New Brunswick

Free heat pumps, insulation upgrade available to some N.B. households

Some New Brunswickers can now get upgraded insulation and a mini-split heat pump installed in their homes for free as part of a program to reduce energy consumption provincewide.  

About 600 people have registered for new program since Wednesday

(CBC)

Some New Brunswickers can now get upgraded insulation and a mini-split heat pump installed for free as part of a program to reduce energy consumption. 

The Enhanced Energy Savings Program, a partnership between N.B. Power and the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, launched Wednesday. 

"We're excited to offer the program and ask for customers's patience, because it's obviously going to be very popular, and we'll be doing our best to meet that demand," said Beth Pollock, senior manager of energy efficiency services at N.B. Power. 

The program will also provide energy efficiency kits to interested renters. 

The kits include LED light bulbs, a night light, faucet aerators, a water-efficient shower head and an electrical power bar. 

"All those things used together will help reduce energy costs," said Pollock. 

"We felt there was a need to expand incentives and expand reach to people who weren't able to pay for incentives up front." 

The province ended its home energy rebate program earlier this year, which provided households with a gross income of $30,000 or less with $100 each year to put toward energy costs. 

Beth Pollock, the senior manager of energy efficiency services at NB Power, says heat pumps can save household about $500 a year in energy costs. (Submitted by NB Power)

Now, households with a combined gross income of $70,000 or less who use electric baseboard heating can access the insulation and heat pumps. 

Pollock said a heat pump could save households at least $500 each year. 

'It can be huge,' says expert

"I think it's fantastic that New Brunswick is providing free heat pumps to homes in low-income housing... energy poverty is a major concern," said climate change expert Heather McDiarmid. 

She said upgraded insulation combined with the addition of a heat pump can make a significant difference in your home's energy consumption.

"Depending on the investment and the insulation, I've seen homes that have reduced their energy bills by 80 per cent," said McDiarmid, who runs a climate change consulting firm in Waterloo, Ontario. 

She said heat pumps alone use a third of the energy, on average, that an electric baseboard heater does. 

Portrait of a woman with glasses.
Heather McDiarmid runs her own climate change consulting firm. She says the addition of a heat pump can significantly reduce energy consumption in one's home. (Heather McDiarmid/LinkedIn)

McDiarmid said the reason heat pumps use so much less energy is because, unlike electric baseboard heaters, they don't generate heat, they circulate heat that already exists in the air. 

She said swapping out energy consuming items, including incandescent light bulbs and traditional power bars, won't have a significant impact on a household's overall energy consumption. But they're still valuable, she said. 

"They can have small impacts that add up."

She said hot water is the second highest energy user in a home, "anything you do to reduce your need for hot water will result in savings." 

Lots of uptake

Pollock said since Wednesday, 600 people have registered for the heat pump and insulation installation, and more than 1,000 renters in the province have registered for the energy efficiency kits . 

She said the program's current budget includes 2,000 mini-split heat pumps and about 30,000 energy efficient kits. 

"People are really excited about it, we're getting great uptake, lots of registrations already," said Pollock. 

The province has invested $30 million into the program over several years. 

Pollock said she anticipates installation of the heat pumps will happen about two or three months after registration. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isabelle Leger is a reporter based out of Fredericton. You can reach her at isabelle.leger@cbc.ca

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