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Burlington's heat pump incentive program: what you need to know

Initiative is another step towards city's net-zero emissions goals
A heat pump can replace a home's furnace and air-conditioning system.

The City of Burlington is offering incentives to help residents take action on climate change, but the time is now to take advantage of the city's heat-pump retrofit program for homeowners.

According to the Region of Halton’s 2022  Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory report, transportation accounts for 44 per cent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Region followed by 22 per cent coming from residential homes and apartments.

Natural Resources Canada states that heating and cooling can make up to 64 per cent of a home’s energy use. Heat pumps, units that can replace both household furnaces and air conditioners, have been widely discussed as the solution to reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency.

A staff report to council in 2022 noted that implementation of a home energy efficiency retrofit (HERO) program is one of the key program areas identified in the Climate Action Plan. The plan includes a target of over 50,000 existing homes (singles, semis and towns) requiring energy retrofits, including the installation of heat pumps.

The challenge becomes how to educate, encourage and incent homeowners to undertake a retrofit to reduce their carbon footprint.

In September of this year, the City launched Better Homes Burlington, a pilot program to help homeowners understand options, available incentives and with the cost of doing home energy upgrades to improve energy efficiency. Homeowners can apply to the program to receive an interest-free loan of up to $10,000 to help with the purchase and installation of an air-source heat pump to replace a natural gas or oil burning furnace and air conditioning unit.

Better Homes Burlington Coordinator Lauren McAusland is spreading the word about the city's incentive programs. Photo courtesy Lauren McAusland

Lauren McAusland is the Better Homes Burlington Coordinator, the contact person for the program, helping to guide homeowners through the process of the transition to a heat pump and answer questions residents may have about some of the other incentive programs offered by other levels of government or other entities.

“We’re going to be offering 20 loans for eligible homeowners,” said McAusland. “We’ll be following along with the applicants to learn about their experience purchasing and installing their air-source heat pumps, assessing their carbon reduction, and their overall satisfaction with both their heat pumps and our program.”

As of Dec. 7, 12 of the spots have been filled although the City has received over 50 inquires about the program. Applications will be accepted until all 20 spots are filled or by early February.

McAusland noted that there are many different makes and models of heat pumps often dependant on the size of a home, weather conditions, and other factors. There are also a number of reliable contractors available to choose from.

However, the City of Burlington will not pre-qualify contractors or procure contracts to perform energy assessments or install retrofit improvements on behalf of homeowners in connection with this program. The homeowner will use the funds disbursed by the City of Burlington to pay contractors directly.

Homeowners are asked to have their home undergo an energy audit before and after heat pump installation (paid separately by the homeowner and eligible for other incentive programs) to help measure the efficiency and the amount of carbon reduction experienced.

Once the heat pump is installed, hopefully during the first quarter of 2024, the loan funds will be released by the City. Homeowners will have five years to repay the loan.

“Some people have been able to turn around (the purchase of the heat pump) in a matter of weeks, depending on the number of quotes they get,” McAusland said. She recommends that homeowners seek multiple quotes from contractors.

McAusland is hopeful the program will be a positive experience and added, “We’ve been hearing that there is an interest for people to switch to heat pumps but it can be a bit intimidating. By having the City provide a ‘concierge’ type of service, someone they can talk to (McAusland) to help guide them through the process has been very helpful.

“After the pilot closes we will be doing an evaluation and writing a report to council by the end of 2024 with the results of the pilot and our recommendations for the future,” she added.

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Lawson Hunter

About the Author: Lawson Hunter

Lawson Hunter has been a freelance writer for more than 30 years. His articles on technology, the environment, and business have been published in local and national newspapers, magazines and trade publications
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