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Do heat pumps work in extreme cold?

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jan17,2024

Do heat pumps work in extreme cold?

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During the prime ministers' meeting in Halifax last November, Danielle Smith declared that heat pumps “do not work very well below -25°C.”

  • Laurence Taschereau (View profile)Laurence Taschereau

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The extreme cold spell that the West has just experienced has tested the resilience of heat pumps, but are heat pumps functioning properly when temperatures reach such low levels?

It's a bit crazy, everything has decided to no longer work, says Justin Giroux who owns the company Airology, a company specializing in heating and air conditioning systems in Calgary .

Contacted on January 12, when temperatures were close to -40°C throughout Alberta, Justin Giroux admitted to being very busy: I have more than ten appointments for repairs alone.

The days that followed did not calm down.

Ses Repairs mainly concerned boilers. Many boiler vents have frozen.

Heat pumps still operate more difficult below a certain temperature threshold. In fact, the man from Ontario explains that most heat pumps, on very cold days, are simply not used, or operate in hybrid mode, with a boiler.

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At these temperatures, most people have a backup system.

A quote from Justin Giroux, owner of Airology

It's is precisely what Jacob Smirl, who has lived in Morinville, north of Edmonton, has been doing since 2021. He and his husband had a heat pump installed last May. Since then, they have relied on this system to cool and heat their homes.

Except for the coldest days.

The heating cycle of a heat pump works by absorbing (or extracting) heat from the outside air and transferring it to the outside air. #x27;interior. The principle is the same as that of a refrigerator which transfers heat from the inside of the refrigerator to the outside.

Even in winter, cold outside air contains a certain amount of heat.

In very cold weather, heating of the heat pump can be supplemented or replaced with hot air from a gas boiler).

Source: University of Calgary Energy Encyclopedia; Sarah Hastings-Simon, Department of Earth, Energy and Environment, University of Calgary

I programmed my device so that at -10°C, the gas boiler takes over. He adds that in theory the heat pump can withstand colder temperatures and that this temperature threshold is arbitrary.

I'm a real homebody […] my house is like my castle. When I have money, that’s where I like to invest. Make my home more comfortable.

A quote from Jacob Smirl

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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.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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