Air Source Heat Pumps: The Importance Of A Quality Installation

Consumer Reports: Poorly installed heat pumps are much less reliable

In a recent report on central air conditioners, Consumer Reports found that “19 percent of systems installed by new-home builders failed compared with 12 percent installed by homeowners. The gap was even wider for heat-pump units, where 28 percent of the builder-installed units failed compared with 18 percent for owner-installed systems.” (Note systems “installed by homeowners” refers to homeowners who hired a heating & AC contractor, not to homeowners who performed the installation themselves.) This shows the type of installer chosen can increase breakdowns by more than 50%.

Note that these figures do not include minor problems. They also don’t take into account the difference in quality within each category (quality will also vary within the heating & AC contractors category). It’s also important to remember that a poor installation can reduce efficiency as well as reliability. The EPA states that “More than half of new systems in U.S. homes do not perform to their rated efficiency as a result of improper installation. In fact, improper installation can reduce performance by as much as 30%”

Energy Saving Trust (UK) Study: Air source heat pumps often underperform due to improper installation

In the UK, a study found that most air source heat pumps achieved well below their potential efficiency due to improper installation.

Heat Pump Installation EfficiencyUK Study: Only 4 of 28 air source heat pumps were “well performing”. Several of the heat pumps achieved less than half of their potential efficiency due to poor installation.

Good Guys: Your choice for top quality heat pump installations

At Good Guys, our heat pump installers have received manufacturer’s training as well as weekly company training, to ensure they are able to install heat pumps to the manufacturer’s specifications. Our 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee (available on most installations- call our office for details) and labour warranties are your assurance that we will perform a quality installation.

Learn more about heat pumps on our heat pumps page.

To schedule a free quote on a new heat pump, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Tankless Water Heater Prices: Cost to install a tankless system in Vancouver BC

Many people are interested in the benefits of a tankless water heater, but have a hard time finding out the cost to install one. We have decided to post some “ballpark prices” just to give homeowner’s a general idea of the costs involved. FortisBC has also published price ranges you can expect to pay.

Ballpark prices for a tankless water heater installation

System Type Typical Good Guys Price FortisBC Price Guide
Non-condensing tankless water heater $2000-$2500 $2000-$4000
Condensing tankless water heater $4000-$4500 $2500-$5000
Condensing hybrid water heater $4000+ $3500-$4500
Condensing storage tank $4000+
($7000+ to provide both space and water heating)
Standard hot water tank (for comparison) $950
Energy Star hot water tank $1250 ($200 FortisBC rebate available)

These are intended as a general guide, so you can see if a tankless water heater is likely within your budget. Actual costs can vary widely according to your home’s needs. Call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) to schedule an in-home quotation and consultation on a new tankless water heater. Our comfort advisor will evaluate your home and determine the exact cost to install a tankless water heater.

Note that our prices for non-condensing tankless units are towards the lower end of FortisBC’s price range, while the prices for our condensing models are near the upper end. This is because non-condensing models are usually much easier to install and homeowners who choose them usually install lower capacity modes. Condensing models are usually much more difficult to install and homeowners who choose them also usually install higher capacity models.

Note that until June 30th, 2013, FortisBC is offering rebates of $400-$500 on tankless water heaters, $1000 on condensing storage tanks, and $200 on Energy Star hot water tanks. $200-$300 grants are also available through the LiveSmartBC program.

Learn the pros and cons of a tankless water heater on our tankless water heaters page.

To schedule a hot water tank installation or a quote on a tankless water heater, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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How to clean an electronic air cleaner (with video)

According to a 1999 CMHC study, electronic air cleaners can do a very good job of cleaning the air in a home. However, a more recent CMHC study shows that regular cleaning of these filters is necessary to maintain their performance.

Our technicians have found that furnaces with EACs are often very dirty due to irregular or improper cleaning. Luckily, a heating company in Dallas has posted a video showing how to thoroughly clean an EAC.

Learn more about the importance of regular maintenance on our tune ups page. To schedule a furnace service, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Furnace & AC Extended Warranties: Buyer beware

Over the past 10 years or so, the cost of new furnaces and air conditioners has been steadily rising due to increasing energy efficiency standards. As a result, homeowners have become more interested in extended warranties in order to protect their investment.

Unfortunately, as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America warns, many contractors are providing “valueless warranties.”

The problem rests on the fact that many heating & air conditioning installation companies are giving out extended warranties when they do not intend to perform the repair work themselves. These include installation specialist companies (including companies who specialize in new home installations), some subcontractors for big box stores, and general renovation companies. They sell the new furnace including the extended warranty, with the intention that service companies will perform any necessary repairs.

Some of these warranties are sold by the manufacturer, and some are sold by dedicated warranty companies. Often, the labour rate can be selected. For example, the installer could select a warranty that will pay the service company $50/hour, $100/hour, or $150/hour for repairs.

Unfortunately, most warranties sold are at the lowest level possible, and the number of hours paid for each job is also typically low. For example, for a major repair such as an inducer motor replacement, a contractor might normally charge for 4 hours at $100/hour for a total cost of $400. But a warranty might only pay $50/hour for 2.5 hours, or $125 total, for the same repair. This has resulted in many (probably most) service companies charging additional processing fees for warranty work, or else only serving warranty customers when they aren’t busy, or a combination of the two.

Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a new heating or AC system with an extended warranty:

What are the payouts? Who is providing the warranty? Prices for a 10-year extended parts & labour warranty on a new furnace range from less than $100 to over $1000, depending on the provider and the payout level selected. As you can imagine, the amount the warranty company will pay to the service company varies accordingly. One warranty might pay $250 for a given repair and another $50 (which might not even be worth filling out the paperwork for).

Some wholesalers now charge for warranty parts processing. As reported in Contracting Business magazine, some wholesalers are starting to charge warranty processing fees for parts covered under warranty, so you might still have to pay these fees (in addition to the service company’s warranty processing fees).

How much paper work is necessary? How will the service company even locate it? To avoid fraud, some warranty companies are requiring greater amounts of paperwork to be filled out. The above mentioned magazine article described a warranty company that requires “a copy of every tune-up sheet since the system was installed, as well as a wholesale parts invoice and a job invoice signed by the customer, plus their extended warranty form.” This requires a lot of work on behalf of the service company. Furthermore, unless your warranty was provided by one of the more popular manufacturer’s in your area, service companies may be unaware of the warranty’s requirements and where to acquire the paperwork. In this case, for minor repairs, the service company might inform the homeowner that it’s not worth it to go through the warranty process.

Annual maintenance is required to keep warranties valid. This is the case with all the major manufacturer’s warranties and with most extended warranty providers as well.

If the warranty is backed up by a service company, how long have they been in business? According to the US Small Business Administration, heating & AC companies have the second highest failure rate of all business types, behind only restaurants. If a company that has only been in business for 2 years is offering 10 year labour warranties, this may be a cause for concern.

The bottom line:

Unless you bought your extended warranty from a company that also provides service and you have been performing regular maintenance, your labour warranty is likely of little value.

To schedule a service/repair, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

To schedule a free quotation on a new heating or air conditioning system, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Learn more about your maintenance and repair options on our services page.

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BC Electric Furnace Installation Options: Cut your energy costs

The cost of electricity in BC has risen substantially over the last few years, and further increases are expected. At current energy prices, it costs more than three times as much to heat a home with an electric furnace than a high efficiency gas furnace (assuming you are being billed at the higher tier 2 rare, which will be the case in most homes with electric heating). This has left many homeowners with electric furnaces looking for lower cost alternatives.

Option 1: Install a more efficient electric furnace

You might have noticed ads stating that new furnaces use up to 40% less energy than older models. Unfortunately, these ads are referring to gas furnaces. When it comes to producing heat, electric furnaces have not gotten much more efficient over the years, as they have always been close to 100% efficient (unlike with a gas furnace, the heat produced does not have to be extracted from exhaust gasses and can directly enter the home). The only part of a new electric furnace that is significantly more efficient than with older models is the fan motor (as long as a variable speed furnace is selected). According to BC Hydro, a furnace with a variable speed fan motor will use 2300 kWh (about $250) less electricity annually when the fan is used continuously for circulation and 400 kWh (about $44) less when used for heating only. One positive thing about electric furnaces is that they are easier (and less costly) to install than gas furnaces, as new venting and drainage won’t be required.

Option 2: Install a gas line & gas furnace

Due to the current low cost of natural gas, some homeowners with electric heat are considering having gas service installed in their home. FortisBC has a web page where you can inquire about the cost of installing a gas line, if gas service is available in your area. In some cases, this can be inexpensive. However, when installing a gas furnace, you will also be responsible for the cost of running a gas line from the meter to the furnace (as well as the other costs associated with installing a gas furnace). Plus, if natural gas prices rise again, you might not save much in the future.

Option 3: Install a heat pump?

Due to the additional costs associated with installing a gas furnace in a home previously using an electric model, it might not cost much more to add a heat pump to your existing furnace instead. A heat pump is basically an air conditioner that can run in reverse in the winter, to provide both heating and cooling (see our heat pumps page, or see our video for details).  Since a heat pump only moves heat  from one location to another, rather than burning a fuel to create heat, efficiencies of over 100% are possible. In fact, a  heat pump will typically operate at about 400% efficiency, meaning that 4 watts of heat  will be produced for every watt of electricity consumed.

To sum things up: A heat pump can provide air conditioning most of the heating your home requires while only using about 25% as much electricity as an electric furnace (but you will still have to keep your furnace to circulate the air and to provide back up heating on the very coldest days).

To schedule a free quote on a furnace or heat pump installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Heat Pump Prices: Heat Pump Installation Cost In Vancouver

Here are some ballpark prices for installing an air source heat pump in Vancouver BC.

Basic heat pump added to existing furnace: $5000-$6000
Premium heat pump added to existing furnace: $7500-$9000
Basic heat pump with basic variable speed high efficiency furnace: $10,000 (A heat pump could be installed with a non-variable speed furnace for less, but heat pumps work much better with variable speed furnaces.)
Premium heat pump with premium furnace: $12,500

•You will save about $1000 when you have a furnace and heat pump installed together. This is because certain tasks such as making a new duct work transition and installing a new thermostat will not have to be repeated separately.

•These are only ballpark estimates for an average home. Actual costs can vary widely depending on your home’s requirement, the contractor selected, present equipment costs, and several other factors.

•These are approximations of what you should expect to pay for an installation by a reputable, established contractor who performs quality work. You can get a heat pump installed for less if low price is your primary concern.

To determine the actual cost to install a heat pump in your home, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) to schedule your free in-home quotation. Or use our online form.

What about geothermal heat pumps?

Geothermal heat pumps costs at least $20,000 to install. In many cases, they can cost over $50,000. We don’t install geothermal systems, because they offer only moderately higher efficiencies for much higher prices.

How long does it take to install a heat pump?

Installing a heat pump requires several tasks, including:

1) Running refrigerant lines from the indoor unit (above the furnace) to the outdoor unit of the heat pump.
2) Running a power line from the breaker panel to the heat pump.
3) Reworking the ductwork above the furnace to accommodate the indoor unit of the heat pump.
4) Installing a new thermostat (and running a line to it).
5) Testing the system.

Heat Pump System

A heat pump includes an outdoor unit (1) connected to an indoor unit (6) that sits on top of the furnace (3).

There are many corners that can be cut (such as not verifying the refrigerant lines have been properly cleared of air before adding the refrigerant, and not making sure the unit is properly levelled). However, installing a heat pump to the manufacturer’s specifications will usually take a team of 2 technicians at least 1.5 days. If a new furnace is also being installed, it should take a minimum of 2 full days.

Visit our heat pumps page to learn more about your options for installing a new heat pump.

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Tankless Water Heater Reviews / Ratings: Which brand is best?

When buying items such as home appliances, homeowners often look to publications such as Consumer’s Reports for guidance.

Unfortunately, none of the major consumer publications (such as Consumer Reports or Consumer Guide) have reviewed or conducted reliability testing on tankless water heaters. Also, none of the major surveying organizations (such as JD Power) publish ratings for tankless water heaters.

There are many forums and online stores where homeowners can place reviews of tankless water heaters. Unfortunately, going over these forums can be very time consuming and confusing due to the many contradictory opinions (and many of the bad reviews are likely due to systems performing poorly due to improper installation, rather than the unit itself).

So how can you ensure a quality tankless water heater installation? By choosing a well-established contractor that guarantees their work and provides long term labour warranties on their tankless water heater installations.

A company that stands behind their installations will be sure to install high quality systems. In the past, we have installed some tankless water heater models that didn’t work well. But due to our guarantees & warranties, we ended up paying most of the costs, not our customers. We currently install Bosch and Navien tankless water heaters, and we are very satisfied with their reliability and performance.

Bosch Tankless Water Heaters

We install Bosch and Navien tankless water heaters, and have found both brands to be very reliable

At Good Guys Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we include a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee with most installations, and provide labour warranties as well. This ensures that we only install high quality units, and install them well.

To schedule a quotation on a tankless water heater, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Learn more about tankless water heaters (both the pros and cons) on our tankless water heaters page.

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In floor heating: The pros and cons

Which is better: In floor radiant heating or a forced air furnace? We are often asked this question by people looking to buy a new home. Each of them has its own pros and cons.

In floor heating Forced air furnace
Evenness of heat (floor to ceiling) This is the main advantage of radiant heating. The heat starts underneath the floor and gradually rises towards the ceiling. This provides very even temperatures from floor to ceiling. Single stage furnaces generate heat in short bursts (except on the very coldest days), and it quickly rises to the ceiling. The result is uneven temperatures from floor to ceiling.

New multi-stage variable speed furnaces can operate more consistently at a lower level on mild days. This results in a more even heat distribution, but still not as even as with in floor heat (in most cases). See our furnaces page to learn more.

Evenness of heat (room to room) Piping is usually placed under the floor of every room. The piping in each room will be heated to the same temperature, ensuring an even distribution of heat. Most duct systems are not very well designed, and distribute much more heat to certain areas than others (some rooms such as bathrooms might not even have registers). A variable speed furnace can constantly run its fan at a low level (while consuming very little energy) to reduce temperature fluctuations. However, many duct systems are so poorly designed that even a variable speed furnace cannot fully solve the problem.
Evenness of heat (over time) The system provides heat more gradually than a standard furnace, keeping temperatures constant over time. On mild days, single stage furnaces deliver heat in periodic blasts. This results in uneven temperatures over time.

Multi-stage variable speed furnaces (especially ones with variable capacity gas valves) are much better at delivering heat in a slow, consistent manner.

Energy costs Typically, a home’s occupants spend most of their time sitting or lying down. This means they will adjust their thermostats to ensure a comfortable temperature closer to the floor. Thus, having a system that provides more even temperatures may slightly reduce energy costs. Zoning can also save energy (see below). However, programmable thermostats are rarely used due to the longer recovery time (see below), and this can raise energy costs. Since heat tends to collect near the ceiling, occupants may feel cool when sitting or lying down, and raise the thermostat temperature. This may result in slightly higher energy costs.
Maintenance costs Substantially higher. In addition to the boiler itself,  the “water side” components must also be maintained. These include pumps, air vents, zone valves, tempering valves, and other components. Some of these components are not very reliable. Plus, the system should be flushed periodically.

There is also the potential of a leak occurring under the floor. This is fairly rare, but can be very expensive.

Furnaces are generally less expensive to maintain. Annual maintenance is recommended, but replacement of parts is not required as often.
System replacement costs Substantially higher. Replacing a boiler and all of the water side components can take up to 5 days. Also, if the system has polybutylene piping, a boiler with a stainless steel or copper heat exchanger will be required, and these are more expensive. (See our boilers page to learn more about boiler replacement options.) Less expensive than a boiler. A new furnace can usually be installed in 1 day. However, in some homes, the new high efficiency furnaces can be very difficult (and expensive) to install.
Zoning Almost all radiant heating systems include multiple zones. This means the home is divided into different areas, each with its own thermostat, and each area can be heated to a different temperature. Few forced air systems are zoned. To add zoning, many dampers (motorized valves) and an advanced control system must be installed. This is a complex and expensive task.
Recovery time (how long it takes the system to heat a cold room) Heat is delivered more gradually, as it takes time for the system to heat the water. It may take hours to heat up a cold room, so many homeowners just leave the system on 24/7. Depends on the size of the furnace and its operation, but is generally much faster than with in floor heating.
Air conditioning/ IAQ In floor heating systems are not made to carry cold water. An air conditioning unit cannot be hooked up to an existing in-floor system, so a separate air conditioner (usually a ductless split system) must be installed in each room. This is very expensive.

Also, an air filtration system cannot be hooked up to a hydronic system. A separate ducting system must be installed or portable air cleaners must be added to each room.

An air conditioner can be hooked up to the furnace and use the existing ductwork.

Air filtration systems can also be added to clean the air that passes through the furnace.

What about baseboard heating?

Hot water baseboard heating systems offer most of the disadvantages of radiant heating systems with less of the benefits. They are almost as expensive to maintain as a radiant system, they have long recovery times, they don’t provide the same evenness of heat that radiant systems do (although they still provide a more even heat than some forced air systems), and air conditioning cannot be added to the existing distribution system. Plus, the baseboards can restrict where furniture is placed.

But baseboard systems do usually include zoning, and some homeowners feel they provide a more “cozy” and “comfortable” heat than forced air furnaces do.

Learn more about new furnaces on our furnaces page.
Learn more about new boilers on our boilers page.

To schedule a free quote on a new furnace or boiler, visit our Schedule Quote page.

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Is closing heating registers a good way to save energy?

Some homeowners close the air registers in unused rooms in an attempt to save energy. You might think this would allow the furnace to heat only the rooms that are occupied, and that a lot of energy would be saved. However, the conventional wisdom within the heating industry is that this practice will not save much energy and might even damage your system! Here’s why:

Closing registers may result in more cold air being drawn in from outside.

A furnace blows air out of registers that are usually positioned near the edges of a home. These registers are usually placed on the floor (in warm climates they may be placed near the top of walls or on the ceiling). The air then travels back to the furnace through return air vents. These are usually placed low on the walls near the centre of the home (see the below image from Family Handyman Magazine).

Close Air Register

Closing air registers may result in cold outdoor air being drawn inside- which might actually increase heating costs.

However, if you close air registers around the outside of the home, the furnace will still have to suck air in through the return air grills to keep running (the return air grills usually cannot be closed). This air would normally be emitted by the registers, but if the registers are closed, cold air from the outdoors may be sucked inside the home. In this situation, closing air registers might actually increase your energy costs (and make your home more drafty).

Closing registers may result in more duct leakage

A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed that closing air ducts can actually result in higher energy costs due to increased duct leakage. When registers are closed, pressure will increase in the ductwork, which may result in more air being forced out cracks. Especially in cases where the ductwork is located in an attic or crawlspace, this may result in heat being lost instead of entering the home.

The study was done on air conditioning systems where ducting was often placed in the attic. Losses might not be as significant in heating systems where the ductwork is in walls or under the floor, as much of the heat will still enter the home. However, it might not end up in the rooms you want (largely defeating the purpose of closing the registers in the first place).

Closing registers might damage your system

If you have an older furnace, closing off too many registers may reduce airflow across the heat exchanger (the main component of the system). This may result in the heat exchanger overheating and possibly failing prematurely, and might also cause more heat to be lost up the chimney. Newer furnaces are better able to increase the speed of the fan motor to generate enough airflow to prevent damage to the furnace, but having the motor work harder will eliminate some of the energy savings.

For air conditioners, closing registers may result in the indoor coil freezing up due to an inability to transfer enough heat to the air passing over it. This will also put more strain on the compressor (the main component of an air conditioner), and potentially reduce system life.

In conclusion….

In some cases, closing registers may result in energy savings without damaging your heating or air conditioning system. But in many (perhaps most) cases it will result in little to no energy savings. Generally, the advice of heating & air conditioning professionals remains to leave all registers open in most circumstances.

You can save up to 40% on heating costs by installing a new high efficiency furnace. Visit our furnaces page to learn more.

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Hot Water Tank Prices: Water heater installation cost in Vancouver

Here are our current prices for installing a hot water tank:

40 gallon gas: $899  (This is the most common size of water heater)
50 gallon gas: $1119 (For homeowners who wish to upgrade)
40 gallon electric: $888
50 gallon electric: $938
Removal and recycling of old tank: $30
Vacuum breaker (if required): $35

Our gas water heaters meet the new energy standards (with an Energy Factor of 0.62 or greater, they use up to 20% less energy than older tanks) and include an 8 year warranty against leakage and a 1 year labour warranty. Our electric water heaters include a 6 year warranty against leakage and a 1 year labour warranty.

In most cases, the above prices include everything necessary to install a hot water tank.

Additional charges may be required if:

  • A narrow tank is required. New gas hot water tanks are 20” wide (for the 40 gallon model) and 22” wide (for the 50 gallon model). This is slightly wider than older tanks. If a special thinner model is required, this will cost extra. Power vented models also cost extra.
  • Additional fees for permits may be required in some municipalities (call for info).
  • An additional fee may apply if the hot water tank has to be transported up a flight of stairs or over a gas line.

How do these prices compare to the competition?

We always believe in putting quality first, even if it means we have to charge a higher price. This is because low quality will usually cost our customers more over the long run. This makes us more expensive than many of our competitors on some of our products and services. However, our hot water tank installation prices are highly competitive. Many of our competitors charge more for hot water tanks, and we don’t know of any well established competitor who charges more than 10% less for hot water tank installations.

Optional add-ons

Our technician might recommend additional add-ons. These include extended warranties and items (such as drain pans and automatic shut-off valves) that reduce the risk of water damage (these are especially recommended in homes where the tank is located in an area where a leak may cause significant damage). We might also recommend an expansion tank (especially in municipalities where water meters with check valves are being installed, as the tank can be damaged when water expands as it is being heated). These options can increase the costs substantially, but they are optional.

Schedule your hot water tank replacement by calling 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Learn more about why you should choose Good Guys for your water heater installation on our hot water tanks page.

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