Replacing the highly inefficient, obsolete electric resistance heaters that many buildings use for space heating—especially big apartment and condominium complexes—is one of the best opportunities to reduce carbon emissions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). That’s why TAF launched its Pumping Energy Savings project in 2015, to identify and help remove barriers to widespread use of air-source heat pumps, across the region and the province as a whole.
In 2018, TAF published an extensive project review, focusing on the 40 to 75 per cent saving on electric heating and cooling costs that heat pumps can deliver. Retrofitting 70 per cent of Ontario’s stock of 405,000 electrically heated multi-unit residential buildings (EMURBs) over a 10-year span would save 1.45 million tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of taking 31,522 cars off the roads over that period. And since the impact of any energy efficiency investment continues over the 25 or more years the equipment is in use, the carbon emissions reductions do too.
The relatively high cost of electricity in Ontario makes EMURBs as a building class a strong candidate for heat pump retrofits -– and, depending on age and physical condition, for a more comprehensive suite of energy efficiency measures. Older EMURBs are also more likely to house poorer families that have more trouble paying their monthly energy bills, making heat pumps a win for building occupants as well as owners.
The report lists five barriers to heat pump adoption: availability, accessibility, affordability, awareness, and acceptance — and looks into the technology investments, incentives, and stakeholder support that a comprehensive retrofit program will need to succeed. It recommends a series of action steps that should be adopted in concert to ensure that a GTHA- or province-wide heat pump program achieves its full potential:
- Using demonstration projects to boost awareness and acceptance and kick-start the heat pump retrofit market
- Offering a menu of options, including incentives through the provincial government and/or the Canada Infrastructure Bank, to help EMURB owners get the up-front financing they need to pay for retrofits
- Increasing the building industry’s interest in and capacity for a large-scale heat pump retrofit program
- Setting clear guidelines to help owners, engineers, and contractors measure and verify performance
- Using renovation requirements in the Ontario Building Code to drive heat pump adoption