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Residential Electrification Potential for Waterloo Region

By: Heather McDiarmid

November 26th, 2020

Our homes contributed 22% of Waterloo region’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2010. Of those emissions, an estimated 80% came from natural gas usage. While many homeowners use natural gas to heat their homes, heat pumps provide an alternate option which can significantly reduce the emissions associated with staying warm during our cold, Canadian winters.

Heat pumps move heat, rather than generating heat and are therefore capable of being far more efficient than other heating equipment (average 300% vs 60-95% efficiency), and can also move heat out of a home to provide air conditioning services in the summer months. Heat pump water heaters can also efficiently provide a home’s hot water needs, and there are two options for electrified space and water heating using energy efficient heat pump technology: cold climate air source heat pumps (ASHPs) and heat pump water heaters (HPWH). 

At current (July 2020) utility prices, models suggest that ASHPs are significantly more expensive to operate than NG furnaces (average $432/yr), but if a home can disconnect from the gas supply and save the connection fee, the average price premium for using an ASHP is only an average of $166/yr. The cost difference varies by home but in 22% of local homes, ASHPs are already cost equivalent or better than NG furnaces if the home can disconnect the gas supply. These homes are newer, smaller and often have shared walls (semi-detached or row housing). For water heaters, HPWHs are already operationally cost-competitive with natural gas systems due largely to the significant difference in energy efficiency of the two technologies. The lifetime costs of heat pumps are significantly lower than oil, propane and other forms of electric heat. ASHPs can reduce whole home emissions by 60-71% and improve energy efficiency by 42-45%. If HPWH are also used, whole home emissions would decrease by 70-82% and energy efficiency would increase by 58-61%. 

In her research paper, local researcher Heather McDiarmid, MCC, PhD further dives into the economics and climate impacts of using heat pumps for space and water heating for homes in Waterloo Region, her article Analysis of the Residential Electrification Potential for the Waterloo Region can be found here.

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