The recent federal government announcement to take the carbon tax off heating oil and offer free heat pumps may be a relief for some people, but there is a great of confusion on the details. The Gazette reached out to an HVAC company from Woodstock that does a fair bit of work in Tavistock and also spoke with an East Zorra-Tavistock couple living in a rural area where there is no option to hook up to natural gas. The results of both conversations were interesting.

Paul Acchione with Select Heating and Cooling said anyone with an installed forced air system can install a heat pump, and in his professional opinion heat pumps are a solid replacement for homes using oil. “The technology in the new heat pumps is well worth the investment I would say. I have one in my own house and one in my cottage and it cuts my propane bill by a quarter without really impacting my hydro bill.”

Acchione said the average cost for a heat pump is $8500 which would replace an existing air conditioning unit. “The current Greener Homes rebate gives up to $7100 back and an audit will need to be done to go into that program and another audit after the pump’s installation.” The way the program works is someone who is on home heating oil gets a rebate of $5600 but someone on natural gas with Enbridge gets the maximum of $7100. One is the problems recently has been the availability of heat pumps from the factories that make them, something Acchione said is starting to improve. He feels the recent federal government announcement jumped the gun. “I’ll be honest with you, the manufacturers are trying to get caught up. I find they made the announcement too early, and we couldn’t get the product. Now they are finally trickling in.” He added a good chunk of his business is providing heat pumps to new homes where builders are having them installed where natural gas service isn’t available. “I think where new construction is going is by 2030 there will be no carbon footprint. It’s coming faster than what we think. We’ve been installing these heat pumps for over a year and a half now. This isn’t new to us and it’s now getting a lot of attention.”

Acchione said people seem to be afraid of the cost but when it’s all said and done it might result in a homeowner being out of pocket $1500. “Think of it as replacing your AC. We are replacing that outdoor condenser with a heat pump that heats your home until it’s -20 outside.” He said if someone is contemplating the move the first step is to call their HVAC contractor and go from there. “Make sure they do a proper heat loss, and heat gain calculation and size it accordingly. You may or may not have to replace your furnace. There are some standalone units meaning all you would need to do is replace the outdoor condenser and the indoor coil.” The old furnace would then be used as a backup heat source should temperatures dip below -20.

One big question people always ask is how quickly they will get their money back from any rebate program. Acchione said in his experience is that it takes several months. “We’re finding it takes about five months. “It all depends on how quickly people do their audit. That has to be done when the work is completed. It also suggests other improvements homeowners can make to save money like sealing holes, and replacing windows, it’s not just for HVAC.”

Greg and Leanne Darlington live on the 14th Line in East Zorra-Tavistock, near Maplewood Sideroad. They use home heating oil and have a wood stove. Leanne said she’s done a fair bit of research, and she doesn’t think a heat pump would work for them. “I’m not an HVAC person and I guess it depends on who you talk to. I’m just not sure the technology is there yet.”

Darlington said she believes if they were to switch the price tag would be much higher than $8500. “Even if we were to get $5600 back, we would need to be able to solely be on a heat pump that would be rated to work to -20 and would cost anywhere from $12,000 to $20,000. If we didn’t go with the most expensive one, we would still need a secondary heat source. Frankly, we don’t know what the price of electricity will be down the road.” Darlington said they are caught between saving money versus looking after the environment. “I struggle with that. I want to care for the environment. Where we live, we don’t have a choice. We are either oil or propane, or we put in a heat pump.” There is a natural gas bulk line in close proximity to Darlington’s home but if they wanted access they would have to pay for the hookup. “It would have cost us $10,000 twenty years ago.”

Leanne said they just had their oil tank partially filled and the price of the oil was $1.50 a litre for 571 litres and included a total of nearly $200 of the carbon tax and HST on top of the actual bill. The carbon tax currently sits at 17 percent which HST is also charged. She added the bottom line is they will take their time to make a decision. “I will look into it more, maybe talk to more HVAC companies to get some good, honest opinions. If we had a really cold winter, could the heat pump hold up and what would the cost be?”

The Gazette reached out to Oxford Conservative MP Arpan Khanna and Kitchener-Conestoga Liberal MP Tim Louis for comment. Louis was not able to reply by press time, but Khanna said there is still some confusion regarding what the Liberals are pitching. “The initial program is quite intensive to apply for, and very few Canadians have used it. According to an order paper question since the program’s inception in November 2022, only 43 heat pumps have been installed nationwide.” He added an opposition team is still trying to sort out details of the revamped program, which has yet to be announced. “Our office has had a few inquiries, but only a few. In general, most of the feedback I have received is based on fairness. People are asking why other forms of home heating are not included (in a carbon tax exemption).”

By , Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 23, 2023 at 10:07

This item reprinted with permission from   The Gazette   Wilmot-Tavistock, Ontario

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