The Better Business Bureau for the Atlantic Provinces has received more than 13,000 calls, questions and complaints in the past year, all about heat pumps, and the companies and people installing them.

Heat pumps can reduce heating costs, but a lot depends on the type of unit, the type of house, and the quality of the installation.

And there are a lot of claims about how much savings homeowners can expect.

 'They've gone out of business or simply refused to respond to the homeowner.'
- Peter Moorhouse, Better Business Bureau

When the temperatures drop and those savings don't materialize, that's when those complaints start flying.

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Peter Moorhouse of the Better Business Bureau advised heat pump customers to use reputable dealers. (CBC)

"The phone will start ringing off the hook, and we'll start getting more emails at that time," said Peter Moorhouse, with the Better Business Bureau.

"The first time when we see a prolonged -15 C, -20 C stretch, and so at that time, the homeowners who have purchased that piece of equipment will find the heat pump that they were told would replace their primary heat source isn't keeping up, and we will start getting those complaints."

Not every heat pump works the same, and there are several factors that go into determining the right model for the right house.

Some are more efficient than others, and will do a good job up to -25 C, but others lose their effectiveness once it hits -15 C, so savings disappear.

Certified technicians required

Another source of complaints is the people doing the installation. Certified technicians are supposed to do that job, and electricians are required for the hook up.

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Heat pump installers must be certified technicians in New Brunswick. (CBC)

Companies that offer cheaper deals on installation might not be following the regulations, and might not be around when something breaks down.

"Work has been done by somebody who wasn't really qualified to do the work," said Moorhouse about the complaints.

"Then unfortunately, we see our reputable companies in many cases being called in to fix work that other companies have done, when they've gone out of business or simply refused to respond to the homeowner."

Sara Mudge with NB Power says the province is about to crack down on unqualified installers and companies.

"We will be working with the appropriate legislative bodies to review the credential requirements for heating contractors in the province of New Brunswick," Mudge said.

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NB Power's Sara Mudge says all the utility's registered heat pump installers will have to have proper certification as of April 1. (CBC)

"As of April 1, the only way that they will stay on our list of participating contractors is if they meet those requirements."

Use a reputable company

Moorhouse cautions homeowners to look for reputable dealers. "If you are trying to save a lot of money at the outset by paying a lot less than maybe a reputable company might be charging, unfortunately on the back end very often you'll end up paying even more."

NB Power has offered a $500 rebate this year on high-effiency, ductless heat pumps, a very successful program that has so far attracted 1,261 customers.

It's working on another incentive for next year, so it expects the number of heat pump installations to continue to rise.

Clarifications

  • An original version of this story have have given the impression there were thousands of complaints registered with the Better Business Bureau, when in fact there were thousands of inquiries and dozens of complaints.
    Nov 19, 2015 2:21 PM AT