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What is a heat pump and how do they work?

October 20 2015, 09:35 AM

What is a heat pump and how do they work?

Heat pumps are a hot topic in New Brunswick these days, and with good reason.  A heat pump that is ENERGY STAR certified, CEE Tier III rated cold climate (-20°C and lower) can save you, on average, 40% more on heating costs than a model that is simply ENERGY STAR rated. Those numbers are pretty enticing for any homeowner to hear!

But what exactly is a heat pump and how does it work?

Put simply: a heat pump is an extremely efficient method of heating and cooling for your home. In the winter, heat pumps draw in outside air and extract heat for the home. In the summer they do the same but remove heat from the inside and dump it outside instead, giving you air conditioning.

With electric baseboards you pay for 1 kWh of electricity and you get 1 kWh of heat.  That sounds pretty good – 100% efficient.  But what if you could heat your home with something that is 200% or 300% efficient?  That is the case with ductless heat pumps. 

When you buy 1kWh of heat you can actually get 2kWh or 3kWh of heat.  That’s because heat pumps do not generate heat from electricity.  They use the electricity to extract heat from the outside air and bring it into your home, using a series of pumps and compressors.

There are two kinds of air-source heat pumps: ducted and ductless.

Fully-ducted heat pumps heat and cool the whole home via air ducts, whereas ductless (also known as mini-split) heat pumps heat and cool single rooms only. Ducted heat pumps sit outside the home, while ductless units are found on the inside and outside wall of a home.  A heating contractor will help you determine which system is the best fit for your home and its layout.

In our climate, with its chilly ‘shoulder’ seasons (fall and spring) and cold winters, there aren’t many drawbacks to having a home with a heat pump. But you do need to keep your current heat source, just in case the temperature becomes extremely cold and the heat pump can no longer work efficiently.

Even before you install a heat pump, it is a good idea to consider your home’s energy efficiency. You’ll want to check insulation levels throughout your home and make sure it is well sealed for air-tightness. With well insulated walls, attic and basement and a high level of airtightness, your home will need less energy to heat or cool and it will stay that way for longer, no matter what type of heating system you have.

Check out our Total Home Energy Savings Program to learn how we can help you save energy and money on your bills this winter.

Would you install a heat pump in your home? Tell us about it in the comments below. 


Mactaquac Mythbusters

October 15 2015, 14:28 PM

Mactaquac Mythbusters

We’ve been excited to see the great questions and comments rolling in from New Brunswickers since we kicked off the public discussion about the future of the Mactaquac Generating Station on September 21.

We hope to hear even more about what’s important to New Brunswickers through our online survey, and during the remainder of our open house events. We hope you’ll drop by to learn more and tell us what you think about the project.

The situation

The station has been generating hydroelectric power for New Brunswick since 1968. It’s now expected to reach the end of its life by 2030. That’s sooner than expected because of problems with the facility’s concrete.

There are already many experts thinking about how to tackle Mactaquac, and there are three options to consider:

1)      We could build a new generating station.

2)      We could stop making power but leave the dam in place.

3)      We could remove everything and allow the river to return to its natural flow.

There are lots of great questions coming our way, and some Mactaquac Myths have already surfaced. We want to bust those myths here.

The Myths

NB Power has already made up its mind about what’s happening with that station. My opinions don’t matter at all!”

Not true. We understand this is a big decision that will affect all New Brunswickers for generations to come. That’s why we’re asking you to share what’s most important to you about this decision online, in person and in writing before recommending a preferred option in 2016.

NB Power has a secret ‘fourth option’ they aren’t telling us about.”

Some media outlets have referred to our work to try to delay the 2030 end-of-service-life deadline as a ‘fourth option for Mactaquac.’ We are working with independent experts to see if we can extend the station’s ability to generate power beyond 2030 through a potential new game plan to deal with the concrete issues. This work isn’t complete yet, so we don’t know if these are ideas that can work from either a financial or engineering perspective. Meanwhile, even with this work underway, it’s important that we continue investigating implications of the three broad options so we can get everything done in time for the current 2030 deadline.

"The problems with the concrete means the dam isn’t safe."

The station and the dam are safe. The issues affecting the station’s lifespan are limiting its future ability to operate economically. This problem is about economical function rather than safety. Also, the issues only affect the concrete portions of the station, which don’t include the dam, which is made of rock and earth.

Tell us what you think!

We welcome all questions and comments about the project. You can learn more about the project and give us your feedback by visiting our project website. We hope you’ll also complete the online survey and share it with your friends and neighbours! You can also comment below.

From time to time we’ll use this blog space to answer persistent questions or themes about the project as they come up.


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