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Let's talk FACTS about Heat Pump systems

An interview with Blaine Swinimer,

HVAC/R Red Seal, Rhyno's

First of all, let’s get clear on the difference between mini-splits and central heat pump systems.


Mini-splits are meant to provide supplemental heat, not your primary source. There is no electrical backup or backup of any kind, so if it stops working, you will need your primary heat source to kick in. Mini-splits are available as a wall or floor unit with an outdoor unit. There can be up to 8 heads from one outdoor unit, but the average is 3.


It's important to note that the first step may be to upgrade the electrical panel to 200 amp. Some of the newer hyper heat systems draw 40 amps alone. This is a necessary discussion to have before a mini-split can be installed.


“It’s important to know that the unit heats and cools the room it is installed in,” explains Blaine. “There will be some residual heat outside of that area, but don’t expect one unit to heat an entire floor. In fact, some people have a mini-split installed mostly for the cooling aspect, installing a unit in a bedroom or area that they most want to cool.”


“One of the #1 manufacturers of mini-splits on the market is Mitsubishi. Some models like the FS and FH will continue to produce heat down to -25ºC and below”, says Blaine. “Better than most units on the market.”

“The Mitsubishi products are not the cheapest on the market, but they have a great reputation and the tech support we receive is very good. For these reasons, they are our #1 choice for mini-splits. We care about how the unit looks, performs and how much maintenance they require. We do not get a lot of call backs on the Mitsubishi products, and that means a lot to us and especially to our customers.”   

Our #1 choice for Central Heat Pump Systems is Lennox or Mitsubishi ZUBA, for higher-end units. Central Heal Pump Systems provide heating and cooling for the whole home, requiring ductwork and a register in each room. When the temperature drops to -15, an emergency backup heat kicks in, but it doesn’t provide maximum heat (see the chart below). A central heat pump system can be added on to oil, propane (gas) or an electric furnace that will act as the heat source backup.


“The greatest benefit is the cooling,” states Blaine. “As our temperatures change, we are experiencing higher humidity in the summer months. Cooling removes humidity and the ducting provides very even cooling (and heating) to keep your home comfortable.”

Every heat pump has a defrost system. When the coil on the outside unit frosts up, a temperature sensor kicks in and everything stops. The unit actually goes into cooling to reverse the flow of heat to melt the frost off the coil. Some units will run for 15 minutes, or they have a sensor that switches the unit back to heating. Don’t be alarmed if you hear a different noise – like refrigerant flowing, steam coming from the unit or a slowdown of the fans. Some units have a light that indicates it’s in defrost mode. If you know what to listen for, you will know there is nothing wrong – the unit is just defrosting.

How long do heat pumps last?

Most warranties for parts are 10 years. Depending on the brand, units will last for 10 to 20 years. The spread is wide because it also depends a lot on location. If you live close to the ocean, the salt air will affect the longevity of the unit. In any case, annual maintenance is necessary. Like most things, they will last longer if you maintain them.


How does Rhyno’s choose their suppliers?

“The feedback from our technicians on the ease of installation means a lot,” says Blaine. “The tech support is very important and how quickly we can get parts – we need to be able to depend on our suppliers. The technology race is on, there are new models coming out that will compress the refrigerant to produce more heat at lower temperatures, so we’re watching that development. We keep our finger on the industry to make sure we’re providing the best options to our customers.”


What about furnaces?

When requested, our go-to forced air oil furnace is made by Grandby (purchased through Kerr).  We still get some calls for service on furnaces, but the fact is, they last a long time – 25 -30 years on average – because there is not a lot that can go wrong with them.


These days, most people are looking at heat pumps as the push to get off fossil fuels continues.

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