Your essential home heating guide

Keep your home heating system in tip-top shape

Over 60% of your annual energy costs go towards heating your home, so it’s worth heating it as efficiently as possible. Use the following resources to keep your home comfortable and your energy costs down.

In addition to the tips below, visit the Energy Hub for additional tips and tricks and explore energy saving resources for your home.

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Home heating tips & tricks
Family looking out at snowy landscape.
Electric wall heater

Types of Air Source Heat pumps:

Ductless Heat Pumps: These are suitable for places with no ductwork installed. These can be single port or multiport depending on the number of zones in the home requiring heating/cooling. These are typically installed outside the home and connected to ports inside.

Ducted Heat Pumps: Also known as a central heat pump. This type of system may be suitable if there is a pre-installed ducting/vent system in the home. These heat pumps provide both heating and cooling through the existing duct/vent systems in the home.

Heat Pumps vs Electric Furnaces and Baseboard Heaters

Heat pumps operate on the principle of heat transfer from sources like air, ground, or water with the help of a refrigerant and electricity. Electric Heat pumps do not burn fuel to create heat and are up to 3x more efficient than an electric furnace or baseboards. ‘Cold climate’ air source heat pumps are designed to operate in temperatures as low as -25 to -30 C. For extreme cold temperature conditions, electric heat pump systems may have a backup heat source like an electric heating coil in the air handler unit.

Heat Pump Advantages over Furnace

  • Versatility: Heat pumps can heat a home during winter as well as cool it during summertime. Hence, when you switch to a heat pump it can become the only appliance needed for heating and cooling.
  • Efficiency: An air source heat pump is up to 3x more efficient than an electric furnace, even in cold temperatures.
  • Air Quality and Safety: Heat pumps do not produce Carbon Monoxide (CO). Hot air from a furnace can lead to dry skin whereas heat pumps use moisture to heat air, which means produces a higher humidity level in the winter. In the summer, a heat pump acts like a dehumidifier similar to an air conditioner by pulling moisture from the indoor air.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Electric heat pumps do not release any greenhouse gases (GHGs) during their operation making them a greener choice for your home heating needs.
  • Cost saving: Heat pumps can help save on heating costs as they are more cost-effective than oil and propane heaters. Even though the upfront cost in terms of installation in case of a heat pump may be higher, they cost less to operate than furnaces which implies the upfront costs are eventually compensated. Electric furnaces use electric coils to generate heat. Electric furnaces are almost 100% energy efficient but can cost about 2.5 times more than a typical heat pump to output the same amount of heat.
  • Incentives: The Canada Greener Homes Grant offered by the federal government can provide up to $5,000 towards the installation of a new heat pump.

Top 5 furnace tune-up tips


Seal the leaks

Don’t force your HVAC system to work overtime to compensate for poor insulation or drafty windows. If your home’s thermal envelope — the exterior barrier that keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer — is compromised, seal in the heat with insulation, caulking and draft-proofing.


Clean the vents

For maximum efficiency, clean your heating and cooling system every three to five years. Turn off the power on your HVAC. Unscrew the air duct covers from walls, floors and ceilings, and clean the grates with a brush. Use the accessories hose on your vacuum to give your ducts a thorough clean.


Replace the filters

Clogged furnace filters diminish your home’s air quality. Plus, they consume more energy and force the system to work harder. Check the furnace filters monthly, and remember to clean or replace them every 90 days, depending on whether they’re disposable or permanent.


Listen for noises

Clanging, knocking or popping sounds may be signs of worn-out or loose parts in your heating system. If you hear any unusual noises from your furnace, it may be time for repairs. Call a certified HVAC technician to inspect your system.


Have it checked

Once a year, invest in a tune-up with a qualified HVAC technician to ensure your system is running at optimal efficiency. Preventative maintenance will help spot potential issues before they become bigger problems.

To find a qualified licensed technician, call the Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) at 877-467-4724 or check out the contractor locator portal.

Adjusting thermostat

Is it time for a new furnace?

While high-efficiency units tend to have a higher purchase price, lower operating costs mean you will spend less over time.

Proven reliability
Quiet Performance
Better warranty protection
Improved air quality
Use less energy

Think about upgrading if:

The air in your home is too dry or dusty
Your system is more than 15 years old
It’s unusually noisy
Rooms served by the furnace are chilly
You need major parts replaced or repaired

Look for the high AFUE rating

The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating, found on the official Canadian EnerGuide label, is a measure of how efficient your furnace is. The higher the rating, the more efficient the model.

Learn more on how you can save by Fuel Switching

Read about Fuel Switching
Contractor installing furnace

Working with a contractor

How to choose

Choosing a contractor

  1. ​Ask friends and neighbours to recommend a local contractor
  2. ​Do your research and read online reviews
  3. Get at least three quotes in writing and compare estimates​
  4. Ask for an inspection of your current system
  5. To protect yourself, ensure your contractor has general liability insurance​
  6. Ask about services post-installation, including annual servicing and maintenance
  7. Don't know where to start? Contact the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute or consult their list of qualified contractors.

What to look for

What to look for in an agreement

  1. ​A detailed list of all work to be completed
  2. An itemized list of all equipment to be installed, including name, quantity, model number and energy rating
  3. ​ Proof of warranty for both the equipment and installation
  4. ​ Sizing calculations or results of any tests performed​
  5. Liability insurance information (minimum of $2 million)​​
  6. Proof of licences and certification
  7. For ECM-equipped furnace replacements:
    TSSA Registration number to confirm licenced technicians (Gas Technician 1 or 2 or OBT 1 or 2 certification number)
  8. For ENERGY STAR® certified CAC system installations:
    313A Refrigeration and Air Conditioning licence or a 313D Residential Air Conditioning Licence
  9. Payment terms and schedule​​
  10. Start and completion date.