Barron Heating AC Electrical & Plumbing Blog: Archive for the ‘Ductless Heat Pump’ Category

Energy Saver 101: Home Performance Assessment

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Having a qualified and experienced inspector perform a Home Performance Assessment is the first step to determining how to best prioritize efficiency upgrades and ultimately save you money on your energy bills.

You may have heard these referred to as Energy Audits, or some similarly negative phrase that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Instead of looking at this as an anxiety-inducing inspection (thank you, IRS), we find it far more accurate to think of HPAs as a tool for big-picture analysis of your home’s indoor air quality, potential energy-loss areas, evenly-heated rooms, and other issues. Home Performance Assessments are done to better your family’s well-being and safety. We’re on your side!

Your home is likely the biggest investment that you will make; getting a Home Performance Assessment can ensure it operates efficiently, comfortably and safely. A Home Performance Assessment can result in utility bill savings between 20 and 50 percent–with the ever-rising cost of utilities, the potential savings grow each year.

Through utility bill analysis, infiltrometer testing, thermographic imaging, duct leakage and repair, indoor humidity and moisture control, combustion gas analysis, weatherization services and IAQ analysis, a Home Performance Assessment is the best and most comprehensive step for you to take towards saving money and improving your home.

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Which is the BEST HVAC brand?

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Government and utility consumer protection authorities unanimously agree that your satisfaction depends much more on picking the right contractor than a particular equipment brand.

One question we are asked time and time again is “What brand of furnace or air conditioner should I buy?”

Once a homeowner becomes more informed about the secrets of the HVAC industry, they always realize that the brand question is almost irrelevant.

Regardless of brand, today’s equipment is very well made. Modern air conditioners and furnaces are similar to modern televisions. It’s almost impossible to buy a bad TV nowadays. All the major brands make really excellent products that rarely break down. Like a TV, modern heating and cooling equipment is also very well made and dependable.

Unfortunately, the comparison stops there. When you buy a TV you can take it home, unpack it and plug it in. While a TV works right out of the box, a central air conditioner, heat pump or furnace must be very carefully selected and installed in order to work as the manufacturer intended. It can’t be just plugged in. Unfortunately for consumers, the installing contractor is the weak link in the chain.

A replacement HVAC system is NOT a plug-in appliance. It is much more like a home renovation project – which depends much more on the contractor than on the renovation materials used.

Government and utility consumer protection authorities unanimously agree that your satisfaction depends much more on picking the right contractor than a particular equipment brand. Energy Star says a good contractor:

  1. Will ask lots of questions about how the old system performed, and what you are hoping the new system will do.
  2. Will measure and inspect your home and recommend the right size system for your home.
  3. Will inspect or test your existing air duct system, explain the possible impact your old ducts will have on your new equipment, and provide upgrade options.
  4. Will explain multiple options for equipment efficiency, comfort and noise reduction features, warranty – and brand.
  5. Will install and commission your new system properly to best industry practices.

Buying a new heating and cooling system is a big investment – both upfront and long term due to utility and repair costs. Invest the time to become an informed consumer. Focus on the contractor and their business practices, not on the equipment brand or brands they happen to prefer and recommend.

If you are in the market for a new system, give us a call. We’d be happy to come out and chat about your needs, and explain how we follow the best industry practices so that you are 100% satisfied!

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Is Your Home A/C Ready?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Wes Diskin performing a Home Performance Assessment

The first step in purchasing an Air Conditioner

Before you buy an Air Conditioning Unit, you’ll want to be sure the cool air you’re paying for is not being lost through faulty ducts, home air leakage, and poor insulation. There is a lot a green air conditioning contractor can do to get your home A/C ready!

Now, adding air conditioning CAN be as simple as calling the HVAC company to install a unit. But, as with all things HVAC, the most simplistic answer is not the smartest answer in the long-run. Having diagnostic tests run on your home (or a home performance test) is the only way to know the condition of the home and therefore the only way to install the most cost-effective, comfortable, energy efficient, and healthy air conditioning possible.

Here’s a sample run-through of what you should expect before an A/C install. Be sure to choose a Heating & Cooling company that has a thoroughly trained Home Performance team.

Assess the Current Situation: Furnace, Fuel, Investment

The first thing that should happen is to look at the heat delivery system currently in place. If the furnace and ducting system test well and are in good shape, it’s possible to use the ducting that’s already there. If not, ductless may very well be the way to go. Ductless also offers the option of zonal A/C, which can be handy for certain homes.

Next, it’s important to think about the fuel type. Folks who have natural gas as their heating fuel can pretty easily add an A/C unit to the existing system (if it tests well) and go with a less expensive installation cost. However, if a homeowner is using a more expensive heating fuel like electric, propane, or oil, it probably makes more sense to convert the whole system to a forced-air or ductless heat pump (which both include A/C) because the efficiency of the heat pump technology will allow that new system to pay for itself rapidly.

Diagnostics are Key

A Blower-Door Test is the key to understanding air flow patterns and problems. What is the heat gain in the home?

To be truly A/C-ready, you’ll want a trained Home Performance Technician (all estimators at Barron can do this) to run diagnostics on your house. They will use a blower-door, an infrared camera, a smoke-puffer, and/or other devices as needed to test the air flow and leakages in your home. There are a lot of questions to answer, such as:

  • What is the heat gain in the home?
  • Where does the sun come in, which direction is the home oriented, what kind of windows are in place?
  • What is the condition of the attic?
  • How much and in what rooms are there air leakage problems?
  • Can the ducts be used effectively (are they leaky?)
  • How much insulation is in the attic, crawl space, and walls?

Without first answering these questions (and taking action to address them), there is no way to ensure you’re dollars spent on conditioned air are being spent effectively. Attic insulation is especially important, as attic temperatures can run very high, making it harder for your A/C unit to do it’s job. If you’re using ducts to deliver your A/C, having them sealed tightly is also a pretty huge deal. Because duct-work is pressurized, leaky ducts can lose massive amounts of conditioned air; not to mention leaky ducts can carry in a bevy of nasty particulates from your insulation or dirty crawl space. A knowledgeable HVAC contractor will be able to apply the principles of building science to your specific home, to get a whole-house perspective.

The Benefits of A/C Readiness

Taking the time to truly be A/C Ready has the obvious benefit of getting the most bang for your buck, but it can be nice to see all the ways and angles that your home, health, and pocketbook will benefit from looking at the big picture. Having your home tested (with Home Performance) and analyzed for A/C Readiness in the end will mean:

  • You’re investing in a permanent and lasting change in your whole home, and not just adding an A/C unit that is more or less only a temporary fix (depending on the state of your home).
  • Any energy upgrades you make will prolong the life of the A/C unit, since it won’t have to work as hard, and there will be less repairs.
  • Big changes to the building envelope and energy upgrades can help when you decide to sell your home.
  • The equipment chosen is guaranteed to be properly sized for your particular home and cooling needs. Detailed diagnostics give us all the clues to choose the best possible system with dialed-in performance.
  • The air you breathe will be cleaner and healthier, which can often relieve certain types of medical symptoms suffered by you and your family.
  • You will be assisting the planet by creating a more energy efficient home!

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Propane to Ductless – A Case Study

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Here is an interesting case study on a 1980’s Bellingham A-frame home. This is the first of many case-studies we will be creating.

This project was a smashing success, with the homeowners saving around $2,000 per year and they were finally able to heat their entire home. Plus, the interior ductless heads are strategically placed, attractive, and offer independent heating zones.

Take a moment to check out the case study, which highlights the homeowners feelings with the results, and walks you through the whole home performance process.

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Ductless Exposed: The 8 Types of Ductless Systems

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

NOTE: this article assumes you know what a ductless heat pump is, if you need some pre-education, click here. You can also visit my YouTube Channel for walkthrus on installed systems!

  1. Single Zone Basic (i.e: Lennox MS8)
  2. Single Zone Feature Rich (i.e.: Daikin L Series)
  3. Single Zone Specialty (i.e.: Fujitsu RLS2)
  4. 2-4 Zone Basic (i.e.: Lennox MS8 Multi)
  5. 2-4 Zone Feature Rich (i.e. Daikin MXS)
  6. 2-6/8 Zone Flex (i.e. Fujitsu HFI, Daikin RMXS Super Multi)
  7. 2-8 Zone VRV(F) (i.e Daikin VRV3-S)
  8. Radiant Heating w/ Domestic Water Heating (i.e. Daikin Altherma)

The reason why I am writing this is pretty much the same as all my other posts; too often contractors offer you a ductless system without telling you what other options are available. So, in light of this, I am going to help you understand the 8 ductless residential systems that I have listed above. Settle in, because this is going to take a few minutes!

Each of the eight has it’s own special place in this world, so let’s break them down so you can figure out what will work best in your application.

Single Zone Basic

This system is entry level ductless. You still get all the efficiency and “ductless” benefits, but usually warranty and features (like programming, etc.) are limited. If you hate your TV remote and technology in general, then this is the ductless for you! ON/OFF – HEAT/COOL. That’s it.

Single Zone Feature Rich

IF you want ductless AND you want the highest level of control, satisfaction and warranty, then a feature rich system suites you well. Things like 3D Airflow, programming, wi-fi, motion sensing, etc., etc. come built in!

Single Zone Specialty

There are 3 types of ductless buyers; those who want just efficiency (Basic), those who want efficiency and comfort (Feature Rich) and those who are disgusted by the idea of a ductless head on their wall….Specialty!!

If you are in this category  you want ductless, but dread it at the same time. The specialty system, like the Fujitsu RLS2, might be for you. Still a feature rich system, but in slick packaging! The one drawback is that the sizing is limited so I would say you are going to get up to 1200 sq ft depending on how well the house was built.

Did I mention that these are also the most efficient ductless on the market? Clocking in at 12 HSPF+, they are very much an option to consider.

2-4 Zone Basic

Remember, a multi-zone system is just one outdoor unit and multiple indoor units. Most 2-4 Zone Basic buyers are just folks who fall into the “basic” category but have a house or specific need that warrants a 2nd, 3rd or 4th head; say, the Master Bedroom needs its own cooling or the basement/upstairs needs a head for heating/cooling. Maybe the 4th head goes in the Bonus Room?

Here is a video to help.

2-4 Zone Feature Rich

Replace “basic” with “feature rich” in the paragraph above. Sorry…I’m lazy.

2-6/8 Zone Flex

This is where things start to get a little different so pay close attention. When you go to my pictures, etc. and look at ductless; do you see how each head has a line that runs from it all the way back to the heat pump? This is how the standard multi zone systems work, if you have 4 heads you have 4 lines. Now, with a Flex system 2 of those run into 1 and the other 2 run into 1 (this is called a branch), then you have only 2 lines that have to run all the way back to the Heat Pump (HP) outside. This is one difference about the Flex. The other is that the HP is a larger 4 Ton and will allow you to, say, have just 2 large 24k heads on it or all the way up to 6 smaller heads.

Another difference is that while a standard 2-4 Zone Ductless has individual control points for each head (remotes/thermostats), the Flex can be operated from a SINGLE control. This allows for better management of a full home system.

Fujitsu’s HFI System falls somewhere in between Basic and Feature Rich, but when Daikin releases the RMXS Super Multi, I have a feeling it is going to be mind-blowing, word is that it will hit 11.3 HSPF on up to 8 heads. I want it NOW!…. tantrum. 🙂

2-8 Zone VRV(F) Light Commercial

Further up and further in! This is getting a bit obscure, but it IS an option. Okay, think of the flex, but those 2 lines that came back to the Heat Pump outside go into 1 and just 1 line goes out to the HP. This is possible because the metering of refrigerant is no longer done at the HP it is done at the indoor.

Again, we do install these, but here is an application. Million Dollar Home. Everything hidden, zoned, perfect and integrated into building management software for commercial buildings…. but its a house. You see where I am going?

Radiant Heating w/ Domestic Water Heating, Cooling and Solar

That guy is obviously European!  This system has been booming in Europe for a while and is now starting to destroy Geothermal here in the northwest. Hands down, this is the system that is the one to beat in custom construction right now. Radiant Heat with Inverter Heat Pump, Cooling to Fan Coil or Head, Domestic Hot Water with Solar Optional. Man oh Man. SUMMARY: IF YOU ARE BUILDING A HOME WITH RADIANT HEATING, YOU HAVE TO ASK ABOUT THIS SYSTEM! Watch video (it starts over at about 6:20…crazy Euros). Sorry, this one just does too much stuff to describe in text.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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