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FortisBC brings high-efficient gas heat pumps into B.C. homes for the first time
May 26, 2022
Innovative gas heat pump technologies for residential homes open a pathway to help meet the province’s climate action targets
Surrey, B.C. ̶ May 26, 2022: FortisBC Energy Inc. (FortisBC) is installing the next generation of high-efficiency home and water heating equipment in 20 residential homes across the Lower Mainland and Southern Interior–the first units of their kind to be installed in British Columbia (B.C.) as part of a FortisBC pilot program. With the potential to cut the energy needed for space and water heating by up to 50 per cent, lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, operate in colder winter conditions and exceed 100 per cent efficiency, this technology has the potential to help customers reduce their monthly bill and it is expected to contribute to achieving the province’s climate action goals.
“We’re excited to be testing gas heat pumps in residential customer homes. These heat pumps will give our customers the ability to upgrade to the next generation of high-efficiency gas equipment, helping them lower their energy use and GHG emissions,” said Danielle Wensink, director, conservation and energy management at FortisBC. “Improving energy efficiency is one of the ways we can help our customers decarbonize their homes and by testing these gas heat pumps today, we’re continuing to advance and provide our customers with new options for the future.”
Gas heat pump technology is brand new for residential homes in B.C. Gas heat pumps work by using energy to capture heat from the outdoor ambient air as an additional energy source and then transferring it indoors for space or hot water heating. These units have the potential to replace both natural gas furnaces and hot water systems in the future, using as little as half the natural gas needed today while still providing the same level of comfort for the homeowners.
FortisBC is leading the introduction in B.C. homes by piloting two different types of residential gas heat pump units in real-world settings for the first time in the province. The company is working with two manufacturers, ThermoLift Inc. (ThermoLift) and Stone Mountain Technologies Inc. (SMTI). ThermoLift is currently field-testing their pre-production indoor units in homes across Canada and the United States. In lab settings, these units achieved efficiencies of more than 100 per cent, and recently these savings were validated in real-world settings. SMTI’s Anesi-brand units are a certified gas heat pump system which have already shown promising results in northern regions of the United States, but this is the first time they will be tested in B.C.
If these heat pump technologies perform as well as they have in previous tests, British Columbians will have more options on how to decarbonize their homes. Approximately 50 per cent of B.C. homes currently use natural gas as their energy source for space heating and, with the ability to install gas heat pumps, customers can continue to use gas in their homes while taking advantage of the energy efficiency benefits a heat pump can offer, including reducing GHG emissions. By also having the option to sign up to receive Renewable Natural Gas, customers can reduce their household emissions even further with a carbon neutral option to heat their homes. In addition, these units are hydrogen enabled meaning they can operate on gas-hydrogen blends without needing any modifications in the future.
FortisBC customers who install either one of these units could save up to 40 gigajoules (GJ) of natural gas a year, which is roughly about six months of annual use by a typical household using, on average, about 85 GJ a year. This equates to lowering energy bills by up to almost $500 annually and reducing household GHG emissions by up to about two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to a standard natural gas furnace and hot water heater. Both types of gas heat pumps are rated to perform effectively in colder climates, even when outdoor temperatures drop below -25 degrees Celsius, making them a great option for the colder northern and interior regions of the province.
As part of FortisBC’s pilot program, the 20 homes that have been selected will have either a ThermoLift or SMTI gas heat pump installed–the first two units were installed this month, with the remaining units being installed throughout the rest of the year. Once installed, FortisBC will work with a third-party consultant who will measure the performance and efficiencies of space and water heating of the units for a year. Based on the results, the team will determine if these units meet the specific criteria to design and launch a full-scale energy-efficiency rebate program.
Bringing forward innovative technologies such as gas heat pumps is one of the ways FortisBC is leading the way in helping their customers improve energy efficiency, reduce monthly bills and lower GHG emissions in their homes to support achieving the province’s climate action goals. Improving energy efficiency is vital in meeting the requirements set out in the CleanBC Roadmap.
To learn more about FortisBC’s target to reduce their customers’ GHG emissions 30 per cent by 2030, visit fortisbc.com/30BY30. For British Columbians who are interested in testing new energy efficient technology and potentially being participants in future pilot programs visit fortisbc.com/letsgo.
“We’re incredibly excited to bring our Anesi gas absorption heat pumps into B.C. for the first time and we’re looking forward to seeing how they will help lower their household GHG emissions without sacrificing comfort or affordability,” said Michael Garrabrant, president of SMTI. “As we prepare to make these available in the market in 2023, it has been great to work with a forward-looking organization like FortisBC who is testing energy efficient solutions today while thinking ahead at how these units can operate on renewable and low carbon gases in the future.”
“Working with FortisBC has presented a great opportunity to understand the impact our technology will have in reducing energy use, costs, and carbon emissions in B.C. homes,” said Paul Schwartz, co-founder and director of ThermoLift. “Piloting the technology is a great way for us to work together so we can bring new and innovative solutions to the people of British Columbia.”
- Gas heat pumps have the potential to meet requirements outlined in the CleanBC Roadmap stating all space and water heating equipment sold in B.C. must be more than 100 per cent efficient by 2030.
- The Thermolift technology provides simultaneous heating, cooling, and domestic hot water in a single unit. It uses a proprietary thermal compression cycle to transfer energy from the outside environment into the building, even in cold climate temperatures and with no loss in heating capacity. The technology operates with efficiencies of more than 150 per cent, resulting in a reduction in energy consumption and direct carbon emissions, as well as energy savings to the customer. The technology also uses a non-toxic, non-flammable, zero-GWP refrigerant and can operate on hydrogen as a fuel source, qualifying it as a net-zero HVAC system. These units are currently installed as indoor units with outdoor applications in the development phase for future installations planned in the greater B.C. area and other parts of Canada.
- SMTI’s Anesi-branded and certified gas heat pumps are installed outside of the home and use the long-proven gas absorption heat pump cycle, which is ideally suited for heating in cold climates, operating comfortably even when outside temperatures drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius. The units pump warm water into the house into a specialized air-handler that replaces the old furnace inside and connects in the traditional manner to a home’s existing ductwork. By adding a simple indirect storage tank, the units can heat the homes hot water supply as well. The Anesi unit has undergone rigorous testing through Intertek’s ETL Certification program and are able to achieve a 140 per cent average fuel utilization efficiency meaning it will lower gas heating costs by up to 50 per cent, while also reducing GHG emissions. In the future, the Anesi gas heat pump will easily adapt to hydrogen or other carbon-free fuels available in the future.
FortisBC Energy Inc. is a regulated utility focused on providing safe and reliable energy, including natural gas, renewable gas, propane and thermal energy solutions. FortisBC Energy Inc. employs more than 2,000 British Columbians and serves approximately 1,054,097 customers across British Columbia. FortisBC Energy Inc. owns and operates approximately 50,182 kilometres of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. FortisBC Energy Inc. is a subsidiary of Fortis Inc., a leader in the North American regulated electric and gas utility industry. FortisBC Energy Inc. uses the FortisBC name and logo under license from Fortis Inc. For further information on FortisBC, visit fortisbc.com. For further information on Fortis Inc., visit fortisinc.com.