Discover the challenges of getting a heat pump in a condo. Find out why heat pumps are in high demand and how they can benefit condo living.

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Heat pumps are hot items. But for people living in condos, getting one presents some challenges



“Heat pumps are all the rage these days, especially for single-detached homes. But condominiums — larger residential complexes with individually owned living units — have been slower to enter the picture.

Condos vs Single-Detached Homes
“You can’t really compare the two,” said Chris Desroches, a mechanical engineer and applied product manager with Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada. “You’re comparing apples to bananas.” The appetite for greener options in everyday living has become more prevalent with Canada’s commitment to being net-zero by 2050. Replacing old furnaces and heating systems has been one way for homeowners to lower their carbon emissions and, in turn, pay lower energy bills and less carbon tax. But condo residents face specific challenges, such as their exclusion from government rebate programs or the complexities of retrofitting shared building infrastructure.

Challenges and Barriers
One issue is the eligibility rules for government rebates that exclude specific individuals or housing types. These include multi-unit residential buildings as well as the landlords of rental properties and renters. Condominiums make up about 15 per cent of Canada’s private dwellings, according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 census. It’s a different situation for rental units. The Canadian Climate Institute report found there is “limited incentive for landlords” to invest in the installation of a heat pump since costs would typically fall to the landlord, while the benefits — including lower energy bills — would likely flow to the tenants.

Obstacles in Retrofitting
“When it comes to a condo building, they’re large central systems,” said Desroches. For existing buildings, variables such as age, infrastructure and existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems all play into the difficulties of retrofitting. “They’re engineered systems, so they’re a lot more tricky to design,”

The Solution: Building Greener Condos
Some buildings can accommodate the air-to-air heat pumps that are typically installed in homes. These heat pumps rely on electricity to move air in and out of the house to the temperature desired. One of the more common criticisms of heat pumps is their ability to function and provide adequate heating in extreme cold temperatures. However, Halifax’s fairly mild climate and high gas prices make them a popular alternative in the region.

Conclusion
Heating options such as geothermal systems tend to be installed in newer builds, allowing developers to actively work toward reducing emissions. “We’re making decisions that last a really long time,” said Gibson. “The efficiency of your building envelope, but also the efficiency of the equipment inside, like heat pumps, are affecting the people who live there for a really long time.” “It’s really important that the decisions that we’re making in building it in the first place are efficient.”



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