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  1. #1

    Why is this costing me a FORTUNE?

    I need a bit of advise as my current hvac guy's competency is coming into question more and more. I recently bought a house in SE Pennsylvania. It is a cape cod built in 1952, brick construction, 1638 sq ft. Two adults and an infant live here. When we bought it the furnace had an asbestos heat shield and needed to be replaced. Since our a/c was quickly coming to the end of its life as well, the contractor recommended to us by our realtor suggested we put in a heat pump. He installed a 13seer AirTemp model #VT4BB 30k 2.5 tons. He also installed a new air handler in the attic, also an AirTemp. He installed a new water heater and the old oil tank was removed. The first month was a nightmare. There was at least a 10-15 degree difference between upstairs and downstairs and the thermostat never seemed to regulate anything correctly. The unit was icing over and the average temp outside was 45 degrees per my electric bill. He told us to switch it to emergency heat and came out to look at it probably 6 times over 2 and a half weeks. He finally brought out a friend and it turns out he had it wired incorrectly. Great. Even after fixing the wiring we still had a 10 degree difference between floors. Installing return vents upstairs and baffled vent covers seemed to fix that. That's when we got hit with our first bill from the electric company, $700 (4162 kwh). Ok, running on emergency heat for over 2 weeks could result in that, sure. He came out again, this time with an AirTemp rep who checked the unit and said it was wired correctly and the correct size for the house. She suggested we insulate the basement to further cut on the electric usage. We just got our second electric bill, $535 (3562 kwh). Yikes! Could this possibly be correct? It has been an avg of 40 degrees outside per my bill. We have a very efficient new refrigerator and dishwasher and we only do wash every third day. The house is set at 68 degrees and we have LED lights that we are religious about not leaving on when we aren't in a room. I was fully expecting a $200-250 bill in the winter months but this is outrageous. What can I do at this point? Is this normal?
    Last edited by Minnish; 01-13-2013 at 10:42 AM. Reason: kwh used per month

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
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    Well, coincidentally, I too live in SE PA, I too live in a 1950's brick house that is a raised rancher with a finished attic space, totalling about 1600 square foot of floor space. I installed a frankensystem (mismatched components) 2.5 ton heat pump (because I am an HVAC expert, and I can get away with futzing over issues a Frankensystem can create) three years ago. My average electric bill is $180, a little higher for the colder and warmer months.

    So, yea...somethings wrong.

    Since AirTemp is a RE Michels (a major HVAC distributor) private brand of equipment built by Nordyne Manufacturing, do you know if the AirTemp rep was a technical rep for Nordyne, a techinical rep for RE Michel or a sales rep for RE Michel? My guess is that she is a sales rep. You need a technical rep.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Athens, Ohio
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    Two things come to mind.
    1. How well is your house insulated? You could also check with the power company to see what the bills were for the previous owners.
    2. You may want to try another contractor. They should look at the house AND the system. It is not uncommon for a house to have leaks that will increase the load on your system. Years ago I found a house with a return grille on the package unit outdoors because the hack installer got tired of trying to make an opening in the wall that would be big enough.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
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    Northern Wisconsin
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    Numbers are from what you gave and constants or averages used to do HVAC calculations.

    4162 x 1000 = 4162000, 4162000 / 30 = 138733, 138733 / 24 = 5780.5, 5780.5 x 3.41 = 19711
    (KW to watts) (watts per days in month) (watts per hour) (btu's/hr @ 100% eff electric resistive heat)
    **** just typed the first one so you knew where I was getting the numbers ****
    19711, 16870

    19711/1638= 12 btu's/sq ft

    16870/1638= 10.3 btu's/sq ft

    The only way to refine the numbers is to use degree days, not average temperature. Even using degree day numbers, the answers are only guidelines and not factual.

    Doing the math and not accounting for any gain in efficiency using the HP verses straight electrical resistant heat the math shows your home using between 10.3 and 12 btu's/sq foot.

    Not saying your system is working right or wrong. Not saying the contractor is right or wrong. Just adding the math to the discussion.
    Use the biggest hammer you like, pounding a square peg into a round hole does not equal a proper fit.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    With that kind of temperature difference it would appear that your envelope has some serious leakage problems. Stack effect can not only lead to extreme temperature variations between floors, but it also coincides with infiltration of cold outside air down low, and exfiltration of warm air up high. There could be duct leakage issues in addition to this. Bottom line is that you're probably spending a couple hundred a month to heat the outdoors.

  6. #6
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    We won't really know anything until the OP comes back. I can't imagine a 1950's brick house in this area having the issues that are being suggested. It sounds like the new system just isn't working properly.
    Government is a disease...
    ...masquerading as its own cure…
    Ecclesiastes 10:2 NIV


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Were you able to talk to the previous owners about previous winters (or even conditions inside the house like the temp diff upstairs and down) or get the billing history from the power company thieves?

    To me something seems out of whack and I don't think this is normal.
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  8. #8
    Thank you all for your replies. I do think that insulation may be a contributing factor but I cant imagine it causing THAT MUCH money to basically fly out the window. We will be reinsulating the basement ceiling and attic this month to see how much it helps. All of the windows in the basement have been resealed. The ducts were checked, supposedly, when the new system went in. We did find one issue, the flue where the furnace was previously connected was never capped, even though we were told it was done. We have capped that and sealed it now.

    I do not know if the AirTemp rep was a sales rep or a tech, my fiance was here at the time and did not get a business card from her. We will be contacting AirTemp tomorrow to see if there is a record of that visit and request a tech come out. Thank you for that suggestion, it never would have occurred to me to question the type of rep they would send. I called the electric company and the only information I could get was the average monthly bill for the previous owners, $140. They were running on radiator heat and oil. At this point I'm so fed up with our contractor, I am ready to just call in someone new to go over everything he did and hope something is wrong with the system itself.

  9. #9
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    When your heat pump first comes on, does it blow out old air for a few minutes?

    Its possible a valve is bad, or the stat is set up wrong and you are actually running in cooling mode and the strip heaters are what is heating your house.
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  10. #10
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    Jan 2008
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    I would deffinately get another contractor's evaluation. Insulation can make a huge difference but I also am leaning toward leaky ducts.If supply ducts are leaking you will have excessive infiltration and if return is leaking your conditioned air is mixed with cold air. Electric strips are obviously running alot also.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by beenthere View Post
    When your heat pump first comes on, does it blow out old air for a few minutes?

    Its possible a valve is bad, or the stat is set up wrong and you are actually running in cooling mode and the strip heaters are what is heating your house.
    Of course it blows out "old" air. Heat pumps can't produce "new" air.....LOL!

    You just may be on the right track with the reversing valve, but that is not something the consumer should have to know about or ever have reason to question.
    Government is a disease...
    ...masquerading as its own cure…
    Ecclesiastes 10:2 NIV


  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minnish View Post
    Thank you all for your replies. I do think that insulation may be a contributing factor but I cant imagine it causing THAT MUCH money to basically fly out the window. We will be reinsulating the basement ceiling and attic this month to see how much it helps. All of the windows in the basement have been resealed. The ducts were checked, supposedly, when the new system went in. We did find one issue, the flue where the furnace was previously connected was never capped, even though we were told it was done. We have capped that and sealed it now.

    I do not know if the AirTemp rep was a sales rep or a tech, my fiance was here at the time and did not get a business card from her. We will be contacting AirTemp tomorrow to see if there is a record of that visit and request a tech come out. Thank you for that suggestion, it never would have occurred to me to question the type of rep they would send. I called the electric company and the only information I could get was the average monthly bill for the previous owners, $140. They were running on radiator heat and oil. At this point I'm so fed up with our contractor, I am ready to just call in someone new to go over everything he did and hope something is wrong with the system itself.
    Where in SE PA do you live? If you'd rather not post that publicly, you can contact me at RoBoTeq(at)roboteq(dot)info (actual email addresses are not allowed to be posted because of spammers). I am an HVAC product rep working for a distributor in PA, so I may know some of the people you are dealing with.
    Government is a disease...
    ...masquerading as its own cure…
    Ecclesiastes 10:2 NIV


  13. #13
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    Jan 2009
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    Are you using setbacks? Do not use setbacks other than 1-2F for comfort (some like it cool for sleeping) on a all electric heat pump. Otherwise the unit will go to aux heat strips a lot.

    Honestly, if it was wired incorrectly and running in cool more, I'd expect the bill to be even higher and hte outdoor unit wouldn't be iced over. A issue with the defrost controller or defrost settings could be a problem... or the wiring problem is preventing it from defrosting properly. Although if it wasn't defrosting correctly it would have tripped out on low pressure switch.

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