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What Heat Pump is Best for Ottawa

With a heat pump craze sweeping the Ottawa area, it is important to understand a few key factors when deciding what heat pump is right for you! There are so many HVAC terms and analytical numbers floating around when deciding on the correct unit for your house, it can get very confusing. We are here to help decipher all of the jargon to make the buying process more simple. After decades of experience and hundreds of heat pumps installed, we have been able to narrow down the choices to the heat pumps we find most effective for the Ottawa market.

Heat pump installation in Ottawa, Ontario.


HSPF: Heating Seasonal Performance Factor simply put is the efficiency of the heat pump in heating mode. This is the ratio of heat output compared to how much electricity is used over a season.

SEER: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is the efficiency of the heat pump in cooling mode. This is the ratio of cooling compared to how much electricity is used over a season.

COP: Coefficient of Performance is a very important metric for heat pumps. This is the ratio for the amount of energy transfer(heat) compared to the electricity the unit is using to do so.

BTU: British Thermal Unit. This is the measure of heat content used when sizing your system. You will hear an HVAC contractor talk about sizing your unit in BTU’s (often converted to tons).

CFM: Cubic Feet per Minute. You contractor should discuss how many CFM your heat pump requires and how many CFM you ductwork can handle. This metric determines how much air you can push through your ductwork.

ACH: Air Changes per Hour. This is a very important metric to discuss with your HVAC contractor. When sizing your heat pump it is crucial to know how many air exchanges your home has simply through leaks and cracks (or perhaps through ventilation devices like HRV’s).

Air Source Heat Pump: The most common type of heat pump in the Ottawa area is an air source heat pump. These units transfer heat energy from the air outside into your home.

Cold Climate Heat Pump: A Cold Climate unit is one that can still provide heat at temperatures below -25C. These can be ideal for our climate depending on how you want to operate your heat pump.

Ductless: Heat pumps can utilize your existing ductwork to distribute heating or cooling throughout the home. For those that do not have ductwork, there are units called ductless heat pumps (See picture below). These units can be utilized in homes that have ductwork as well! We love these systems due to their customization capabilities, incredible performance numbers and quiet operation.

Mitsubishi Hyper Heat - Ottawa Heat Pump Installation by Heating & Cooling Contractor AirZone HVAC Services

Typical Heat Pump options for Ottawa

In Ottawa we find the most common heat pump systems installed are of the air source variety. Historically, we were installing more ductless heat pumps, as we were helping homeowners with baseboard heating offset the cost of electricity. Currently, there are such good rebates available, we are seeing a lot of homeowners switch to fully ducted central heat pumps. In terms of heat pump styles we are seeing homeowners opt for about 60% hybrid heating (using a gas furnace as backup) with the other 40% going fully electric.

The Best Heat Pump for Ottawa

There is a common misconception as to what the very best style of heat pump is for Ottawa. We find many people are looking for the unit that can produce heat down to the coldest temperature and that is the only parameter they evaluate. THERE IS NO BEST HEAT PUMP FOR OTTAWA. Yes, you read the correctly, there truly is not a best heat pump for Ottawa. However there are better heat pumps for different people/ homes depending on the goal you are trying to accomplish. See below for examples:

Trying to Eliminate Fossil Fuel Use/Carbon Footprint:

For homeowners that have the goal of eliminating fossil fuels from their homes, there are generally two type of systems that make sense. An extreme cold climate ducted unit (examples include the Mitsubishi ZUBA central or the Central MOOV) or extreme cold climate ductless units (Mitsubishi hyper heat ductless). If you are going fully electric and eliminating natural gas, it makes sense to seek out the heat pump that can run as low as possible. People often misconstrue efficiency and cold climate performance with energy costs. Extreme cold climate heat pumps are amazing at producing heat at very cold temperatures. In order to achieve this, many of them sacrifice a certain level of efficacy in cooling mode as well as at more mild temperatures in heating mode. If you are a homeowner that is looking to drastically reduce your carbon footprint and don’t mind spending money on high end equipment, infrastructure changes and potentially higher utility bills, then these systems are for you!

Trying to Reduce Energy Costs as Much as Possible:

For homeowners that are simply looking to drop their utility bills as much as possible, an extreme cold climate heat pump with electric backup may not always be the best choice. We have found high end heat pumps such as the Bosch IDS premium may only operate to -20C but their performance numbers at the more mild temperatures are actually superior to cold climate units such as the ZUBA Central. Since Ottawa only experiences about 10 days a year colder than -25C, if utility bills are the only concern than a cold climate heat pump may not be the best option. For clients that are sensitive to utility bills, we have found that a hybrid system utilizing a furnace as a backup tends to be the most cost effective. Especially when you use a heat pump like the Bosch that performs exceptionally well at the +5 to -15C range as we have so many heating days in this range.

Trying to Take Advantage of Rebates due to Aging Equipment:

Finally, we have a group of clients that has aging equipment and wants to take advantage of the rebates available. For this type of homeowner, a decision needs to be made about keeping natural gas or going fully electric. We find that homeowners in this segment like taking advantage of a system that can give them the best of all worlds. This means an attractive up front price, a unit that is economic to run and can still help them drop their carbon footprint. Bosch hybrid systems or perhaps a central MOOVAIR are the best options for these clients.

Mitsubishi Hyper Heat - Ottawa Heat Pump Installation by Heating & Cooling Contractor AirZone HVAC Services

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