Heat pumps for up here

Roy Whiten is serious about energy conservation. He is championing heat pumps, an energy efficient system of heating and cooling, in the territory. He is almost apologetic when he explains that his company, Hvactech Systems, also does conventional systems.

Roy Whiten is serious about energy conservation.

He is championing heat pumps, an energy efficient system of heating and cooling, in the territory.

He is almost apologetic when he explains that his company, Hvactech Systems, also does conventional systems.

“We have to eat, so we also do fossil fuel systems and things like that. Alternative energy seems to be a tough slog up here for some reason.”

The alternative energy branch of his company is called Green Heat.

Although heat pump technology has been slow to catch on in the North, it has been around for a while.

Whiten sold his first heat recovery system at the Icy Waters fish farm in 1987.

Since then, he has been involved in just about every successful heat pump installation in the territory, he said.

The technology works like a refrigerator or air conditioner to transfer heat between spaces.

But the flow of energy is reversible – heat pumps can take energy out of a space as easily as they put it in.

Heat pump systems are efficient because they take some energy from the environment – whether it is an air, water, or ground source.

Electric systems are 100 per cent efficient – for every kilowatt of energy you put in, you get a kilowatt of energy out.

Burning fuel is less than 100 per cent efficient because energy is lost, for example, by heat escaping out the chimney.

But with a heat pump, you can put one kilowatt of energy in and get three kilowatts out.

At the Whitehorse Rapids Fish Hatchery, for example, water is pulled up from a well, a heat pump extracts a few degrees of heat off the water, and it is then returned into the Yukon River.

The heat pulled out of the water is used to keep the space warm.

The Taku Building in Whitehorse, home to Coast Mountain Sports, uses a hybrid system.

There are oil boilers used to heat the building, but the way that heat is recycled through the space means much less fuel is used.

Heat pumps are a “no brainer” for commercial spaces, where both heating and cooling are required, said Whiten.

In a conventional system, the heating and cooling systems don’t talk to each other.

You could be running an air conditioner in the boiler room, and that heat would be released to the world, even if you were simultaneously burning fuel to heat a different part of the building.

With heat pumps, you move energy around to the places where it is needed from the places were it is not.

The sun’s energy hitting one side of the building can be captured and used to heat the other.

Inside Coast Mountain Sports, energy from lighting, computers and shoppers can be retrieved and used to heat the office space upstairs.

Ventilation systems can capture heat from air before it is exhausted from the building, instead of continually pumping in cold air, heating it and releasing it.

Terry Sherman, property manager for the Hougen Group of Companies, is a believer.

He manages both the Taku Building and the Hougen Centre next door.

Both buildings are about 36,000 square feet, and are used in similar ways.

But the Hougen Centre doesn’t have the Taku’s efficient heating and cooling system.

Over a year the Taku Building saved $36,000 in electricity and fuel costs compared to what was spent at the Hougen Centre, said Sherman.

“We were quite shocked ourselves when we actually sat down and took our utility bills and all our oil bills and added them up.”

And the system also pays back in comfort. Because the system is constantly moving energy to the places where it is needed from those where it is not, individual climate control is possible.

With conventional buildings, the most common complaint he hears is that some areas are always too cold while others are too hot. Not at the Taku.

The price tag to put in a system like that is not cheap. The upfront cost is probably 40 to 45 per cent more than a conventional system, said Sherman.

But it will eventually pay for itself in savings, and operating costs are now relatively immune to spikes in fuel prices.

People in the Yukon are starting to catch on.

Yukon Energy and Yukon Electrical company recently released a five-year plan to promote efficient use of energy in the territory.

Part of the plan is to pilot residential heat pump systems and offer incentives for installations if the pilots prove successful.

There is a common myth that heat pumps are no good in the North.

It is true that air-to-air heat pumps, the cheapest and simplest to install for residential use, become less efficient in colder temperatures.

The colder the air, the less energy can be pulled from it.

At minus 40 the systems don’t work at all, and a full backup heat system is required.

But for some the payoff is worth it.

“This woman was amazing,” said Whiten of one residential installation he did. “She had that oil tank and oil furnace ripped out before we even got there. She had her mind made up. It’s a good thing we had one in stock.”

The woman, an accountant, carefully kept track of her energy costs before and after the retrofit.

She calculated that she had saved $1,500 in the first year of operation. The installation cost just under $15,000.

As for Whiten, he uses the Yukon’s only ground-source heat pump at his Army Beach home.

He pulls energy into his home from holes drilled beneath the earth.

On a hot sunny day, when his home is collecting more energy than it needs, the excess goes back underground for future use.

He’ll never see a payback on his investment for that system, he said.

“I had to go to Texas to buy my own rig because it was cheaper than hiring the drillers up north here.”

But he simply had to prove that it would work.

“This is helping my grandson out ultimately, right? You’ve got to think of the future generations.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read