Considering switching to heat pump

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  #1  
Old 02-28-16, 08:24 AM
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Considering switching to heat pump

Info:
generally mild climate [western Washington]
15+ yr old Tempstar furnace [N/G]
fireplace insert installed
approx 1600 sq ft

Talked to a couple of different 'salesmen' [at a home show] and got differing answers:

One said to replace the furnace with another furnace when adding the heat pump in order to kick in when below 30 degrees [both Trane] while the other one said that a furnace was not necessary just an air exchanger/handler and heat pump.

The one that recommended the furnace also stated that a new thermostat would be needed and pointed out a [Trane] touchscreen, wifi, 5-day weather, etc. [which I am not interested in].

Not so much hung up on brands at this point in the research just mainly want to know what I need vs. what I am being told.

Also any good reference [not so much sales] websites where I can go to study up on the units would be appreciated.

Thanks
 
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Old 02-28-16, 08:32 AM
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Just my 2 cents: I would not rely solely on a heat pump for heat, I would want a furnace for backup. You should not need to have the fancy stat in order to run the furnace/heat pump combo.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 08:34 AM
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Is this all electric home or do you have gas available?
 
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Old 02-28-16, 11:23 AM
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Apparently the OP has natural gas.

Unless your natural gas rates are exorbitantly high I would never consider a heat pump system over a natural gas furnace with A/C added.

I don't see any advantage of having a natural gas furnace and a heat pump.
Are you unhappy with your gas furnace performance ?
 
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Old 02-28-16, 12:23 PM
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I have natural gas furnace, water heater and fireplace insert and the price of gas is not outrageous.

Heat pumps are well-suited to this area because of milder weather and A/C is generally not needed.


Current furnace may be nearing the end of its useful life and [when brand new] was only mid-level quality -- Maybe 80% efficient.

I was told the reasoning for the furnace [in addition to the heat pump] is to kick-in during the few times when temps drop below freezing.

Also told that in order to get the efficiency it is best to replace the furnace with a new one that matches up with the heat pump. The fancy thermostat just seems like a money-maker for them [do not know any prices].
 
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Old 02-28-16, 01:26 PM
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You know alarm system wiring so you can navigate the thermostats and their wiring.
There is a lot of interest in WiFi stats. I can't see it myself but that's me. I have low temp sensor that lets me know if the house is cooling when it shouldn't. The one plus to a WiFi stat is to let you know of a failure to maintain set temperature.

It is less costly to heat with natural gas than a heat pump in most areas.
I recommend a heat pump system when the cost of electricity is very inexpensive or the cost of fossil fuel is very expensive.

If you are considering switching to a heat pump ...... ok but just get an electric reheat coil in the air handler for backup heat. Having a gas furnace as a backup source in a mild area is counter productive.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 06:20 PM
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Let's see how well my memory is today. As I recall, tpring lives in south King County and therefore has Puget Sound Energy (PSE) as both his electricity and natural gas supplier. PSE is a privately held company with a fairly complex rate structure when it comes to the electricity, the gas is a much simpler flat rate charge for monthly service, gas consumed and a transport charge.

Compared to the publicly-owned electric utilities in the area PSE is a bit higher priced but still less than most investor-owned electric utilities across the nation due to their mix of generation sources being significantly hydro based. That, and the mild temperatures make heat pumps in this area a viable means of heating a house. I would not be overly concerned about having a full-fledged "furnace" (i.e. gas-fired) in conjunction with the heat pump as the electric heat should be fine and rarely, if ever, used. If you did not have a gas-fired water heater and fireplace I would definitely steer you away from the gas-fired furnace back up as you would be paying PSE their monthly service charge (about $7.50 at this time) and receiving no tangible benefit.

There are some heat pump brands that will still produce usable heat when the air temperature is in the low 20s, I don't have any brands to suggest but maybe one of the HVAC guys can make a recommendation.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 06:55 PM
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Thanks Furd,

Good memory -- Renton.

Yes good ol' PSE. That rate calculation is mind boggling, must keep the accountants in business. And the monthly service charges [one for being their electric customer and, one for being their gas customer] are special.

I was just reading about the WA state carbon tax that is being proposed for all fossil fuel emissions. Maybe I should just switch over to solar panels and be 'ahead of the curve' -- As we like to say, here.

The one salesman described that useable heat [I believe] as 'expensive heat' therefore justifying the use of the furnace. The one he was pushing was Trane XV18i with a Trane XC80 furnace.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 07:02 PM
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By 'expensive heat' I assume he means the times that the heat pump can't provide the heat based on outdoor temps.

You have to weigh what it will cost to run the electric heating elements vs. having a gas furnace sitting there waiting to be used. A heat pump system is a major expense. It's hard to justify the additional cost of a high efficiency gas furnace that will be seldom used.
 
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Old 02-28-16, 09:41 PM
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I also read about that proposed carbon tax, the article I read stated that it could cause the price of gasoline to rise 25 cents per gallon. For that reason alone I would think that it is dead before it hits the legislature floor but I've been wrong about these things in the past.

If you have any plans to add cooling to your house I would definitely look at heat pumps. I would also look at the entire house for any energy saving upgrades that can be done without a third mortgage. In that respect please understand that replacing windows in the hopes of the project paying for itself in energy savings is almost always a net loser.

Maybe I should just switch over to solar panels and be 'ahead of the curve'...
You would still want to do all the "easy" energy saving retrofits first but solar MAY be viable depending on several variables. Best, of course, is passive solar but it is hard to incorporate in an existing house. You really need an unobstructed southern exposure year-round for best results. I had a friend that built an EVAC (cave spelled backwards) house about half-way between Woodinville and Monroe some thirty years ago and he heated the entire 2400 square feet with a small wood stove. It was a bit different but not a bad house at all.

Now if you mean photovoltaic panels, I would be a bit leery as in my opinion they are not viable without the governmental subsidies and never forget that subsidies can disappear at any time. Using hot water panels along with a water-to-air heat exchanger can be viable but you would still need a complete back-up heating system and that gets expensive.

Or maybe you meant that tongue in cheek, it is hard for me to know because even western Washington does have solar potential.
 
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Old 02-29-16, 09:55 AM
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With your mild climate the heat pump should not require backup most of the time.
I'd go with a heat pump with electric backup; all electric is much less hassling than dual fuel configurations.
You may have to increase your electric service capacity -e.g. from 100 amp service to 200 amp depending on your demand.
As for thermostat ... many choices; but for simple control, nothing elaborate, not expensive at all - say $75.

The universal wisdom is to find a contractor who knows his product and how to install it properly ... as for brand, reading reviews is pretty discouraging, the reports are either "excellent" or "junk".
 
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Old 02-29-16, 10:15 AM
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Locally with TVA supplied electricity they say a HP is our most efficient type of heat. Since my wife likes to fiddle with the thermostat [and I might be a little cheap], I've disconnected the heat strips in the air handler. I do have a wood stove for back up. The heat pump alone will heat my house down to the single digits after which it can't keep up. I'd use the wood stove more often but my wife doesn't like it
 
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