Skip to main content


Natural Refrigerant heat pumps for district heating and cooling


District heating and cooling, and heat pumps play a significant role in energy systems. Heat pumps are expected to become more prevalent in district heating systems since they can deliver heat with higher efficiency and connect the heating and electricity sectors by using renewable energy sources. It allows for the entire energy system to be decarbonized.


Heat pumps are powered by refrigerants and the refrigerants themselves contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Within the refrigerant industry, there is a push towards phasing out refrigerants that contribute to global warming and an inclination toward natural refrigerants. Natural or non-synthetic refrigerants, like Ammonia and CO2, are naturally occurring and can be found in nature. The metric used to measure the global warming effect of refrigerants is called Global Warming Potential (GWP). The GWP of natural refrigerants ranges from 1 to 0, while that of non-natural/synthetic refrigerants is in the thousands. At CIMCO, we design and install heat pumps that use natural refrigerants, namely ammonia and CO2.


A nature-based solution


A heat pump that runs on natural refrigerant is a future-proof, regulatory-compliant solution. Natural refrigerants such as ammonia (R717) and CO2 (R744) are nature-based solutions with zero or near zero ozone depletion and global warming potential.

The main energy source for a heat pump is electricity, and when electricity is generated from renewable sources and a heat pump running on natural refrigerants is used, communities have an absolute opportunity to decarbonize buildings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • CIMCO Heat pumps run on electricity and do not burn natural gas which means no greenhouse gas emissions.
  • When powered by a natural refrigerant like Ammonia or CO2, it becomes an absolute future-proof system since both these refrigerants have no negative impact on the environment and will never be phased out by governments.
  • Heat pumps can capture heat from multiple sources, including process waste heat, and turn it into usable heat, which means no waste heat is added to the atmosphere.
  • As there is no combustion process, it reduces the risk of carbon monoxide leaks.




Key Facts about natural refrigerant heat pumps:



District Energy

Energy Efficient


For every kW of electricity consumed by a heat pump, about 3kW is moved from the heat pump source, for a total of 4kW of thermal energy. That's 400% heat, or 4 times more heat produced than the energy consumed. Traditional heating technology using gas produces less than 100%.





District Energy Graph



District Energy

Free Heat Is The Best Heat



A heat pump captures waste heat from multiple sources and converts it into usable heat. This ensures that the waste heat is not discharged into the atmosphere and reduces the need for any additional energy in district heating and cooling.



District Energy

Reliable and Safe


The heat pump is designed to handle multiple heat sources and temperatures efficiently. Natural refrigerants are a safer choice with high safety exposure limits and odor indicators. Carbon monoxide leaks are also less likely because there is no combustion process.








Blatchford CIMCO

Case Study: Ontario’s most forward city phases out natural gas boilers

Guided by its vision to build healthy and sustainable communities, a prominent city in Ontario is actively working to decarbonize buildings through its District Energy System. CIMCO’s 4 MW Ammonia Heat Pump is fueling this work by replacing natural gas boilers and managing heating and cooling needs with clean energy.

The system covers an area of over 50 kilometers of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. The heat pump will capture the waste heat generated from the continuous supply of chilled water to data centers and hospitals, and elevate its temperatures before feeding it to the community heating loop. With the heat reclaim ability, the city estimates a reduction of nearly 4,500 Tonnes of greenhouse gases.




Case Study: Blatchford, Edmonton: Creating a Carbon-neutral Community

The heat pump fits like a puzzle piece into the District Energy Sharing System (DESS) at Blatchford, Edmonton. The system is a key element of the community’s plan to be a model for a green, 100% renewable, carbon-neutral community. It provides eco-friendly heating, cooling, and hot water to buildings and homes. The aim of the system is to reduce the community’s energy consumption and cut down GHG emissions by nearly 75%. The Ammonia heat pump (1 MW/300 ton) installed by CIMCO handles both the heating and cooling requirements for buildings. It generates heated recirculated water for five swimming pools in the community center and uses recycled water from the local water treatment plant as its geothermal source. The pump delivers 5 times more heat efficiency compared to a natural gas furnace and serves more than 1,000 homes.

IDEA Community Heating

Community Energy: Planning, Development & Delivery


The guidebook by International District Energy Association provides an overview of the local energy project development process, in a form that is accessible to lay readers, to assist them in making informed decisions on the analysis, planning, development and delivery of district energy systems. IDEA engaged UK-based district energy specialist Michael King, author of the UK guidebook by the same name, to revise Community Energy: Planning, Development and Delivery for the U.S. market to reflect relevant national energy and environmental policies and incorporate current U.S. market conditions and policy drivers on a federal, state and local level.


Read now


Related posts


Decarbonizing the Industrial Sector Through Natural Refrigerant Heat Pumps

Read more

Energy Efficient Heat Pumps Reduce the Community’s Energy Consumption and Cut Down GHG Emissions by Nearly 75%

Read more

Alberta Community Installs Heat Pump as Part of Efforts to Become Carbon Neutral

Read more




Have Questions? Speak with the experts.

Connect with CIMCO today to learn more.

Contact us