Healthier & Cheaper to Operate
Heat pumps and gas appliances are both far healthier than wood heat, for the people in the house with the stove and the neighbours.
While newer wood stoves usually put out less fine particulate pollution than older stoves, they still put out exponentially more pollution than gas or electric forms of heat (see new stoves are not a solution).
And some of these are also cheaper to operate than wood (if you buy your wood). See Wood not always the cheapest heat for a breakdown of operating costs (2019).
There are rebates available to help people move from wood heat to these cleaner sources of heat. People can also get rebates for changing from baseboard heat to heat pumps.
The cleanest and most efficient source of heat is a heat pump. Indoor air quality is improved, and there is no work required other than pushing a button. And, as a big bonus, it can provide air conditioning in the summer! They are about 1/3 the cost of running baseboards and their fans move the heat around the house.
There are two main types of heat pumps:
Ductless heat pumps, or 'mini-splits' have wall mounted cassettes and are the cheapest to install, especially if you don't have ducting in your house. You can get a single cassette to replace your wood stove, or have multiple ones in different areas so you can heat or cool by zone.
Ducted heat pumps require using existing duct work or installing new ducting (a more expensive option except in new builds). These systems also include a gas or electric furnace.
Comparing costs of installation
Keep in mind that a quote for a heat pump might be for a system that will heat an area much larger than what your wood stove currently heats.
For example, some might use baseboards in their back rooms or basement, in addition to their wood stove. But the quote for the heat pump quote might for a system that will heat the whole house, replacing both the baseboards and the stove. It is important to understand the scope of what the new heating system might include.
If you install one ductless cassette in the room where a wood stove is currently located, the heat pump will comfortably heat the same space (and beyond). The fan also helps the heat circulate. These single cassette systems typically are in the $5,000-$6,000 range.
Any form of gas heating is also healthier for your family and neighbours than wood heat.
And heating with a high efficiency gas furnace can also be cheaper than heating with wood (see our article on cost comparisons).
A gas fireplace can provide heat in a power outage and the ambiance of a wood stove. The cost to operate one is about the cost of heating with wood.
There are important environmental issues to consider when it comes to gas. The way we get natural gas has a very real impact on the water, land and climate.
But when it comes to burning it for heat, wood actually puts out a lot more Greenhouse Gas than natural gas. For each unit of energy burned, wood emits:
- 2 times more CO2;
- 60 times more methane; and
- 400 times more Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
(see 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories).
Residential wood heating also put out a whopping 33% of Canada's Black Carbon in 2016.
So both types of heat impact climate change. And wood also creates exponentially more fine particulates, which is very harmful for human health, right where we live.
For more on wood heating and climate change, see our article, "Is wood heating climate change friendly?" and our graphic "Wood heating is not climate change neutral".
The cost of switching to another heat source is usually the biggest barrier for people. Fortunately, there are programs that can help with changing from wood heat.
In the Comox Valley the Wood Stove Exchange Program currently offers up to $1000 for people who want to swap out their wood stove (that is more than 5 years old) for a ductless heat pump. There are also rebates for gas appliances and other solid fuel appliances (visit the program's site to see the latest rebates and amounts).
If you live in BC, but outside of the Comox Valley, check out the BC Wood Stove Exchange Program's website to see if there is an exchange program in your area.
And there are also many rebates available to help you retrofit your home to reduce your heating costs. These are organized under the umbrella website, Efficiency BC.
For example, depending on what type of heat is your primary source, you can get up to $5500 to help you insulate your home.
You can also get up to $2000 to install an electric heat pump if you use fossil fuels or other electric heat.