Air-to-air Heat Pump install in my Sudbury home, by Ryan Mariotti

Heating our homes with natural gas is a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.  Installing heat pumps is an important action in Greater Sudbury’s Energy and Emissions Plan to achieve net zero by 2050.  In this blog, Ryan Mariotti describes why he and his family installed an air-to-air heat pump in their Sudbury home.

Net Zero tips
This is what the indoor unit looks like on the wall. Super quiet and very unobtrusive.

Our reasons for getting a heat pump were 2-fold.

First, we’ve being focusing on our carbon footprint over the past few years. Mainly our diet, our transportation, and our home’s energy composition. We knew that our remaining major emissions source was the gas boiler, which also supplies our domestic hot water. It’s efficient yes, but it contributes to a system reliant on fossil fuels.

Second, we also knew that summers were likely to get hotter with increasing odds of extreme heat waves, and the heat pump doubles as an efficient air conditioner and dehumidifier in the summer. So since we didn’t already have AC, we saw this as an added benefit.

Several different types of heat pumps have available rebates. The energy auditor who audits your home will have a good recommendation on which route to go.

We went with an air-to-air heat pump. We currently heat with a high efficiency gas combo boiler and high temp radiators, so we were looking for an option without the need for air ducts throughout the house. The main pros of an air-to-air heat pump is that it is simple to install, does not need duct work, and is more affordable than ground source heat pumps which require drilling/digging.

You can see how an air-to-air heat pump works in this video. 

Right now, there is a Greener Homes Retrofit rebate through NRCAN of up to $5000 per house in rebates.  You can see the list of eligible retrofits here. 

We had 5 separate companies give us quotes and ideas on how to go about a heat pump. The most common and respected brands were Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, and Daikin.

Once we had the size of the unit our house needed to cover the majority of our heating needs, we signed up to the program on the NRCAN site and looked at eligible heat pump models on the site to make sure we were covered for a discount. We went with a Fujitsu model that works efficiently down to -26C and will continue to work even below that. The rebate program gives you 2 years from signup to get all the renos done. Then you submit all the receipts and the follow up audit. Only then do you get the rebates. SO money up front, rebates after.

The general rule of thumb for air-to-air heat pump rebates is 2 indoor units= $2500 back, 3 or more indoor units= $5000 back. We were getting 2 indoor units so our rebate was $2500.

The next step was to book an energy advisor to do the initial energy audit on our house for the baseline.

The website portal has energy audit companies that didn’t actually serve our city, but I already knew one that did and was able to list that company on my account. It’s a new program so they’re still working out the kinks. Eco Advantage Energy Advisors Inc is the name of the company that serves Sudbury and surrounding area. Michael Thiamiyu was our auditor, and we highly recommend him.

Once our initial audit was complete we booked the install with Castle and we were off to the races.

Depending on your home setup, the install may take 1 day, or several. Ours took 3 days because it was a little more complex as we installed a ceiling unit on the upper floor.

3 month review

The units are working like a dream. Super quiet and have kept the house dry and cool on the hot and humid July days we had. Hydro bill barely budged from pre-heat pump months. A cold winter will be the test. We do have the gas boiler to supplement on those very cold days if need be. But when the gas boiler eventually quits, we will likely switch to an electric boiler for backup and a heat pump domestic water tank. With solar panels installed under the same rebate program, we hope to make the most of our electricity.

A reality check

Heat pumps aren’t perfect – they shouldn’t be seen as this silver bullet. The refrigerant used in pressurized lines has the warming effect thousands of times greater than CO2. Over the life of these heat pumps, refrigerant leaks into the atmosphere and can be comparable to the emissions of a car on the road for several years. The most efficient thing we can do to our homes is to make them as insulated and air tight as reasonably possible. The more insulated they are, the less energy they use to heat and cool. The Rebate program covers a lot of insulation options.