Nova Scotia

Air conditioner, heat pump sales surge with more Nova Scotians working from home

With Nova Scotia starting to heat up for the summer — and more people working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic — air conditioner and heat pump sales are already picking up.

Nova Scotia Power had more calls last week than in all of April

The province has seen some hot, humid days at the end of May and that's sent people looking for AC units, tower fans and heat pumps. (File Photo)

With Nova Scotia starting to heat up for the summer — and more people working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic — air conditioner and heat pump sales are picking up steam.

The province has seen some hot, humid days at the end of May and that's sent people looking for AC units and tower fans.

"We're selling them just as quickly as they're coming in," said Tina Chiasson, store manager of Payzant Home Hardware in Lower Sackville, N.S.

"I thought I was ordering air conditioners for the summer, but we've had to replenish a couple of times since."

Jeanette Joudrey, operations manager for Kings Refrigeration and Air Conditioning in Cambridge, N.S., said the business saw a big drop in calls this spring because of the pandemic.

But with eased restrictions and warmer weather, the phone has started ringing off the hook, said Joudrey. The company has bookings for heat pump installations through June.

Home Hardware in Lower Sackville is selling air conditioners faster than they can get them in stock. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"I think it has something to do with the premier's message [on Wednesday] about businesses being able to open next week," she said. "I do think that everybody has been sitting tight, waiting to call, because they're sweating to death."

It's not the only business getting lots of calls. 

"Our phone's been going off the hook," said Peter Leask, sales and operations manager for Scotia HVAC, based in Dartmouth.

Leask thought it was likely that people working from home would lead to a spike in sales. "And I see it already," he said.

Nova Scotia Power received more calls about heat pumps last week than during the entire month of April, according to spokesperson Jacqueline Foster.

Foster said contractors are ready to do the work safely and they have public health protocols in place, including the use of personal protective equipment, social distancing and disinfecting work areas before and after the installation.

Apartment woes

But for people who live in multi-unit dwellings, they may have fewer options for keeping cool this summer.

Social media posts say some apartment buildings in the province have already sent out notices to tenants that they are not allowed to install air conditioners in their units this summer.

But the Residential Tenancies Act requires any rules to be disclosed to a tenant before signing a lease — and any changes to a landlord's rules must be announced in writing four months before a tenant's lease start date.

A spokesperson for the province said this provides enough time for a tenant to give notice and vacate the premises if there is disagreement.

The slower spring season means many places are now overstocked with heat pumps and hoping to sell them. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The national trade association that represents more than 1,150 companies in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry is making sure employees are "COVID-19 aware" and how to safely engage with customers in what's shaping up to be a busy summer.

Martin Luymes with the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute, said there are frequent questions around COVID-19, indoor air quality and filtration.

"The experts within the industry are still working on the extent to which the virus can, if at all, move potentially through systems within homes or buildings. And if that's the case, what types of solutions may be brought forward," Luymes said.

He said most evidence so far suggests these systems aren't a contributing factor in the spread of the virus.

He also said in Nova Scotia there is a shortage of certified technicians to install heat pumps.

"Contractors can hardly keep up with the demand," Luymes said.

Backlog of installations

Leask said both homeowners and staff were worried about the risks of COVID-19 and workers going into people's homes earlier this spring, but the last few weeks things began to pick up.

That slow spring means many places are overstocked with heat pumps.

"There's probably going to be some considerable deals on things because there's so much stock backed up with last year's product," said Mark Gillis, HVAC manager for Wilsons Mechanical, formerly Halifax Heating.

Gillis said the company has been busy the last few weeks.

"I think people who are working from home now probably had air conditioning at their office and were fine with not having air conditioning at home," Gillis said. "But now that they're working from home, they don't want to sit at home and work and be uncomfortable."

Joudrey said the spring also created a demand for annual maintenance and cleaning, so things are looking busy this summer.

"I think we're going to get slammed," she said. "People can't live without air conditioning anymore."

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