Electric heat pumps

Find out if an electric heat pump is right for your home.

Are you looking for a more energy-efficient way to heat and cool your home? An electric heat pump may be the solution for you.

Since they work well in cold temperatures, most homes in Toronto are well-suited to getting electric heat pumps and they’re becoming more common across the province. More than 400,000 households in Ontario use electric heat pumps for heating and cooling.

What is an electric heat pump?

An electric heat pump is a piece of equipment that can heat and cool your home. It’s an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly alternative to a system that uses a furnace or boiler and air conditioner (AC).

Electric heat pump.

Did you know? Heat pumps aren’t just for heating and cooling your home. For example, your refrigerator uses a heat pump to keep its contents cool.

How electric heat pumps work

Instead of generating heat using fossil fuels, like a furnace does, electric heat pumps move heat using electricity.

During cooler weather, electric heat pumps move heat from outside into your house to keep you warm. This might sound like it won’t work when it’s cold out, but even when the outside air is cold, it still contains thermal energy, which the electric heat pump captures.

Did you know? In several countries with very cold winters, electric heat pumps are the new standard in home heating. For example, more than 60% of homes in Norway now rely on electric heat pumps.

Electric heat pumps can also operate like ACs. During warmer weather, electric heat pumps cool your home by moving heat from inside your house to outside, just like an AC.

There are also different types of electric heat pumps. You can learn more in the types of electric heat pumps section of this page.

Benefits of electric heat pumps

Electric heat pumps have many important benefits for you and the environment.

Furnaces and boilers are typically powered by natural gas. Natural gas emits harmful gases known as nitrogen oxides, which have been linked to respiratory health issues. The Government of Canada recognises nitrogen oxides as contributors to air pollution.

Electric heat pumps are powered using electricity, not natural gas. This means they don’t emit harmful gases, so you can enjoy cleaner air around your neighbourhood.

Heating your home with fossil fuels, like natural gas, contributes to climate change. In one year, a typical detached home in Toronto with a high-efficiency gas furnace releases 3.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide on average into the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of cutting down 135 trees every year.

Electric heat pumps are better for the environment because they’re powered by electricity. This is especially impactful in Ontario, where approximately 90% of the provincial electrical supply is generated using zero-emissions sources such as hydro, wind and nuclear power.

By making the switch to a heat pump, you’re also helping your city and Ontario reach their net-zero emissions goals.

You may be able to save on your energy expenses by switching to a heat pump. In a Government of Canada survey, most Ontarians who replaced their gas-fuelled heating systems with electric heat pumps reported at least some monthly savings. However, whether an electric heat pump will help you save costs and the exact savings will depend on your household.

An electric heat pump allows you to take care of both your home’s heating and cooling needs in a single investment. Based on survey data, Ontarians who replaced their gas furnaces with electric heat pumps are just as satisfied with the system’s heating performance.

Types of electric heat pumps

There are two types of heat pumps — air source and ground source. Air source heat pumps extract heat from the air. Ground source heat pumps extract heat from the ground. Once the heat pump extracts heat from the air or ground, it moves the heat in or outside your home, typically through a ductless system or air ducts.

Ductless heat pumps can heat one or more rooms or zones of your home. They typically use an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units (also referred to as “heads”). The indoor unit(s) will heat and cool the room(s) or zone(s) they’re located in.

This type of heat pump can heat your whole home with a single unit. Similar to a furnace, a central-ducted heat pump is connected to ductwork in your home and you can control it using a central thermostat.

Many homes currently use a furnace or boiler with an AC for heating and cooling. There’s a trend toward replacing ACs with heat pumps.

A hybrid system uses a heat pump as the main heating and cooling source, but keeps the furnace or boiler as a backup. Your furnace or boiler may only be used below a certain temperature, when the heat pump may become less efficient or more costly to run.

Heat from the ground is more consistent than heat from the air in the winter, making this the most energy-efficient heat pump system. Most of the time, ground source heat pumps use ducts to heat your home.

Purchase and installation costs

Each type of heat pump system has a different cost to purchase and install.

Note: When choosing any electric heat pump, make sure that it’s cold-climate certified. Cold-climate certified electric heat pumps are designed to effectively provide heat on days as cold as -25°C.

Types of electric heat pumps and their average costs

Note: The following table contains approximate costs as of 2023. However, the costs are subject to change.

Type Best for Typical cost to purchase and install (before taxes and applicable government funding)
Air source ductless heat pump
  • Small spaces
  • Homes without existing ductwork
  • Additional heating and cooling in a specific area of your home, such as a home extension
Approximately $4,000 to $6,000 per head
Air source central-ducted heat pump
  • Most Toronto homes, since many already use ducts for heating and cooling
Approximately $14,000 to $22,000
Hybrid system: air source heat pump and furnace
  • Homes that already use ducts for heating and cooling
  • Homeowners that are looking to replace their AC

Starting at approximately $14,500 (includes the cost of a new furnace)

Note: Installing a hybrid system is only about $1,000 to $3,000 more expensive upfront than replacing your system with a new furnace and AC.

Ground source heat pumps
  • New construction houses
  • Detached homes and larger properties
Up to approximately $30,000

Note: This table doesn't include costs to upgrade any ductwork or electrical service that may be required to install an electric heat pump. If you require an electrical service upgrade, learn more and make a request on our service connections page.

Grants and loans

If you’re buying and installing an electric heat pump, there are two government programs that offer grants and loans to help you save. Both programs require you to start the application by booking a home energy assessment from an energy auditor.

Learn more about these programs to see if you qualify and to apply:

Ready to make the switch?

Follow our step-by-step guide to get an electric heat pump.

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