Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

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GerryL
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Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by GerryL »

Can’t deal with another excessively hot summer here in the Pacific Northwest. (Last year it was up to 110 for several days. Two years ago, 115.) I’ve decided I finally need to get a/c in my single-family, two-story home. I’m in the process of getting estimates from a few HVAC installers. My high-efficiency gas furnace is about 18 years old. Here are the options I’m considering, in order of lowest to highest cost.

• Installation of whole house A/C. (Replace furnace later)

• Installation of dual-fuel heat pump system to work with existing furnace. (Replace furnace later)

• Installation of new furnace along with whole-house A/C.

• Installation of new furnace along with dual-fuel heat pump system.

How long will I remain in this house? Good question. I’ve recently begun weighing the possibility of moving into a CCRC (life plan) community in 3-4 years. Not sure. Just starting to think about it. Visited a Plan A type community where I could see myself living. But I’ve been making plans to age in place.

I’d like to hear from people who’ve had some experience with these choices.
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just frank
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by just frank »

The second one.

Might want to tell us if you have natural gas or a different fuel. And cost per unit thereof.
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Svensk Anga
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by Svensk Anga »

Cooling the upper floor of a two story house with one system is difficult. In my mom's house with central air tacked on to the furnace system, the AC does a very poor job of cooling upstairs. The cool, denser air wants to sink to the lower floor and the hot humid air rises.

My two story house has a separate heat pump for each floor. This works much better.

Heat pumps move more air through a smaller temperature difference than in furnace systems. Existing ducts are likely to be inadequate.

It might be possible to get by in marginal need cases with cooling installed for the second floor only, with some cool air sinking to the lower level.
Scorpion Stare
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by Scorpion Stare »

This thread from last week is relevant: AC or Heat Pump in Seattle
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GerryL
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by GerryL »

just frank wrote: Mon Apr 01, 2024 6:16 pm The second one.

Might want to tell us if you have natural gas or a different fuel. And cost per unit thereof.
Yes. Gas, forced air system. Gas is much cheaper than electricity in my area.
Oh, and house is just under 1500 sq ft.
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GerryL
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by GerryL »

Svensk Anga wrote: Mon Apr 01, 2024 6:17 pm Cooling the upper floor of a two story house with one system is difficult. In my mom's house with central air tacked on to the furnace system, the AC does a very poor job of cooling upstairs. The cool, denser air wants to sink to the lower floor and the hot humid air rises.

My two story house has a separate heat pump for each floor. This works much better.

Heat pumps move more air through a smaller temperature difference than in furnace systems. Existing ducts are likely to be inadequate.

It might be possible to get by in marginal need cases with cooling installed for the second floor only, with some cool air sinking to the lower level.
The guy who came out last week did point out that it would be harder to get the cool air upstairs with the three puny ceiling registers ... and no return up there. House is under 1500 sq ft and a little over 40 years old. (I've been in the house almost 34 years.)
Mike Scott
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by Mike Scott »

For a few days a year, a window AC may be fine for your primary living space.
MDJoe
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by MDJoe »

Have you thought about mini splits? I don't have personal experience but from what I've read they are great. I would certainly consider them in another house.
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just frank
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by just frank »

GerryL wrote: Mon Apr 01, 2024 6:45 pm
just frank wrote: Mon Apr 01, 2024 6:16 pm The second one.

Might want to tell us if you have natural gas or a different fuel. And cost per unit thereof.
Yes. Gas, forced air system. Gas is much cheaper than electricity in my area.
Oh, and house is just under 1500 sq ft.
Number like $/therm and $/kWh would be helpful in answering question. And maybe how much gas you used last year.
steadyosmosis
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by steadyosmosis »

I lived in a house several years ago, where I was happy with a window unit (you could install more than one, if needed).
Did not need AC often, but when I did, just close up the house, turn on the one window unit upstairs, and it made a huge difference.
Chiefly by drastically reducing the humidity in the house, plus the cooling.
Age<59.5. Early-retired. AA ~55/45. Taxable account, Roth IRA, HSA...all are 100% equities. 100% of fixed income is in tIRA. I spend from taxable account and rebalance in tIRA.
Buzzman
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by Buzzman »

First, I can't imagine not having air conditioning. We turned ours on this weekend ...but the heat may be back on in a couple of days because it's going back down into the 30's at night. Our AC is typically on from April to November. I can even remember on Christmas my in-laws ran the AC.

We have always had systems with an upstairs and a separate downstairs unit. In the winter the downstairs bears the brunt of the work since warm air rises and in the summer the upstairs unit bears the brunt since cold air falls. In my previous house, I had to augment the upstairs unit with a window air conditioner in our bonus room over the garage since it wasn't as insulated as well. However you do it the systems will and should work as an integrated unit.

I think the first decision is do you want to make every room in the house comfortable in the summer or just the areas you use. If you want to cool the upstairs then start with how to do that then work your way downstairs. If you've been living without central heat and air all this time I might add in some window units until you need to replace the heat unit too. As a person that has used almost all forms of heat, I would lean to a gas backup/heat pump (with AC) for your main level and an electric heat pump for the upstairs.

I have a basement unit that is just an electric heat pump since it never gets overly hot or cold down there, my main level is a gas/electric heat pump, and my 2nd floor is an electric heat pump (gets some heat from downstairs).
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vnatale
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Re: Deciding between A/C or heat pump or ...?

Post by vnatale »

Buzzman wrote: Mon Apr 01, 2024 7:39 pm First, I can't imagine not having air conditioning. We turned ours on this weekend ...but the heat may be back on in a couple of days because it's going back down into the 30's at night. Our AC is typically on from April to November. I can even remember on Christmas my in-laws ran the AC.

We have always had systems with an upstairs and a separate downstairs unit. In the winter the downstairs bears the brunt of the work since warm air rises and in the summer the upstairs unit bears the brunt since cold air falls. In my previous house, I had to augment the upstairs unit with a window air conditioner in our bonus room over the garage since it wasn't as insulated as well. However you do it the systems will and should work as an integrated unit.

I think the first decision is do you want to make every room in the house comfortable in the summer or just the areas you use. If you want to cool the upstairs then start with how to do that then work your way downstairs. If you've been living without central heat and air all this time I might add in some window units until you need to replace the heat unit too. As a person that has used almost all forms of heat, I would lean to a gas backup/heat pump (with AC) for your main level and an electric heat pump for the upstairs.

I have a basement unit that is just an electric heat pump since it never gets overly hot or cold down there, my main level is a gas/electric heat pump, and my 2nd floor is an electric heat pump (gets some heat from downstairs).
I see you are in Northern Alabama?

I am in Western Massachusetts.

It can get to 100 degrees on summer days and most people complain about the heat.

Not me!

I cannot stand air conditioning, particularly in an office setting where I feel like I'm being put through a second winter.

Last year I probably had the air conditioning on in my car for a total of a few hours. I much prefer open windows.

I have two ceiling fans in this house. Usually each summer I supplement them by using a ton of fans all over the place. Last year I did not use any of them -- only using those two ceiling fans.

In December 2022 I had three mini-splits installed but I went into it knowing that I only wanted them for heat and had no need for them to air condition. But it's nice to know that they have that capability in case I change my mind / attitude as I age.
Above provided by: Vinny, who always says: "I only regret that I have but one lap to give to my cats." AND "I'm a more-is-more person."
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