Heating and cooling: Heat recovery systems

Picture of a piggy bank

Save by capturing lost heat

illustration of a air heat recovery ventilator

Capture discarded air and water heat

Air heat recovery

A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) is a ventilation device that helps make your home healthier, cleaner, and more comfortable by continuously replacing stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air.

Homes built after 1977 are typically more airtight, which helps to prevent heat loss but also prevents air circulation, which is important for your health and comfort. Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs), also know as fresh air exchangers, remove excess moisture and indoor pollutants (mould, household chemicals and bacteria) and let fresh air inside while minimizing heat loss.

During the fall and winter, an HRV captures heat from air leaving your house and uses it to heat the fresh air coming into your house. Similarly, an HRV can reverse this process during the spring and summer, removing some heat from the incoming air and transferring it to the outgoing air.

What to look for

  • An ENERGY STAR® certified HRV uses less energy, on average than a standard model.
  • For homes with existing ductwork, consider a whole-house system.
  • In homes without ductwork, a room-sized HRV can be installed in a window or wall opening. These are best for rooms with ventilation problems such as bathrooms or laundry rooms.

Things to consider

  • Hire a professional, licensed HVAC to install your HRV.

Average cost

$350 to $500 for mounted, room-sized models; $500 to $1,500 for whole-house systems.

Source: Natural Resources Canada

Drain-water heat recovery

Heating water accounts for up to 20 per cent of a home's energy use, making it the second-highest energy consumer after space heating.

Drain-water heat recovery systems capture the heat from water going down a drain, typically the shower, and use it to heat cold water entering your water heater. It's particularly effective when there are simultaneous water flows i.e. when you're using hot water in the shower at the same time that water is flowing down the drain.

What to look for

  • Look for an ENERGY STAR® certified product. Drain water heat recovery systems can be purchased through your local plumber, a plumbing wholesaler, or online.

Things to consider

  • Drain water heat recovery systems are recommended for homes with higher than average hot water consumption (usually three or more people). The savings are greatest when all occupants take showers.
  • These systems typically last 30 years or more. The technology is simple and long-lasting, with no moving parts.
  • Hire a licensed plumber to install the system. It most cases, the installation will take a couple of hours.

Average cost

$550 – $1,700 plus installation.

Source: Natural Resources Canada

Financial help available for heat recovery systems