Recommendation For New Heat Pump
11 years ago my wife and I bought a new home in Canyon Lake, California. It was a Spec home and we got into it at a point where we could make some changes. The builder was constantly patting himself on the back on what a great home he builds and that we're getting a "custom home." As it turns out this guy used some of the least expensive sub-contractors in the area, and they in turn installed the low end of what is available. The tip off should have been the $1.99 towel rods, but my wife wanted the house.
The area is all electric with no natural gas. We have propane tanks for a pool. The electric provider is SCE and they have Tiered Rates. Tier 1 is at .13 kWh, which goes all the way up to Tier 5 at .32 kWh. Temperature in this area averages mid 90's in summer with highs of 107*F. Humidity is usually 20-30%. Winter time averages mid 40's with lows in the high 20's. Home is wood framing, stucco, concrete roof tiles, attic insulation I believe was R-30 and walls R-13. The insulation was like everything else in this home, the bare minimum. Onto the HVAC which has been a sore spot since the beginning.
The builder had installed a Goodman 5 ton heat pump with a matching air handler. In summer time the compressor would run all day to try and get the inside temp to 82* F. Low to mid 90's this was possible. Above 100, the best we could hope to achieve was maybe 86* F. On the heat pump side of things 68* F was usually the best we could hope for. There were also the times the system would go cool to cold to defrost/de-ice. We rarely used the heater due to that fact and the A/C was used on extreme days. The builders sub-contractor for the HVAC was called out multiple times with no improvement. Multiple parts were swapped out and I was told this was the best we could expect. I gave up.
Over the years we've had the system charged due to leak that has never been found. After the charge we're stuck with what was mentioned above. This summer temperatures the past 1 1/2 weeks have been above 100*. We called a HVAC contractor out that told us the system was empty and that we needed another system. OK, can we charge this to buy us some time? I was told it was a waste of money. He recommended sticking with a heat pump and to not use propane. He gave us an estimate for a 5 ton Rheem 13 SEER heat pump with matching air handler. Works been slow and I'd need a few months to try and save up for this, so I declined replacing it. At the recommendation of a friend I called another HVAC contractor to get a second opinion.
He came out this Sunday. The system wasn't empty, but was low. Static pressure read 50 PSI. I had the system charged. Capacity is 8.14 lbs and he put approximately 5 lbs. of R-22 in. We're back to where we have barely adequate air. He squeezed us in between jobs, and is coming back out to get to the bottom of this when things slow down. A few things he noticed we have 2 vents that have no air flow coming out, the high side was reading 300 PSI, splite splilt temperature was only 15*. I have some questions...
Stick with a heat pump? Or utilize propane. Are the newer heat pumps better on the defrost cycle? Heat strips were also mentioned, but I was told the electric cost skyrockets.
Brands, both guys said Rheem was good. Goodman was on the low end. Carrier was at the top. Recommendations?
Seer rating. The first guy said 13 SEER was fine. The second said that's the minimum and recommended at least a 15 SEER. Thoughts?
You need to have them take a close look at the ductwork. Sounds like you are pulling in hot attic air or something. You can keep a house 86 with ceiling fans when it 90 outside
11 years ago. They probably used R4.2 flex/duct board.
May want to se if you can add more insulation to your attic also.
let us know what the tech that actually found problems with your ductwork comes up with when he arrives.
"builder" grade installations rarely are balanced or tight. if the refrigerant leak has been there since day one, it's likely an installation mistake. if the schedule does not open up with the guy soon, call your power company, and get an energy audit and ductblaster test done on your house to see just how badly the builder designed your home.
The TRUE highest cost system is the system not installed properly...
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I would want a HP for both heat and AC over propane even for California and its insane electric rates.
But compare your fuel costs.
Here is my personal checklist.
Obviously correct sizing is important. If you are unsure, then request a load calculation or even perform it yourself for a nominal fee online.
there are three equally important components-quality HVAC, the install by dealer, and probably the most overlooked and disregarded is the ductwork system.
these are my minimum specs for a new HP system. both outside and inside units
should be replaced to have a properly matched system.
15 SEER, 12.5+ EER, 9 HSPF
best matching VS air handler
full BTUs in both cooling and heating for your rated size
R-410a refrigerant(same as Puron)
scroll compressor preferred
electronic demand defrost preferred
thermostat with "dehumidify on demand" feature
staged backup heat strips
new and correctly sized refrigerant line set
you want a thorough inspection of your ductwork system. size, overall condition, supply and return lines, insulation qualities, leak test, etc.
any hot/cold spot issues in your home should be addressed.
I would look at Trane/AmStd,Rheem/Rudd,Carrier/Bryant.
Depending on your location, I would not purchase a new HP system that did not have electronic demand defrost.
I would definately have a blower door test done on this house to see how leaky it is.
Thanks for the replies.
The second guy that came out called me back a couple of days ago. He apologized for not spending more time on the house when he was here. He said he wanted to get back out to spend more time looking at what was in the attic, as he only took a quick look. I told I'd get up there and take a look. He told me what to look for. Strange how I had been up there before when I put storage up there and wiring surround sound and outside sound. I was looking at the installation and it looks pretty bad. How'd I miss that before. It's too late now, but what I should have done at the beginning of this would have been to pay and get a professional opinion of the HVAC installation when this home was under warranty.
Besides the low end equipment, refrigerant leak, the ductwork has problems, the plenum is too short, the air handler/evaporator is not draining correctly. The house is a single story and we could probably benefit by adding insulation and attic fan(s). Due to electricity costs it will make sense to get a new, correctly designed system. I could post some pics to show what I saw.
"The TRUE highest cost system is the system not installed properly..."
Isn't that the truth vstech!
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Last edited by jpsmith1cm; 08-20-2012 at 07:34 AM.
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What is the Sq footage of the home, and actual location?
The home is in Canyon Lake, California. http://maps.google.com/maps?rls=com....&ved=0CKMBELYD
It's a single story and is a little over 2,600 square feet.
You should have a load calc done, but based on your description, I don't think 5 tons of cooling will ever do the job.
That's what the second HVAC contractor mentioned. 5 ton was actually undersized. He said we have a couple of options. There was a new 6 ton unit out there, or living with a 5 ton, or splitting the system. 1 unit for the living areas and another for the sleeping. Another problem I didn't mention, but he picked up on, and what he believes to be the reason why the high side is higher than normal, is the location of the compressor/condenser. The unit sits on the south side of the house exposed to the afternoon sun. It's not till after 6:00 PM that the direct sun is off the unit. Between the ducts and the barely adequate system, I'm seeing this is probably going to get expensive.
The idea of a load calculation is a good one and I'll start with this as well getting an evaluation on the insulation and leaking checking the home