• Members Login

Why a Heat Pump For Your Place of Worship?


Dundas Cardigan, PEI

For faith communities, replacing a heating system is one of the single largest capital cost expenses (the other one is replacing the roof). Most congregational spaces have either boilers with radiators, or furnaces with ductwork that consume oil, gas or propane. While the typical lifespan may be 25 years for these appliances, I have seen many span decades of service.

Sure, they keep going, so why change them? Well, just like you and I, we get less efficient with age. For instance, a furnace from the 1990s may have started out at, say, 84% efficient (meaning, for simplicity’s sake that 84% of the fuel is turned into heat, and 16% of the energy is wasted), but after 25+ years may be operating in the low 70% range. Older furnaces and boilers could be much, much lower efficiency. Now take your gas/oil/propane bill for the year and find what that 30% costs you per year. It is a lot! Your payback to switching becomes much clearer.

Instead of swapping out old units for new ones and carrying on, many congregations are switching to air source heat pumps.


Kings United, Bay Fortune NS

You may know these as mini-splits, or just heat pumps. These are electrically powered, so they remove the need for fossil fuels within your building. They work like a refrigerator taking cold air from the outside of the building, and with a fan blowing it over a coil with a refrigerant in it. There is a compressor, and basically it makes heat. How much heat? Well, for every unit of electricity it uses, it can make 3-4 units of heat! Compare this to an electric baseboard where 1 unit of electricity makes about .75 units of heat, and you get the efficiency picture really quickly. Now the cool thing (literally) about these is that they can run backwards and also make cool air, so it also supplies air conditioning to the building. With climate change and other factors to consider, such as more and more permanent tenants in these spaces, air conditioning helps to make renting your various spaces much easier.

Again, it is even more efficient than your regular air conditioning. So you may have seen the mini split systems with a head on the inside, and the compressor on the outside, which being split in two units, is where the name comes from. But you can also have a compressor on the outside run to a new furnace blower box and supply conditioned air to your existing ductwork. There are also rooftop units for those larger buildings and mechanical systems. 

Brunswick Street Mission, Halifax NS

The main question people ask is will they still provide heat in the really cold winter? The answer is yes. Newer units, especially ENERGY STAR® approved units, have dual stage compressors, so they can basically “go around again” and extract more heat from the coils. Yes, the efficiency of the unit does drop as it gets really cold. So if you are working at 4:1 efficiency at -12C, then maybe 3:1 at -19C and 2:1 at -26C, as a rough example. That’s a conversation to have with your HVAC contractor.

I know that the Faithful Footprints grant program (see below) has approved heat pumps for ALL climate zones across the country, with everyone praising the comfort and energy savings gained. So consider heat pumps wherever you are as a way to reduce your energy costs and impact upon the climate.

You can also utilize our professional knowledge with virtual Green Audits that look at energy, air quality, food, water, waste, maintenance, rental agreements, heritage and much more.

The more you can learn about your building, the more you can save energy, minimize maintenance costs, and maximize the usage of your amazing faith community building.

Faithful Footprints Program

The United Church of Canada (UCC) Faithful Footprints program offers grants, tools and inspiration to help its congregations reduce their carbon footprint. With UCC’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions 80% by 2050, this one of a kind program offers up to $30,000 in grants towards energy conservation and renewable energy projects (conditions apply).

Faith & the Common Good is the delivery partner for UCCs Faithful Footprints program.  To date, we have engaged over 200 UCC congregations, camps, and buildings across the country. Your participation in the program puts your faith into action and helps UCC reach its target. 

Stephen Collette is the Building Manager for Faith & the Common Good and can be reached at 705-930-1011 EDT, [email protected] 


Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Stephen Collette

Make A Donation

Help fund our important work by making a secure donation.



Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or email. Created with NationBuilder