Nfld. & Labrador

Electricians and mini-split sellers see demand surge as homeowners step away from oil heating

As the cost of living rises and the seasons change for cooler temperatures, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are investing big bucks in their homes with the end goal being long-term savings. 

High oil prices, N.L. rebate program driving spike in interest in cheaper, greener alternatives

Businesses are seeing a spike in demand as people across Newfoundland and Labrador hope to save money by switching to electric heating. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

As the cost of living rises and the weather cools, Newfoundlanders and Labrador electricians say they're seeing a surge in demand from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians moving away from oil heat to greener alternatives.

Trevor Leonard, co-owner of 709 Electrical in Torbay, says there's been an "unprecedented demand" from customers going electric.

"We're doing a lot of converting people from getting off oil, putting in baseboard heat, putting in electric furnaces, putting in central heat pumps," he told CBC News on Monday.

The provincial government is running a rebate program to help homeowners transition away from oil heating. The fuel's cost has spiked since Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent global oil prices soaring. The program, which started April 1 and runs until March 15, is also an effort to encourage people to transition to green heating alternatives.

And with customers trying to save money this winter by going electric, business is booming to the point where electricians are booked for months in advance.

Leonard, an electrician for about 20 years in the St. John's area, said the fall is generally a busier time for electricians even in a normal year. 

But this year, he said, demand is far outpacing supply, and finding additional employees to help keep up with the pace has been a struggle, leading to project delays.

Other companies have told Leonard they're in a similar situation, he said. 

"In terms of sales, in terms of numbers, it's been a high year this year," said Leonard. 

"Essentially, because we can't get the manpower to accommodate all the jobs that are coming in, the jobs just have to wait longer. If someone calls me today, I'm booked two or three months out."

Saving money

Tony Parker, general manager of Greenfoot Energy Solutions in St. John's, said 2022 has been a banner year for mini-split heat pump sales.

He said demand started ticking upward in the summer when the weather was extremely humid but customers also looked ahead to the winter to cut down on heating energy use.

A man standing against a blue backdrop.
Trevor Leonard is the co-owner of 709 Electrical. Leonard says it has been a busy year transitioning customers away from oil heating. (Submitted by Trevor Leonard)

He said mini-splits use less energy compared to baseboard heaters by about 50 per cent in some instances,

"What we see is as soon as people's thermostats in their home start kicking, that's the incentive for them to move forward," Parker said. 

"If you're putting in a heat pump I completely understand why you're doing it — you're trying to save money."

Leonard agreed. Supply chain issues under the pandemic could still be partly to blame for delays, he said, but the mini-split demand is being driven by people trying to save money.

"People are sick of paying high gas prices. Oil prices are, of course, through the roof. There's people out there with $1,000 a month, $2,000 a month on an oil bill," he said. 

"People can't do that. That's just unreasonable."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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