FortisBC Energy Inc. 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 (BC) as part of a FortisBC pilot program.
With the potential to cut the energy needed for space and water heating by up to 50%, lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, operate in colder winter conditions and exceed 100% 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.
These units are hydrogen enabled meaning they can operate on gas-hydrogen blends without needing any modifications in the future. The company prepare to make these available in the market in 2023.
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%, 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% 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.
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.