Heating Systems 101 – Learning the Lingo

She Blinded Me With Science!

One of the toughest things about researching a new heating system is learning the tech talk. Your HVAC company will throw out all sorts of terminology assuming that you understand what they’re talking about. Some might even be happy that you *don’t* understand so they can confuse you and sound like experts. Well, no more!

This post covers the most common terms that you’re likely to run across. I’m sure I’ll miss some or confuse you, so please post questions if there’s anything you’d like clarified.

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GE GeoSpring Heat Pump Water Heater

GEH50DEEDSR _ GeoSpring™ hybrid electric water heater _ GE Appliances

Intro

In July 2014, I purchased this GE GeoSpring heat pump water heater to replace my existing all-electric water that had sprung a leak. Admittdely, it was an impulse buy because Lowes was having a sale on them – probably to get rid of unwanted inventory because these have horrible reviews!

So why did I buy it? Because it was only a few hundred dollars more than a conventional electric water heater and I’d been wanting to get an integrated HPWH after my previous add-on HPWH died after just a year. Plus, based on the negative reviews, I felt that the people having problems were using earlier versions of the heater. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that it has a long, happy life.

Almost everything written in this article applies to all heat-pump water heaters. I’ll put the GE specific notes at the end.

What is a heat-pump water heater?

You may not know it but your refrigerator and air conditioner are examples of heat pumps. Through a process of compression, condensation and evaporation, they move heat from one place to another. In your refrigerator, that humming you hear when it runs is the compressor. The inside of the fridge is cold because the “heat” in the fridge is moved to the outside of the insulated box and blown into your kitchen. An air conditioner works exactly the same way – it cools the air inside the house and expels the heat outside.

The HPWH does the same thing except it uses the heat to warm the water in the tank. And the cold? If you feel the output behind the heater, you’ll see that the cold gets blown into the room. Heat the water, chill the room. Keep this in mind, we’ll come back to that later.

Why does a heat-pump water heater save energy?

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(UPDATED 2018): Why I can no longer recommend Fujitsu mini-split heat pumps

This article has been updated as of January 2018.

Readers, please note that the original article referred to the original line of inverter mini-splits manufactured by Fujitsu. Over the years, many of you have echoed these comments regarding premature system failure and inadequate manufacturer’s support leading to extremely expensive repairs and replacements.

Subsequently, Fujitsu has gone through at least two generation updates to this line of products. They have also updated their warranty policies, indicating a greater confidence in their products.

I have also been told by several installers that the new Fujitsu units are considered tops in the field.

Given these changes, I change my rating of Fujitsu to “Neutral.” I cannot personally recommend them because I have no first hand experience with them recently. However, I do not wish for people to be discouraged from installing their new units.

If you have first hand experience with the new line of Fujitsu mini-split heat pumps, please contribute to the discussion.

Thank you!

(original posting from 2014 follows)

Sadly, I can no longer recommend Fujitsu due to their unacceptable support and warranty policies.

Poor product durability eliminates all cost savings gained from efficiency

A home’s heating system is a capital expenditure. That is, it’s considered a long term investment in your home. Typically, you figure that it will last 15-20 years with some cost for maintenance. And generally, that’s conservative. How many of you still have heating systems in your homes from the 1970’s or 80’s? In general, these systems are very durable. Unfortunately, with the Fujitsu mini-split heat pump, this has not been the case. Continue reading

DIY Energy Audit, Part 2: Why Do Heat Pumps (sometimes) Cost a Fortune to Run?

After the first article, Matt collected his utility bills and other background information we need to get started. Here it is:

“Colonial 3,300 square feet. 3 adults one child. 2 Electric Heat Pumps: Large one in basement is Payne, Model Number PF1MNB048; Smaller one in mud room for rooms above garage has no name. Just has large number SA11694 and Model Number BCS2M18C00NA1P-1. Thermostat at 72 now and 70 in summer. Consumption Feb 2013 through Jan 2014 – kWh 5800, 4530, 2815, 1684, 1533, 2346, 1334, 1568, 1719, 3023, 5833, 7349”

I don’t even have to make a spreadsheet for this one!

What this tells us

We have a small-medium family in an average sized development home – no red-flags there.

However, the next items contain the keys to solving this mystery.

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How to diagnose your high heating bills and drafty home this winter

Part 1: Introduction to Winter Energy Audits

Here in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S., we’re getting hit by another deep freeze. Those in the center of the country are probably thinking we’re wimps for complaining about single digit temperatures, but hey, it’s all relative. For us, it’s darned cold!

I’ve been getting a number of questions recently, spurred on by the low temps and associated HIGH heating bills. People are asking: “Help! I got my latest heating bill and it’s astronomical. What can I do to reduce it?” or, the other side of that coin is: “Brrr! My family is freezing. I’ve got the heat cranked up but it’s still cold and drafty in some rooms. What can I do make it more comfortable?”

We’re going to walk through a virtual energy audit “live” so you can follow the thought processes and troubleshooting with me. Hopefully, this will allow many of you to go on to diagnose your own issues and end up with a home that is more comfortable, efficient and safe.

Along the way, drop your questions into the comments below the posts, and I’ll do my best to incorporate answers into the article or answer them in the comments.

Let’s get started!

Edit: rather than doing this as one humongous post, I’m going to break each section into a different post. This should make it easier for people to find the pertinent information and step through the process without it getting too overwhelming.

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Fujitsu – time to clean the air filters!

It’s definitely time to clean this air filter

After receiving a question recently about cleaning the Fujitsu’s air filters, I thought I’d better check mine. Good thing – yuck!

Fortunately, a quick spray down  in the sink and they’re good as new. Just remember to spray from the back side to blow the gunk out of the filter. Also, let the filters dry out before using them.

In addition to the two large mesh filters, there are a small foam and pleated filter below them. Clean and dry those and you’re good to go.