RDH has a long history of monitoring buildings to understand their performance better. From building enclosures to energy performance to indoor environmental quality, long-term monitoring provides invaluable insight into how things behave in the real world. As scientists and engineers, we know that this kind of information is critical to improving the decisions, processes, and recommendations that we all have to make.

During 2019 and 2020, RDH was hired by FortisBC, BC Hydro, and the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation to install monitoring equipment, measure, and report on the field performance of 26 air-source heat pumps in 24 homes throughout Vancouver Island and the southern interior British Columbia. Results from the study showed that the monitored heat pumps generally performed as expected in the ASHRAE Climate Zones 4 and 5. Estimating how these heat pumps would perform in colder climates, however, was not considered feasible based on the unique results of the study.

While the British Columbia study provided much insight into the real-world performance of heat pumps in that climate, the results were considered somewhat limited to the region in which they were studied.  For example, it was found that the multitude of competing variables including system types, makes and models, installation quality, occupant behavior, system operation, and climate all played significant factors in contributing to the in-situ performance of these heat pumps. To understand their performance in colder climates, we recommend that future studies be conducted in locations that would reflect the general conditions including installation practices, operating conditions, utility rates, fuel options, and more.

In 2023, the Yukon Government Energy Branch hired RDH to prepare and install monitoring equipment to measure the performance of 19 heat pump systems in 18 homes throughout Whitehorse, Haines Junction, and Tagish in Yukon Territory. This monitoring part of Phase 2 of the heat pump performance monitoring project includes centrally ducted, ductless mini-split, and air-to-water heat pump systems. As a result, 24 heat pumps will be measured for 24 months from Fall 2023 to Fall 2025 and data from the systems will be analyzed after each heating season. Supplemental data such as indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, sub-metered electric heating, and more are also collected.

For more information about this research:

Air Source Heat Pump Pilot Project – Technical Report, Winter 2020-21 (Yukon.ca)

In-Situ Performance of Cold Climate Air-Source Heat Pumps in British Columbia (ASHRAE Cold Climate Conference, 2023)

BC Cold Climate Heat Pump Field Study (RDH Report, 2020)

Date:

December 6, 2023

Clients:

Fortis BC, BC Hydro, Yukon Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources

Completed:

2023

Key Services

Research
Knowledge Sharing

Research at RDH Building Science Laboratories (RDH-BSL) is wide-ranging—from R&D projects that help manufacturers with product development to major research programs that help government and industry partners answer fundamental questions or address large-scale issues. Each project is approached as a unique challenge, requiring a tailored solution.

We undertake these projects in our two laboratory facilities and at field research sites in multiple climate zones across North America. Our staff includes highly trained and experienced researchers and technicians who understand the behaviour of assemblies, components, and materials, as well as the construction and design-related issues that impact performance.

In addition to laboratory and field research, computer-based modeling is an indispensable tool. We analyze and extend measured results using various modeling programs, including two- and three-dimensional heat flow programs (THERM, HEAT 3D), hygrothermal modeling software (WUFI Pro and WUFI Plus), and other in-house proprietary software. Many projects include several phases to allow validation of modeled results with measured data.

Graham Finch | Dipl.T., M.A.Sc., P.Eng.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist
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