My experiences so far

Discussion in 'Geothermal Heat Pump Testimonials' started by HVAC Technician, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. Good point, this installation was commercially hung with vibration isolators. But I know what you are talking about. I serviced some apartment heat pumps in my first commercial contractor job. Some were so bad you really needed to build an insulation room around them to dampen noise and vibration.


    Additional note, Sunday morning the heat pump shut off and would not restart. I checked the condensate flow and wiring and finally realized that my y1 green light was out on my ECM board. Jumping out the thermostat base didn't help.
    I called Climate Master and got after hour secretaries who forwarded a weekday phone number. The second operator then gave me two phone number contacts for James Pleasants Co. in North Carolina. Later that afternoon, commercial HVAC technician Tim Hatchette, representing C/M James Pleasants, called me back and he began explaining more about how the ECM board and bigger CXM board interact. I dug out the oldest PDF on the unit I had and studied it. (If you are not careful with the common and hot side, you can fry the transformer) Monday I called Tim back in the morning, and he patiently gave me 40 minutes of his time, promising to send me an alternate PDF with key critical voltages to check. So Monday evening after work, I went through thermostat base checks which was a PASS, the two board checks with all my commons disconnected. I had to spend some time thinking through how the two original TACO valves were wired, because of the commons on each valve. I found that I had correct voltages everywhere. So I combined four separate common wires discarding the original wire nuts and using some Canadian made split bolt connectors which easily fasten multiple wires with a brass screw. (Even has a screw on cap) With power off retraced all wiring, and when confident, tested to see if I could get the bigger CXM board to deliver 24 volts to the contractor. Finally I got all my led lights back on the ECM board and the compressor started up. So what had happened ?

    Most likely, I had intermittents on the common side from dragging the unit around during repair, (under the house and back) which were repaired when I unwired and rewired the common side. (Real life)
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015
  2. September 25, 2016

    Saturday morning I found a lot of water at the entrance hatchway to the crawl space under my house. I thought rain had slipped in and began using rags to soak up the mess. Around 3:00 PM I suddenly realized that I was hearing a hissing or spray and discovered that water was falling down from the bottom of my heat pump. Something in a heat exchanger had "given way". At this point, I'm not really bitching. One heat exchange coil failing at the 8 1/2 year mark, is not all that terrible. Some fail earlier. (If you use a cheaper copper coil in a marine environment, it won't last 24 months). What I would note to the people reading my blog, is that it is totally unrealistic to expect an American made evaporator coil or heat exchange water coil to last 15 years. (I just don't see it) If you have proof to the contrary, share it.

    Fortunately, I had isolation valves on all four water lines. I shut off the 240 volt circuit breaker in the house and I shut off all four water valves, and the water leak came to a stop. Later I opened the primary cooling line for the main cooling coil which seemed to hold normally. When I opened one of the hot water circulation loop lines (to preheater tank #1) it began leaking again, so I say that the hot water heat exchange coil or some brazed point is shot. (All the heat exchange coils are deeply wrapped and insulated) I unwired the 24 volt compressor contactor leads and later turned the thermostat to off, which allows me to use the ECM blower for now.

    At this point lots of questions. The good news is that it is not July 3rd or Jan 7th. The unit ran earlier Saturday morning and at 11:00 AM and did not blow up or trip a circuit breaker or fuse, so the refrigerant side possibly could still be intact. Coils can fail differently.

    The original installation was for $13,443.00 Plus five taco valves that stopped closing completely, (@ $250.00 a piece, one by one), plus two bottles of R-410 refrigerant purchased during that time, first service call $485.00, one coil replacement for $2,500 last year; (last year) My unit is becoming an expensive hobby.

    I am consulting with the authorized commercial installers: Scott and Ryan of Air Core Services (They started out 25 years ago with AirCon) on options and where we will go.
    As we figure things out, I'll update, and sometime in the next year I plan to share 20 years of distilled experience and opinion with you, the geo audience.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2016
  3. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Out with the old in with the new. I no longer care about making a living doing geo since it almost killed me. I still am connected and can get equipment shipped anywhere.

  4. How did it almost kill you ? (I will bring everyone up to date, later on today)
  5. Update:

    Note: While I work as a commercial hvac tech/supervisor, nobody knows everything about everything. I sure don’t. In addition I have never seen geo in commercial where I currently work. I was exposed to essential geo principals in trade school, and own my own geo thermal heat pump so I know more than most people, but I do not work with geo on a day to day basis like a technician servicing 10 units a week for a geo-thermal company.

    When I don’t know, I talk to other hvac professionals to fill in what I do not know. I talked to Scott Burnett, my installer, and yesterday I called Climate-Master Support to get their advice and opinions.

    Both, separately, agreed that my leaking coil might possibly be repairable, and felt that the compressor section was likely ok. I got through very quickly to Climate Master Tech support in Oklahoma and knew within minutes that the technician had had experience either in install or as a geo hvac technician.

    I was actually quite impressed with the personal touch. The tech said the unit can be run with the hot water generator coil inactive. When I asked if I should ohm out windings to check for winding health, he essentially said, if it’s running, the windings are ok, not necessary to do.

    Water entering the refrigerant side catastrophically usually results in a compressor short to ground in seconds or minutes, (short term, the higher pressure of R410A will keep water at much lower pressures out of the refrigerant side)

    With that in mind, I will not immediately attempt any kind of repair of the hot water coil. (for reasons I will explain at the end )

    So after work, I reopened the main water ball valve, wired up the 24 volt connections on the compressor contactor and turned the unit on.

    It started. I monitored inlet and outlet water flow temperatures, raising the water flow rate a bit. We had a comfortable evening.

    So, why not attempt a coil repair ? First, the unit is self-contained. Both the coils are heavily wrapped in thick insulation and located behind the compressor. Second, while my brazing is decent, I am not a genie. I generally try and separate parts, clean and sand them, flux them and solder with 15% or greater silver solder. I get best results when copper is 101% clean. I generally try to start a braze non-stop 360 degrees to get a “perfect braze”. That’s tough when your space is limited. Even if I could get to it, I don’t know that the area would be clean enough to braze successfully. So for now until there is a reason to pull the unit out, I will run it “as is”, and try and set apart money for future repairs/replacement.
  6. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    The best techs I know have scars and healing holes with brazing rod marking the opening.
  7. Yeah, I know what you mean. I've had 19 years of annual safety training. No one has ever been hurt at work on my watch during those 19 years, and yet I nearly got electrocuted in August replacing a friend's condenser fan.

    I am "open" to considering your earlier offer. It's better to have a plan, rather than just wait for catastrophe. Maybe I'll get "lucky" and the unit will hold up another 5 or 10 years, but we don't know, do we ? Frankly I'd enjoy meeting you sometime on vacation as I meander northward. I'm open to suggestions. From my experience in commercial at work I am totally convinced that reliability in variable frequency drives IS HERE, now, today. It is fair to say that variable frequency drive is as close to utterly reliable as the customer needs. I notice that ClimateMaster is now offering optional 10 year labor allowances, (so what does that mean ?; will they pay full labor costs for coil replacement or replacing a reversing valves ? ) I might have to work part time after retirement to pay for it; sometime give me your "take" on the best of the best.

    I'm not good at building things, but if I could find good plans or a ready to go kit, I might add a solar heater to my existing preheater tank.
    I saw something one time, where someone built a hot water solar panel, added an electrical solar panel with it, just large enough to power a Taco 006 or 008. It was drainable in the winter, and simply started up by itself in the morning. and shut off at sundown the rest of the year.

    Another thing. If I stay with geo, the next time my well goes out I would put in a variable speed well pump. Most people don't understand that if you slow motors down, you half their wattage.
  8. News and other things. April 11, 2018

    I retired last November 1st. Bout time ! In late November I had a right hip replacement, today I am doing great ! These days I'm concentrating on doing those things "that we ought to have done" with family, grand kids, and the world around me. The grandchildren are as bad as a hard day's work.

    I will taking a non tuition college course later, I'm currently tutoring refugees from Myanmar, and Democratic Republic of Congo, during the spring, and later, I might do some selective School Bus driving to make a few extra dollars.

    (My church is going to have this great tour of the Holy Land and it's ONLY $4,000.00 a person) yikes !

    Also, as I have time, in the future, and can organize my thoughts in writing, I would like to post some 20 yr. hvac reflections and observations for the benefit of the geo-thermal public that I have on the hvac industry and geo thermal and my own Carrier Unit.

    My angle is similar to any contractor or geo specialist on, though slightly different because in my commercial career I never dealt with geo-thermal directly. Our schools did not want to invest in it. I learned geo-thermal theory in my hvac program twenty plus years ago, (Midlands Technical College, Columbia, SC ) I am more familiar with it today BECAUSE I spent $13,000 having a unit installed, (I helped) and then did most of my repairs myself.


    I am also beginning to plan for the replacement of my geo thermal heat pump eventually. My unit is running but I want to plan for a replacement BEFORE it quits. So I would like to ask for some feedback from those of you that I have interacted with before or who are knowledgeable about the subject.

    This is more for the "regulars". (If you don't have answers, it doesn't help to comment). Here is my current situation. My current unit is a "close coupled" all in one unit, orderred a particular way, horizontal, since it is under the house, left or right exit, all those things. (Height under house: 22" - 29 " ) I believe the exact configuration is coded in the manufacturer's model number. Heat Pump Model 50YDH026PCK301 Serial # 0708V47687

    I don't usually install these things. I never worked long for a company that did much residential installation. My heat pump however is connected to metal ductwork of good quality with commercial grade plenums, etc.

    Now you might think, well, Galen, that's easy, just replace it with the same thing ! NOT so fast ! First, it is H A R D ! to find a qualified geo- installer in my area. ugh ! Most are 1 1/2 hours away, or farther. Geo-thermal only sells well around Lake Murray, locally. Secondly, this Carrier/ClimateMaster was not a blessing to me. If you reread the history of this unit, I did not purchase the unit with a two or three year warranty. Just a one year warranty. MY BAD !

    I am not a butthole. When the unit gave evidence of a slow leak, evidenced in the second and third year, I didn't raise cain with my installers. We agreed to a one year contract. Initially, the leak could not be found. ClimateMaster was silent. So how do I know that another ClimateMaster heat pump would not behave the same way ? (If you'll just spend all this money, you'll be rich because you'll save ALL THIS MONEY ! ) When I had Air Core come out and check it for leaks that January, it didn't seem like I was saving money when I paid them $650.00 to come out.

    Secondly, since then, I have discovered that it can be nigh impossible to replace watercoils and air to air coils underneath the house, therefore, I am inclined to consider changing to a split system with the compressor section outdoors (for easier servicing) and just the coil and air handler under the house. (My run would be barely 45 feet) to an air handler under the house.

    By the way, I found that since the #1 water pre-heater tank has become inactive, that I could make it useful. How ? Well, I had switched to local rate five electric rates: on peak/off peak billing. (The heat pump continued to run because the water coil leak was only on the pre-heater water side, refrigerant side was uneffected) So I hooked up the preheat #1 55 gallon Whirlpool 4,500 watt 220 volt pre-heater tank to 120 volts AC. When used with a full household and cold temperatures, it draws 10 amps on a 30 amp 120 volt circuit and heats to whatever you select. (Ohm's Law: Voltage was halved, wattage dropped to 1,200 wattts, same as a water kettle in your kitchen) I set the water heater thermostat settings to 80 F.
  9. Latest update. Retired Nov 1st last year 2017. I Spent a great 6 weeks on vacation starting this last June 2018 . Saw the Memphis Belle At Wright Patterson, and visited friends and family in London Ontrario, and in St. Jerome, Quebec.

    While there, I received an emergency call from my daughter staying in our home in Lexington with her two kids (this past year) while my son in law is/was serving in South Korea at Kusan Air Force Base. Heat pump had stopped working. I thought for a bit (in London Ontario) and then what I did was call a local company run by a retired HVAC instructor at Midlands Technical College in West Columbia, SC. The Taco Water valve failed again, or at least the power head did. So I authorized the tech to replace the power head on the TACO valve. The bill ran around $500.00 and we got the AC back. Joh and I and my sister in law continued on vacation. But I want to make a point here. After about the third failure of the orange taco valves, I began using irrigation valves on the second stage because they are so much CHEAPER than the Taco ones. This would be at least the FIFTH replacement of the number #1 valve since 2008. The total valve is about $195.00 each if you purchase it yourself. If we also count the problem with the second identical second stage valve, I have gone through 7 or 8 valves ! That comes to at least $1,365 dollars and if we double that price for the service call, we are now possibly up to $2,730 in service call repairs JUST for that dam taco valve. THAT valve needs to be done away with. The new stuff should all be digital or Belimo brand, BRASS ! You can think about that.

    I am going to investigate locally for a company that I could work with if I have to replace my unit and talk things over with them. I probably would opt for a "conventional" split system to make repairs easier. I find that air to air heat pump water heaters work just fine without a heat pump desuperheater coil and circulating loop.
  10. March 1, 2019 Have a leak in the main water coil. We would open a faucet or flush the toilet and gas bubbled through the water supply lines ! Briefly tried a Rectorseal hvac leakstop product without success. So the unit has lasted 9 years and now come to a crisis point. Not exactly 30 years of trouble free operation ! If I wanted to attempt a repair, the coil would be expensive, and the repair, tedious. Original installation cost: about $13,500 If I do replace it, I believe I would NOT purchase a self contained unit. Why ?

    What do you do when it has to be fixed ? It would be a split system so at least the compressor section could be easily worked on outside the house. It also occurs to me that under house ductwork ideally should be commercial grade unbolt-able which might make under house coil replacement easier.

    I have shut the unit off for now and am heating with a propane heater. At this point I don't have many options. I am retired, in pretty good health after my hip operation in Nov 2017. Do I replace it with another geo-thermal unit ? Or could I do just as well and save money with a 16 + SEAR air to air heat pump either two stage or variable speed ?
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
  11. May 3, 2019

    I began getting some quotes on replacing my system. I decided to get three quotes and let three different companies bid against each other. To make a long story shorter, I finally selected Cassell Brothers LLC out of Chapin, South Carolina. They were recommended by a hvac professor friend at Midlands Technical College, West Columbia, SC, who had been a former factory rep for Mitsubishi.

    The options ? Replace the geo-thermal heat pump with more or less the same thing for $20,000 which I was NOT willing to do, or something else ? ? ? The Geo thermal option was $5,000 MORE than the air to air option.

    As a supervisor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, I was familiar with the Mitsubishi name. Eight years ago my supervisor purchased the condenser and flat panel evaporator and told me: "Install it'' for a medical doctor's lab experiments.. At that time I knew nothing about the name, but I learned fast. As I installed my first one, I couldn't figure out how to hard wire the thermostat and called tech support. (They explained that the evaporator and condenser communicated with each other over 240 volts AC through pulse width modulation over the 240 AC volt line.

    The unit has run fine ever since. After that, we installed 8 others, in scattered buildings, pretty much identical. Three units were for our IT center providing IT redundancy tied to an emergency generator. They all worked fine. One unit needed the flange on the condenser outlet refrigeration line tightened. The tiny condensate pumps were not always reliable. That was it. None ever gave ANY problem in operation or with leakage.

    Mitsubishi has a PUZ line which is similar to the commercial line which uses a well made ''conventional'' i.e. US residential, type air handler. SO I chose to go with the inverter series 19 SEER PUZ version of a typical residential air handler. After comparing bids, the third bidder told us that the parts were guaranteed for 12 years. Bidder ''A'' had offered us a parts and labor warranty for 10 years. By letting him know that, he upped the warranty to 12 years parts and labor for everything including air handler, all motors, and electronic boards, compressor inverter, and replacement air ducting. ($4,000)

    The change out was between April 15th and 19th. I am using the 30,000 btu model or 2 1/2 ton unit. Heating capacities, even at 19 F, are VERY IMPRESSIVE.

    Initial observations: Literature on line indicates that the unit can vary during 24 hours between 5 and 13 amps during 95 degree weather and the time of the day. In heating during the spring, it has rarely gone over 5 amps, and usually drops to 2 1/2 amps within 10 minutes. During the first cooling start up (with the house 3 degrees too warm) the unit started at 12 amps and within ten minutes dropped to 5 amps.
    The low amperage draw is predictably noticeable if you only change the thermostat by one degree at a time.

    Wi-Fi thermostat works but must have wi-fi running to read outdoor temperature. So ? What about energy usage ?

    Answer: First, it doesn't use water anymore. So subtract well pump usage. Secondly, the Climate Master could run at 5 amps. The Mitsubishi can run from 1.8 amps to anything. Typical ranges are 1.8 - 3.00 amps, especially in the spring or fall. The smart way to control it is to change the thermostat setting by ONLY one degree at a time.

    At the moment, I would say it uses LESS than geo thermal. It definitely can compete with geo-thermal.

    Compared to leaks in coils, repairs, water usage, defective TACO valves, and other things, this air to air can give geo-thermal a excellent run for the money.

    It also plays well with my GE Geo-Spring heat pump water heater.
    Last edited: May 3, 2019

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