FortisBC announced last week that the company will be installing the first gas heat pump units in 20 B.C. homes across the Lower Mainland and Southern Interior as part of a pilot program to test the units in real-world settings.
Gas heat pumps are brand new to the B.C. market.
FortisBC says the pumps have the potential to cut the energy needed for space and water heating by up to 50 per cent, lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, operate in colder winter conditions and exceed 100 per cent efficiency.
As well, this technology has the potential to help customers reduce their monthly bill and it is expected to contribute to achieving provincial climate action goals.
“We’re excited to be testing gas heat pumps in residential customer homes,” said Danielle Wensink, director, conservation and energy management at FortisBC. “Improving energy efficiency is one of the ways we can help our customers decarbonize their homes and by testing these gas heat pumps today, we’re continuing to advance and provide our customers with new options for the future.”
Gas heat pumps work by using energy to capture heat from the outdoor ambient air as an additional energy source and then transferring it indoors for space or hot water heating.
These units have the potential to replace both natural gas furnaces and hot water systems in the future, using as little as half the natural gas needed today while still providing the same level of comfort for the homeowner.
If these heat pump technologies perform as well as they have in previous tests, FortisBC says British Columbians will have more options on how to decarbonize their homes.
Approximately 50 per cent of B.C. homes currently use natural gas as their energy source for space heating and, with the ability to install gas heat pumps, customers can continue to use gas in their homes while taking advantage of the energy efficiency benefits a heat pump can offer, including reducing GHG emissions.
Also, by having the option to sign up to receive renewable natural gas (RNG) — a RNG plant is presently being built in Fruitvale — customers can reduce their household emissions even further with a carbon neutral option to heat their homes.
In addition, these units are hydrogen enabled meaning they can operate on gas-hydrogen blends without needing any modifications in the future.
FortisBC customers who install one of these units could save up to 40 gigajoules (GJ) of natural gas a year, which is roughly about six months of annual use by a typical household using, on average, about 85 GJ a year.
Compared to standard natural gas furnaces and hot water heaters, this equates to lowering energy bills by almost $500 annually and reducing household GHG emissions by around two tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Gas heat pumps are designed to perform effectively in colder climates, even when outdoor temperatures drop below -25 C, making them a great option for the colder northern and interior regions of the province.
Of the 20 homes selected for the pilot project, the first two units were installed last month. The remaining units will be installed throughout the rest of the year. Once installed, FortisBC will work with a third-party consultant who will measure the performance and efficiencies of space and water heating of the units for a year. Based on the results, the team will determine if these units meet the specific criteria to design and launch a full-scale energy-efficiency rebate program.
British Columbians who are interested in testing new energy efficient technology and potentially being participants in future pilot programs should visit: fortisbc.com/letsgo.