AWHP Best Application

Air to Water Heat Pump Applications

When you are asked to do an installation of an AWHP or a chance to enlighten a homeowner to an AWHP it will be one of three options. The first is new installations in new construction, second is new hydronic installation in an existing home, and the third is a retrofit into an existing hydronic system. We will address this individually below.

The first thing you need to do is learn all you can about AWHP’s. Learn how they work, how they are installed with pipe sizing, flow rates, and Delta-T’s. These are the main differences between boiler hydronics and AWHP hydronics. We offer most of this in pre-recorded seminars or live via online or in person, which carries a higher price tag.

The second thing you need to do is learn how to do a good heat/cool analysis. Gather the proper information to enter on your manual J calculation software. Learn more about creating zones. What rooms should and could be joined to create zones, especially if doing heating and cooling together. Learn the layout of the home like floor plans either by rough sketch by you or blueprints. For those of you not using a good heat loss Manual J calculation don’t be reluctant to believe the calculated heat losses. I was concerned about the first winter after doing heat loss calculations and using units half the size of existing equipment in the 90’s.

We offer forms you can download and use. The forms were designed when I was working for the oil company back in the 1990’s but should be close. You can Download them and use them as a basis to change or design your own.

New home, New Construction

If you’re going to do new house construction, try to find an upscale builder in your area and network with them. Present your AWHP ideas and possible solar ideas to them setting a president for well insulated upscale homes in the future, especially in mid-sized homes. Remind them of the country’s push to get away from fossil fuels and moving toward totally electric homes. Now is the time to decide if you want to start offering solar PV or not. Looking into my crystal ball I would suggest you start positioning yourselves for the next decade.

I would assume the homeowners are going to be interested in heating and cooling. The question becomes do they want to maximize the savings which may be two separate systems. You could offer radiant panels for heating and duct systems for cooling or duct systems with heating and cooling combined using a water coil in the air handler or duct system.

The home should have a heat loss of approximately 15 btu’s per sq ft or less. This would be similar to the following R-values along with extensive air sealing.

Ceiling = R49+

Walls = R25-R35+, includes Exterior sheathing to reduce the conduction through the framing

Floors = Slab = 1.5” to 2”+, Above unheated basement = R-19+

 Windows = R4 – R10+

Ay be used to heat DHW or maybe only a preheater for an electric DHW tank.

After all this you may have to add an HRV or ERV to improve indoor air quality. Consider solar PV with electric storage.

Remember almost all purchased watts of electricity produce a BTU output. Electrical motor loads add BTUs of heat to the home. For instance, a 3-ton ECM blower motor can add just under 3,000 btu/h to the home. Think of these little heaters as refrigerator compressors, light bulbs, TV’s, stoves, ovens, you get the point.

Retrofit AWHP into Existing Home

Here is where your skills really need to be sharpened. When using a manual J heat loss you can play with the “what if” numbers. I have done this for years with standard heating equipment. “What if” they added more insulation to the attic or replacing windows. For instance, I worked at a quadruplex apartment house with a single boiler rated at 350,000 btu’s. The heat loss revealed that the proper boiler size should have been 280,000 btu’s. If they added 6” to the 3” they had we could do 160,000 btu boiler. We ended up installing two 80,000 btu boilers staged firing. We also added ODR and the owner claimed he saved over 60% on his fuel bill.

When I worked as a contractor, we networked with an insulation company to insulate under our radiant floor jobs. They would do any insulation you needed at a reduced rate in most cases. If insulating an attic, the homeowner will many times want to do it themselves. Have a clause in the proposal they will do it and it must meet standard insulation application practices.

After the heat loss is performed verify the water temperature required. If you are installing new baseboard look at the newer low temp style baseboard line like HE2 by Smith Environmental Products supplies about 363 btu’s per ft @ 115f water temperature. Since any AWHP Monobloc units can supply 120f and a split system can supply 130f. When installing AWHP’s you normally design a flow doe a Delta-t of 5f through the system. If a zone of heat requires 6000 btu’s for a few rooms you would require 16 ft of baseboard. But what if you design for 100F water you would need 26 ft of baseboard divided up by heat loss for the three rooms. Sound impossible? This could be very doable in a home built in the 2000’s of 2800 sq. ft. or less.

If using a ducted coil application using an air handler it can be a bit tricky. Do not hesitate to incorporate the coiler manufacturer into this process. They will normally oversize the coil to accommodate the heating and cooling load. You will normally apply a variable speed circulator for the air handler piping for proper flow.

You may or may not require a booster boiler for this application.

Retrofit AWHP Using Existing Hydronic System

You will connect the AWHP to the existing hydronic heating system and add an oversized buffer tank with a 3-pipe application. This will allow the heat pump to do more of the work to the balance point.

Most of the time you will need a booster boiler for this application. If there is an existing boiler onsite you may leave it there and use it. If it is gas or electric boilers make sure it is a modulating boiler to maximize the efficiency. If it is a cast iron boiler and the homeowner wants to use it make sure they realize it will be at a higher operation cost. If it is a fairly new boiler it may help keep the installation cost lower until a later date to be replaced.