to residential homeowners. That being said, air conditioners will not disappear. There will always be a place for cooling only units and the simplicity of these systems will always be appealing to a certain demographic. Feel free to reach out to our team at 613 592 5770 and determine whether an air conditioner or a heat pump is right for you!