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Heat pump frustrations!

Posted by krazyrabbit (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 22, 11 at 21:57

OK, here's my story, I live in the Richmond Virginia area and purchased my 23 year old 1,400 sq ft ranch two years ago. Currently I have a 2 ton Goodman heat pump that's only 4 years old. Since moving in heating has not been an issue but last summer the temp inside would be set at 72 degrees and when I'd get home from work it would be at 85 - 90 depending on how hot it got outside.

I;ve had repair come out 3 times in the past two years, twice I got Freon put in (didn't do much) and advice that my compressor unit did not match the needs of the house. Two weeks ago I got the news that the coil was kaput and would cost about $1,200 to replace and fix all the leaks in the system. So right now I have no air at all.

I decided to get some estimates on replacement before shelling out the money for the fix. I am so confused by all the differences I've gotten in the quotes!

Only 1 company did a load assessment on the house, he told me that my living room with skylights and a vaulted ceiling rated a ton and half by itself and that I need a 3 ton. He also told me that the handler was incorrectly installed, it goes from the closet up to the attic. The vents are all 5" leading from where the handler goes up to the attic to each room, and the vent openings are 6" and 8." After spending 3 hours reviewing my house he recommended a total system replacement with a Trane unit and that the handler should be moved to the attic. Big bucks.

Next guy told me that only the outside unit needs to be replaced; and a 2 ton was enough. Didn't even look at the ducts.

Next company didn't show up.

Following that I had a guy tell me if anyone tried to sell me a unit larger than a 2 ton unit there were full of s**t; that it would be too big and would make the unit less efficient. He gave me a quote to do a total replacement with a Lennox that was less than the Trane, but with a higher SEER.

My question - how on earth do I find someone to tell me what my house really needs?! I can't tell who's trying to sell me too much, or not enough. It's hard to do research when there are so many variables.

Thanks for any advice you can pass along.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Heat pump frustrations!

So far the person I like the best is Tech # 1. He at least spent 3-hours reviewing your house, did a load calculation and at least considered the variables of skylights (big variable!) and a vaulted ceiling.

You know 2-tons is too small. Look towards a system that has a variable speed air-handler and possibly a 2-speed condenser.


RE: Heat pump frustrations!

When you start adding vaulted ceilings and skylights that are usually very poorly insulated compared to what they should be into the picture I would have to agree that it 'sounds' like 2 tons would be undersized.

I will say a full fledged audit should be done because there may be some things that can be done in the sealing insulating area that might not cost a lot out of pocket but will make a huge difference in savings. Sealing and insulating should always be evaluated especially in a possible undersized unit situation because if you can seal and insulate your way into making the smaller unit fit the bill the savings long term are huge.

RE: Heat pump frustrations!

OK, here is what Tech #1 (Trane authorized) who did the load calculation offered:

Single stage

Trane XL15i Heat Pump 4TWX5036A1000A
Trane VS Handler 4TEE3F31A1000A
Prestige thermostat THX9321R5000 includes wireless OD sensor
10KW heater with breaker for GAM5 air handler
Freezestat frost protection
Install handler in attic and build platform for the handler
Install main trunk
Install new supply leads
Install new small return in the vaulted ceiling living room
Install 6 or 8 inch air tights
Install new refrigeration lines
New outdoor disconnnect with GFCI receptical
10 years parts 10 years labor 12 year compressor
4 years preventive maintenance 2 visits per year
Total: $11,909.83

Two stage

Trane XL16i 4TWX6036E1000A
Same as above for other parts and labor
Total: $12,339.62

Trane XL20i 4TWZ0036A1000A
Trane VS Handler 4TEE3C03B1000A
Thermostat TCONT900AC43UA Humidity control includes OD sensor
10 years free maintenance 2 visits per year
Same as above for other parts and labor
Total: $13,896.48

I read a post here that discouraged putting handlers in the attic - why?

Next week I'm having a authorized Carrier and Bryant companies come to to give estimates as well.

RE: Heat pump frustrations!

I wouldn't want my air handler in the attic, just think about how hot it gets up there. Plus, if there's ever a leak or your drain stops up it's going to leak into your ceiling.

RE: Heat pump frustrations!

whew. What a load! I just had 2 heat pump systems in one in our main house, a brick ranch that is 1800 sq ft and the other in our rental townhouse 1500 sq ft. We live in Va bEach.
Very happy with both systems and these are listed below

1800 sf ranch
Carrier Performance Series 15 SEER 3.0 ton 2-stage air handler and 2 speed outside condenser, Thermidisat
$6850.00 for everything. Ductwork already in place in the attic where AH is no located

1500 townhouse (2story)
Carrier Comfort Series 14 SEER single speed, inside and out, Programmable thermostat Total: $4300.00

These are both working great and the company was Synergy Air. Great people and awesome owner who takes extra time to be sure it is all correct.

my email is if you need more info, AHRI's numbers etc for exact systems.

unit size

oh yeah, sorry, the townhouse was a 2.5 ton unit system

air handler

also, on the ranch, the unit is a variable speed air handler with a 2 speed/2 stage condenser- correction

RE: Heat pump frustrations!

First of all, it is completely correct that if your ductwork is undersized, that no amount of increase in tonnage can overcome that shortfall.

Here is an analogy that does oversimplify a bit, but may help you understand how important ductwork can be if it is too small.

Instead of airflow, think of it like water pipes. If you needed 3 inch round pipe with the water turned on all the way to get a given amount of water from point A to B, and your pipes were only 2 inches in diameter, then it is really not possible to get the same QUANTITY of water from A to B over the same amount of time. The pipes can only handle so much pressure. The 2 inch pipe can only move so much water.

Air ducts are calculated much the same way as plumbing pipes would be.

So I think that if your home was never comfortable on cooling with the current ductwork, that is something to be considered. Do you live in a neighborhood with other houses that have your floorplan, face the same directions as yours, AND have the skylights? If you do, ask around about size of their system, and maybe ask to look at their ductwork.

I will say that I find it surprising that your ductwork would so undersized on cooling delivery, but that you find your heating satisfactory. I would expect you might be complaining on both ends.

However, especially if the skylight was added after the system was sized, it is very likely that you have added enough of a solar gain that your cooling load is not sized correctly. In your climate, systems are sized based on cooling as the primary aspect of the load calculation, and then the heating is sized to match the space dimensions and airflow required for the cooling. You see, windows, skylights and glass doors add a lot more load requirement for cooling than for heating.

Now second part of the problem is that you would of course like some comparable bids and designs before spending this amount of money. I suggest looking at York , as I believe there is a very good York distributor in Virginia. Do a google search, or even call the distributor and ask them to recommend a dealer to contact for a bid. And I would also send an email to your friends and coworkers and ask if any of them can recommend a dealer they have used.

The importance of the dealer is big. The right problem solver is who you need to find.

RE: Heat pump frustrations!

I'm not sure why the 4TEE3F31 air handler was proposed for the XL15i system unless physical space is a major concern. That match-up loses some efficiency on both heating and cooling, 13.5 SEER and 8.2 HSPF. There are better choices to improve the ratings. I'm not sure if the air handler model number is a mistake, since it the proposal also includes a heater package for the GAM5 series air handlers, which are new.

RE: Heat pump frustrations!

Thanks for all the advice everyone. This house was built with the skylights and the small ductwork, the Trane guy who went up to the attic was angry that the contractors got away with it and that my house inspector didn't tell me about it. I forgot to mention that there is not just the skylights and the vaulted ceiling, but I have a sliding patio door in my living and a large window as well. This room turns

juliekcmo - I'm originally from Michigan and like it cold, so perhaps the heating might not be fine for others? I have asked around to see what my co-workers would recommend, several came out and gave me quotes without doing the load calculation. After doing research I've decided that I'm not going to work with those who "give an educated guess" on what my house needs, not for the money I'm going to put into this replacement!

ryanhughes - thanks about the air handler info - so far that package is looking dubious to me because they want to put my handler in the attic. I might call them back and ask for another quote minus the attic move and challenge them about the air handler.

This week I'm going to have a Bryant, American Standard, Carrier and hopefully a York certified installer come out.

Today it's 89 out and my house is up to 84, went out and bought a $99 room sized air conditioner for my bedroom because it's supposed to stay hot all week!

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