Heat Pumps in Kentucky climate


  #1  
Old 08-22-02, 03:01 PM
bradyb5
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Heat Pumps in Kentucky climate

Hey all,

I am at a crossroads and would like some opinions on purchasing a Heat pump. I currently have a split system consisting of an Electric furnace (think 15KW) inside with a 1991 2-ton condenser on the outside. This year, we have spent approx. $600 on repairs to this system for various reasons. It has been recommended that we consider replacing the entire system. All of the local contractors that have given estimates recommend the installation of a heat pump with 15KW electric backup in the inside air handler. My concern is the negative opinions I have heard from a few previous owners of heat pumps. Most state that air source heat pumps are not a good match for our Kentucky climate which can have some cold winter stretches. On the other hand, some of these experiences were with older heat pump systems. It stands to reason in my opinion that I would save money by running the heat pump when the temperatures are mild outside. When outside temps reach a certain point, my electric backup would kick in and I would be heating with basically the same resource I currently use, obviously not at the same efficiency. However, I still think I would save money in the long run. Can anyone comment on their experience with a heat pump system? I am looking for people in climates like Kentucky or even more north.

Thanks,
Tim
 
  #2  
Old 08-24-02, 01:18 PM
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I am an energy conservationist and if you go to my site and read topic Geothermal/Heat pumps you will see I am not a supporter of heat pumps. I have considerable experience with all kinds of heat pumps, especially in cold climates. My job was to analyze and resolve high energy bill complaints between the customer and the utility for the state which I live in. These inspections numbered into the thousands and many were about heat pumps.

Your system is known as an air to air heat pump. The biggest concern with this type of system is known as Thermal Balance Point. This is where the temperature outside drops to a point where there is insufficient heat in the air, usually at 30 degrees F. In order the meet the heat demand inside, an electric heating element is used to supplement the system. The concern here is actually the electric heating element because the heat pump maybe energy efficient but the heating element is not and can increase your heating costs dramatically. Another concern is large increases in thermostat settings. With most air to air heat pumps, if a demand for 4 degrees or more is called for, the supplemental electric heating element comes on to assists in that demand. This is why most manufacturers do not recommend a programmable thermostat on their units.

Manufacturers are aware of this problem and are presently involved with coming up with solutions. An example is an inverter driven condensing unit. You can go to http://www.mrslim.com/mrslimMXZ30config.htm
and view what one looks like and learn more about it, if you want.

Most people do not know if the bills they are paying are reasonable. This is because they don't know how to or what to look for. They only complain when there is a dramatic increase in their bill in comparison to previous bills. It has been my experience that these things don't happen by themselves. And in most cases, it has to do with maintenance. With heat pumps, over and under pressurizing is the number one cause for servicing, replacement and high energy bills, bar none. This makes regular maintenance for a heat pump far more important than for any other type of heating system.

I have several concerns with heat pumps but a major one is the distribution system. This actually applies to all forced air systems. The average forced air distribution system is only about 60% efficient. A good portion of the distribution loss is due to the fact that air does not hold heat well. Today, good contractors know that the good installation of the ductwork is as important as the installation of the unit. And improving the present system, such as air sealing, shortening runs and limiting the amount of turns or bends, can have a greater effect than replacing the unit with an efficient one.

Though I publicly disapprove of heat pumps for residential use in cold climates, I will admit it is a feasible alternative to other types provided that the homeowner has a fair understanding on how the system works and the importance of maintenance for this particular type of system.
 
  #3  
Old 08-24-02, 04:02 PM
bradyb5
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Resercon,

Thanks for the reply. I checked out your website and it is packed with useful information. Currently, I do not have a heat pump. My heating source is simply the 15KW electric furnace in the inside air handler. Cooling is accomplished with a 2-ton condenser outside. Actually, our problems are more cooling related. My first request was to only replace the outside condenser, knowing full well that I should replace the evaporator coils on the inside as well. All of the local contractors stated that the cost of replacing the inside coils would approach that of a new air handler. I don't dispute this, but again, I don't know. They all have recommended a new system consisting of the heat pump outside with a new air handler with the same 15Kw "emergency heat" built in. Would you agree that the heat pump would still save me money even in the event the emergency heat was used during cold periods? I am basically heating with the 15Kw source as it stands today. Gas in not an option in my neighborhood. Given my situation, what are my options outside of a heat pump?

Thanks again,
Tim
 
  #4  
Old 08-24-02, 07:09 PM
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They do think we are made of money. Unfortunately it will be costly if you change the inside coil with the outside unit. And it won't be that much more different if you converted to a heat pump. I'm assuming that you want to keep the 15KW heating element in the case the heat pump needs to be supplemented. It could be done but it is expensive because the units would have to be separated. They could not be in the same air handler.

My advice would be to check with your local utilities for incentives for gas conversion (marketing dept.), rebates on energy efficient gas furnaces, air conditioning and heat pumps. All Utilities must participate in Energy Star Programs. If you want, you could ask them to compare the new system to your present system. They will do a simple energy audit that utilize your energy bills. They'll give you estimated savings, cost of installation and expected # of years for payback. They do have a tendancy to take the high end savings in their formulas.

If gas is available in your area, I would recommend a gas furnace and central air conditioning. But I am not the one who is going to write the check. You apparently do not have any concerns about the 15KW heater. You should shop around for just the installation of the inside and outside coil. In reality, the more you shop around and estimates you get, the more comfortable you are going to be with your decision. I always caution people who ask me for advice, that I should be only one of many resources one should use in determining if they should purchace an energy efficient product.
 
  #5  
Old 08-25-02, 06:48 AM
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Lightbulb heat pump

the electric heat you have now is the same as the "emergency" heat on a heat pump.
In milder outsdie temps (most of the winter) you will save $$$
How long it will take to pay back the investment is another story, it depends on electric rates and useage ad well as other factors.
I assume you live in a condo/townhouse as striaght electric heat is rarely used in houses.
Builders install stright electric heat for cost reasons.
 
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Old 08-25-02, 06:51 AM
bradyb5
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Thanks Resercon,

I will continue to shop around. I also have to struggle with the fact that, in all likelyhood, I will not be at this residence for longer than 3 years. My family of 5 has outgrown our 1000 sq. ft home. Do I.......Absorb the costs of a new system to make the home more appealing to a potential buyer? .....or use the money for other improvements? There are alot of variables that factor into my decision. Fun, fun, fun......

Thanks for your input,
Tim
 
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Old 08-25-02, 06:58 AM
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3 years

For that short of time I would just put enough into it to keep it running, you won't get your $$ back at selling time in most cases.
 
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Old 08-25-02, 06:58 AM
bradyb5
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Thanks 54regcab,

Actually, I live in a approx. 1000 sq. ft. home that was build around 1974. There is no natural gas resource in my neighborhood. With all things considered, I assume electric heat was the best alternative at that time. I have had no problems with my bills with electric heat. I have adjusted to them and really have known nothing different. I certainly think there are better alternatives, but am limited by where I live. Ultimately, I wish to replace my cooling system and the heat pump is the overwhelming recommendation from all of the local Heating and Air contractors. If I went with the heat pump with backup electric heat, I cannot see why my bills would increase. I feel I should benefit in the mild/hot seasons where the heat pump efficiency should be beneficial.

Thanks again,
Tim
 
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Old 08-25-02, 07:58 AM
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Lightbulb You WILL save $$$

You will save $$ on your winter bills with a heat pump.
Hweat pumps are really the best option where natural gas isn't avalible.
The question is will you save enough in energy costs in 3 years plus the added value a selling to justify to cost of the heat pump ??
The new heat pumps are much better than the old ones as far as comfort is concerned
 
  #10  
Old 08-27-02, 05:47 PM
ahasbeen
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Bradyb5, I may be a little late replying but I'm still going to give you my thoughts, having been involved with air-to-air heat pumps since the days of manual changeover valves. There is no question, regardless of what some conservationist's say, that a new HP will save you in energy costs as opposed to your present straight cool with electric heat syatem. Yes, initial cost of a HP is higher than the type system you now have and the payback period will be greater.To give you those numbers, I can not, due to many factors, however, your local utility company should be able to pretty much give you the closest estimate.. Air to air Hp's generally will extract enough heat down to 35-37o F, at which time the booster heat comes on, which is the very same heat you now have, and the outdoor unit hibernates. Some of the newer high efficiency ones can go down to 32oF. Your booster heat is enclosed in the same cabinet as the evep.coil and blower, not seperated as someone sugested. Ductwork efficiency? No different than any other residental duct system, and the overall heat/cool system is no better than its duct system. Since you have no gas, a heat pump would be my choice anywhere in Kentucky. Since you're only going to be at your present home for 3 short years, I would consider maintenance and repairs on the present system and leave the replacing up to the new tenants. You won't get your costs out of a replaced system when you sell. But you know what, many pros and contractors downgrade heat pumps because they actually are afraid of them because they are in fact a little touchy and the charge is more critical. If you ever in the future go with a HP, my suggestion is find a good licenced HVAC contractor that sells good equiptment and has good warranties. Pay a little more but get one with good efficiency and pray its installed correctly the first time.
 
  #11  
Old 08-27-02, 06:23 PM
bradyb5
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Thanks Ty,

I appreciate everyone's input. I am gathering the same general opinion from other areas. Actually, the recommendation to install a new system was a result of some efforts to address some of our cooling problems. They are still not addressed. Since they do still exist, I am strongly considering the installation of a new system. Not sure if we are supposed to talk models and prices......I am considering the installation of a Tempstar 2200 series 2.0 ton heat pump with a 24,000 BTU air handler and 15KW electric backup heat. Actually he wanted to install a 2.5 ton / 30,000 BTU system, but I have space limitations that won't allow the 30,000 BTU unit. He claims that the smaller system will be sufficient for my relatively small home (1000 sq ft). My current condenser is a 2-ton, but I don't know what the ratings on my current air handler are. The cost estimate for this new system is approx $3,000. When I compare that to the $600 that I have spent on unsuccessful efforts to address my cooling problems, I don't know that I have a choice. Actually, I have had a couple of lower estimates, but I like the reputation of the contractor we are considering.

Thanks again,
Tim
 
  #12  
Old 08-27-02, 07:33 PM
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Thumbs up Good choice

Don't go wiith the lowball guy, installation is everything when it comes to HVAC.
The $$$ ppl save by going with the low bidder bites them in the a$$ in the long run.
If the old 2 ton in mediocre condition would keep the house coool the new one will have no problem if installed correctly.
 
 

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