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Replace oil steam system with...?

EnergyMiserEnergyMiser Posts: 5Member
My 1600 ft2 Boston-area home has oil-fired steam heat and window A/C units. The boiler is also our tankless water heater. We dislike the radiators, definitely hate the oil tank, and are in the midst of adding a couple of rooms (one atop the other). Winters get cold and summers get hot. My options (and my perception of their respective pros and cons) include:

1) Converting boiler to gas and keeping the steam. Add minisplits for cooling. (Pro: maybe least expensive; Con: still have radiators; least energy efficient option)
2) Converting to gas, upgrading boiler and installing forced hot water system. (Pro: most efficient central heat option?, we ran some hot water lines years ago in anticipation of doing this and converting steam radiators to run on hot water; Con: $$$; converting steam radiators -> hot water might not work very well)
3) Replace the steam system with minisplits for heat and cooling. Maybe add a gas fireplace insert for coldest nights. (Pro: most energy efficient option, multi-zoned heating and cooling, good utility rebates for minisplits; Con: concerned about permanence of removing steam pipes and radiators; would need to buy a water heater)
4) Replace steam with furnace and run ducts all over the house (Pro: Would eliminate radiators, Con: Not necessarily a fan of forced hot air, new duct work would take up space in closets, etc.)

Any professionals out there have any opinions on the wisdom of any of the above options? Are there others I'm missing? Thanks in advance!
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Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 12,132Member
    If the boiler is more than about 10 years old, your best bet -- in my humble opinion -- is to replace the boiler with a modern gas fired steam boiler and spend a little effort on getting the steam system to work the way it is supposed to. Your efficiency will be slightly less than the best mod-con hot water system boiler -- but not that much less (a good, well installed steam boiler will run 84 to 86 percent efficiency all the time, even on the coldest days; a mod-con will run higher on warmer days -- but not on the coldest days). The biggest drawback I see to that option is that you still have the radiators.

    There is no way I'd convert to hot water. There are just too many booby traps, and the cost recovery just isn't there.

    Your most energy efficient option, if you are fanatical about that, will be heat pumps, such as mini-splits. On the coldest days, when it may be necessary for the mini-splits to kick in the resistance heater back ups, your overall efficiency will be worse than a gas fired boiler (most of your electricity for the foreseeable future comes from gas fired powerplants, with a peak efficiency of around 40 percent), but for the rest of the year, it will be slightly better if you spring for really top end heat pumps. To get the most out of this route, you will also need a heat pump hybrid water heater; their overall efficiency is slightly better than a modern gas fired water heater. This is also the most expensive option, although various subsidies from the government or utilities may distort the actual pricing enough for it to be comparable.

    Don't even think about going to forced air.

    If you simply have to get rid of the radiators and you really need that last percent or so of overall efficiency, and don't care about the expense, your third option is the best but only if you get really top end equipment. Otherwise, the first option wins hands down.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Posts: 3,840Member
    I say option 1, keep the oil. If you pick the right boiler you can put in a gas burner if the oil prices skyrocket.
    steve
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,573Member
    I agree- keep the steam. No forced-air system will ever equal the comfort of a well-operating steam system. If the radiators have a lot of old paint on them, get them stripped and repainted- they look really good when this is done!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,500Member
    edited May 2016
    Oil prices are going to go up again there's zero doubt about that. Gas is still cheaper especially when you consider how hard it is to find someone to properly clean and service and oil burner.


    Without a question keep the steam but go with gas.

    Honestly I'd probably even do propane over oil even now.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • FredFred Posts: 8,278Member
    I'm with all the others. Keep the steam but I say go ahead and convert to gas if it is available. Do some mini splits for cooling. The radiators are a beautiful asset and add character to the home.
  • EnergyMiserEnergyMiser Posts: 5Member
    Good comments! So no love for the conversion to minisplit heat pumps, eh? Is this mainly because they're relatively untested here in the states as a sole-source heating option? We *could* keep the steam radiators, since they already serve a purpose and are even sort of quaint. But in a not-so-big house, they do take up real estate, and I'm tempted to yank em. Your support for keeping the steam is pulling me away from that decision, however...
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,500Member
    @EnergyMiser I have to ask, and I mean no disrespect by this, but if you don't like radiators why did you buy a house that has them? Something like 90% of the homes in the US do not have them.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,573Member
    Those radiators took up the same amount of real estate when they were installed as they do now. What did the Dead Men know then that people have forgotten now? They knew that radiators were a much better way to heat a house then hot-air, which is still true.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 12,132Member
    It's not that I don't like mini-splits. There's nothing wrong with the technology. They work fine. If you were starting from scratch, they would certainly be an option and possibly a very good option. But... when you have a heating system which is working, except perhaps needing a new boiler, why would you spend the money? Not only to get them (multiple) properly installed, but to rip out a perfectly good system?

    The gain in overall efficiency, as I noted in my post, is very small, so that shouldn't be an incentive. You need an average over the year COP of at least 2.1 to equal even an ordinary steam system, and more like 2.3 to equal a high efficiency mod-con (which you don't want -- that's the hot water option). You probably won't reach that on a year round average in the Boston area.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • EnergyMiserEnergyMiser Posts: 5Member
    ChrisJ, no disrespect taken. Nearly all the houses around here have a steam or hot water system, so I frankly didn't really have a choice (even if I had been thinking of it). It's not that I hate radiators, it's that they just take up so much damn space.

    Jamie, for better or for worse, I *am* an energy efficiency fanatic. I work in cleantech, so I can't help but want the most efficient system possible. Of course, I need to be sensible about it, and the costs need to pencil out, but all things equal, give me the greenest stuff anytime. Again, it needs to be a sensible decision. Waiting on numbers from local HVAC contractors on Options 1, 3, and 4.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 12,132Member
    If you really are an energy fanatic -- more power to you. But just be absolutely sure that you are accounting for all efficiencies, all through the system! All too often I see people focusing on just one step in the chain, and that upsets me... the best example being "zero emissions" electric cars, of course -- because, unless they are being recharged by solar panels (which are themselves resource intensive, by the way, never mind the batteries) the electricity is generated at 40% efficiency or less -- which isn't much better, if any, than my diesel vehicles (which are not VWs, by the way)!

    This is really why I am wary of mini-splits and heat pumps -- they themselves do wonderful things, but taken as part of the whole system? Not so much...

    And there is no way I want to get drawn into the overall discussion (to put it charitably) regarding alternative energy and environmental impacts. The subject is far too complex, and the trade-offs too many, for any kind of simple analysis.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,415Member
    What is the insulation and air sealing situation like? No matter the efficiency of the system...if it going out the walls & windows then you will pay a lot.
  • FranklinDFranklinD Posts: 399Member
    I have a close friend who had heating/cooling minisplits installed in his house in the Twin Cities, at the same time as he had the hot water boiler replaced.

    He was very proud of the 'splits, and they do keep the house wonderfully cool and dry in the summer months. They will heat down to 0* also...but he found that the heat they make is so much less comfortable than the steady, even heat of the cast iron radiators, that he quit using the heat function unless he wants a quick warm up while getting ready for work. As he says, "Yeah, never really considered how having warm air blasted at you could be so, well, COLD compared to the radiators". He said he would set the 'splits at 72 and still be chilly, and be perfectly warm with the boiler's thermostat set at 67.

    I'd caution you on ditching the radiators...it's even harder to get them back once they're gone.
    Ford Master Technician, "Tinkerer of Terror"
    Police & Fire Equipment Lead Mechanic, NW WI
    Lover of Old Homes & Gravity Hot Water Systems
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    If you want a efficient steam heating, check out the document. if your around Boston, I can help arrange a meeting with Dr. Zhadanovsky to give a estimate on make your system and vapor vacuum steam system. The conversion can be done at a fraction of the cost changing to anything else.
    The good doctor can also be found right here on heating help.
    izhadano
    Also, I love ductless. That's your beat option with A.C.

  • Radiators deliver extremely comfortable Radiant Heating, I would have a competent steam installer install a new gas, steam, boiler. A good steam guy will correct the problems you likely have in your near boiler piping, your system will be very quiet and efficient, you have a great system of piping and radiators that will likely last another hundred years..

    Thanks, Bob Gagnon
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • EnergyMiserEnergyMiser Posts: 5Member
    System efficiency is essential, I agree! Thankfully the house is relatively tight, I haven't yet a full and proper heating and cooling analysis to account for all of the points in the system that could undermine my efforts to be efficient.

    Interesting point, FranklinD, about the heat quality from the mini splits. Is your friend's experience due to the fact that he could feel the air coming from the units? Or maybe it's a drier heat compared to steam or hot water, and that accounts for the cooler feel of the heat. I have heard this from other people, as well.
  • FredFred Posts: 8,278Member
    I have a Steam system and two forced air furnaces that I installed for central air. The incremental cost difference between just getting air handlers and furnaces was minimal and I felt the backup heating system was a good investment. Over the past 25 years, those forced air furnaces have been used for two days, when my boiler was down due to a leak in one of the flange joints, on a main. There is a very noticeable difference in the quality of the heat between forced air and steam heat. No doubt about it. Steam is much more even and constant. Forced air starts out with a blast of cold air as you clear the unheated air out of the ducts, , followed by a few minutes of drafty warm air, followed by a few minutes of temperature decline before the next blast of cold air and on and on. By the end of those two days, I am totally convinced that when the boiler dies, it will be replaced, in spite of the fact I have a "No Initial Cost" forced air option at my disposal.
  • FranklinDFranklinD Posts: 399Member
    I think it was the combination of the air movement, the sound of the unit (which is very quiet, don't get me wrong, but it's still a box with a fan mounted on the wall), and the statements that have been made about the temperature of the things around you...the air blowing at you may be 72 degrees, but if all of the objects in the room are at 65, you're still going to feel chilly (thus the "warm 70" and "cold 70" that Dan H. talks about).

    I grew up in a house with gravity hot water heat, a system from 1896-1900, that is still operating just fine. After a brief stay in an apartment, my wife and I rented a house for 5 years that had a "premium" forced air system. We were actually offered the house at a great price but turned it down for several reasons, chief among them that one of my daughters and I were miserable. No matter what filters we used, no matter how well we cleaned everything and ran air filters and so on and so forth, our allergies were killing us. I also noticed that for a 1200 sq ft house, the gas bills for heat were insane.

    We bought a house that is 30 years older (1914), 1000 sq ft bigger, and has hot water heat with cast iron radiators...no more allergy problems at all (i.e. no more dust/pollen/dander blowing around all the time). And despite being almost twice the size, heating bills (even with the 30 yr old boiler) were 30-40% lower...even more so with our new boiler.
    Ford Master Technician, "Tinkerer of Terror"
    Police & Fire Equipment Lead Mechanic, NW WI
    Lover of Old Homes & Gravity Hot Water Systems
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    Ductless systems are without a doubt the best primary source of heating and cooling you can have installed to efficiently get the job done. I say primary because you cannot always rely on a heat pump and need a backup heating system in place.
    A heat pump system is a refrigeration system that is capable of reversing the flow of refrigerant and the roles the two coils play in the system.
    When the system is Heating the indoor coil is getting hot and the outdoor coil is getting cold. As the temperature drops outside the heating capacity ( in other words the btu output) also starts to drop. Ductless heat pumps with inverted compressors are good at maintaining efficiency and heating capacity down to approximately 32°. They start to drop off from there and around 5° they are smart enough to shutdown because they can no longer maintain efficiency or heating output.
    The five degree rating is seen mostly on multi-zone equipment, single zone systems will run down to 15° outside temperature.
    The good news is that in New England temperatures rarely get below 10 degrees, even through the night.
    The bad thing is when you need your heater the most is when it starts to fail.
    Ductless systems are modulating units that adjust there BTU output and their fans speed based on indoor, outdoor air temperature and humidity, when you turn it on and set the room temperature it's going to try and heat or cool the space quickly, but with all the information it's constantly collecting it knows how hard it needs to run. When the system is approaching its Target temperature it will begin to slow down and maintain temperature ( using very little electricity) rather than shutting all the way off creating these large temperature swings that forced hot air is so well known for.
    When measuring temperature across a ductless system running in high speed you will see a 20-30 degree difference in the air temperature. Because ductless systems are modulating you can see a 10 degree difference. That's not a bad thing, it only means the system doesn't have to work harder than that to maintain comfortable temperature. Most ductless units have a turbo or test feature that forces it to run 30 minutes on high speed for testing.
    All these modulating fan motors, compressors, TX valve are so quiet I have install them in recording studios. Most remote controls come with a quiet fan mode, so if there's one that's continuously loud, there's a problem.
    And also with all this computer technology that you see when you take the cover off one of these, you would think that they must be riddled with problems. Nope!
    95% of the time I only hear from customers again when there referring me to a friend or they want more of them.
    The other 5% of the time if there's ever a problem with the equipment it's usually still covered under warranty and easily trouble shot with the help of that makers tech support.
    If you decide to go with ductless systems stay away from online deals and the only Brand that I would tell you to run away from, I'm not going to tell you.
    You will know when you hear it because it will sound like two big girls going at it.

    But whatever you do, KEEP STEAM.
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    edited June 2016
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 12,132Member
    @AMservices notes, with regard to ductless:
    "Ductless heat pumps with inverted compressors are good at maintaining efficiency and heating capacity down to approximately 32°. They start to drop off from there and around 5° they are smart enough to shutdown because they can no longer maintain efficiency or heating output.
    The five degree rating is seen mostly on multi-zone equipment, single zone systems will run down to 15° outside temperature.
    The good news is that in New England temperatures rarely get below 10 degrees, even through the night."

    I hate to say this, but I'm in New England... and we had a string of six weeks one winter when it didn't get ABOVE 10 degrees on any day (two winters ago) and last winter it got down to 20 below and didn't get above 0 for a week...

    Dear old Cedric earned his keep...
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    New England weather is unpredictable but the majority of the time the temperature is running between 20 and 30 degrees, in the Boston area. So with ductless systems, if you set there temperature and let them do their job they will handle the heating in your home 90% of the time. And you always have to have backup heat for when they can't keep up or they have to shut off.
    I hear most people after having ductless systems installed usually see a Payback Within 5 years because they are running a very efficient electric heat pump instead of burning a fuel.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,500Member

    New England weather is unpredictable but the majority of the time the temperature is running between 20 and 30 degrees, in the Boston area. So with ductless systems, if you set there temperature and let them do their job they will handle the heating in your home 90% of the time. And you always have to have backup heat for when they can't keep up or they have to shut off.

    I hear most people after having ductless systems installed usually see a Payback Within 5 years because they are running a very efficient electric heat pump instead of burning a fuel.

    How long do the ductless systems last being used for primary heating and cooling in the NE?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    I have only had to condemn 3 ductless systems. one system had rodents living in the outdoor unit using it as a bathroom, another unit of the same brand I found corrosion on the outdoor controls that took out the compressor and the last one had a leak deep inside the evaporator coil.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,500Member

    I have only had to condemn 3 ductless systems. one system had rodents living in the outdoor unit using it as a bathroom, another unit of the same brand I found corrosion on the outdoor controls that took out the compressor and the last one had a leak deep inside the evaporator coil.

    What are the oldest ones you've come across?
    So far, no one has been able to tell me a MTBF on these.


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    Just remember 1 more that was a early model A.C. only ductless. That system was over 15 years old and I couldn't get the part.
    I have taken out systems that were older then 15 years but they were still working and the only reason for removing was the customer had been remodeling.
    It's tough to put a life expectancy on in all electric system that's properly installed.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,500Member

    Just remember 1 more that was a early model A.C. only ductless. That system was over 15 years old and I couldn't get the part.

    I have taken out systems that were older then 15 years but they were still working and the only reason for removing was the customer had been remodeling.

    It's tough to put a life expectancy on in all electric system that's properly installed.

    Not really.
    Apparently manufacturers just don't want this information readily available.

    I can assure you Panasonic, Mitsubishi, LG etc all have a very good idea on how long the average one will last.

    I don't have any documentation from them as I said earlier but my gut tells me 10 years is the target.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    I have been working on and installing ductless systems for 12 years, any problem I've seen has been easily corrected and problems are few and far between.
    ChrisJ, do you install and service ductless systems?
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,500Member

    I have been working on and installing ductless systems for 12 years, any problem I've seen has been easily corrected and problems are few and far between.

    ChrisJ, do you install and service ductless systems?

    Negative.
    I've just been considering installing a few in my own home.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    From the feedback I've gotten from every one of my installations( that I can say with complete confidence)
    "Where ever the ductless is installed becomes the most comfortable room in the house". I'm quoting that because I have heard it from customers on several occasions.
    If the anyone has had problems with a ductless system I guarantee the installer is to blame.
    Also the crap people buy offline.
    People have hired me to install systems that they have purchased offline and 7 out of 10 of those units give me problems. I tell those customers I can't warranty the equipment due to the fact that I can't get the Parts warranty on a generic system not sold by one of my distributors.
    I warranty everything that I install for the first two Heating and Cooling seasons, after that if I hear from them again it's because they haven't cleaned their filter.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,500Member

    From the feedback I've gotten from every one of my installations( that I can say with complete confidence)

    "Where ever the ductless is installed becomes the most comfortable room in the house". I'm quoting that because I have heard it from customers on several occasions.

    If the anyone has had problems with a ductless system I guarantee the installer is to blame.

    Also the crap people buy offline.

    People have hired me to install systems that they have purchased offline and 7 out of 10 of those units give me problems. I tell those customers I can't warranty the equipment due to the fact that I can't get the Parts warranty on a generic system not sold by one of my distributors.

    I warranty everything that I install for the first two Heating and Cooling seasons, after that if I hear from them again it's because they haven't cleaned their filter.

    If your customers made this comment they were not comparing them to a properly working hot water or steam system regarding heat. Or, cooling for that matter when it comes to radiant cooling systems.


    My interest in mini-splits is to replace window units for cooling which everyone knows have only one good feature, they're cheap. I may use the mini-splits for heating in the spring and fall, but as soon as the actual heating season shows up they would be off for the winter.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,573Member

    . And you always have to have backup heat for when they can't keep up or they have to shut off.

    Which means- Keep the Steam!

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    If your customers made this comment they were not comparing them to a properly working hot water or steam system regarding heat. Or, cooling for that matter when it comes to radiant cooling systems.

    I never installed a radiant cooling system. Do they go in residential applications?

    You don't have to shut the unit off. The technology is smart enough to know when to shut itself off.
    Its not a conventional heat pump that only runs at 1 speed.
    I try to explain to all of my customers if you just set it and forget it, it will never be a burden on your electric bill and it will only ask the backup heat to pick up the slack.
    I started a 3 ton ductless system recently and had three 12000 BTU zones all calling on high speed in test mode for cooling and the system was only pulling 4.5 amps.
    In heat on high it spiked on start up at 11 and levelled off at 9.8
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 6,532Member
    If you have lived with steam heat or even hot water rads you may not feel comfortable with heat pump air when real winter temps arrive.

    Mini's are great for cooling and heating the shoulder seasons, but I personally would retain the "real" heat you have.

    I have installed nearly 20 outdoor units that feed perhaps 40 to 50 inside units (Multi Mini split heat pump/AC). Oldest is 14 years old.

    Three outside units had board/compressor problem caused by on site power/surge problems. Other electronics at that facility got cooked also at that time.
    One economy unit was branded "Rheem", that company said they never sold it in this country......no parts available. Lesson learned there about established brand names. It was replaced by a Mitsi.

    All others have been Panasonic/Sanyo....Fijit....or Mitsi.
    Parts available and tech support available if you have a little patience.

    Anything with a compressor, especially in the heating mode at low ambient, will last longer with the less hours it sees. You may milk BTU's out of it but a cost of reduced life of the compressor.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 12,132Member
    @AMservices -- you do a good job selling the product you like to use, and that's admirable. We all do that.

    However, two comments:

    First, don't tell people that they save energy. At the point of use, that may be so, but unless they have a COP over 2.3 on the average, over the use of the unit, they do not save energy overall, except in the very few situations where the electricity used is entirely wind, hydro, solar, or nuclear -- and that doesn't exist in the dear old USA or Canada.

    They may save the customer on utility bills. They are not, however, green in any overall sense.

    Second, in the northern US and Canada, they must have backup heat. If it's electric resistance, that's really bad. if it is a modern oil or gas fired steam or hot water system, the efficiencies are completely comparable, so why not just use that?
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,500Member

    If your customers made this comment they were not comparing them to a properly working hot water or steam system regarding heat. Or, cooling for that matter when it comes to radiant cooling systems.



    I never installed a radiant cooling system. Do they go in residential applications?



    You don't have to shut the unit off. The technology is smart enough to know when to shut itself off.

    Its not a conventional heat pump that only runs at 1 speed.

    I try to explain to all of my customers if you just set it and forget it, it will never be a burden on your electric bill and it will only ask the backup heat to pick up the slack.

    I started a 3 ton ductless system recently and had three 12000 BTU zones all calling on high speed in test mode for cooling and the system was only pulling 4.5 amps.

    In heat on high it spiked on start up at 11 and levelled off at 9.8

    What was the outside temperature and indoor temperature during these tests?

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • FranklinDFranklinD Posts: 399Member
    I get the mini split love, I really do. I've stayed in homes that use them and the cooling is truly wonderful, WAY better than a window unit. That said, I could never try to run that type of system for primary heat. One, can't stand the air movement, and two, we regularly see -20*f here throughout the winter. And since heating is easily 75% of annual climate control budget around here, I could never justify using it sometimes and the boiler others. I'd rather pick one and run it exclusively. In my case the boiler wins hands down. If I had more money than I knew what to do with...well, then I wouldn't be here
    Ford Master Technician, "Tinkerer of Terror"
    Police & Fire Equipment Lead Mechanic, NW WI
    Lover of Old Homes & Gravity Hot Water Systems
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    Sorry for the delay, I had to install another ductless system.
    Did I mention how fast and easy they are to install.

    Everybody has different experiences with all types of heating and cooling equipment. Power surges, rodents, high moisture levels creating corrosion on control boards can be problems anywhere.
    The quality Comfort Control that ductless systems provide is not like that of a conventional HVAC system. When operating in Heating, it is not harsh blow dryer of a system that starts choking you to death. It Quickly bring the room up to temperature and then slowly dribbling BTUs into the space to maintain the temperature.

    ChrisJ asked
    "What was the outside temperature and indoor temperature during these tests?"

    It was only 65° outside and I know what your going to say. If the temperature was hotter or colder testing the heating or cooling I would have gotten different results.
    Only for the test was I running all the zones on high speed. The majority of the time, the system doesn't run on high speed. So if I was to take a amp reading in the middle of operation (not in test mode) I would probably see a lower reading.
    Next one I start I'll record the test and post the results.

    I do love ductless, but also understand their limitations and hate that they shut off (only in Heating) when your at the most risk.

    I agree that it makes sense not to milk ever btu output of the system down to the last degree. But the engineer's that designed and tested these systems set the parameters to shut off at a certain temperatures because they know at that point your doing more harm then good. Why would they ever have it shut off if they weren't thinking about the damage that could happen leaving it running?

    Ductless systems aside, steam is the greatest heating system to have.
    You can't beat a heating system that has no moving parts, uses next to nothing for electricity and can last 100 years.
    If steam is properly size, piped and vented it will be reliable, efficient and balanced.

    As much as I've been talking about ductless, i could talk even more about steam and how it out performs hot water in every area outside the combustion chamber.
    Let me just say this.
    When looking at a 95% rating on a condensing boiler and a 80% rating on a steam boiler, try to keep in mind that what ever you will save on fuel will be lost on the first service call or schedule maintenance. And then think about what the cost of converting will be, Think you'll see a Payback? In 30 years, even if you get close, you need a new boiler by then.
    It's sad that the industry has gone so far down the wrong path in search for a efficient reliable heating system.
    The good news is steams not dead, it's just on life support. And as soon as vapor vacuum steam systems start getting more exposure, the ones lucky enough to have hung on to the steam will be the first to benefit.

    Steam comes first, ductless comes second
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,884Member
    I don't want to get into a pis contest, but one of the things our company installs are mini-splits. We have installed over 100 units and I personally have installed 30+. I however do ALL of the service work on these units.....

    All have been covered under the manufacturer's warranty so far. I do not expect these things to last more than 10 years, as a master refrigeration license holder I do a good deal of refrigeration mostly large commercial. Chinese-made compressors do NOT have good track records, no matter who's sticker is on the hermetic can.

    I have replaced only one compressor in a mini-split so far, and many many outdoor unit fans, and control boards, outdoor has 3 boards and indoor has 1 board in the brand we sell. I am all for tech that saves energy, but a cost-competitive mini-split market is not a long term lasting product. If someone wants to make a real commercial-grade unit (which would cost at least 3X current minisplit prices) then I would show some respect. I'm talking free standing self contained in the 10-40,000 btu/hr range.

    As my name on here implies I like biomass, especially boilers. But those are not for the faint of heart and certainly not for everyone. People that claim heatpumps will save the world are generally selling them. I do not own one! I do, however, have an add-on HPWH to my 115gal indirect that I use in the summer to cool/dehumidify my own house.

    I always make a point to ask owners how they like the unit's performance when I do service work on them, the universal consensus is that the A/C is almost free, but there are mixed feeling on the heating performance of the units as are the expectations in general.

    People that claim paybacks, costs compared to burning fuels, or savings in general, are mis-guiding by definition. They do not know local energy rates, or how you are heating to start with as well as the condition or overall system efficiency of the current system. How can someone say they can save me 50% on my heating bill when they do not know I have a state-of-the-art system, nearly passivhaus insulation, and cut my own wood....so my heating costs are effectively ZERO. Lets not get into wood-burning and costs any deeper please.

    Also an unexpected side effect is outdoor humidity, as the outdoor unit will frost up quickly in heating mode in most heating days, this in turn, puts the unit in defrost mode. It is basically A/C mode with the indoor fan not running or running very slowly, pulling some heat out of the living space to thaw out the outdoor unit. This interruption in the indoor heating can be annoying, and also effects the overall efficiency (COP) of the unit. It is a sliding scale with more than outdoor temps to account for.

    There is my .02 well maybe .05 worth.

    SFM

    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • AMservicesAMservices Posts: 480Member
    Funny how different people's experiences are with ductless.
    That's the second person that's said they give these systems 10 years.
    I guess I'm in for a rude awakening in 2018 when all the system is installed in 2008 die and I'll find out then if the equipment saved the customer enough for them to consider replacing or if they want central.

    Because I don't have a master in refrigeration and I don't know the full history of compressors, how their built inside out, when guys that do have something to say, I listen. Then think about my own history over the last decade of installing and servicing ductless.
    Out of the hundreds of outdoor units and thousands of indoor unit I've seen (now that I've had more time to think about it) I have only needed to condemn 5 ductless systems.
    (2) Daikin heat pumps, with bad controls, out of warranty and tech support recommend changing compressor. I was able to replace just the outdoor unit and save the indoor Zones.
    (1) Panasonic, R-22, not invited, that had been ripped out and installed in another location. I found several leaks and a bad compressor.
    (1) Sanyo cooling only, not invited, with a bad control that was no longer available. I believe the customer told me the unit was 14 years old and if I could have changed the control it would have been good.
    (1) Mitsubishi cooling only, not invited, had a leak on the evaporator, it was R-22 and the owner was tired of having it refilled every year, it to was 14 years old.
    The Mitsubishi replacement happened 2 years ago and I ran into the customer this past December. I asked him how things are going and he said the new unit is quieter, works better and his electric bill in the summer dropped. He said that there was a small difference to the electric bill in the winter using it for heat, but nothing crazy and his fuel bill went down. Just another happy customer.

    If somebody takes advantage of the heating operation of a ductless system, its going to drop their fuel bill. And why wouldn't it? For instance the hyper heat singles zone 15,000 BTU wall mount heat pump can produce 7,000-23,900 btu heating output down to 3°F and maintain 73% of its performance to -15°F.
    I would never tell a customer to rely solely on a ductless heat pump for heating, in fact I've turned work down when people have asked me to do just that.
    This article was written in 2007 and ductless systems have improved sense then, but it explains when they started and what it has evolved into.

    http://www.achrnews.com/articles/102091-history-lesson-ductless-has-come-a-long-way

    Ductless systems have been around for longer than you think. If compresses failed after 10 years I think I would have had more problems by now.
    I can be wrong and I'll eat my gauges if I am. Only time will tell
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