thecampster

HVAC - anyone know a guy?

Recommended Posts

So I'm looking to get HVAC replaced in my house. I've done my research and I know the system I want. Having trouble getting the big boys to want to install a product they don't have an exclusive relationship with. Those products cost an arm and a leg. Anybody know an independent HVAC guy, licensed who'd like to install something I have delivered?

Going with a Bosch Bova IDS 2.0, 5 ton system. Gonna need a bit done but I needa guy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So a follow up. I found a guy. HVAC is a racket.  I was quoted systems from $16k to $19k to get a high efficiency system (19 seer or higher). 

I went out and sourced the main equipment myself, used budgetheating.com.  I found and ordered a 5 ton heat pump 19 seer and 5 ton air handler with emergency heat strips for $6,200 total with shipping. The guys at Pinnacle Heating and Air in Hiram agreed to install the system and fix my duct issues (discussed below) for $3710. Right at $10k sourcing everything myself to fix everything.

 

The story, I bought this house in 2007. From the moment we moved in, we thought it odd our utility bills were consistently $200 to $300 a month for a new, quality home. We bought right at the beginning of the housing crash and didn't know the builder was going out of business.

A bit of background. In HVAC, a good rule of thumb is 1 ton per 600 sq ft.  A ton is 400cfm of air moved and 12,000 btu cooling/24,000 btu heating (roughly). The systems should match in tonnage. Also, motors in HVAC come in 3 flavors, single stage (on/off), dual stage (off, 65%, 100%) and variable (off, 25%-100% in increments of .1, 1 or 5%). More stages = more efficient and higher seer.  Seer ratings are a simple thing. Take new seer divided by old seer to get the efficiency improvement. One more consideration, air flow. Supply air is your vents that supply air to your house. Return air is the air sucked back up into the air handler (furnace).  Your return air available must be at least equal to the CFM of your air handler.  So if your return vents only allow 1000 CFM on a 5 ton (2000 CFM) system, its akin to sucking air through a straw trying to breathe. You have to work way harder to breathe. Spend more energy. The best systems are designed with return vents in every closed room (except kitchen/bath) and then central returns to each floor. Small returns in rooms, central returns in middle of the home.

So 2 weeks ago, I'd had enough of the crazy HVAC bills. In my worst months, they were 75% of my utilities. I started doing the research you saw above. 2 story house, 3165 square feet.

 Issue 1: My AC unit outside is a 4 ton, 13 seer, 13 year old unit. My furnace is a 3 ton 80% efficient unit. The fan coil (sits on top of furnace, removes moisture) is a 5 ton.  The fan coil connects to the A/C unit and if they are not the same size, they're never be able to sync compression. This is a problem when your a/c runs. Regardless of the size of the A/C, the furnace is 3 ton. So 1/4 of the energy produced by the a/c is wasted. So my 13 seer A/C unit is running at 75% efficiency. 13x.75=9.75 seer.  But because the fan coil is 20% too big, it can never properly compress (my a/c guys swore I must have had a leak). Meaning it was really running at 80% of that 9.75% or 7.8 seer. 

Issue 2: There are only 2 returns in the house. One central upstairs, one in the office upfront corner downstairs. Each return is on a 14 inch diameter duct into a 14x20 grill. Each requires an air filter. Each should grant about 750 cfm without filter and as low as 500 cfm with for a total of 1000 cfm, half of what I need to run the house. Not a terrible thing since the furnace is undersized, but that brings issue 2.5. Neither  return is in a return plenum box. instead, they cut holes in the size and back of the furnace to attach the ducts. Side of furnace is okay, but back of furnace is a code violation and it specifically says on furnaces, do not cut the back panel. air doesn't flow well from the front and back by design. there is a tent shape inside the bottom of the furnace and air left/right/bottom flow on both sides of the ten. Air in the back only hits 1/2 of the tent. means reduced heat transfer in winter and partial air flow in both seasons. So the 750 cfm return in the back that was already reduced to 500 cfm by the filter was now cut even more (about 75%) for a total air return for the house of 500+375 = 875 cfm for a 3165 sq foot house.

Issue 3: you have to vent an attic in the south. luckily, they did install 7 x 200 cfm attic vents which meets code. However, they pull their able from the gable vent on the front side of the house (that square or round vent you see in the arch of houses). They failed to cut the entire hole for the gable. Its only about 75% exposed. So the attic is/was hotter than needed (I installed radiant barrier 8 years ago which relieved part of this problem). The attic is hotter than need be. 2 solar powered vent fans @ $300 each and properly cutting the gable vent opening (plyboard behind it) would drop the temperature in the attic another 15 degrees and allow the system to function normally.

I've had 3 different HVAC guys validate the above.  But I've been pretty good about maintenance, having HVAC techs to my house to fix my issues and do maintenance at least 15 times since moving in. None pointed any of it out as the source of my issues when adding freon or lubing the chassis.

We assume what the builder did was find whatever HVAC pieces he had in the warehouse or at scratch and dent and cobbled together a system...maybe paid the inspector to look the other way....who knows.  It would have cost maybe $2000 total during the build to do it right. Get matching parts (HVAC was much cheaper in 2007) and install right returns. The plenum box to fix the return into the back of the furnace is only about $90.  We estimate that their foolishness has cost us an average of $100 per month in utilities since we bought the place. We have lived here almost 13 years.  I've paid nearly $15000 too much for HVAC over the years (a bit at a time) and wasted all that energy.

HVAC is a crazy business, with overpriced systems, poor install quality and repair techs who don't know anything about system design. All they know how to do is swap out parts. I learned it all in a few weeks and it kind of makes me sick to think about the waste and people spending more than they have to.

I am not looking forward to doing this all over again when we start looking at solar next month once we know the anticipated bills.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Update 1 on this thread.

You always hear people tell you to seal your windows and doors, do upgrades, upgrade to a high efficiency unit and you'll save thousands. What you never hear is the after effects so I thought I'd give you guys some real world numbers.

The HVAC is 90% in. They are correcting a few things today but were able to get the unit back on about 6 hours after turning the original system off. I hope to have a week of numbers for you by this time next week.

Average monthly usage last 12 months - 2148 kwh/month

Low - 1263 kwh (almost no a/c or heat at all for the month)

high - 2494 kwh (last July).

Now mind you I've been doing different things for about 4 years, since before I bought the first electric car. The biggest of which was putting up Radiant Barrier (kind of looks like thick Aluminum Foil) in the attic to lower the temperature up there about 30 degrees. So these numbers were post a few energy improvements.  Double pane energy efficient windows and solid doors, 13 year old home. Should be fairly efficient.

Last 2 days, 47 and 49 kwh/day.  Pace for 1488 kwh per month.

Now to be fair there has been some power tool and vacuum running and people coming in and out of every door while repairing everything.

My estimated future savings here are about 900 kwh / month (give or take a hundred).  At 10 cents/kwh that's $90/month. Also, we were able to disconnect the gas service for another $30/month in service fees savings. Looks like about $120/month savings.  I'll update more realistic numbers after a bigger sample.

 

The 3 new return air vents are going in today and the air handler is being put on the right level power (can run at 110 power but can't run heat strips and is a bit more of an energy hog when it has to run at higher amps for the same motor drive). Also going in is the i-wave home air purifier.

 

Biggest thing I noticed is the new system was uber quiet last night when running compared to a single stage furnace air handler. That alone might have made it worth the money. I also woke up able to breathe out of both nostrils so that's a plus. Sinuses mostly clear.

 

But $10k to replace a system that would have died for good in the next few years anyway and looks like it will pay for itself in 7 years.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few items of note.

1) Return air makes all the difference in the world. Install those return vents. House cools down extremely quick now. The pressure out of the supply vents is impressive. All because we added 2 x 8 inch and 1 x 10 inch return and corrected the flow on the poorly installed 14.

2) The i-wave system was worth every penny. That thing kills funky smells in no time. Only down side...wife baked a blueberry dump cake the other day and the smell was out of the house 15 minutes after finishing baking. But yah....it works.

3) Fairly consistent numbers of 22kwh less per day so far. Trying to compare against last July numbers. I don't have weather data for each day, so I'm relying on inefficient means of comparison.

 

Solar is next and those guys are bigger scam artists than a legion of HVAC guys + 2 of their used car salesmen buddies. I've already gotten quotes and they're terrifying. Will be talking to Alternative Energy Services out of Lilburn/Athens today. They come highly recommended from a work buddy who just had a system installed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For just the panels, no batteries (which is how you get max value from the panels), I've received quotes of $26,000 to $34,000 for an 8.8kwh to 10.2 kwh system at efficiency ratings of 75 to 84%.  Now considering I can order the parts myself from Florida for $12k, I'm finding even $26,000 hard to swallow.

 

Okay so how does solar work and what's the scam.  You average 3.8 hours of peak production in Georgia per day (2.5 winter, 5+ summer). Take the kwh of the system, multiply by your system size, multiply by your efficiency rating and that's your daily production.  So take the 10.2 kwh system at 75% efficiency in July (5.2 house/day), that's about 39.78 kwh per day (plus partials as sun rises/sets). That would offset my bill about $110 per day in the summer and get me down to a less than $50 bill.  So the question is why would I spend $26,000 (minus federal rebate (26% this year) to save $110 per month? Great question, glad you asked.

Utility rates rise between 0 and 8% annually (average 3.8%). Rates are capped at a max rise of 8% by the feds.  But if my bill is $160 in the summer today, that's $210 within 10 years. I'd save $110 today but $150 in 10 years (and so on). So by the end of the system life (25 years), you're saving about $230/month. 25 years, 300 months at an average of $165/month savings = $49,5000 in savings. Math is a bit more complicated than that but you get the gist. You're betting you stay in the house 25 years and that you don't accrue too much interest. But there's a catch.

In my area (and most of Georgia) we pay about $.11 per kilowatt for electricity but the utility company buys our electricity at $.033 per kw. Your electricity is produced over a 5-8 hour period but the lights are on 24x7. This is where battery storage comes in.  Excess energy is offloaded to your storage (say 2x 10kwh batteries) and stored there for when the sun goes down and you draw off that energy. More batteries = less going to the grid, which means a full 11 cents per kw value. There are 3 types of batteries, lead acid (look like car batteries, last 3-5 years) but are cheap, gel based batteries, last a year or 2 longer, come in a myriad of sizes and are a bit more expensive, and lithium based, last 5-10 years or more and can be put in more attractive packaging, are better environmentally and are recyclable (like the tesla powerwall) but are very expensive per watt. (1 x 13.4kwh Tesla Powerwall installed is about $13k...2 are $21k). Without enough battery storage though, you export your excess production during the day to the grid and lose 65% of its value.  The solar kabal never tells you this.

So you the problem with Solar is the markup on parts and labor. They rarely spell it out on your quotes. But the "American Made Parts" are almost always imported from china and just assembled here. There is very little difference in the materials and process with the exception of a 150% markup to the parts. Then the solar installer marks them up 50% himself. Because most people are not savvy enough to subcontract out the work themselves, they also hire the solar team to submit for permits, engage the power company and do the install. For this they charge $1 to $2 per watt (depending on battery storage or not, on grid or off grid). For a 10kwh system that's $10,000 to $20,000 for installation for something that you and a few buddies can do in a weekend for beer and pizza.

So I went to en.made-in-china.com and found pretty much everything I'm being sold is American made over there. Found the 10kwh full system, inverters, racking system and 2 - 10kwh lithium iron phosphate powerwalls for about $13,000 total + shipping. I'm now researching subcontracting out labor and or doing it myself (tall roof so I'm not feeling it). I'll update you as it progresses.

A side note which should pretty much piss off anyone who pays taxes. It doesn't matter where you buy the parts (here or abroad), who installs it or who preps it. The only thing you need is a licensed electrician to connect it to the grid and you still qualify for the 26% federal tax credit for parts and labor.

  • Thanks 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't live within city limits so have poked around some options, not just solar but expense is always the barrier and now seeing the ongoing cost factor is even more revealing and deterring to me. Ugh.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Thomas said:

Don't live within city limits so have poked around some options, not just solar but expense is always the barrier and now seeing the ongoing cost factor is even more revealing and deterring to me. Ugh.

Well, chin up. I'm getting close to a decision and will post what I've found here.

I have found a supplier of high quality panels in China and look to be about to buy 11 Kw of panels for about $2500 +shipping (that will be huge). 

I found another supplier for lifepo4 batteries (lithium iron phosphate), the safest there is for inside your home, for a  $1300 per 10 kw. Will be buying at least 2, maybe 3.

I am still undecided on whether or not to use optimizers, micro-inverters or just string inverters.  I'm thinking Huawei's optimizers and storage inverters for 32 x $30 ($960) and 2 x $800 respectively ($1800).  

I found a racking system in Texas I'm fond of which should be about $1000 total for the roof rack.

Lastly, there is permitting, an essential loads distribution box and ac cutoff switch, wiring, wire caps, conduit and a few tools I'll need to buy for about $1200 total.

So my parts costs should be roughly $10,000 + some pretty expensive shipping. I'm thinking $12k for everything. If I do my own labor over a few weekends 1 weekend for racking and prewiring. Then, the next weekend for installing panels, batteries, inverters and lastly, I have no idea how much an electrician to test the design and connect it to the grid will be but he/she can do that any time during the next week. I'm estimating $3000 for the electrical services. Bringing my estimated install cost to $15,000, minus the tax incentive ($3900) for a total investment of $11,900. I expect to save about $1800/year (plus utility cost increases). That brings the expected ROI (return on investment) to 6.6 years.  Simple math, if the system lasts 25 years. No increases in utility rates and assuming $5000 in maintenance/repair costs over the years, I'm looking at a net profit of $28,480.  Rate hikes increase that number as do improvements in efficiency we'll see in electronics over the years.

 

Those numbers only work though if everything keeps working and I never move.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Side note: There is free pizza and the beverages of your choice if any of you wanna come help and learn how to do this yourself.  Come practice on my roof 🙂 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay - Due to a number of potential hazards in the process, I am not going to do the install portion myself. Instead, here is the breakdown as I'm starting to the purchasing process today.

 

1st - if you use solar panels, you must participate in something called anti-islanding. This is a method of shutting down your panels in a grid outage. This is to keep the lines clear for line workers.  SMA makes a very good product called "the SMA Sunny Island". this is an inverter that creates a barrier between your internal grid and the utility grid. Using 2 of these inverters in parallel allows you to continue to create split current "120/240" and power your heavy weight appliances or HVAC. It is the only product I've found that allow your solar panels to keep working in a power outage as well as be compatible with low voltage/high amperage batteries (lowest fire risks). This functionality means that even if we go 3 days without power like I did a few years ago, the solar panels keep working and the batteries recharge for overnight use.

2x SMA Sunny Island 6048 hybrids.

Inverters - sticking with SMA here to keep matched items for monitoring 

2 SMA Sunny Boy 6KW inverters

36 x 330w Jinko brand black on black solar panels (found a cheap lot on an auction site). 32 of these will go on the southern facing roof and 4 will go on the east facing gables. We may rearrange this later to take advantage of early morning and late evening sun. Using Tigo 700 watt 2 panel optimizers and monitoring.

6 x 5kw Lithium Iron Titanate batteries - these are heavier that other batteries, have lowest initial energy but will last up to 2.5 times longer than anything else and have the lowest possible fire risk of anything not called a block of cement.

 

Total cost for parts about $17,000.

Pro installer is going to install and provide remaining parts + sub panel and obtain all permits.  Total install will be right at $30,000 minus the federal tax rebate of $7800. So the total cost is going to be $22,200 with an expected Return on Investment (ROI) of 12.5 years.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you ever sell the home someone will really reap the benefits!  What is the life span on the panels and batteries?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

On 7/23/2020 at 2:42 PM, macdaddy said:

If you ever sell the home someone will really reap the benefits!  What is the life span on the panels and batteries?

Solar panels come with a 10-12 year workmanship warranty (some have 25 years) and a 25 year production warranty (80% production even after 25 years).  

Batteries are a mixed bag.

Lead acid 3-5 years,

Gel 5-6,

Lithium ION 7-10 (tesla/LG Chem and other varieties),

Lithium Iron Phosphate 10+,

Lithium Iron Titanate anywhere from 10-30 years depending on how much you deplete/refill them.

First 3 all have US suppliers (at least in part). Last 2 pretty much are made overseas and are cheaper and better but not in the US much yet.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Lithium Titanate batteries never materialized. They were Lifepo and the factory was engaging in shady bait and switch. In the end, I found a really good deal on batteries from Felicity Solar, 2x12.5 kwh (25kwh) for about $4200 delivered which is an insane price.

Everything is finally ordered, a few things have already arrived. Just waiting on permits and a project timeline now.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/24/2020 at 5:45 PM, thecampster said:

 

Solar panels come with a 10-12 year workmanship warranty (some have 25 years) and a 25 year production warranty (80% production even after 25 years).  

Batteries are a mixed bag.

Lead acid 3-5 years,

Gel 5-6,

Lithium ION 7-10 (tesla/LG Chem and other varieties),

Lithium Iron Phosphate 10+,

Lithium Iron Titanate anywhere from 10-30 years depending on how much you deplete/refill them.

First 3 all have US suppliers (at least in part). Last 2 pretty much are made overseas and are cheaper and better but not in the US much yet.

Here you are Mac....to get a feel for how much nonsense this is.  Here is a link to Felicity Solar's 10kw (or 12.5) battery and what it looks like.  https://www.felicitysolar.com/lifepo4-lithium-battery-lpbt48250-10kwh_p51.html

Okay so this thing is about 1/6th the capacity of what is in my Chevy Bolt (which can go 240 miles between charges). 

The dimensions are 22" wide x 24" deep by 15" high.

It weighs 126kg (or for you metricly challenged in the US, 277lbs.

2 of these will provide enough power to provide what I need after the sun goes down and till it comes back up (all things being good).

 

Here is a very cartoony video that will help any novice understand the basic principle of solar panel, to inverter to battery to home. 

 

 

 

And here is a 6+ minute video that shows how to install their stuff (its basic and off-grid only but will help you get the idea of how it goes together)

 

 

Lastly a video showing an 8kw roof install of a solar array.

 

 

 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.