reducing emmissons

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Residential Heat Pump Water Heaters as a Local Climate Action Measure

By: Heather McDiarmid

December 4th, 2020

To help the Waterloo region meet our 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal for 2050, it is important that we look to our homes for where we can reduce our emissions. The majority of our household emissions are currently produced from space and water heating, however, ultimately all homes will have to decarbonize their water heating if our community’s climate targets are to be met. 

Heat pump water heaters (HPWHs) are a proven technology that, when replacing conventional systems for domestic hot water use, can cut a home’s emissions by 6-11%. Conventional water heaters can waste a lot of energy when heating water, and generally perform at 55-80% efficiency . Meanwhile, heat pump water heaters can perform at 350% efficiency because moving heat takes less energy than generating heat. HPWHs have the potential to help utilities in their demand management strategies in at least three ways: by shifting demand through the day, by allowing load up and load shed, and by hourly optimization of demand.

There are 181,655 single family and other low-rise dwellings in the Waterloo region, each of which is likely to have its own water heater. With an average lifespan of 11 years, we can expect 16,514 of these to replace their water heater every year. Switching just 1% of these to HPWH would not only help slash emissions, but help to build trust in the technology, build tradesperson capacity, and build demand for the incentive programs that can make HPWHs the affordable choice for all.

In her research paper, local researcher Heather McDiarmid, MCC, PhD investigates programs that could be used to promote heat pump water heaters in residential homes in the Waterloo Region in her article Residential heat pump water heaters as a climate action measure for Waterloo region which can be found here.

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