Jacob Smirl, winter 2024, in front of his residential heat pump in Morinville, Alberta.
During the meeting of provincial ministers in Halifax last November, the Prime Minister of Alberta, Danielle Smith, said heat pumps don't work very well below -25°C.
She's not wrong, but there are nuances, explains Sara Hastings-Simon, associate professor in the department of Earth, energy and environment at the University of Calgary.
According to her, there are two solutions in very cold weather.
The first is to use a heating element in the heat pump, what some call a booster system. Instead of extracting heat from the air, you use an electric heater directly.
For homeowners who already have a boiler gas, like Jacob Smirl, the other solution is to keep it and use it when the temperature drops below a certain threshold.
Another important element to take into consideration is the use of electricity during extreme cold. Heat pumps are a means of residential heating that consume more electricity than the gas boilers used by the majority of Albertans.
L Alberta has just gone through several days of alerts regarding the overcapacity of the electricity network. For Sara Hastings-Simon, it's fair to say that we can't [transition] overnight.
According to the professor, it is necessary to plan so that in the future the electricity network can support demand. This includes developing energy storage and better tools to coordinate energy use.
Justin Giroux is aware that there is a political aspect to Albertans' energy consumption and the way they heat their homes: To me, it makes no difference to what people want to install.
The 37-year-old owner of Airology has been in the industry for almost 20 years, including 16 years in Alberta. He has noticed an increase in interest in these new systems in recent years. People want a greener system.