Heat Pump Retrofit for UNA Strata Residential Buildings

For strata condominium owners and members of strata councils, the process of retrofitting a building with heat pumps can appear overwhelming. For comprehensive information and guidance on navigating the retrofit, please refer to the information and resources available below for both owners and council members.

Heat Pump Retrofits

Building heating systems can come in many forms. Depending on the type of the existing heating system, the approach to retrofitting heat pumps can vary.

The resources below will provide guidance specifically for cases where buildings have electric baseboard heaters in suites as the primary form of heating – a common heating source in the lower mainland.

  • What are heat pumps?

    Heat pumps are are a form of mechanical equipment that can provide heating and cooling to your home. They consist of an indoor unit (evaporator) and an outdoor unit (condensing unit). The units are connected together with refrigerant pipes which move heat between the two units. The direction of the refrigerant changes depending whether the unit is in cooling mode or heating mode.

    There is a compressor located inside the condensing unit that is powered by electricity. This is where the bulk of the energy consumption of the unit 15.

    In heating mode, the system extracts heat from the outside air and pumps it into the indoor space.

    In cooling mode, the system extracts heat from the indoor space and pumps it to the outdoors.

  • Why are we talking about heat pump retrofits?

    There are two major reasons that talk of heat pumps has been on the rise:

    1. Most condominiums in Metro Vancouver do not have cooling infrastructure. This has lead to overheating of units during heat wave events.
    2. There is a drive in Metro Vancouver and at UBC to reduce the energy needed to heat our homes. By reducing the energy needed, we reduce the carbon footprint (also know as decarbonizing) of heating our homes during the winter.
  • What is the advantage of a heat pump?

    Heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling with the same equipment. The same refrigerant cycle is used, the flow of refrigerant is simply reversed between heating mode and cooling mode. This means even in a heat wave event, the home can be cooled and keep indoor temperatures comfortable.

    In heating mode, the units consume less electrical energy than electric base board heaters. The efficiency of a heat pump is described as the Coefficient of Performance (COP). If a heat pump COP is 2.0, then it consumes half the electrical energy of equal heat output to a baseboard heater.

    Heat Pump

    Electric Base Board Heater

  • How can I get heat pumps installed in my building?

    I am a strata council member:

    • Engage engineering consultants:
      • The objective of this phase is for the Strata Council to engage different Consultants to perform studies to review technical feasibility of installing heat pumps throughout the building. The Consultant’s role is to prepare technical solutions, identify risks, and make recommendations on how to mitigate these risks.
      • A Building Envelope Consultant should review the building envelope penetration options for the refrigerant and condensate pipes to prepare Typical Penetration Details.
      • An Electrical Consultant should perform a building energy demand study to determine if any electrical distribution, power upgrades, or panel upgrades are required.
    • Communicate to owners what documents are required for review
      • It is important to communicate the documentation requirements for heat pump retrofit requests by owners. This standardizes the procedure which streamlines the workflow for Strata Councils but also mitigates risks associated to a heat pump installation by ensuring all installations are following the same methodology. The list of documents may differ slightly depending on the building and what the design consultants require. A suggested list of documents is included in the Strata Council Checklist below.
    • Managing and reviewing installation requests
      • It is important that reviews are carried out swiftly and accurately. Installation of heat pumps are best to be done during warm weather. This is a period of high demand for installations so approvals should be completed during the winter months to ensure there is sufficient time for the contractor to apply for permits ahead of the summer. It is also important to be consistent with reviews and ensure all requested documents are provided in all requests.
    • The Strata Councils checklist
      • Download the checklist here.

    I am a unit owner:

    • Prepare your request
      • To start preparing your request, you will need to obtain a list of all the required documents that the Strata Council needs to be able to complete a review for a heat pump retrofit. This may be requested from the building manager.
      • This is also the time to hind a mechanical contractor to review your unit. A site visit will help determine feasibility and ensure the mechanical contractor can give you an accurate quote. This is also a good time to share with the contractor the list of documents that are required by the strata council to approve an installation as they will be responsible for preparing the request to the Strata Council and submit permit applications. See the Owner’s Checklist for suggested documents but the final list should be provided in writing by the Strata Council.
      • It is important to ensure that the mechanical contractor has a Red seal certification and this should be verified.
      • Best practice is to obtain three quotes to ensure pricing is competitive.
    • Make a formal request
      • It is also suggested that the process start well before the summer high season for the installation of heat pumps. Ideally approvals should be obtained over the winter so there is sufficient time for permit reviews and installation. The earlier the process is started, the better. It will be the mechanical contractor’s responsibility to prepare the approval package and it is key that all documents that the Strata Council has requested are included in the review package. Any missing documents might lead to a delay in the project.
    • Getting approval and installation
      • Once approvals are received from the Strata Council, ensure a letter of approval is provided. This letter will need to be included with the permit submission that will need to be prepared by the mechanical contractor. No work should proceed until permits are received from the UBC Planning and Development Department. Refer to their website for all the required documents for a permit application.
    • The owners checklist
      • Download the checklist here.


Heat Pump Workshop

Rewatch our Heat Pump Retrofit workshop to learn more about heat pumps and the retrofit navigation process.

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Clean BC Incentives

Learn more about how heat pumps are more efficient than alternatives and the CleanBC Heat Pump Rebates.

Learn More
Permit Requirements

For information on the building permits needed for additions or alterations to buildings, follow the link below.

Read Here
How to Cool Your Home

Curious about ways to cool your home? Learn about the passive and active cooling systems along with the benefits and challenges they offer when it comes to cooling your home.

Read here
Mechanical Contractors

Not sure where to start on choosing a contractor for your heat pump retrofit? Use the search tool by CleanBC to find a registered contractor for your home upgrades.

Explore Tool

Are you a strata council member or a unit owner? Follow the links to download the heat pump installation checklists for Strata Council Members or Unit Owners.