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Officials explain major driver of increased interest in heat pump program: 'It's kind of a perfect storm'

"This requires effort from everybody."

"This requires effort from everybody."

Photo Credit: iStock

The Canadian government is offering homeowners financial support to switch from home heating oil to more energy-efficient electric heat pumps, and people are taking advantage, according to Canadian officials.

Under the Oil to Heat Pump Affordability (OHPA) program, Canadian households in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, or Newfoundland and Labrador with low-to-median incomes could previously have received up to $10,000 from the Ottawa government to switch from heating oil to a heat pump. But the program was updated in October 2023 to increase that amount to $15,000, as detailed by SaltWire.

The update coincided with a spike in the price of heating oil, which resulted in the program becoming even more popular than expected.

"Ahead of that … launch, we had really good uptake — no secret, perhaps, why with the high oil prices and helping with saving Islanders money," Derek Ellis, director of sustainability with the provincial environment department, told the outlet. "Between all of those factors, it's kind of a perfect storm here to have a really successful program."

Heat pumps are far more energy-efficient systems for heating and cooling a home than conventional options, according to the International Energy Agency. They create much less pollution than traditional gas-powered boilers and help to reduce energy bills, creating big savings for homeowners over the long term. As such, they are becoming increasingly popular — and government programs that subsidize their cost are helping to speed up their adoption.

According to a report in the Burlington Free Press, "Heat pumps are seen as a key factor in combating climate change," as one UC Davis study showed that "a typical U.S. home could cut its heating-related climate pollution by 45-72% by switching to an all-electric heat pump in place of a gas-fired furnace."

While the Canadian government could not provide specific total numbers on how many people had made the switch, one spokesperson for Efficiency Nova Scotia told SaltWire that there had been "doubling, tripling, and quadrupling" of applications for rebates and programs over the last two years.

🗣️ Which of these factors would most effectively motivate you to buy a heat pump?

🔘 Lower energy bills 💰

🔘 Better temperature control 🌡️

🔘 Helping the planet 🌎

🔘 I'd never buy a heat pump 🚫

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

"This is a climate crisis," said Katherine Turner, energy coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia. "This requires effort from everybody and co-ordinated effort, but I really do believe that the government has a strong role to play in this, especially when it comes to helping folks make these changes more affordable."

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