Saint John Energy heat-pump rentals continue to boom

Two years after Saint John Energy started offering rentals for mini-split heat pumps, the popular program has exceeded 3,000 unit rentals.

Program in its second year hits more than 3,000 rentals, with 27 percent of units going to NB Power homes.

The utility credits the success of the program with the continued ability to allow many customers access to a product that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. (CBC)

Two years after Saint John Energy started offering rentals for mini-split heat pumps, the popular program has exceeded 3,000 unit rentals.

Launched in 2016, the utility covered the cost of installing the units and the heat pump for customers who commit to a minimum three-year rental. Initially, it catered only to Saint John customers, but it soon began to expand its reach to other cities in the province.

"Our first year we had budgeted for 200 installs, and we hit 1,568 installs," said Marta Kelly, the vice-president of finance and customer service.

The first-year total doubled in the second year.

"Currently we are at 3,100 installations," Kelly said. "The demand's been fairly consistent year over year."

Bumps in rentals occur after events such as home shows, where the heat pumps are promoted.

Marta Kelly said the utility will begin to see profits with the rental program in its fifth to seventh year. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

The attraction of the program continues to be that the bulk of the costs are covered. Heat pumps can cost up to $4,000 to buy and install, but the utility charges a maximum of $49 a month. For customers outside the city, Saint John Energy tacks on $10 to cover travel expenses.

With 2,230 rentals in Saint John, the bulk of the program's success continues to be within the city. But about a quarter of its rentals come from NB Power customers, some as far away as Fredericton and Moncton.

Kelly said the plan is to "keep on truckin'" to continue the success of the program.

The mini-split pumps have a 12-year warranty, which Kelly said will help the utility make money in years five to seven.

"Right now, we're still in the infancy stages, where there's more capital outlay going out than there would be revenue," she said. "Once we get to seven years, then we'll start to be making some profits."