Condo heat pump trouble--long story!

dixiedarlin1September 6, 2011

I am looking for advice. Background:

2100 sq. ft. high rise condo in Atlanta metro area. 33rd floor of 35 floor building....concrete construction with several floor to ceiling walls of double pane glass. NE wraparound exposure, only gets direct sun in early morning hours. 4 ton Bryant condensing unit on roof, 4 ton Rheem air handler in a small closet perched above a "low-boy" 40 gallon electric water heater. Refrigerant lineset is in a utlity chase / conduit up to the roof. No idea why the mismatch of equiment. Everything is 12 years old. When things are working right, the heat pump system cools and heats fine as required.

In May of this year, a/c system began freezing up. Service technician at that time diagnosed an minor evaporator leak. Tech advised to replace entire system rather than replace the evaporator. To get things working and buy time; R-22 refrigerant was added and all was well until recently when the evaporator icing returned.

Had 2 local a/c contractors stop by to inspect and estimate. I learned that new high SEER units are physically larger than current equipment. Coils are said to be larger---more surface area. This poses 2 problems:

*available vertical space in closet for air handler is 54"

*in order to obtain roof access; stairwell & door opening limits condensing unit width to 33"

Both companies promoted Trane equipment, but have yet to provide estimates due to space constraints as new 4 ton equipment is physically larger. One rep said a crane or helicopter may be required to get the new condensing unit up onto the roof. Major, major cost upcharge. I couldn't believe this. Matching air handlers are taller than the 54" available.

Over the holiday weekend, I scoured the websites of the brands commonly recommended here. All I can seem to find are Rheem & Ruud systems that have 4 ton components that will fit within the physical size constraints.

Their websites provide very comprehensive information, (especially Ruud). Both brands appear to share similar specs and apprearance. From what I have heard they are good brand that offers a lot of value for the price.

In speaking with 1 of the a/c companies today, I was told with the issues I am faced with; I will most likely have to settle for basic bottom of the line equipment. I suggested Rheem-Ruud and was told they are still trying to come up with a Trane package that will work. Rheem-Ruud as good as I believe it to be? Are certain models preferred? Are there other recommended brands that will work with my size constraints? Advice is deeply appreciated.

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A crane that will lift a condenser thirty-five stories-wow. I would take it up inside of the building and if there is room take it thru the hatch or door. Anyways I would call a rheem dealer to better match your equipment. The only reason the current guy is pushing AS equipment is cause he gets a kickback on the number of units he sells at the end of the year. Keep it simple and use the equipment that fits in the space provided.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 8:52AM
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I think you will be challenged in the Trane/AmStd line of heat pump systems that will fit your space requirements.

I will assume you are sized correctly. However, I would ask that a load calc be performed to verify.

Rudd and Rheem are sister companies and depending on mdl basically identical. Dealer should be able to find an air handler to fit. However, you may have to use a helicopter to get the outside condenser to the rooftop.

Post back what the Rudd/Rheem dealer recommends and I'll add my 2 cents about their quote. You do want a HP condenser that has electronic demand defrost.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 9:29AM
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is this a corner unit? How tall are the ceilings?

I find it hard to believe you need 4 tons of heating and cooling for this 2100 sq. ft. condo. If you have units around you that are heated and cooled, I bet the amount of btu's need to heat and cool is pretty light. A friend of mine is in the 12th of a 14 floor unit building. His unit is 1300sq ft and is rectangular is shape. Only one small end of the rectangle is an exterior wall and its all windows. He sometimes leaches heat from his neighboring unit and doesn't heat at all - lol. He has a rooftop heatpump also.

A smaller tonage could work fine. Some smaller ton outdoor units are physically smaller and ofcourse the indoor coil would be smaller.

If the rheem size fits, you can use it. I wouldn't worry about the brand in your situation. Rheem is fine equipment anyway.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 1:53PM
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I'm surprised that your building doesn't have a service elevator to the roof. However, it really doesn't cost more than about $500 to have a one time heli lift. Not a big deal at all.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 4:33PM
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