[Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

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Alf 101
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[Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by Alf 101 » Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:31 am

[Added similar air conditioners, see below. --admin LadyGeek]

As we come into the heat of summer, somehow I've been thinking about air conditioning. We recently moved to a home that has much to recommend, only has baseboard heat, and no central AC. We're in the north, so this isn't completely untenable, but we're using our first summer in the new place to gauge our need and overall tolerability.

One thought is a window unit in the master bedroom, but there are some minuses there. This room has a nice view, a ceiling fan, a skylight, and great cross-ventilation between windows. If it's warm, these features make it more pleasant. I think there's some reasonable reluctance to close off one of our windows.

My wife has talked about a portable unit, but I have my doubts. My understanding is that "portable" belongs in quotes, and they are really not all that efficient. This has led me to start investigating mini-split systems. I understand there have been several threads on this in the past, but not in 2018, and some things could have changed.

Primarily I'm wondering how common these systems are in the US -- I've seen them extensively in Asia -- and how much difficulty to expect getting a system properly installed, and what kind of costs to expect? The house is just over 2000 sq. ft., so probably would require a condenser and 2-3 units. The back of the house is shaded, and stays cooler, and our main cooling concerns would be the bedroom and home office.

My fear, as with any project, is that it could be a boondoggle. If it costs $10K+, I'm buying a window unit, and/or a few boxes of popsicles. If I'm hiring an HVAC contractor, and this is not my specialty, I need to do some research on how to ID the right one.

Lastly, I have a question about AC work in general. Is this something where I could get lower quotes during a shoulder season -- say September? Or is there no slow season in the heating and cooling world?

renue74
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by renue74 » Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:46 am

I just came back from vacation in a Maui condo where a ductless system was used. 2 fan units (living room and bedroom) and a compressor outside.

It worked well, but I'm not sure of the energy efficiency. Maybe others have info about that. Each unit had it's own wireless remote control and I could turn the bedroom up during the day...while we were not using it. So that's a nice feature.

I looked into install ductless in a rental property a few years ago. We could get a decent unit for about $2K. But, the issue I had was finding an HVAC company who was "confident," in installation. As soon as I said ductless, you could hear the uncertainty in their voice. "Yeahhh...we can do that..."

But, I live in the southeast, where homes are a little newer and regular flexible duct HVAC systems are pretty much the norm.

Just make sure you find a competent installer who has installed ductless.

Mike Scott
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by Mike Scott » Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:50 am

Don't waste your your money on a portable. The mini splits are pretty good for a remote install. Window ACs can be put into a hole cut and framed into a wall so they don't take up the window area.

fishmonger
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Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by fishmonger » Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:57 am

[Thread merged into here, see below. --admin LadyGeek]

So the Northeast is about the get a heat wave and I'm looking to get a couple of small room air conditioners. Have always had the window units - are the floor, portable units decent? Any recommendations appreciated!

dknightd
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by dknightd » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:12 am

I installed, actually paid to have installed, a Ductless Mini Split AC system (really a heat pump) a few years ago.
Our house is mostly heated by gas fired steam. But I've started using the split system when temperatures are above 40 outside.
That seems to be the break even point when electricity is cheaper than gas. Which will of course change with time.
I used window AC units for many years. I hate them. They are noisy, and I had to put them in and take them out every year.
I eventually bit the bullet and had a split system installed. One outdoor unit, 5 indoors units.
I'm so happy I did it. Energy use was cut about 40%. I'll likely never make that back in money.
But they are quiet, effective, and I don't have to lug those damn window units around anymore.
It cost me about $10k. I wish I had done it sooner. At about the same time I bought solar panels
in a community solar array. Again it will take years to break even. But now I get free electrical when I need it most.
When the sun is shining, and I want to stay cool. For now I'm happy with my decisions. In 10-15 years I might be even more happy.

shanefairman
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by shanefairman » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:16 am

Considering the heatwave is coming soon a window shaker or portable unit is probably going to be the most actionable and quick solution.

If you decide to get a portable air conditioner make sure you buy a fully self evaporation model so you don't have to worry about dealing with the condensation.

If you are looking to buy more than one I would suggest buying smaller units. A major mistake made with many AC systems is being oversize. To properly remove the latent heat (humidity) you need to have it run long enough without getting the house too cold and the AC turning off.

A better long term solution is to get a mini split installed in a central location.
“You must not only think for yourself, you must plan for yourself, and you must plan ahead, and you must live up to these plans. You must know exactly what you want to do.” -George Carlin, Boston Rant

Dottie57
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by Dottie57 » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:19 am

The people I know who have used them are happy with them. I have a wall air conditioner. A mini split would work as well.

Spirit Rider
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by Spirit Rider » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:31 am

Ductless minisplit units are very efficient, especially smaller systems <= 1 ton/12K BTU. Most mordern condensers use DC-inverter compressors. They have a continuously variable speed and the ability to run above rated capacity for short durations. This allows a lower capacity system with significant cool-down capacity. Then factor in the losses caused by ductwork in unconditioned spaces. Their efficiency advantage over split ducted systems is even greater.

However, they tend to be expensive to be installed. This is compounded by long refrigerant runs and multi-zoned systems. More than twenty years ago I was an early adopter (for the U.S.). I had to install it myself, because I couldn't find a competent installer at a reasonable price. While still a minority of systems installed, they are far more common and you should be able to find someone local. I do not suggest multi-zoned systems with long refrigerant runs. They tend to be very expensive.

I have an open concept living room/sun room and two channels from the LR. One down the hallway past the bathroom into the kitchen and another into the foyer and dining room with both opening into the kitchen. This allowed me to put a single zone ductless minisplit on the outside wall of the LR with a short refrigerant run to the condenser. It keeps the entire 1st floor cool with no more than a 1-2 degree differential.

I did not install a minisplit for the upstairs. It was far more cost effective to install window units. If you are concerned about the view, you could always consider a thru-the-wall unit. It will definitely cost more for the construction of the opening. I have known people who have done it.

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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by HongKonger » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:38 am

Window ac can be noisy.

If you have ceiling fans and a reluctance to close windows why not just try a portable dehumidifier first. Its often the stickiness that is more unbearable than the heat and with ceiling fans, the breeze and cool air should be plenty. Much more energy efficient too. You can water the houseplants with the water from the dehumidifier as well.

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Pajamas
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by Pajamas » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:41 am

The portable air conditioners are better than they used to be but still not very good compared to a window unit in terms of function or value.

https://www.consumerreports.org/portabl ... f-hot-air/

You can probably find a window unit on sale somewhere. Get one that is appropriate for the room size and condition (lots of south-facing windows, for instance.) The big box hardware stores have guides to choosing the right size on their websites.

Also make sure to get one compatible with your electrical outlet and to seal the window around the air conditioner.

Spirit Rider
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by Spirit Rider » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:46 am

Window units are far more efficient than portable units. The large hose that runs out the window gets very hot and dumps a significant amount of that heat back into the room.

It is so bad that starting in 2017, the U.S. government required portable AC manufacturers to list the net BTU effect on the room. To give you an example, a De'Longhi formerly rated @ 14K BTU is now rated @ 8,300 BTU. A net effective loss of 40% efficiency.

ThriftyPhD
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by ThriftyPhD » Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:14 am

https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-air-conditioner/

https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-b ... nditioner/

The negatives with portable air conditioners is that the entire unit is in the house. The heat must then be pumped outside, and that process is inefficient. You're either drawing indoor air through the unit and dumping it outside (single hose units), a process that causes negative pressure and pulls hot and wet outdoor air into your home elsewhere, or with dual hose units you're drawing in outside air through a second hose to transfer the heat, which is better but still bringing heat indoors. While dual hose units avoid dumping conditioned air outside, you still have the problem of a hot AC unit and a hot exhaust hose transferring heat to the house. They also tend to be quite a bit more expensive, and many have issues with poor evaporation of the condensate.

Window units avoid some of these downsides. Since the unit is mostly outside, the heat can just be dumped outside directly, and any condensate can be dumped outside too. If you can put one of these in, they will likely perform a lot better than a portable unit.

Whether a window or portable unit, sizing is important. Too big and it won't run long enough to dehumidify, and will also feel uncomfortable by overcooling and causing larger swings in temperature. Too small and it will never be able to cool the room. Also, realize that a unit in a room will pretty much only cool that room. If you have 3 bedrooms and a living room that you want to cool, you'll need 4 units. Four properly sized units will be much more effective than one oversized unit in a single location.

Unfortunately, the top choices at the wirecutter are mostly online only, and are unlikely to get to you before the heatwave ends. The local stores might have AC units in stock, but they're likely to be much louder. And they might have less stock as everyone else runs out to get units too.

GAAP
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by GAAP » Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:41 am

In my business (cellular carrier), we use mini-splits a lot. They work fine -- but like anything else, there are better and lesser quality units.

Portable AC units can cool a room -- at the expense of dumping that heat into the adjacent room. Any AC is a heat exchanger and less than perfectly efficient. Unless you are dumping that heat outside of your cooling envelope, you are actually heating it. This is one reason you don't open the refrigerator to cool the kitchen...
Last edited by GAAP on Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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4nursebee
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by 4nursebee » Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:03 am

Mini split is premium product, premium price
Most don’t know of them
Read web sites of brands, not bh for good info.
I won’t live without mini split now that I have it.
Very efficient, comfortable, zoned.
Many installers not familiar.


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pshonore
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by pshonore » Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:25 am

dknightd wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:12 am
I installed, actually paid to have installed, a Ductless Mini Split AC system (really a heat pump) a few years ago.
Our house is mostly heated by gas fired steam. But I've started using the split system when temperatures are above 40 outside.
That seems to be the break even point when electricity is cheaper than gas. Which will of course change with time.
I used window AC units for many years. I hate them. They are noisy, and I had to put them in and take them out every year.
I eventually bit the bullet and had a split system installed. One outdoor unit, 5 indoors units.
I'm so happy I did it. Energy use was cut about 40%. I'll likely never make that back in money.
But they are quiet, effective, and I don't have to lug those damn window units around anymore.
It cost me about $10k. I wish I had done it sooner. At about the same time I bought solar panels
in a community solar array. Again it will take years to break even. But now I get free electrical when I need it most.
When the sun is shining, and I want to stay cool. For now I'm happy with my decisions. In 10-15 years I might be even more happy.
10K sounds kind of cheap for 5 wall units and the "compressor", considering those long piping runs. Agree that mini-splits use significantly less energy than Central Air or window units, and can be used in the fall and early spring as well if you buy ones that have heating capability as well. The more "open" your house floor plan is, the better they work.

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hand
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by hand » Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:31 am

I have a couple years experience with a mini-split at a vacation property and have been very happy.

As noted, the technology is good, but key is finding an experienced installer in the US.

Three notes on your specific use case:
1) A/C efficiency dosen't seem like it should be too high on your list for what I assume would be an occasional use system (since you have nothing today and are in the north)
2) A benefit of mini-splits can be cheap/low cost zoning (you can choose to cool on a per room basis)
3) Unstated, but mini-splits also provide heat at what is likely a much lower cost than your existing baseboard units in cold, (but not significantly below freezing conditions).

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dm200
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by dm200 » Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:32 am

How much of the house would you want to cool?

Could you install a room AC through the wall?

While the type of AC you are considering can work very well, a question is the high cost for a short AC season.

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tyrion
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by tyrion » Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:34 am

We were considering putting in a mini-split for our house in San Diego. Our through-the-wall AC unit in the living room could almost keep up on hot days, but not quite. And it didn't do much to cool the bedrooms, where we had one window unit and one portable unit (and those were loud and annoying to run at night).

Instead of installing a mini-split, we moved, but I can tell you what I did learn.

AJMadison.com has them listed so you can see configuration and price options. We were looking at 4 zone systems (3 BR + the living/dining/kitchen open space) for about 5k (parts only). I didn't get any hard quotes on install but web pricing estimated it at 1k-4k. I would suspect 4 zones systems to be on the higher end of that range.

We spent a week in Hawaii with a mini-split system in a fairly large house. It worked great.

My guess is you would be approaching the 10k mark for a 4 zone system. But you might be able to do a 2 zone system for quite a bit less.

grok87
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by grok87 » Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:34 am

Very helpful thread
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dknightd
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Re: Ductless Mini Split AC

Post by dknightd » Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:44 am

i was lucky and only had one one long pipe run

il0kin
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by il0kin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:47 am

Does anyone have an opinion on whether utilizing a portable dehumidifier would be a viable option for something like this? I am in Kansas where it gets very hot and humid in the summer and our master bedroom is on the 2nd floor with south facing windows. My temperature gauge in the bedroom shows 77 most evenings with humidity in the 45-50% range, which is generally acceptable, but can be a bit uncomfortable. I've thought about a portable dehumidifer to reduce the humidity so it feels cooler, but a little apprehensive to spend $200 without knowing if it'll even work.

Rupert
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by Rupert » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:51 am

il0kin wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:47 am
Does anyone have an opinion on whether utilizing a portable dehumidifier would be a viable option for something like this? I am in Kansas where it gets very hot and humid in the summer and our master bedroom is on the 2nd floor with south facing windows. My temperature gauge in the bedroom shows 77 most evenings with humidity in the 45-50% range, which is generally acceptable, but can be a bit uncomfortable. I've thought about a portable dehumidifer to reduce the humidity so it feels cooler, but a little apprehensive to spend $200 without knowing if it'll even work.
It will reduce the humidity but will make the room (or at least the part of the room near the dehumidifier) hotter. The dehumidifiers I'm familiar with are also electricity hogs.

il0kin
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by il0kin » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:54 am

Sounds like it is probably not worth the trouble. I can set my A/C cooler and it will cool the upstairs well (we have large 80 foot tall trees that shade the house in the evening) but well, I'm cheap :P

nominalBob
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by nominalBob » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:56 am

il0kin wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:47 am
Does anyone have an opinion on whether utilizing a portable dehumidifier would be a viable option for something like this?...
It might help, but it converts latent heat (wet bulb) from the condensation process into sensible heat (dry bulb). So the more humidity it removes the more heat it produces. It would probably be on the order of 500-1000 watts for a 70-pint per day dehumidifier.

Rupert
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by Rupert » Fri Jun 29, 2018 12:03 pm

il0kin wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:54 am
Sounds like it is probably not worth the trouble. I can set my A/C cooler and it will cool the upstairs well (we have large 80 foot tall trees that shade the house in the evening) but well, I'm cheap :P
Yes, your central AC, if properly sized, is a more efficient way to reduce the humidity in the room as well as the temperature.

nominalBob
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by nominalBob » Fri Jun 29, 2018 12:04 pm

ThriftyPhD wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:14 am
.. or with dual hose units you're drawing in outside air through a second hose to transfer the heat, which is better but still bringing heat indoors. While dual hose units avoid dumping conditioned air outside, you still have the problem of a hot AC unit and a hot exhaust hose transferring heat to the house. ...
Even the dual hose create negative pressure. In a DOE test, one of their two (unnamed) dual-hose units sucked in enough outside air to reduce its rapacity by 44%. The second was much better, but there is no way to know how bad it will be, except maybe Amazon reviews, but you have to be able to separate the signal from the noise.

The loss from the hot hose only amounted to a 1% loss IIRC.

Edit:
Here's the one I referred to:
https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files ... p_noda.pdf
Here's a newer one I haven't read yet.
https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files ... 20NOPR.pdf
Last edited by nominalBob on Fri Jun 29, 2018 12:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

talzara
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by talzara » Fri Jun 29, 2018 12:08 pm

Spirit Rider wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:46 am
It is so bad that starting in 2017, the U.S. government required portable AC manufacturers to list the net BTU effect on the room. To give you an example, a De'Longhi formerly rated @ 14K BTU is now rated @ 8,300 BTU. A net effective loss of 40% efficiency.
Even that's not enough, because it's tested at an unrealistically low temperature.

The Department of Energy tested six portable air conditioners in 2014 with a room calorimeter at an outside temperature of 95 degrees. Half of the single-hose units (SD) cooled the room by a negative amount, which means that the room got hotter while the air conditioners were running. The dual-hose units (DD) did better, but they still fell far short of their rated capacity.

Code: Select all

   Unit        Rated    Calorimeter
 -----------------------------------
   SD1         8,000        -470.8
   SD2         9,500        -641.4
   SD3        12,000        3475.5
   SD4        13,000        1841.4
   DD1         9,500        3379.9
   DD2        13,000        3442.4

https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/05/f15/pac_tp_noda.pdf
Even though a 14,000 BTU portable air conditioner has been derated to 8,300 BTU, it might only cool the room by 4,000 BTU per hour on a 95-degree day. It uses more electricity than a 14,000 BTU window air conditioner, but you get less than 30% of the cooling.

Window air conditioner are much more efficient. Portable air conditioners only make sense if you have no other choice.

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Bengineer
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by Bengineer » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:03 pm

Check out the window ac info @ energystar.gov.

ThriftyPhD
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by ThriftyPhD » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:22 pm

nominalBob wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 12:04 pm
ThriftyPhD wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:14 am
.. or with dual hose units you're drawing in outside air through a second hose to transfer the heat, which is better but still bringing heat indoors. While dual hose units avoid dumping conditioned air outside, you still have the problem of a hot AC unit and a hot exhaust hose transferring heat to the house. ...
Even the dual hose create negative pressure. In a DOE test, one of their two (unnamed) dual-hose units sucked in enough outside air to reduce its rapacity by 44%. The second was much better, but there is no way to know how bad it will be, except maybe Amazon reviews, but you have to be able to separate the signal from the noise.

The loss from the hot hose only amounted to a 1% loss IIRC.

Edit:
Here's the one I referred to:
https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files ... p_noda.pdf
Here's a newer one I haven't read yet.
https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files ... 20NOPR.pdf
Very important clarification, thanks. The dual hose units can reduce the outside air infiltration, but not remove it completely. Table II.7 in your first link shows that the dual units have about 1/3 the air infiltration of the single hose units, which roughly the number I remembered from reading this before (probably came from the same study). So the duals improve somewhat, but still have the same issue. Rereading what I wrote above, I make it sound like there is no negative pressure, sorry for the confusion.

ThriftyPhD
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Re: Best Small Air Conditioner

Post by ThriftyPhD » Fri Jun 29, 2018 1:45 pm

il0kin wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:47 am
Does anyone have an opinion on whether utilizing a portable dehumidifier would be a viable option for something like this? I am in Kansas where it gets very hot and humid in the summer and our master bedroom is on the 2nd floor with south facing windows. My temperature gauge in the bedroom shows 77 most evenings with humidity in the 45-50% range, which is generally acceptable, but can be a bit uncomfortable. I've thought about a portable dehumidifer to reduce the humidity so it feels cooler, but a little apprehensive to spend $200 without knowing if it'll even work.
You can think of a portable dehumidifier as an air conditioner that dumps all of the waste heat back into the room. You'll get some condensation of humidity from the air, but 100% of the energy will end up as heat in the room, so your air temperature will rise noticably. An air conditioner avoids this by having the condenser coils outside (the exterior part of a window unit, or the big box outside the house for central air), dumping the waste heat into the outside air.

However, most portable dehumidifiers will struggle to reduce the humidity below 45%. They work best at high humidity, where it's much less work to remove moisture, but get less efficient as the humidity decreases. Most I've seen default to 60% as the target, and might allow you to go as low as 40%. If you're currently at 45%, you likely won't see much benefit.

Some window AC units, such as the LG LW8016ER that wirecutter recommends, have a dehumidify mode. This functions by reducing the fan speeds and drawing the air more slowly over the coils. You get less cooling and more dehumidification. Many ductless mini splits have this option as well, see https://www.ecomfort.com/stories/1342-R ... ioner.html

If you have a ducted central air system, an option would be to install a whole home dehumidifier and tie it into your duct work. http://www.pvhvac.com/blog/installing-w ... right-way/ This can be useful for spring/fall when it's not hot enough to need cooling, but it's humid. However, like the portable dehumidifiers, they can heat up the house if it's just dumping the waste heat into the house. Some have external condensers, and are basically an air conditioner tuned for dehumidification rather than cooling. For example: https://www.ultra-aire.com/dehumidifiers/sd12/

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by LadyGeek » Fri Jun 29, 2018 3:34 pm

I merged fishmonger's thread into here, which is a similar discussion. I also retitled the thread, as several types of air conditioners are discussed.
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Alf 101
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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by Alf 101 » Mon Jul 02, 2018 4:18 pm

So as the heat wave continues, I find myself returning to this thread. Having done some research, it seems the so-called portable AC are considered inefficient and mostly ineffective. The most cost-effective one room solution remains the window unit. If anyone feels this is grossly inaccurate, please feel welcome to weigh in.

I still remain interested in the idea of a mini-split system. Naturally I have a few questions:

1. Trying to gauge the price range for the project, I scanned the websites of several big box stores. Interestingly, all units had a listed price except the Mitubishi. A price would be given only as part of a quote. This could simply be because the company has registered dealers and installers, and for warranty purposes. Now I can find other price estimates online, but this seems the premier brand. Can anyone comment on what you went with, and if the Mitubishi is in some way superior?

2. I have read not to refer to a mini-split's condenser, because in fact it's a heat pump. As such, can it be used to heat the home in some limited way? I can't expect it alone could provide enough heat for a northern winter, but maybe in the spring and fall. In what temperature ranges does this functionality work?

3. I'm guessing the ROI on this project is not in my lifetime. That's OK, because today I'm more fixated on not melting. But I wonder how much this would move the needle when selling the house. In the south it's no doubt more of a requirement, but Ontario was in the 90s (or mid-30s C) yesterday, so it still can get unpleasantly warm in the north.

Thanks...

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by ThriftyPhD » Mon Jul 02, 2018 4:40 pm

Alf 101 wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 4:18 pm
2. I have read not to refer to a mini-split's condenser, because in fact it's a heat pump. As such, can it be used to heat the home in some limited way? I can't expect it alone could provide enough heat for a northern winter, but maybe in the spring and fall. In what temperature ranges does this functionality work?
As you get closer to 40F they start to lose efficiency rapidly, and will stop working all together as it gets colder. In climates where they use only a heat pump for heating, I believe there are units that have supplemental direct electric heat for the occasional cold snap.

In a northern climate, the heating ability would mostly be useful for those cooler spring/fall nights, and your normal furnace would be the only thing used during the real winter months.

28fe6
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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by 28fe6 » Mon Jul 02, 2018 5:08 pm

I'm having this exact problem about my garage, which in NC summer is uninhabitable. I only need to reduce the temperature and humidity to non-sauna levels. I don't need it fully climate controlled, and weighing my options.

Mini split: best end result, most efficient, only require 3" hole through the house to install. Downside: nobody locally will install one. It drives me crazy because these things are a dime a dozen in Japan, but it's not part of the HVAC culture thing here. So I don't know if the codes or HOA would approve for the same reason...they aren't familiar. They have DIY options mini split options for about $1000 that I could stealth-install and get away with until I sell the house at least.

Window unit: not permanent; would do the trick for cooling. Downside: need to install a window first which adds $$. Probably not HOA approved, but it's not permanent at least, and a window isn't going to hurt house value. I figure $200 for the window and $400 for the unit. So not that much cheaper...

Portable: I just don't have confidence they work very well. I could vent through my garage wall or install a window to vent it through and HOA would be none the wiser.

I'm leaning towards installing a window first, then putting in a window unit and if the HOA ding me, I'll fall back to a portable vented through the same window. If I were more confident in staying in this house for a long time I would install a split system.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:05 pm

28fe6 wrote:
Mon Jul 02, 2018 5:08 pm
I'm having this exact problem about my garage, which in NC summer is uninhabitable. I only need to reduce the temperature and humidity to non-sauna levels. I don't need it fully climate controlled, and weighing my options.
Mini split: best end result, most efficient, only require 3" hole through the house to install. Downside: nobody locally will install one. It drives me crazy because these things are a dime a dozen in Japan, but it's not part of the HVAC culture thing here. So I don't know if the codes or HOA would approve for the same reason...they aren't familiar. They have DIY options mini split options for about $1000 that I could stealth-install and get away with until I sell the house at least.
Window unit: not permanent; would do the trick for cooling. Downside: need to install a window first which adds $$. Probably not HOA approved, but it's not permanent at least, and a window isn't going to hurt house value. I figure $200 for the window and $400 for the unit. So not that much cheaper...
Portable: I just don't have confidence they work very well. I could vent through my garage wall or install a window to vent it through and HOA would be none the wiser.
I'm leaning towards installing a window first, then putting in a window unit and if the HOA ding me, I'll fall back to a portable vented through the same window. If I were more confident in staying in this house for a long time I would install a split system.
Suggest looking for a window unit that appears very small outside the window.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by VaR » Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:31 pm

My sister and I have both had Mitsubishi ductless mini-split air conditioners installed. They are effective and efficient, though they were expensive to install. She paid about $11k for a 3 zone system and I paid about $16k for a 4 zone system. Hers involved 3 condensate pumps and mine only one. Mine involved running a significant amount of refrigerants along the ceilings and walls while she had an attic to work with. Besides the operational economy of the system, I love that they are even quieter than central AC, that you can run them only in the rooms that you're using, and that they are naturally multistage and can run efficiently at low levels. They really work to pull the moisture out of a room so I've been comfortable even when with a room temperature of 78 F.

Everyone I know who has had a portable AC, including myself, found them to be noisy and inadequate. I totally believe and appreciate those figures posted by talzara. With my old one, I could feel it sucking the room air out despite the fact that it was a two-vent one. Grrr.

Window air conditioners are fine as are the windows ones mounted through a hole in the wall - that I always worry about the impact of that on winter insulation. I have previously had a low-profile window air conditioner that I liked due to the fact that the low profile combined with the height and size of the window meant that the impact to the view out the window was minimal.

Mitsubishi probably has the best brand reputation in mini-split acs but I don't know of any actual statistics on how good they are compared to other reputable brands (or no-name brands, for that matter).

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by megabad » Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:44 pm

Alf 101 wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:31 am

My fear, as with any project, is that it could be a boondoggle. If it costs $10K+, I'm buying a window unit, and/or a few boxes of popsicles. If I'm hiring an HVAC contractor, and this is not my specialty, I need to do some research on how to ID the right one.

Lastly, I have a question about AC work in general. Is this something where I could get lower quotes during a shoulder season -- say September? Or is there no slow season in the heating and cooling world?
I would say $10k seems about right. Yes you can get lower quotes during less busy times assuming you are dealing with a true HVAC guy (ie. not a large company and not an HVAC, plumber, electrician, all in one). I just saw a single zone quote (Mitsubishi) for $4k. As has been said, you pay for premium (remote control, individual room evaporators, high seer, etc). Total cost of ownership will likely be many times that of a window unit if finances are your primary concern. Honestly, I would just get a run of the mill central ac system if I were you. Cheaper, easier to repair, and you can get them roughly as efficient if not more so.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by GrowthSeeker » Mon Jul 02, 2018 6:46 pm

We looked at the mini split idea but we had problems with finding a good location to put the main unit, and we didn't want to drill holes in the walls (I think it takes a 2 or 2.5 inch hole wherever the hoses or whatever come in). But they work great when installed properly, I've stayed on vacation where they were in use. We didn't want window units for various reasons.

So we have portable units. Several of them. We have some from Whynter (14,000 BTU with 2 hoses) and some from Honeywell (10,000 BTU one hose). Friends have some older ones which require frequent emptying of water: what a pain. These newer Honeywells have not had that problem. The 2 hose Whynter units exhaust all the water out through one of the hoses and have never needed emptying. There is apparently newer technology such that even with just one hose, most of the water goes outside through the hose.
Many available on Amazon with Prime. I just ordered one today in fact (7/2) and it is due here on 7/5. With this heat wave, I've been moving the bedroom one to the kitchen (it's on casters so it moves easily).

When you do your research, check out the decibel ratings. Note: 3 dB is a factor of 2 (because log of 2 to the base 10 is 0.3, i.e. 10.3 = 2).

Almost all portable units have a fan mode, a cooling mode and also a dehumidifier mode. Some have a heat mode as well. Note that when dehumidifying, all the water probably won't go out the exhaust hose and you'll probably have to empty.
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're NOT out to get you.

Alf 101
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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by Alf 101 » Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:46 pm

Hmm, I just got an over the phone and back-of-the-napkin quote range of $10-14K. This would be for a two zone mini-split's system in our 2000 sq. ft. house.

This seemed a little on the high end, but I will get an actual quote based on a visit, and several more to shop around. This first estimate was for a Mitubishi system, and from a recommended HVAC company that I suspect may default to gold plate their projects a bit. Unless, of course, that seems like the going rate to those who've been through this.

Unfortunately our house has baseboard heat, and is not ducted, making a central air system difficult. I suppose a couple of window units, and endurance, are also viable options...

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by Pajamas » Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:09 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:46 pm

Unfortunately our house has baseboard heat, and is not ducted, making a central air system difficult. I suppose a couple of window units, and endurance, are also viable options...
If your house has an accessible crawl space or basement or attic you might consider a central unit although running all of those ducts is no doubt expensive. Many people find baseboard heaters less than satisfactory in performance and/or cost and since you need air conditioning, a central unit may be the best overall solution in the long run. At least consider it and price it since a split system may be very expensive.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by pshonore » Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:48 am

Pajamas wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:09 am
Alf 101 wrote:
Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:46 pm

Unfortunately our house has baseboard heat, and is not ducted, making a central air system difficult. I suppose a couple of window units, and endurance, are also viable options...
If your house has an accessible crawl space or basement or attic you might consider a central unit although running all of those ducts is no doubt expensive. Many people find baseboard heaters less than satisfactory in performance and/or cost and since you need air conditioning, a central unit may be the best overall solution in the long run. At least consider it and price it since a split system may be very expensive.
I would bet the minisplit system will take significant less energy to run than CA and will be cheaper to install although every house is different.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by trirod » Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:51 am

I have just been getting quotes for both central air and a 3-zone mini split system for my home in Northern Michigan. I like the idea of the efficiency and zoning of the mini-split system, but it is quite a bit more expensive than the central air, and you end up with units sitting on your walls. I was being quoted around $9,500 to $10,000 for a Mitsubishi or Fujitsu mini-split system, but more like $4,000-$5,000 for a 3.5 ton traditional central air set-up. It makes it hard to justify the mini-split system when I already have the ductwork for central air - especially in a northern climate where the payback period would be longer than my lifetime!

In the meantime I bought an LG 12,000/7,500 (old vs. new measurements) portable air conditioner since we don't have any windows suitable for a window a/c unit in that house. It did help take the edge off the heat last weekend but it's noticeably less effective (and more expensive) than a window unit. Better than nothing, but not much.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by VaR » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:25 pm

Alf 101 wrote:
Thu Jul 05, 2018 5:46 pm
Hmm, I just got an over the phone and back-of-the-napkin quote range of $10-14K. This would be for a two zone mini-split's system in our 2000 sq. ft. house.
When you say "two zone", what do you mean? Is this just two inside wall-mounted air handlers? If so, this quote seems high.

I know that ducted mini-split is an option but is more expensive than central AC (though it may not be more expensive than two-zone central AC with variable-speed compressors).

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by Alf 101 » Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:11 pm

Yes, that is the case -- one unit in the main room downstairs, and a second unit in the master bedroom directly above. Both units would be mounted on an outside wall.

Now this was an over the phone estimate, as a precursor to a visit and a quote -- it's not as if the contractor had more information than the square footage of the home. Still this seemed oddly high. This is why you get multiple quotes, though it's challenging for me to ballpark what would be fair.

My running assumption, on a related note, is that pulling our baseboard system and replacing it with ducts and forced air would be prohibitively expensive. Anyone ever done that?

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by VaR » Sat Jul 07, 2018 3:23 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Fri Jul 06, 2018 8:11 pm
Yes, that is the case -- one unit in the main room downstairs, and a second unit in the master bedroom directly above. Both units would be mounted on an outside wall.
So you really only need to cool two rooms? What's the square footage of each of the rooms that you need to cool?

There's a "contradiction" between saying that you only want to cool two rooms and listing 2000 sq ft as the total house square footage since this includes rooms that you will not be cooling.
Now this was an over the phone estimate, as a precursor to a visit and a quote -- it's not as if the contractor had more information than the square footage of the home. Still this seemed oddly high. This is why you get multiple quotes, though it's challenging for me to ballpark what would be fair.
A lot depends on how hard the installation is. The most straightforward installation is where they hang the inside blower, mount the outside compressor/condenser right outside below, and can run the lines straight through the wall. If you want to mount the unit on an inside wall, it's a lot more time to run the lines and figure out how to run the condensate line or to price and install a condensate pump. If you're doing two rooms on opposite sides of the house that's more expensive than two rooms on top of each other. And then there's the question of whether it's cheaper or preferable get one outside unit or two, depending on how far they have to run the lines, the expense of running hidden lines vs you tolerance for outside lines going around your house, and limitations on placement of outside units.

Advice based on my experience is that some installers had more experience and proposed a configuration that fit my needs better, but that this made comparing quotes very difficult. So you might need to get an additional quote for exactly the same install from different installers. Aggravatingly, they also tended to quote different sized systems so I had to adjust the prices based on equipment prices I saw online.

Oh, that reminds me. You can get a super-rough estimate by looking at online prices for equipment and then applying some installation factor, say 2x but I'm sure we can have a great discussion of this factor.
My running assumption, on a related note, is that pulling our baseboard system and replacing it with ducts and forced air would be prohibitively expensive. Anyone ever done that?
A few thoughts:
1. What climate are you in? How much is your winter electric bill vs your lowest shoulder bill?
2. Expensive has two elements: initial cost and running cost. As everyone else has said, electric resistance heating is the least efficient.
3. Instead of just getting a ductless AC, I ended up getting the Mitsubishi ductless heat pump. I have regular steam heat but this does provide supplemental heat for a room that doesn't have a radiator. Depending on your climate, this might be a good solution for winter heat as well.
4. It's a long shot but are you in a good climate for a geothermal heat pump? I recently became intrigued by the new system being built and installed by Dandelion Energy. It will require ductwork.
5. It's also a long shot but see if you can find a local contractor who can give you an estimate for installing a high velocity HVAC system. It's ductwork but the ducts are a lot smaller.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by Alf 101 » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:13 pm

The request for quotes has gone out, at least the first three, so I'll keep this topic posted as to what we find.

The choice of whether to install a mini-split system or not is challenging. We're north, but not so far north -- USDA Hardiness Zone 5a. Our house seems well insulated, and is surrounded by forest, which does help keep it cool. Yet in our first summer here we've seen some extended scorching temperatures. It's hard to tell if this is an anomaly or not, and with my wife mainly working from home, it pushes the question further to the forefront.

Off the top I would say that a geothermal system is out, as likely a high velocity HVAC system. No available option (beyond the box of popsicles) is especially cheap, but we do want to at least limit the size of project and initial investment. We have a house fund, and an emergency fund, and it's not so hot we're willing to blow these all at once. Perhaps I'm mistaken in the cost of these options vs. mini-split installation; if so, my apologies. Part of the problem with geothermal is, well, the only place you could really fit it is our septic field, which would create a host of other problems.

How the home is oriented to the sun, the back of it stays much cooler than the front. Yet the two rooms at the front of the house -- the master bedroom and family/TV room (with the most seating) -- are the two rooms we use most, besides the kitchen. So these would be the rooms we'd want to put the units into. The downstairs is open concept, so in cooling the roughly 350 sq. ft space, you really would have to cool the whole floor. For the master bedroom we could at least shut the door. The plus is that one room is directly above the other one, so there's less distance to have to run a line. I am no HVAC professional, and have been wrong before, but it looks straightforward.

There are two things I've found curious so far:

1. I'm being told that that a mini-split heat pump can heat our home down to far lower temperature than I may believe -- -20F, or at least an effective system up to December, and starting again in mid-March. I'm skeptical. Maybe it could run down to a low temperature, but the efficiency would suffer mightily. Or there could be a legitimate technological advance?

2. It's hard to discern if the cachet of different brands has a significant performance difference -- Mitubishi vs. Fujitsu, for example; or the Panasonic or Mr. Cool models I see on the Home Depot site. It's not likely someone would install two different brands, so this is a tough one to figure.

Anyway, I should hear more in the next 1-2 weeks. If people are still curious, I'll share what I hear.

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TimeRunner
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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by TimeRunner » Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:00 pm

Alf 101 wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:13 pm
Anyway, I should hear more in the next 1-2 weeks. If people are still curious, I'll share what I hear.
Please do.
"What'd ya expect in an opera, a happy ending?" -Bugs Bunny. "You gotta fight for your right to party!" -Beastie Boys

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by sedonashine » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:53 pm

also following.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by VaR » Wed Jul 11, 2018 3:53 am

Alf 101 wrote:
Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:13 pm
The request for quotes has gone out, at least the first three, so I'll keep this topic posted as to what we find.
Fantastic. Thanks for giving back!
The choice of whether to install a mini-split system or not is challenging. We're north, but not so far north -- USDA Hardiness Zone 5a. Our house seems well insulated, and is surrounded by forest, which does help keep it cool. Yet in our first summer here we've seen some extended scorching temperatures. It's hard to tell if this is an anomaly or not, and with my wife mainly working from home, it pushes the question further to the forefront.
One thing I'd do is not rush into anything. Getting a couple of small window units is a great temporary solution. I've found that if a house is well insulated and sealed, having a couple of undersized window units can do a fantastic job of pulling moisture out of the air and creating a comfortable environment.
Off the top I would say that a geothermal system is out, as likely a high velocity HVAC system. No available option (beyond the box of popsicles) is especially cheap, but we do want to at least limit the size of project and initial investment. We have a house fund, and an emergency fund, and it's not so hot we're willing to blow these all at once. Perhaps I'm mistaken in the cost of these options vs. mini-split installation; if so, my apologies. Part of the problem with geothermal is, well, the only place you could really fit it is our septic field, which would create a host of other problems.
That must be some large septic field! Or are you thinking of a horizontal geothermal loop rather than a vertical one? A vertical one doesn't take that much space at all. They just dig straight down. The upfront cost of the geothermal system only makes sense if you recover the expense with lower heating costs in the winter.
How the home is oriented to the sun, the back of it stays much cooler than the front. Yet the two rooms at the front of the house -- the master bedroom and family/TV room (with the most seating) -- are the two rooms we use most, besides the kitchen. So these would be the rooms we'd want to put the units into. The downstairs is open concept, so in cooling the roughly 350 sq. ft space, you really would have to cool the whole floor. For the master bedroom we could at least shut the door. The plus is that one room is directly above the other one, so there's less distance to have to run a line. I am no HVAC professional, and have been wrong before, but it looks straightforward.
Thanks for the orientation. It makes sense now.
There are two things I've found curious so far:

1. I'm being told that that a mini-split heat pump can heat our home down to far lower temperature than I may believe -- -20F, or at least an effective system up to December, and starting again in mid-March. I'm skeptical. Maybe it could run down to a low temperature, but the efficiency would suffer mightily. Or there could be a legitimate technological advance?
I do know that the newer versions of the Mitsubishi heat pumps claim much better capacity at lower temperatures that I one I had installed way back. Searching on the web I see that Mitsubishi developed a "flash injection circuit" for their cold weather heat pumps that maintains higher heating capability at lower temperatures. Mitsubishi calls this the "Hyper-Heat" feature and claims 85% heating capacity down to -13 F. As a matter of trivia I found their patent on Google - https://patents.google.com/patent/US8899058.

And yes, you're right, heat pump efficiency suffers at low temperatures. I see that Mitsubishi heat pumps range in COP from 3.75-4.20 @ 47 F and from 2.60-2.97 @ 17 F.
2. It's hard to discern if the cachet of different brands has a significant performance difference -- Mitubishi vs. Fujitsu, for example; or the Panasonic or Mr. Cool models I see on the Home Depot site. It's not likely someone would install two different brands, so this is a tough one to figure.
Yeah, that's an issue. But I think the problem of performance at low ambient air temperatures is one where you might find differences. But I'd say to be careful about contractor/installer claims.

Given that an air source heat pump may not even be a good solution for you in the deepest of winter, it might be worth investigating a vertical ground source heat pump again. How much were your winter heating costs last year? A ground source heat pump might pay for itself.

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Re: [Small, Portable, and Ductless Air Conditioners]

Post by Alf 101 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:46 am

Given that an air source heat pump may not even be a good solution for you in the deepest of winter, it might be worth investigating a vertical ground source heat pump again. How much were your winter heating costs last year? A ground source heat pump might pay for itself.
While I wait to set up visits, and get quotes, this does make me wonder. Has anyone here installed a ground source heat pump -- as a retrofit, not a new construction? What did that involve in terms of cost, timeline, disruption?

I think it's a great technology, but suspect it would be out of budget for what we're looking to spend. Also, with an oil furnace and baseboard heat, I fear this might also require great rework inside the house to make it functional. The mini-split system, in contrast, seems far easier to retrofit. Additionally, after talking with our very experienced realtor, I'm led to believe that this is an attractive feature when selling a house, and there is return on investment. There may be ROI on a vertical geothermal system too, but the high initial investment, not to mention the construction involved, may be deal killers. On a new build though, I could see a better argument.

If anyone can shed light on these many questions, I am curious.

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