Heat Pumps More Costly, Less Efficient Than Gas Furnaces

A recent study (by Andrew Montfort of the Global Warming Policy Foundation) addressing the Net Zero policies of the United Kingdom government has calculated that heat pumps, which Climate ‘activists’ […]
Published on August 24, 2023

A recent study (by Andrew Montfort of the Global Warming Policy Foundation) addressing the Net Zero policies of the United Kingdom government has calculated that heat pumps, which Climate ‘activists’ advocate to replace home heating (in that nation, and in Canada), do none of the things that their proponents claim.   Heat pumps are neither more efficient than gas boilers, nor cheaper, and do a very expensive job of reducing carbon dioxide, ‘CO2’, emissions.  Heat pumps eliminate those emissions at a cost of over £300 – ~CAD$400 – per tonne of CO2, which far exceeds the estimated cost of those emissions to global Gross Domestic Product.  In summary, heat pumps are the antithesis of a true solution to a questionable ‘problem’.

The situation in the U.K. seems to favour heat pumps, more so than in Canada.  The U.K. has a more moderate climate with milder winters.  As heat pumps are more efficient in such environments, that would give them an advantage versus their use in Canada.  In addition, natural gas prices are much higher in the U.K. than in Canada, and are likely to remain higher.  This makes the heat pump option superficially seem better.  Finally, gas boilers, the usual heating method in the U.K., are not as efficient as the forced air natural gas-fired furnaces commonly installed in Canada, which would seem to give the heat pump an advantage.  Yet, all those things still do not help this touted Green replacement for traditional heating methods in attaining superiority.

An example of the cost differential:  $10.84 per gigajoule, ‘GJ’ in early summer in British Columbia (Source:  Fortis) for natural gas, including delivery and transport charges – but not adding carbon tax, or $0.039 per kilowatt-hour.  With a natural gas furnace’s high efficiency rating of 95%, this brings a final cost of $0.041 per kWh.

At BC Hydro’s rate for higher use of $0.1422 per kWh, and a heat pump efficiency of 2.7 (according to a study by an engineer (David Elstrom:  LinkedIn, February, 2020) – heat pumps deliver more heat per unit of energy input -costs $0.053 per kWh.  So, aside from carbon taxes and other fees loaded onto natural gas bills, and not taking into account possible rebates for heat pump purchases, it is clear that gas furnaces are cheaper and possibly greener than heat pumps, even in mild coastal B.C., let alone chillier provinces.

Electric baseboard and electric forced air heating costs more in Canada than gas furnaces, even in relatively mild climates such as coastal British Columbia.  This, despite relatively cheap hydroelectric power, (also cheap in Quebec and Manitoba but not Newfoundland and Labrador). Yet, electric heating is what the Climate Alarmists, including those in the current federal government, want to impose on Canadians (at least in new construction).  Hydroelectric use is also near capacity.

The capital cost of heat pumps is generally higher than gas furnaces – and the operational costs will be much higher as well.  These requirements, married with the other intrusive regulations that may be dreamed up by zealous officials, could make home ownership or rental even more expensive and unaffordable for Canada’s burgeoning population.

Along with prohibiting gas stoves, water heaters and dryers, this is one more ‘policy initiative’ Canadians should resist, strongly.


Ian Madsen is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

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