Some drama in the process of installing heat pumps at Waterloo North Mennonite Church, Waterloo, ON, 2023.

by Gordon Allaby

Waterloo North Mennonite Church is excited to share that we are installing heat pumps in our building to act on climate change! Here’s how we came to this moment.

First, a group of people in our congregation met to determine what we can do about the climate crisis. We determined that we could do two things:  

  1. Educate our members and 
  2. Take steps to lower the emissions from our church activities.

We learned that our emissions are mostly from operating the building and transportation to and from the church. For the building, the biggest polluter was from heating with gas, so we

wanted to address that by switching to heat pumps. Heating the space with heat pumps will dramatically reduce these emissions because Ontario’s electricity supply has relatively low carbon dioxide emissions. The very high efficiency of heat pumps makes this even more effective.

Assessing the Building’s Heating

Since the furnaces were original to the 30-year-old building and starting to have problems, the time was right to make this change. Some careful planning was needed, and we were fortunate to have the required expertise among our members. The planning included assessment of the building’s heating load and electrical service capacity. We also reviewed various options for heat pump systems and determined what would work for our building. In the end, we concluded that it would be possible to completely eliminate natural gas from the building. The furnaces and air conditioners were replaced with two large air-source heat pumps outside, with air handlers inside the building connected to the existing air ducts.

Replacing furnaces with heat pumps might sound easy when written out in a single paragraph, but it was in fact a long and involved process. For an institutional building, all these changes require informed decision making. It’s a good idea to seek outside assistance as needed to collect information on the existing building, its systems, and the emissions. Further work is also needed to develop a suitable design that considers the whole facility, the usage, and the available budget. With that in place, it’s then good practice to get quotes from multiple contractors.

 With installation just completed, it’s exciting to see the tangible results of our work! Next, we plan to change the water heating and stoves to electric instead of natural gas. We are glad to make these changes as a way to help mitigate the climate crisis.

Gordon Allaby is the lead minister at Waterloo North Mennonite Church, Waterloo, ON.