Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.

Need Help Choosing New Heating/AC System

yoda4x4
yoda4x4 Member Posts: 7
edited August 20 in THE MAIN WALL
Hi Everyone... I need your help. My NJ house is a small cape cod built in 1952, that is currently outfitted with an oil burning steam boiler. The first floor has radiators, and the upstairs bedroom which was an attic, uses baseboard hot water using a loop off the boiler. The baseboard loop has never worked properly from the day it was installed; it bangs and is virtually uncontrollable. Additionally, this heating system is highly inefficient; I go thru roughly 500 gallons of oil in a heating season. Approximately 10yrs ago I installed central AC that uses ducts; this system works great.

I'm looking at replacing both systems with a new energy efficient system and have come down to 2 systems that I have received quotes for. The first one is a heat pump system using a Trane TAM4 Hyperion Series 3 Ton Air Handler and a Trane XR14 3 Ton Heat Pump. The second system is a Coleman 3 ton 16 SEER CC7B36 Condenser, Coleman 3 ton horizontal coil CM36BXA Air Handler, and a Coleman 80,000 BTU 80% furnace TM8Y060A runs off of natural gas. Whichever system I go with, the current heating and AC systems will be removed.

The costs for both systems are fairly close in price; the second system is $ more.
Which system would you recommend and why? And which system would be more energy efficient?

Thanks,
David
David from New Jersey

Comments

  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 184
    I'd skip the backup furnace, it's massively oversized and will be uncomfortable. The Trane is a good set-up. You could even keep the boiler as a backup, just never use it.
  • yoda4x4
    yoda4x4 Member Posts: 7

    I'd skip the backup furnace, it's massively oversized and will be uncomfortable. The Trane is a good set-up. You could even keep the boiler as a backup, just never use it.

    Thanks for the reply. The one with the furnace is not a backup heating source; it would be a main heating source. And as far as the boiler is concerned, I'm getting rid of that as I absolutely hate that system. So the big question is... Should I go with the first system which is a complete heat pump system? Or go with a system that has a gas furnace and central AC source? Thoughts?

    David
    David from New Jersey
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 184
    edited August 18
    Gotcha!

    So a heat pump will fit your house better based on how much oil you used last year and will be much more efficient, plus you're installing a new AC anyway, so there's no reason not to have a heat pump.

    Now, that particular Trane is a lower end heat pump within their product line. So unless there's a time crunch, take a look at some other options. Features to look for include:

    1. Sufficient Capacity at low ambient temperatures. Looks like your house will have a 30k btu load or so, but that load occurs at a low outdoor temperature. If you don't have enough capacity at low temperatures, you can compensate with either integrated electric or gas heating but there are heat pumps where that won't be required.
    2. Modulating compressors - let you have more consistent temperatures (this is why I thought the furnace was a waste, way too big, uncomfortable and loud).
    3. Modulating air handlers - keeps airflow low (quieter) and helps with dehumidification.

    Trane makes heat pumps that have these features, so does Mitsubishi, Carrier, Fujitsu, etc.

    Fujitsu example: https://www.fujitsu-general.com/us/resources/pdf/support/downloads/submittal-sheets/current/36LMAS1_rev2.pdf
    Mitsubishi example: http://mylinkdrive.com/viewPdf?srcUrl=http://enter.mehvac.com.s3.amazonaws.com/DAMRoot/Original/10006\M_SUBMITTAL_SVZ-KP36NA_SUZ-KA36NAHZ_en.pdf
    Carrier: Infinity 18VS or 25VNA4
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,194
    Are these the only 2 choices?
    The steam guys might stop by to offer some recommendations, after the Xanax kicks in.
    IMO, you have AC already, so leave it alone and get a new high efficiency oil or gas boiler. The  second floor hydro zone isn't going to work if the loop is directly off the boiler. With a new system, it can be piped properly. 
    Is your air handler in the basement or crammed in the soffit?
    Is it zoned?
    mattmia2
  • yoda4x4
    yoda4x4 Member Posts: 7
    HVACNUT said:
    Are these the only 2 choices?
    The steam guys might stop by to offer some recommendations, after the Xanax kicks in.
    IMO, you have AC already, so leave it alone and get a new high efficiency oil or gas boiler. The  second floor hydro zone isn't going to work if the loop is directly off the boiler. With a new system, it can be piped properly. 
    Is your air handler in the basement or crammed in the soffit?
    Is it zoned?
    These are the only 2 options I'm interested in at this time.  Since my house is small, I want to get rid of the radiators and baseboard hot water heater.  And to answer your question, the current air handler is crammed behind the closet in the upstairs bedroom.

    David
    David from New Jersey
    Hot_water_fan
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,059
    First, don't expect changing to a natural gas system to save you any fuel. It won't. The amount of heat or cooling needed has, in fact, nothing to do with the system providing that heat or cooling and everything to do with how well insulated and draught controlled the structure is.

    Now, since you are set on removing the existing steam system rather than getting it and the upstairs baseboards to work properly -- which would be very easy and inexpensive to do -- in the interests of saving energy I would suggest a properly designed and installed heat pump with correctly designed and installed ductwork to go with it. As @Hot_water_fan said, the Trane unit you are looking at is, at its price point, not a bad unit at all. Will it heat your house on the colder days? Quite unlikely. It can be supplemented, however, by electric resistance heat. A top end Trane would work better, as would the Fujitsu and Mitsubishi units that he suggested.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jersey2
    Jersey2 Member Posts: 50
    Can a heat pump warm a house in NJ in the winter sufficiently? We sometimes get some pretty cold winters.
    I'm not a plumber or hvac man and my thoughts in comments are purely for conversation.
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 184
    @Jersey2 yes absolutely, the right cold climate heat pump can work in places much colder than New Jersey
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,059
    Jersey2 said:

    Can a heat pump warm a house in NJ in the winter sufficiently? We sometimes get some pretty cold winters.

    Well, @Hot_water_fan does get rather optimistic about heat pumps, but I'd have to agree -- though you will have to go with a high end unit designed to provide usable heat in cold outdoor temperatures. "Heat pump" is a pretty general terms, and some will work in your climate -- and a lot just give up and either switch to straight resistance heat -- which sends your electric bill through the roof -- or just don't work at all.

    Frankly, what @yoda4x4 had -- steam with a hot water loop -- is in many ways a much better system, but they do need to be installed properly which, from his description, wasn't. They aren't all that expensive to fix correctly, though.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2
  • yoda4x4
    yoda4x4 Member Posts: 7
    edited August 19
    @Jamie Hall Some additional information...
    1) The current boiler is at least 17 yrs old, and has been having more and more issues with it the past 3 years.
    2) Every service person who has seen my boiler has said the same thing... the boiler I have is a garbage unit.
    3) For the size of my house < 1,200 sq ft, the boiler is ridiculously inefficient; there's no reason why I should be using 500+ gallons of oil per season with it.
    4) The loop for the baseboard is so messed up.  I've had an estimate to fix it and it was approximately $2k.  I refuse to sink that kind of money into it because of #1, #2, and #3 above.
    5) I already have the duct work in and since the cooling works in its current configuration, it should work for any new system all while giving me some precious space back when I eliminate the radiators and baseboard.

    One additional comment.  I had asked the dealer who sized up the all heat pump system (#1 system in my original post), about using a higher end unit capable of handling much lower temperature without needing help.  His reply was that it could be done but the cost would increase by alot ($5k).  He said it just isn't worth it given that NJ doesn't see the extreme cold temperatures that would justify it.

    David
    David from New Jersey
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,271
    @yoda4x4

    Seems like your mind is made up.

    I would not use a heat pump on it's own in NJ. The colder it get's the less heat you get from a heat pump and when the outdoor temp is below 32 it has to cool the house by running the ac while it is defrosting

    But the heat pump will have back up electric heat I assume so you will have that. Personally I have never liked ducted systems for heating....they are fine for cooling.

    If it was me I would put a hot water system in for heat and keep the ducted system for ac.

    500 gallons of oil /year doesn't sound like much to me.

    That's only 1.5 gallons of oil/day (that's btu output I am looking at) spread over a 9 month heating season...........doesn't sound right
  • yoda4x4
    yoda4x4 Member Posts: 7
    edited August 19
    @EBEBRATT-Ed

    My mind is made up to eliminate my current system, but I've got 2 options to choose from for the replacement (seey original post).  And 500 gallons is really only spread out over 5-6 months where the temperature is basically kept at 68F.

    David
    David from New Jersey
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,194
    I wouldn't rely on a heat pump as my only source so if those are the only options, I would go with the high efficiency gas furnace. It will obviously need permits and inspections. 
    I'd probably go with the smallest 2 stage furnace, and a steam humidifier. 

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,059
    As several have said, 500 gallons for the heating season isn't much at all (one of the residences I maintain uses 3,000 gallons). You will be bitterly disappointed both by the performance of a cheap heat pump and by the fact that you save no energy, but...

    Why did you ask what you should do it you already know what you are going to do anyway?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • yoda4x4
    yoda4x4 Member Posts: 7
    @Jamie Hall I'm not sure what you're referring to when you say that I've made up my mind.  As I've said before, the only firm decision I've made is to eliminate the system I currently have.  The system I'll be replacing it with has yet to be decided.

    David
    David from New Jersey
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 184
    about using a higher end unit capable of handling much lower temperature without needing help.  His reply was that it could be done but the cost would increase by alot ($5k).  He said it just isn't worth it given that NJ doesn't see the extreme cold temperatures that would justify it.
    I agree with him that it may not pay off energy wise to use the cold climate model, but ask about a variable speed compressor and blower. Both features will increase comfort and can be found on heat pumps for cold climates and otherwise. 
    500 gallons is a lot for your house - do you have the receipts? That’ll help you nail down the heat loss. 
  • Lance
    Lance Member Posts: 170
    David, Great questions but we need to ask the most important one, what does the manual J calculation of the dwelling say is the required BTUH for heat loss and gain? This BTUH makes all the difference in performance but also in choosing the systems. A few important guidelines, if at all possible keep any air duct system within the building envelopes heated area. Never put ducts in attics or other unconditioned spaces. Pay a little extra for good engineering, before committing to the job. $200-$300 or more for this info will produce better results. Ignore the cute comments, its your money and you will live with the results or have a hard time selling it to the next owner. I have seen 50% of older buildings having oversized systems. Oversized due to buyer, seller, builder, engineer and installer choices or by home modifications, which by the way if not improved can lead to significant comfort and cost issues. Simple infiltration can be the biggest heat loss. I offer my clients this; I will engineer and design your job, provide written documentation for you to keep for a separate fee. If you buy from me it is included in my installation. If not, you have my design requirements to shop other contractors. Keep in mind the best sized equipment is worthless if the delivery system is wrong. Shop the quality and skills of who you hire. PS. Nat gas will save you more $ than oil will especially when the heat unit is 96%AFUE or better. Not to mention a lot of service benefits. Choose wisely, build wisely, yields positive results.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,059
    What I meant by your mind is made up before you came is exactly that. You had already decided that you were going to go with forced air, and there was I think some question in your mind, perhaps, about which heat pump to use for it.

    Fair enough. You asked for our advice, which was that while that will work it won't be as comfortable, nor more efficient, and much more expensive than getting the steam and hot water system running properly.

    @Lance has a very good point: if you haven't done a heat loss calculation on the structure you can't specify anything -- nor are you, or us, in any position to determine whether 500 gallons of oil is excessive. Lance seems to think that it may be; my experience in, granted, a somewhat colder area, is that it may not be --and that depends entirely on the heat loss of your particular structure.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • yoda4x4
    yoda4x4 Member Posts: 7
    @Jamie Hall Forgive my ignorance but as it was described to me, the option #2 system I described in my first post isn't a heat pump.  It's a natural gas furnace for heat with an AC system.  Is this right or wrong?  Did I misunderstand something?

    David
    David from New Jersey
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,059
    My bad. Yes, it is a natural gas furnace. I apologise. I was focussing on the ducted aspect of the whole thing...

    The natural gas furnace will save you no BTUs, although the cost may be less depending on how much gas costs in your area.

    Either route you go, make sure that the ducting is adequate and all feeds and returns are located where they should be. That's where forced air systems usually go wrong...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,960
    Forced air systems tend to create pressure differentials that increase infiltration as well.