Cities across Canada are striving to increase housing supply as populations increase and demand soars.
“Our heat pump has performed flawlessly. Our bills have been reasonable, and the best thing is we don’t notice it’s on; we’re just comfortable.”
— Adam Molson, Homeowner
Cities across Canada are striving to increase housing supply as populations increase and demand soars. A major gap in most urban markets is the “missing middle,” which strikes a balance between densely packed high-rises and single-family homes. Creating energy-efficient homes that fulfill this niche is key to building sustainable cities for the future.
Located in a prime area within the red-hot Toronto real estate market, this High Park home is a model for how this can be accomplished. Homeowner Adam Molson purchased a singlefamily semi in the High Park neighbourhood in 2016. The property hadn’t been renovated in 40 years, and his goal was to transform it into a triplex with one unit for living in with his family and the other two for renting out as income suites.
Molson wanted to create condolike units that were energy efficient and offered modern conveniences like independent suite climate control. In addition to being more comfortable for each family, electrically powered HVAC units for each suite would make it easy to separate utility costs with only a hydro meter for each unit.
“After trying most of the brands, we found sticking to premium products offers the most benefits. Mitsubishi is at the top of that list.”
— Stuart Renu, Engineer of Record for HVAC
Energy efficiency was a top priority for Molson, who wanted to ensure that heating the triplex would be cost effective and comfortable. Based on recommendations from engineer Stuart Fix from ReNü Engineering Inc. and architect Tom Knezic from Solares Architecture, Molson selected the Mitsubishi Electric Zuba centrally ducted and multi-split Cold Climate systems.
Both Solares and Renu had used the Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps in previous projects and were extremely satisfied with the performance and long-term cost savings.
“It’s a win-win for everyone — the installation and operating costs are lower than natural gas when you factor for everything, and it’s better for the environment. Plus, the occupants can be more comfortable,” explains Solares, who is a big believer in powering homes with clean energy.
Meanwhile, Renu appreciates the support Mitsubishi Electric offers at every stage. He cites local customer service, the provision of detailed performance data upon request and technical assistance as key benefits of working with Mitsubishi Electric over other competitors.
Renu also likes that the brand’s Cold Climate models perform well even in freezing Canadian winters and don’t require a supplementary heat source.
In a conventional point tower, there are very few osets and changes to the shape of the building. But to maximize lake views for every unit, the Aquabella has a heavily terraced and articulated architecture, which can make incorporating heating and cooling pipes more complex. The VRF system resolved this challenge as it runs horizontally throughout the building, allowing for flexibility in the exterior design.
Another notable feature of the VRF system is its ability to provide superior HVAC zone control, enabling each unit control to its own heating and cooling. This means residents in the sun-facing southern façade can cool their units, while those in the north side of building can introduce heating – a combination that often necessary to keep everybody comfortable during the shoulder seasons.
The system is also much more energy-efficient. Instead of having HVAC units combating each other by running the boiler and chiller plants concurrently, the VRF units optimize efficiency by moving heat around a building’s footprint as required. The result is a greener building with reduced CO2 production and energy consumption. The whisper-quiet system is also quieter and has more unobtrusive bulkheads than competitors, minimizing noise and disruption for residents.
The renovations at this home were completed in February 2020, with Molson’s family moving in in 2019 and the second tenant arriving in March 2020. Everyone has been very pleased with the home’s heating.
“We’ve had two full winters with no issue getting heat even in the dead of winter, with the heat pump operating at full capacity at -27°C and beyond,” says Molson. “The tenants don’t even talk about the heating, which is great as a landlord.”
Molson was also able to work with the architect to fit all of the ductwork within the joist spaces, ensuring modern and architecturally pleasing interior spaces without wall units. “The resulting spaces are free of obtrusive bulkheads, look very clean and we are really happy with them,” he says.