A heat pump installed at a Victoria supportive housing facility, converted from a seniors home. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press Media)

A heat pump installed at a Victoria supportive housing facility, converted from a seniors home. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press Media)

Editorial: Heat pumps riding wave of popularity

Demand really began to surge after the extreme heat episodes we lived through last summer

The most bothersome part of getting a heat pump may be getting on the growing list of people lined up to have them installed.

Heat pump technicians in the Cowichan Valley are run off their feet the demand is so high.

And that was before the recent announcement by the provincial government that there will be no PST on heat pumps as of April 1.

Heat pumps have been promoted in recent years as a good way to heat your home that’s friendly to the environment. These units run on electricity. Most of the electricity in B.C. is provided by hydro power, so this is a good move if you’re concerned about climate change and trying to do what you can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But demand really began to surge after the extreme heat episodes we lived through last summer, where temperatures reached record levels. Heat pumps also serve as air conditioning units, so you get two for one. Many homes in B.C. have not been built with air conditioning in mind, since the climate here has always been moderate, especially in the southwest corner where we’re lucky enough to live.

In years past, opening up windows and doors during the evening and early morning to catch the cooler air, then closing them during the heat of the day has been sufficient for most to live quite comfortably through the summer. A few fans on some hotter days, and you were set. Some who like it chilly had air conditioning, but this was seen as a luxury, not a necessity.

But last summer cooling fans and not exerting yourself weren’t enough anymore for many as temperatures climbed to heretofore unknown heights, baking Valley residents. Some businesses closed during the heatwaves as well, as not all of the ones in Cowichan have air conditioning either. Suddenly, it was a matter of public health, as the heat we were subjected to reached actual danger zones, and some people, in fact, died. There were 595 heat related deaths in B.C. between June 18 and Aug. 12 last summer, and 526 of them happened during the June 25 to July 1 heat wave.

Our local municipalities did well in opening up cooling centres in public buildings that did have air conditioning, but most people would prefer to stay in the comfort of their own homes.

If you’ve always thought about electric heat as being expensive, you were probably thinking of good old baseboard heaters. Heat pumps use about a third the energy, and less energy than gas and oil furnaces. Heat pumps do require a backup heat source, for when temperatures dip below freezing, but they’re definitely worth a good long look.

Editorials