The P.E.I. government is warning Islanders against hiring unlicensed people to install heating and cooling systems.

The Environment Department said it has received dozens of complaints the last few months from people who say their heat pump was installed improperly.  

The popularity of heat pumps — which are used to extract the heat from the air outside, even in sub-zero temperatures, and pump it inside — is on the rise across Atlantic Canada as a way to save money on heating fuels.  

But unlicensed electrical work can increase the likelihood of fire and may violate provincial regulations.  

"What we found is some of them will be installed incorrectly, they won't work, the homeowner will call the [installer] back and although he can sort of install them, he can't service them. So he never returns to the residence to do the work and the homeowner is stuck with a non-functioning unit," said Todd Fraser a provincial air quality specialist.    

Dan Goguen, of  Tradewinds Eco-energy Solutions, said complaints like those make all contractors look bad, even those doing the work properly.  

"We actually have refused to fix many of them, unfortunately, knowing the quality is not there, and it's going to break down again and then it looks bad on us," he said.

To install heat pumps now, the province requires only a one-day course in refrigerant handling. About 160 people on P.E.I. have that certification.  

New regulations have been drafted that will require a two-year Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) course from a school like Charlottetown's Holland College.  

However, those who have the one-day course and more than five years' experience will be grandfathered in.  

The province said if it finds people installing HVAC systems who aren't properly certified, they could be charged and fined. Fines cost about $200 per person and $1,000 per company on the first offense.