Barron Heating AC Electrical & Plumbing Blog: Archive for the ‘HSPF’ Category

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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Understanding Heat Pump Efficiency

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Heat pumps can be much more efficiency than other systems. Here in the Northwest, a heat pump can have an efficiency starting at 300%, while electric heating systems have an efficiency of 100%. Oil heat systems range in efficiency from 50% to 85%. Natural gas systems range in efficiency from 50% to 95%.

The efficiency of a heat pump is indicated by Coefficient of Performance or COP. The COP is the ratio of what you get in heat energy from the heat pump divided by what you pay for in electric energy to provide that heat. For example, a COP of 3.0 means for every dollar’s worth of heat delivered to your home, you only need to buy $0.33 worth of electricity. With standard heat pumps, as the outdoor temperature decreases, the efficiency and COP of a heat pump decreases. When the outdoor air temperature is 47 degrees, many heat pumps work with COPs in the range of 3 to 3.8. At 17 degrees, COPs are typically 2.8 to 3.4. The higher the COP, the more efficient the heat pump.

In the Pacific NW, a properly sized and well-installed heat pump will have an average COP of 2.75 over the course of a heating season. (Based on Base Model Efficiency)

There are other factors which reduce the efficiency of a heat pump throughout the heating season. For instance, a heat pump’s outdoor coils periodically need to be defrosted. This is done by reversing the cycle of the heat pump so that the heat from the house thaws the ice accumulated on the coils.

Efficiency is further reduced whenever the back-up heating system is used. This back-up system can be electric, natural gas or oil and is required during times when the outside temperature is so low that the heat pump is not able to provide enough heat for the house. This is called the balance point.

Heat pumps are also rated by a measurement call the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), which estimates the heat output relative to the energy consumed for the entire heating season. The higher the HSPF the less energy you will need to operate the heat pump. An HSPF of 8 corresponds approximately to an average COP of 3.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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‘Right Sizing’ Heat Pumps for the Pacific Northwest

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Sizing is one of the most important factors determining a heat pump’s efficiency and reliability. In Western Washington, heat pumps are sized according to the heating requirements of your home. If you lived in a climate where heat pumps are primarily used for air conditioning, then you homes cooling needs would determine the size of the heat pump.

In order to determine size, we must do a heat loss for your home as well as analyse your home’s duct sizing to determine air circulation requirements. For a proper installation these calculations must be done. This helps us “balance” the system to ensure that the heat pump delivers the correct amount of air to all rooms in the house.

Heat pumps are sized in two ways; tone and BTUs. Tons do not refer to the weight of the heat but rather are a measure of cooling capacity. Each ton of heat pump capacity produces about 12,000 BTUs of heat. A BTU is a measure of heat output; most heat pumps are in the 24,000 to 60,000 BTU range or 2 to 5 ton range.

As the temperature outside drops, the ability of most heat pump systems (except inverter) to deliver heat also drops somewhat and the heat needs of the house go up. It is possible to install a system large enough to heat the house no matter how low the temperature is outside. But a system which is sized to heat your home during the coldest day of the year will be over sized the rest of the year. This is not only uneconomical, but also places unnecessary stress on the compressor because the heat pump cycles on and off constantly.

In the Pacific NW’s maritime climate, a heat pump should be sized so that it can heat the house when outside temperatures are as low as 30 degrees, below that you will need to invest in a 2-stage or Modulating Heat Pump.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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All About Ductless – An Overview

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Save Energy & Money

A Ductless Heat Pump is a highly efficient heating and cooling system that is easily installed as a new primary heat source for electrically heated homes. Ductless systems heat and cool homes at a fraction of the cost of baseboards and wall heaters.

More Comfortable.

Ductless systems do a better job of distributing warm or cool air around a home, thus making your living areas more comfortable. They are especially well suited to homes with open floor plans, as one indoor unit can heat/cool a large living space quite well.

Easy to Install.

The ductless system design allows you to retain the original aesthetics of a room. They do not require expensive and invasive ductwork; they require only a three-inch opening in the wall or ceiling. Installation is as simple as mounting the indoor and outdoor units, connecting the refrigerant lines, and making a few electrical connections. Most installations can be done in a day or two.


Ductless Heating and Cooling systems can be used to heat and cool a wide variety of spaces. Here are a few popular residential applications:

  • Homes with Electric Heat – Ductless systems can replace or supplement inefficient existing electric baseboard/wall/ceiling units, woodstoves and other space heaters (propane, kerosene). A cost effective electric heat conversion in a small house might consist of a Ductless system serving the main area of the house, while leaving existing electric baseboards in bedrooms and bathrooms for supplementary heat when needed.
  • Remodels and Room Additions – A Ductless system can be used when a room is added to a house or an attic is converted to living space. Rather than extending the home’s existing ductwork or pipes or adding electric resistance heaters, the ductless heat pump can provide efficient heating and cooling.
  • New Construction – New homes can be designed or adapted to take advantage of the characteristics of ductless heat pumps. One or more systems might be installed in various “zones” of the house to simplify installation and minimize refrigerant line length.


Ductless systems have been around for several decades and are manufactured by many of the companies you’re used to buying products from. You can rest assured that your investment is in a proven technology that you will be happy with for many years to come.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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Ductless Heat Pumps – Questions…Answered.

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Q: What is a ductless heating and cooling system?

A ductless heating and cooling system is a highly efficient zonal heating and cooling system that does not require the use of air ducts. Ductless systems consist of an outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air-handling units, called “heads”, linked by a dedicated refrigerant line. Indoor heads are typically mounted high on a wall or ceiling covering a 3” hole where the refrigerant line passes through from the outside unit, which is mounted at the base of the house. Each indoor head corresponds with a heating and cooling zone that can be controlled independently.

Q: Do I still need my old heaters?

While a ductless system can be used as a primary heat source, homeowners are encouraged to keep their existing electric heating units as a supplement the Ductless system in case of extreme weather conditions or in hard to reach extremities of the home.

Q: How does a ductless system work?

Ductless systems are reversible, 2-way heat pumps that use electricity to transfer heat between outdoor and indoor air by compressing and expanding refrigerant. Using a refrigerant vapor compression cycle, like a common household refrigerator, ductless systems collect heat from outside the house and deliver it inside on the heating cycle, and vice versa on the cooling cycle. Ductless systems use variable speed compressors with “inverter technology” (AC to DC) in order to continuously match the heating/cooling load, avoiding the on/off cycling of conventional electric resistance and central heating systems that is commonly associated with uncomfortable temperature variations and high energy consumption.

Ductless Systems consist of several parts:

  • An outdoor unit that contains a condensing coil, an inverter-driven variable speed compressor, an expansion valve and a fan to cool the condenser coil.
  • An indoor unit that contains an evaporator and a quiet oscillating fan to distribute air into throughout the heating zone.
  • A refrigerant line-set that is made of insulated copper tubing and is housed in a conduit alongside a power cable, and a condensation drain.
  • A remote control that can be used to set the desired temperature and program in night-time settings.

Q: How is the system controlled?

The system is controlled via remote control that changes temperature as well as mode of operation. Wall mounted controls are also available.

Q: What are appropriate applications for a ductless system?

  • Replacing an existing zonal heating system – Ductless systems are ideal for replacing or supplementing inefficient electric baseboard, wall or ceiling units, woodstoves and other space heaters such as propane or kerosene. A cost effective electric heat conversion in a small house might consist of single system serving the main area of the house, while leaving existing electric baseboards in bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Room additions – A ductless system can also be implemented when a room is added onto a house or an attic is converted to living space. Rather than extending the home’s existing ductwork or pipes, or adding electric resistance heaters, the ductless sytem can provide efficient heating and cooling.
  • New construction – New home designs can be adapted to take advantage of a ductless system’s many benefits. One or more systems might be installed in various “zones” of the house to simplify installation and minimize refrigerant line length.

Q: Are ductless systems efficient?

Yes! Ductless systems operate using 50% to 75% less energy than electric resistance and forced air systems. Three key factors account for the high efficiency of a ductless system:

  1. Ductless systems allow the user to control each heating/cooling zone independently, eliminating the costly over-heating and cooling common to central air systems. Why pay to heat or cool rooms that are not currently occupied?
  2. While central air systems lose as much as 30% efficiency through air leaks and conduction in the ductwork, ductless systems distribute air directly to each zone, resulting in 25% greater efficiency. Ductless systems use inverter-driven, variable speed compressors that allow the system to maintain constant indoor temperatures by running continuously at higher or lower speeds. Thus, the system can ramp-up or down without great losses in operating efficiency, avoiding the energy intensive on/off cycling common in electric resistance and forced air systems.
  3. Modern ductless systems have ultra-high Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratios (SEER) between 16 and 22, and Heating Seasonal Performance Factors (HSPF) between 8.5 and 12.

Q: How long have ductless systems been around?

Ductless heating and cooling systems were developed in Japan in the 1970’s and have since become a preferred heating and cooling system throughout Asia and much of Europe. In the United States ductless systems have been used in commercial applications for over 20 years.

Q: How much does a ductless system cost?

The average cost of an installed ductless systems with a single indoor heating/cooling zone is between $3,000 and $5,000. Additional heating zones and greater heating capacities will increase the cost of the system. Other factors that will affect the cost of an installed system include manufacturer and model, refrigerant line-set length, difficulty of installation, and contractor rates.

Q: What incentives are available for ductless systems?

  • Utility Rebates: most utilities in the Northwest are offering their customers cash rebates as high as $1,500 when they upgrade their existing electric resistance heating system to a ductless system. Interest-free financing may also be available. Check with your local utility for details.
  • Federal Tax Credits – Additional Incentives: Federal Tax Credits: tax credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency may be available to taxpayers who purchase a qualified energy-efficient residential ductless systems.

Q: How long will a ductless system last?

With proper maintenance and care a ductless systems should perform for over 20 years. Many of the systems installed during the 1980’s are still functioning well today.

Q: What kind of maintenance does a ductless system require?

Ductless systems require basic maintenance to ensure optimum performance. In most cases maintenance is limited to keeping filters and coils clean. These tasks can easily be performed by the home owner.

Q: How do I know what sized system my house needs?

Ductless systems are sized to meet the heating and cooling needs of a home’s individual zones. There is a great deal of flexibility when it comes to system sizing as one indoor unit can provide between ¾ and 2 ½ tons of heating/cooling depending on its BTU capacity rating. Some common capacities for indoor units are 9k, 12k, 18k, 24k, and 30k BTU. Outdoor units are sized to meet the combined load of all heating/cooling zones. More than one outdoor unit may be necessary for multi-zone systems.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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