Why Install A Heat Pump?

Written by // Mike Devereux Categories // Energy Savings, Heat Pump

This article was written at a time when electricity rates in BC were competitive. They no longer are. (March 2018). AC units make more sense than heat pumps now. Use your AC unit for cooling, natural gas furnace for heating.

However, natural gas is now frowned upon in the zero emissions world and may be phased out in BC, starting in the city of Vancouver and moving outwards from there. Building codes are moving towards uber insulated and airtight buildings with solar and electric heat. We'll have to wait and see what evolves going forward

If you're considering having an AC system installed, make sure to consult an electrician to determine if you'll be exceeding your electrical service size. Its a quick calculation we can typically do over the phone. Call 604-463-6695 for more information


For climates with moderate heating and cooling needs, such as British Columbia, heat pumps can be a cost effective alternative to furnaces and air conditioners. More often they're used as a supplement to a gas furnace. Because a heat pump will generally reduce energy use there are significant rebates offered by both the Federal and Provincial governments totalling $800-$2000 depending on your existing system. This is as of October, 2013. The rebates change frequently, your heat pump installer will be up to date on the current rebates offered if you decide to upgrade your system. With electricity rates increasing (Spring 2015) you may want to set your heat pump to "EM heat". Gas only is used for heating, use your heat pump for air conditioning in the summer


  Heat pumps are often misunderstood or not understood at all. Because of this, you may not realize that there may be a better heating and cooling option than a furnace or air conditioner. A heat pump is an efficient method of cooling your home in the summer and warming it in the winter.

Although heat pumps are new to many people, they have been around for over three decades. Although its name is a little misleading, a heat pump is an efficient method of heating a home during the cold winter months and also cooling it during the hot summer months. Like your refrigerator, heat pumps use electricity to power a compressor which compresses a refrigerant gas. This process produces both heating and cooling. A heat pump looks like an air conditioner, but that’s only the outside appearance. It actually has two functions based on the same principles for both. In warm weather situations, the heat pump works as a normal air conditioner. It extracts heat from inside the home and transfers it to the outdoor air.

In colder weather, however, the process reverses, collecting heat from the outdoor air and transferring it inside your home. Even when the air outside feels extremely cold, the air still contains some heat. The heat pump pulls the heat from this cold outdoor air and sends it inside to warm your home. While many people find the winter operation of a heat pump the most difficult to understand, it is during the heating cycle that the heat pump produces the most savings. Unlike a furnace that turns fossil fuel or electricity into heat, the heat pump collects heat that already exists in the outdoor air by means of its refrigeration cycle. Consequently, a heat pump will produce up to four times more heat than the energy it uses.

In addition, a heat pump can be an effective add-on option to use in conjunction with an existing gas furnace. Heating/Cooling coils are installed at the furnace output ducting. Usually a variable speed motor is installed as well. With a dual-fuel system, the two systems share the heating load but never function at the same time. Each system operates when it is most cost effective. The heat pump will be the primary heating and cooling system. However, when the temperature drops below the heat pump’s ability to operate as efficiently as the gas furnace, the gas furnace will take over until the temperature rises enough for the heat pump to operate more efficiently.

For homes without ducts, air-source heat pumps are also available in a ductless version called a mini-split heat pump. In addition, a special type of air-source heat pump called a "reverse cycle chiller" generates hot and cold water rather than air, allowing it to be used with radiant floor heating systems in heating mode.

Higher efficiencies are achieved with geothermal (ground-source or water-source) heat pumps, which transfer heat between your house and the ground or a nearby water source. Although they cost more to install, geothermal heat pumps have low operating costs because they take advantage of relatively constant ground or water temperatures. However, the installation depends on the size of your lot, the subsoil and landscape. Ground-source or water-source heat pumps can be used in more extreme climatic conditions than air-source heat pumps.


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Should I Install a Sub-Panel?

Categories // Additions, Panel Upgrades, Renovations, Sub-panels

This is a question we get asked often.

The question arises when circuits are being added to an existing electrical system. Often we can replace existing circuit breakers with space saver breakers or reconfigure existing wiring so that a sub-panel is not required. This always the first option before installing a sub-panel.

Sub Panel to the left of the Main Panel

Top Reasons for Installing a Sub-Panel

  1.  If you are adding a suite, outbuilding or an addition we will usually recommend installing a sub-panel to serve the new location. This way the new electrical system can be kept separate. By code, the electrical circuits for power in a suite must be accessible from within the suite or in a common area. Basically, you don’t want your tenant, or yourself, to have to go into someone elses space to reset a circuit breaker.
  2. Additional electrical circuits. Hot tubs, heat pumps, welders are all large electrical loads and may require a sub-panel. Electrical panels in older houses sometimes only have space for 12-16 circuits. If a new kitchen, bathroom or heating system is being installed and the original panel is full a sub-panel is needed. Sometimes, instead of installing a sub-panel, it makes more sense to replace the main panel with a larger one. For example, we would replace the original 12 circuit panel with a new 24 or 32 circuit panel.
  3. Illegal/unsafe wiring. Sometimes new wiring will be installed back to the electrical panel by a homeowner or handyman and they do not know what to do when there are no spaces left in the electrical panel. To replace the panel, install space saver circuit breakers or install a sub-panel is too daunting of a task. Hey!... two wires fit on this circuit breaker! The circuit works and the home handyman feels proud of his accomplishment. Circuit breakers are not designed to have two wires installed under the single lug that connects the wire to the circuit breaker. When two wires are connected to the same breaker there's a much higher chance of arcing, fire and breaker damage because of the poor connection. A sub-panel, spacesaver breakers, or a new panel can be installed to connect the new circuit safely.
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