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Air Source Heat Pumps for Cold Weather

Updated on October 11, 2012

Two Great Systems for The North

I live in a northern climate and in the Fall 2010 began renovating my worn-down century home into a super efficient green building (now I do this on the side as the unexpected contractor). Every step of the way I've had to research the best techniques and technologies because, mainstream products and conventional wisdom aren't always best.

During my research I came across two new air source heat pumps that actually work really well in cold weather. Believe it or not, these things can beat out a high efficiency gas furnace on operating cost, pretty incredible!


Photo Credit: Hallowell

If you are seriously looking to purchase one of these systems, please see this Special Note about my experience trying to get a quote, and actual customer experiences in the Comments section. For other cost effective technologies and renovations, see Home Improvement Paybacks.

Getting it Right

The climate control system of a home is one of the most important parts of its ecosystem, so you want to make the right choice with one.

Deciding on what would work best in my climate was an incredible challenge. Most people I knew had the same thing: a mid to high efficiency gas furnace. They are great, but I wanted to know if I could get something better.

As I dug into the information I gathered from manufactures, dealers and the interweb, it became clear that electric heat pumps were a viable alternative to gas furnaces. I found these systems not only have a super high Coefficient of Performance (COP), but can also now operate efficiently at sub zero temperatures.


Photo Credit: Wonderlane

Hallowell's Acadia

The Acadia is an amazing air source heat pump that can create heat efficiently from temperatures as low as -34C.

The best thing about this system, aside from its incredible operating efficiency, is its pure simplicity. It is designed in such a way that no specialized components are used, making servicing and repair straightforward.

How does it work so effectively with conventional parts? Short answer: the Acadia is built to be smart.

It automatically switches between four modes to optimize its efficiency depending on the demand and temperature. To do this it uses a second compressor in series with the primary one, which regulates efficiency and enhances the system's performance.


Photo Credit: Hallowell

Cold Climate, No Problem

Mitsubishi Electric and Hallowell International recently introduced products that deal with one of the main obstacles to air source heat pump adoption, namely: sub zero temperatures.

Normally at around -5C the efficiency of air source heat pumps starts to decrease dramatically. For many parts of the world where both heating and cooling is required, night and winter temperatures can drop well below -5C, limiting the use of air source heat pumps.

Now there is the ZUBADAN Series from Mitsubishi and the Acadia from Hallowell which can operate super efficiently at temperatures of -30C!


Photo Credit: State Library of New South Wales collection

Mitsubishi's ZUBADAN Series

Following Hallowell's success with ultra efficient low temperature heat pumps, Mitsubishi launched country specific systems for northern regions from the ZUBADAN Series. These systems cater to precise regional needs, like the Zuba-Central for Canada, which can heat efficiently at -30C, and the Ecodan for the UK which just goes to -15C.

As compared to many central heating and cooling systems, the ZUBADAN Series products regulate the temperature into a very tight range, reducing fluctuations and greatly enhancing comfort level. A variety of technologies are employed to achieve this intelligent power balancing, which also contributes to its operating efficiency.


Photo Credit: Mitsubishi

Cost Effectiveness

Like all air source heat pumps, the Hallowell and Mitsubishi products are electrically powered. Heat pumps use electricity much more efficiently than say resistance heat baseboards or furnaces do. The Acadia and ZUBADAN Series have a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of 1.5 to 3, compared to 1 for electric (or up to 0.95 for gas). This is to say that they operate in the range of 150% to 300% efficiency, which is directly related to the outside air temperature.

Depending on what access you have to fuels like natural gas, propane and oil, and what their pricing is; and also considering what the duration and extent of cold weather in your area is, a heat pump may be cheaper for you.

To run a fantastic online calculation to compare your current system with other options including heat pumps, visit: NRCAN.

You'll need some information from your bills to fill this out. As well, you'll need to calculate the heating fuel costs for your current and proposed fuels. These need to factor in the energy price and all the correlated charges on your bill (examples include: supply, delivery, etc.). You can leave out fixed charges like connection and administration to simplify things a little. One other note: make sure you change the heating system efficiency for heat pumps (225% might be a reasonable average for these systems, just depends on your exact climate).

If you are adventurous, you can do the calculations manually with the equation above.

Also of note: Heat pumps are eligible for all sorts of grants and incentives in various countries because of their energy efficiency, making them more affordable to install. And if you power your home with renewable energy, either through purchasing it from a green supplier or through a direct connection, you are lowering your emissions significantly, and reducing the environmental and social costs of dirty energy.

Here is an interesting graph showing how the Zuba-Central stacks up conventional systems in terms of operational cost.


Image Credit: Mitsubishi

Further Information

How do heat pumps work? How is a system set up?

Air source heat pumps transfer heat out of a home on warm days, and into the home on cold days. Commonly this is done by evaporating and condensing refrigerant.

The basic configuration of an air source heat pump system is with one unit outside and one unit inside a home. If it is a ducted system like the Acadia and Zuba-Central, then the inside unit is connected directly to the ducting. If it is a radiant system like the Ecodan, the inside unit is connected to underfloor tubes or wall mounted radiators. (There are also ductless systems that can have multiple small units inside the house that are attached by small tubes to the outside unit.)

As well, there are ground source heat pumps (geothermal) that exchange the heat into the ground or water, rather than into the air.

UPDATE: I spoke with a Hallowell rep just recently and he confirmed that this summer (2010) they are releasing a system that works with hot water radiant heat! This is excellent news for anyone who wants to do underfloor or other radiant heat in North America where neither company has offered the option. He told me they've been field testing it for the last two years. Looking forward to see it in the market. [Guess this hasn't happened according to plan, as its still not on the market...]



Photo Credit: Mitsubishi

Previewable Books: Learn More About Heat Pumps - A selection of book excerpts that reference air source heat pumps

There are only a few books that talk about air source heat pumps. Here you can preview relevant sections from the most recent literature that speaks to air source heat pumps, and also purchase them. Be advised that this information is not directly about cold climate or new technology heat pumps, but the references to air source heat pumps may be of interest nonetheless.

Energy Efficient Homes For Dummies
Energy Efficient Homes For Dummies

Preview relevant excerpts here.

 

Special Note

For all the amazing specs, there might be issues

My original plan was to install one of these systems. I've contacted 42 HVAC companies. About 10 either did not service my area or did commercial exclusively. Fine, but the rest? Of them, only 1 is willing to quote on the Acadia. I came across this company at the Green Living Show (2010), as the proprietor was at the booth with Hallowell. He seems great. As for the Zuba-Central, a few said they might be able to quote on it, but no one had any experience.

Photo Credit: twicepix

In general, companies wanted to sell either the one major brand they carried, that's it. And they definitely tried to steer me away from heat pump technology. I'll relate one little story.

I found one company that advertised online that they carried the Acadia, so I contacted them and met a sales guy. He said they would quote on it as well as a gas furnace, but a few days later when I followed up the story changed: the sales guy said he would not provide a quote on the Acadia, as they had too many problems with the ones already installed. Wondering if this was the typical "I just want to quote you on a gas furnace" mentality coming through, I called a manager at this same company and she confirmed that its true, they no longer carry the Acadia. The reason she gave is that it has had problems working at low temperatures. However I do take this with a grain of salt as everyone I've actually met at this company is completely incompetent (that's two energy auditors screwing up two different energy audits and one sales guy who is a complete donkey).

When I get pricing or more info I'll definitely share these. In the meantime, I'm still deciding exactly what to do...

UPDATE: We've decided to go with what we know best, and super insulate our home. Then we'll use electric in floor heat, embedded electric resistance wall fans, along with solar thermal collectors for space heating. This combo is nice and low tech and allows us to invest in what we are most certain will last and give us a good payback (air sealing and insulation). For more on why we choose to renovate green, see here on the benefits of green buildings.

For info on pricing I found this Q+A with Hallowell that puts a typical install cost at 10-14k.

Also, based on comments from readers I decided to try to contact Hallowell.... Its been months I've been waiting for a response, so I don't expect to hear back. Seems like Hallowell's problems are pretty widespread now, with even the units at Fort Dix-McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey are reported to have problems (30% of them!).

This lens was written by @unexpcontractor. For more on my unusual adventures check out my blog!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I installed a Hallowell Acadia 3 ton unit three years ago. It is an amazing system and heats our 2100 sf home when snow is 18 inches deep on the ground and the air temperature is 10 degrees F without going into resistance heating. The unit is commercial grade. The only problem is that Hallowell is now bankrupt, out of business, is being sued and the compressor manufacturer will NOT supply parts. Other parts are in short supply or not available and my 10 year warranty is now in default. So much for the US Government bailing out Solendra millions of dollars and letting Hallowell go bankrupt for lack of funding to fix a series of failures that had a simple solution. See the Washington State University; Bonneville Power and Snohomish County PUD Reports on the Hallowell and similar Cold Weather Air Exchange Heat Pumps. Incredible systems. I hope someone picks up the Hallowell line.

    • uneasywriter lm profile image

      uneasywriter lm 4 years ago

      Very knowledgeable. I am in the market for a new heat pump to replace my run down forced air system. Will be making a purchase next spring!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Pick Zubadan, I have installed one last year and it worked very well through the winter with the internal tank unit. 180 sqm, 16kw Zubadan + 200 litres tank (includes 3x2 Kw heaters) are more than enough. To be noted that we had even -20 Celsius in Romania last winter, combined with heavy snow. I had 21 Celsius at 1,6 meters above the floor (I have installed floor heating, it improves greatly the efficiency of the system).

      Anyway, good luck!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Anyone have experience with the Trane air source heat pumps? Am looking into the XL20i but not sure if it will keep up on those cold Montreal winter days... Thanks!

    • Jennifer Einstein profile image

      Jennifer Einstein 5 years ago from New York City

      So thorough! This is what Squidoo is all about!

    • profile image

      deks011 5 years ago

      Hey, I have also a Mitsubishi Zubadan heat pump and it works in the coold days fine.

    • profile image

      jayshow 5 years ago

      @biggarthomas: Hello biggarthomas,

      So, how has your electrical bill been this winter ?

      We have installed injoist radiant and baseboard radiants ductless(except for HRV)

      We are now looking for the right boiler.

      Mitsubishi(zuba) and Daiken(altherma) seem to be the two options.

      Altherma isn't mentioned in this lense yet. Anybody have any experiences to report ?

      We are located in peterborough, ontario. Average winter lows are around 15c, but -25 isn't unlikely. For that reason I think the ZubaCentral is recommented - but it doesn't appear to support hydronic(water) heating/cooling systems. Can anyone confirm this ?

      The Altherma system we're looking at will heat/cool and produce hot water.

      Interested in any experiences as we try to nail down the boiler solution.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The house tech sounds great -- but why are you building so huge? Ten family members, maybe??

    • TrialError profile image

      TrialError 5 years ago

      thanks for the great post.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: My control panel went out. Any idea where I can find one?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: There are several prices on this site if you read all the posts. Cost depends on how much additional work is required such as ductwork, electrical, etc. Our unit cost us about $17k including taxes and additional ductwork, insulation and electrical. The unit has worked well this winter with no auxiliary heat installed or used. We did a lot of insulation etc at same time, so hard to know how much of saving is due to heat pump, but in theory, heating cost should be 1/2 what it would be with 100% electric heat in a typical Canadian winter. (Average COP of 2.0)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi, I was considering getting the Zuba heat pump, I read your Squidoo reply, but I cannot see the prices.... any chance you can give me some feedback and the price you paid or were quoted. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated,

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi J-M,

      We are happy with the heat pump itself. It has been providing heat even when it has been -17C or less. We used our old duct system that was designed for A/C, not heating. Supply registers are in ceiling. After having only had BB heaters, it seems noisy to us. Because it is a central system, it is also not as easy to get even heating through house.

      But, overall, I think the Zuba uis an amazing product. Nothing really to compare it with in Canada. I looked at The Carrier equivalent, and it was no good at all in cold weather despit having high COP and HSPF figures - but those are done at 47F!

      If you don't have a cheaper source of energy, I would recommend it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @biggarthomas: Hello biggarthomas, I'm looking to buy a zuba heat pump. Ara you happy with your product? Would you recommend it? Thx

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hello Graham, I'm looking to install a Zuba heat pump. Actauly, would you recommend it? Are you happy with your product? Thx

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I decided to go with the Zuba Central and the optional 17.5 kw assist for our new 3500 sq. ft. bungalow I am building. The house is insulated to R60 (attic) and R24 (walls). The foundation walls are 3' high and made with 8" ICF which gives an overall 13.25 inches thick(2 5/8 inch foam on the inside and the outside of the 8" concrete wall). I'm told the ICF foundation is about R30. The three foot high ICF wall sits on a 12" high X 30" wide footing. The footing is insulated with 2 inches of foam then 24" of sand and 6" of topsoil to finished grade. It's mostly a 4' crawl space(3' wall plus height of the footing) but I did make a 10' x 16' area for mechanical room with a height of 6' 2". I have tri pane, Low E, argon filled windows throughout the house.

      My HVAC contractor calculated that I needed 55,000 BTU's to heat the home effectively in January where our average daytime temps are -10 and average nighttime is -20.

      I have a Regency model 3100 (80,000BTU) wood burning stove as a backup which I plan to use often to keep energy costs down, since I have a few acres of dense bush on my property and wood is plentiful.

      For all ducting, HRV, and the Zuba Central installed (with tax) is $33,000.00 cn.

      The Zuba Central is ready to be started up but I am waiting for my electrician to wire it up. When that is done, and when my HVAC contractor does what he needs to do to fire it up, I will let you know how it goes.

    • profile image

      streakxii 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for sharing your real world experience Graham! Hope your great results continue. I'm totally with you for insulating to the max.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @streakxii: Right on Streak - We went through the whole analysis including having the best local geothermal contractor come and look. Despite being on a lake and having a fair size rural property, the cost of the geothermal was considerably more than the Mitsubishi Zuba. In fact 3X as much in our case. Contractor said it would have been 2X if we had had easier installation conditions but incremental energy savings would not be sufficient to justify the additional expense.. We have had our Zuba system running now for 2 months and our heating costs are greatly reduced. But the best bang for the buck, is to sign up for the gov rebates and insulate to the max levels.

    • profile image

      streakxii 5 years ago

      @tomskids: Thanks for chiming in tomskids. Although the Acadia hasn't worked well, it sounds like the Mitsubishi offerings work well and have relatively high efficiencies. With an initial price much lower than geothermal systems, they can offer great value for money.

    • profile image

      tomskids 5 years ago

      I have been a heating contractor for a long time and I have tried a lot of different systems. Air source heat pumps are really not the answer. Even if you can get one to work the efficiency is still not that great. If you really want to save money look into a geothermal heat pump. I have some more info on my blog: http://www.squidoo.com/what-is-geothermal-heating

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      I live in a climate where it doesn't get cold or snow very often. I'm still intrigued as to how it pumps heat out of a home though. Do the air source heat pumps just recycle the air into air conditioning?

    • profile image

      streakxii 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Graham: I wish there was a way! I've had a look and it seems like if you make a reply you will always be posted under that thread... and it doesn't look like there is a way around this. Kind of frustrating.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I sometimes have trouble finding posts after I get an email notification. Is there any way to mre-arrange the messages so they appear by date?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @biggarthomas: Yes we did. It is installed and running. Initially it would not due to a faulty thermostat and or interface. But now we have a few issues and we are unable to get answers from Mitsubishi:

      - Unit was set by factory to 1000cfm. We would like to know whetehr this will affect maximum heat output, but we get no answers from them.

      - Because we have BB heaters, we did not install aux electric heaters. But we have been told we may need them during defrosts to overcome cold air that unit discharges. Any experience as to how often and for how long defrosts occur?

      - We are getting noise through ducts, presumably from fan. Did you installl any acoustic lining in ducts?

    • profile image

      biggarthomas 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Did you get the Zuba?

    • profile image

      streakxii 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Totally agree :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      air source heat pumps are a great option and well worth investigating

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @biggarthomas: I have received a more realistic quotation for the Zuba. About $16,500 plus taxes and that includes installation and some rearrangement of supply and return ducting. Installing a gas furnace in same location would be about $12,000 for furnace installation and $2000 for gas line in from highway and through house. At current gas prices, the furnace wins hands down. But it uses more energy that our baseboards while the Zuba provides a large overall energy saving (but not a cost saving).

      I am not sure I totally understand the advantage of the ZUBA over other modern heat pumps. They all have high HSPF/COP so what makes the Zuba different? I am using Hot2000 to compare heating systems and don't know how to indicate any difference between the Zuba and any other high COP pump.

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for the info and link! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I am an acadia owner who has been able to save his Acadia and finds that the unit is reliable if the terribly flawed starting circuit is replaced. A technical support group savemyacadi.org has been formed to help people get this and other vital informatin as to how to keep their Acadi's running.

      The technology used in the Acadia is simple and quite brute force but it totally works. Namely below 25 degrees a second compressor kicks in and the combined efforts of both compressors deliver about 40000 BTU's (4 ton) at zero with about a 2 COP. This is efficient and works. But the starting circuit Bristol installed for the TS compressors had au unkoown built in failure mechanism which has been solved woth a Field work Order available - along with much other useful information on the savemyacadia.org site.

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 6 years ago

      Great information

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Yeah, I totally see ASHPs becoming better value as more people take them up and as natural gas prices increase. Though electricity rates are going up as well... Still, they are an effective solution in many cases.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Have you considered a hybrid system? You can have the best of both worlds - the low cost heat when the temperatures are moderate, and the reliability of gas/propane when it gets really cold.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You are right, Air source heat pumps do deliver heat at lower cost / btu, and most HVAC contractors try to steer you away from them. They can be quite a bit more money up front, but generally pay back within 5-7 years. As Natural Gas prices increase this payback period will shrink dramatically.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @streakxii: I am not much further ahead. No real knowledgeable contractor in our area for Mitsubishi units. Price quoted seems very high. $@5k of which $15k was heat pump. Cozyworld in Toronto quote $5k installed for a 3ton 16 Seer Goodman unit. Not exactly same thing, but huge difference.

      Same company quoted about $8+k for 4 wall hung units (probably Fujitsu)

      I may have to contact Mitsubishi or the local distributor directly and see what prices seem out of line.

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: That does add up to a lot Graham, thanks for sharing your quote. It would be interesting to know how the ceiling concealed units price out if you end up looking into those too. The house mods may be the killer with them, but I think they can look so much better than the wall mounted units.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @streakxii: We received a ball-park estimate for the Zuba. Total was about $25k. This was for Zuba unit itself, upsizing the initial duct runs (about 2x30ft), installing an ~40ft return duct in crawl space and adding a supply duct and two branches to extension - ~30ft. They said the Zuba unit itslef was about $15k.

      With ~$2.5k for current baseboard heating, our savings may be say $1250/yr. 20yr payback or longer if maintenance is added in.

      Going to look at ductless for one wing of house plus some additional insulation. Maybe that will have better economics? We will likely need 3 or 4 indoor units to service about 60% of current house area.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @biggarthomas: biggarthomas.

      When you say all in, what did that cover? Did you re-use existing ducts? Any new ducts added? Any drywalling or othdr house mods needed? Was there already electrical supply to outdoor and indoor units or was this total new install?

      We have a $4300 hydro bill, but actual home heating for our 2300sq.ft home is probably about $2400. Saving might be 50% or $1200, so at $15000, payback will 12+ years. Probably acceptable if it works out this way.

      I am in Kingston, so much as I would like to use an experienced contractor, it seems I must use local guys.

      If we can't use existing ducts, we may have to use ductless. But I don't want those wall hung units, so we would have to use concealed units which no doubt will require some drywalling and house mods.

    • profile image

      biggarthomas 6 years ago

      @anonymous: It was approximately $15,000 all in. Speak with GForce in Toronto and tell them that Pat and Susan in Guelph referred you.

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Sounds like you've got an interesting project Graham. I can tell you the cost of an install generally doesn't include more than tying in to the existing duct system, which may involve some minor modifications to the ducting. It does however normally include electrical hookups.

      Of potential interest (though I know its not that relevant for what you are doing), on our project we did get some insane numbers for installing all new ducts in our very complicated 2-1/2 story plus basement. They were for around 18k. This was to do entirely new ducts, as there pretty much wasn't anything left in here. No drywalling or patching walls was included. I was blown away.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @streakxii: We are currently in process of getting quotes for Zuba and perhaps a ductless system. What was included in the $15k Zuba cost? Did that include ductwork and electrical wiring?

      We have a difficult installation. There is existing ductwork for our old A/C - two 14x10 feed ducts to front and back of house with five 6" ducts off each. We do want to extend system to an addition so could have another supply duct to supplement existing.

      Another problem, is that the supply ducts run through unheated attic space and there are no return ducts - air just returns through the house - one-level. Under main floor we have an unheated crawl space, so could install a return duct.

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks jjd95. Best of luck with your Acadia issues.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      It looks like Hallowell is out of business, or are trying to sell the company's assets/patents. I have 2 Acadia systems, and it worked fantastic for a year and a half. Then the compressor died. Evidently this has happened to tons of people. I think Hallowell got crushed financially because of all of their equipment failures. You can check out my blog for more info at OwnerBuilderNY.blogspot.com. Also there is a Google Group for Hallowell Acadia owners/dealers/installers, all kinds of things are discussed, support for problems, conjecture, join a class action lawsuit against Hallowell, etc.

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @remumm: Wow, this is very interesting news remumm. Thank you for posting! I hope some resolution comes out of all this...

    • profile image

      remumm 6 years ago

      Hallowell is up for sale 3 people left Duane Hallowell President and two service people. No systems being built, only parts available for warranty. The corporate lawyer told me Duane has no money trying his best to sell company.

      Take the lawyers words with a grain of salt, they sold over 2,000 Acadia units. The company was a scam from day one. The plan seems to have been to sell the company and dump the warranty issues in to the new owners lap and blame the problems on the installers.

      Well from my investigation the Acadia Heat Pump had built in technical issues, which caused the system to self destruct by killing the compressors.

      I know this from my research and by owning to Acadia's that self destructed in 15 months of installation. I am living on emergency heat as I type this. I am out 15K and will be spending another 10K for a multi fuel system to replace Hallowell Int Acadia unit.

      Call the corporate lawyer:

      Benjamine E Marcus

      84 Marginal Way Suite 600

      Portland, ME 041012480

      207-772-1941

      Good luck look in to Heat PUMP/Propane multi fuel replacement.

    • profile image

      biggarthomas 6 years ago

      @anonymous: It was closer to 15,000. My partner has the exact number because she handles all of that sort of stuff for our home. Fourteen or 15, you know it ain't cheap. When i ask her she stutters and stammers and whispers "closer to 15".

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      For biggarthomas

      In other post you said that it cost you $15.000.

      I don't know which price is the real one.

      "We have had the Zuba Central for about six weeks. The big test was when the temp went down to -14 in Southern Ontario - would the Zuba come through. I am very glad to say that it did! Our house is nice and toasty with the Zuba. Cost us about $15,000 all told. I took the installers 2.5 work days to get the system set up. The exterior unit is bigger than you think. It stands about twice the height of a regular AC unit, it's about the same width but half the depth. Anyhow, the proof of the pudding is going to be in our electricity bills. We are billed quarterly so I have nothing to say at this time about the monthly cost - more on that later.

      We are happy! "

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @dsilvest: So sorry to hear about your experience... very crappy. Thanks for the heads up on the Better Business Bureau rating (here is the link: http://www.bbb.org/boston/business-reviews/heating...

    • profile image

      dsilvest 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I would be happy to join a class action lawsuit against Hallowell. We built our house in 2008 after spending a significant amount of money to upgrade to the Acadia over the builder's standard HVAC system. After 1 year, the Acadia compressor died and the unit was completely replaced. Our 2nd unit died (after several smaller issues) the day before Thanksgiving last year and our local HVAC retailer could not get in touch with Hallowell. After heating the house for 4 weeks with a fireplace, we decided to swap out the Acadia for a York heat pump and a pellet stove. Our Acadia is now sitting under a tarp behind the garage.

      Note Hallowell now has an "F" rating on the BBB...

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @biggarthomas: Glad to hear its been chugging along problem free. That is awesome considering the experiences of so many others!

      It would be really interesting to know how much electricity its using --if you have a chance to share when you get your bill that would be amazing! :)

    • profile image

      biggarthomas 6 years ago

      Well, the test came yesterday morning with the Zuba. Temp was down to -20c and the machine just kept chugging along. No variation in output. I've yet to see my electricity bill in order to determine how mush this is costing me. Fingers crossed:)

    • profile image

      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for relating your experience Craig. ...Wow, sounds like an awful situation.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      So, this is my 4th year with the Halowell Acadia. I'm in Central Ontario Canada...last night it hit - 23 celsius. Our house is a log home in the country about 2800 square feet. If Halowell told anyone they would save money, well let's say Ontario Hydro (the electricity utility) loves me. Overall, this unit struggles to keep the heat at 19 degrees celsius and runs continuously. My electricity bills average around $850 / month in the winter of which the heating is about $700. That sounds like what I was paying for oil. Unit maintenance is the issue. I think I average about 3 or 4 calls per year. Three external temperature sensors, multiple overdraws on the blower unit that blow some circuit, which the installer says will occur if there is any obstruction to airflow. (He recommends I change the air filter every 3 weeks.) The worst was 2009, when the system crashed over Christmas. Apparently, the cold weather had caused multiple electrical wires to contract so much, they pulled out of their terminal connections. When I recently wrote to Halowell about my issues their response was "find one of our local suppliers and have them service the unit." Now there's a demonstration of how to stand behind your product! On the positive side, it is quieter than the previous forced air oil unit, but the sound of the healthy airflow coming out of the ducts equates to dollars of electricity. For my two cents, it's an unreliable platform with dubious economy claims. I'm sorry I bought it.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Paul, I haven't discussed with my husband yet about how we want to deal with Hallowell after our own set of problems. When the system is working, it's a great thing. I'm hoping they pull it together and I think there's rumor of them being joined by a "big brother" company that might get them back on track. I'm being optimistic here. Regardless, I would like to be kept in the loop regarding a class action. Please let me know if you can provide me with your offline email address in order to communicate that way. Thanks. Kathy B

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Our HVAC installer says they have installed quite a few and that many are having problems. They also said that people who have used other HVAC installers have been contacting them to put in replacement compressors since apparently these are difficult to replace in the field and when the compressor has to be replaced Halowell now just sends the compressor, whereas they used to send a reconditioned replacement unit with the compressor installed. Apparently not all the HVAC installers will replace compressors in the field on these units. Anyway, should the compressors really be going on units that are not that old? Hallowell should not be doing their field testing with their customers.

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      biggarthomas 6 years ago

      Very sorry to hear about all of the problems that people are having with the Acadia. So far, I have nothing to report about the Zuba. Nothing is good! Actually, our basement is dryer than with the regular system and that's another plus for this package.

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for writing Paul. Your experience will be informative for prospective buyers, like I once was...

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Kathy,

      We would definitely like to join in a class action suit against Hallowell. I just posted a comment below regarding our problems with our 3 ton Acadia system and the company that now does not communicate with either our HVAC installer or us. The question is how to get in touch with others in a similar situation. I think I'm going to set up a gmail account to help us get organized. I'll let you know the email address after I've set it up.

      Thanks, Paul

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      We had a 3 ton Acadia unit installed in June 2009 and have had a lot of problems with it. There have been numerous small problems involving faulty sensors and valves and recently there was a small electrical fire in the unit. We are on our third main control board. After the first year, we've had to pay for labor for the repairs and in December Hallowell stopped communicating with our HVAC installer and stopped sending out parts, which should still be covered under the 5 year parts warranty. I've tried to contact them and they never return the calls, so the next time it breaks down (which I'm guessing won't be too long from now) the Acadia will become a very expensive lawn ornament, since they will not send out parts and our HVAC installer has severed ties with them. I'm looking to start a class action suit against them, although I'm not sure how much they have in terms of assets. If you would like to join in a class action, please post something here and we'll figure out a way to get in touch. This is not the type of performance that you expect from this kind of investment and if a heating system is not reliable, how can you even think about leaving your home for an extended period of time. How can a company just walk away from their customers without notice without any consequences? Run fast and far from the Acadia is my recommendation, and don't look back!

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @biggarthomas: Thanks for the update!

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      biggarthomas 6 years ago

      @streakxii: Well, night before last it was -14 and the Zuba just kept on keeping us warm. Actually I take back the comment that I made about the noise limits of the outside unit. It's not tha it's noisy but when it's running full tilt in -14c weather, you can stick your head out of the window and hear it whirring away. It's not obnoxious. My fear was that it would be as noisy as our neighbour's air conditioner! In the summer, we cannot watch a movie with the upstairs porch door open for the racket that's kicked up by their machine. Anyway, that's my update - all's still well!

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for writing, this is very interesting news... restructuring through perhaps a buyout/ takeover, I could see that. I do hope whatever is going on, they can honor your warranty and increase quality control so other people don't end up in a similar situation.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I should add that the word I got from Hallowell was that they were "restructuring the company and bringing in a big brother to help with the HVAC industry. As that happens we needed to stop production. and freeze a lot of the inventory in the company. We should be through the process by the end of December. And back into production by the middle of January". This is a direct quote from one of their people. Time will tell....... I am still waiting for a response to my question about whether my warranty will be valid under this new entity. It had better be.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Does anyone know if there is a class action already started against Hallowell International and the Acadia system? If not, I'm getting one going asap.

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @biggarthomas: Thanks so much for sharing, many people have been interested in what the system costs! Its great its all working for you, hope it continues without problem.

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      biggarthomas 6 years ago

      Oh, it cost us about $14,000CDN. We are probably going to get a tanless water system for another $3500

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      biggarthomas 6 years ago

      We had the Zuba Central (3ton) installed three weeks ago. So far so good. We live 100km from Toronto, Ontario. It's -6c outside and 20 inside. Something is working!

      Installation took a little longer than we expected (2.5 workdays) but we had a great crew. I'll keep you posted but frankly, I will only find that i am moved to comment if something goes wrong. The unit is VERY quiet outside and compared to the clunker we had before, we can hrdly hear a thig from the heat exchanger in the basement. The exterior unit is a lot bigger than I had anticipated but - no problem, it looks impressive

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Doreen,

      Thanks the feedback on your experience. Its awful you've had only problems with the Acadia... I'd be interested in hearing more details --could you message me through my profile?

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @streakxii: You can contact me if you like, I have a Hallowell (2 years) and Haaaaaaaaate it - nothing but problems - the installer claims he has about 50 installed and 3 have problems - I guess I'm one of the lucky ones - NOT. I don't think Hallowell will be around much longer - it appears they are having financial troubles - when you try to reach them you only get voice mail - still waiting for a call back.

      I'm thinking class action lawsuit at this point.

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @gamingfanboy: Thanks, glad it was helpful! :)

    • gamingfanboy profile image

      gamingfanboy 6 years ago

      Very useful information thanks for posting.

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @Joe McGuire: Thanks for your insights Joe! I agree that so many problems with HVAC systems (and in buildings in general) are do to shoddy workmanship with installations. It's a bit maddening! And that is a great recommendation to just get in touch with Hallowell --I really should do that. Thanks

    • Joe McGuire profile image

      Joe McGuire 6 years ago

      I was in hvac sales and contracting for a while. I don't have any experience with the acadia but heard of it at the end of my employment in that industry. I would suggest establishing a line of communication with the manufacturer. If you can get them talking and especially if they will support your cause if you have trouble with the unit (which is 99% of the time caused by shoddy installation) you should be ok. That being said I'm a fan of geothermal, pricey but the only system I've seen that will reasonably pay you back before the equipment is junk.

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @artgoodman lm: Thanks Art! When I can finally get a solid quote I'll definitely post about it.

    • artgoodman lm profile image

      artgoodman lm 6 years ago

      I'm very interested in what you find out on the pricing situation of the heat pump. I think you're right about the salesman just wanting to give you a quote on a gas furnace. Great lens content, keep up the great work

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      streakxii 6 years ago

      @octaron70: Thanks for your insights! One definitely needs to have a healthy amount of scepticism with manufacturer claims. That said, both systems have good HSPF ratings, and Mitsubishi's is Energy Star qualified (Hallowell's is not because its SEER and EER ratings are slightly too low, but I've heard its the HSPF that is most significant; here are the ES criteria: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=airsrc_heat....

      As well, the the new breed of heat pumps do seem significantly different from conventional ones. For example, electric resistance heat backups are not standard on the systems made for cold weather. I'm doubtful this would happen without some thorough testing, otherwise every customer would be having problems at low temperatures. Another example is with the refrigerant: both use the R-410A, which produces no CFCs or HCFCs, and has zero ODP.

      Here are some of the main differences between the new generation of heat pumps and traditional ones: http://www.mitsubishielectric.ca/en/hvac/zuba-cent... and http://www.gotohallowell.com/Knowledge-Center/acad...

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      octaron70 6 years ago

      I'm honestly not completely sold on a heat pump that works in subzero temps. As an HVAC contractor, I have a hard time understanding how one brand unit can do what so many others can't, using vurtually the same technology.

      The reason I'm saying this is because of what I've learned about refrigerants, refrigerant pressures, condensation and ambient temperatures. One thing I DO know and can attest to is exactly what was said early on in this lens about how heat pumps work. Essentially, they spit cold air inside when needed, and warm air outside when they are working as a cooling device. When they are in heat pump mode, they are spitting warm air inside and cold air outside.

      The problem to me starts when it gets very cold. The typical refrigerant being used at this time in residential applications in the U.S. is R-22. Now R-22 has a smaller range of temperature for the phase shift of liquid to vapor. Because of this small range, the viable temperature that an R-22 heat pump can efficiently operate at is limited. With R-22, it has been proven over and over again that it produces heat still to lower and lower temperatures, but not enough to keep people comfortable indoors. Most people agree that the R-22 heat pump does not work efficiently very much below 40 degrees F.

      Since we are being forced here in the U.S. to shift toward more environmentally friendly refrigerants, we are moving to R-410a. Now, that refrigerant has a high range of temperature and pressure between phase shifts. This higher range allows it to produce heat efficiently through a heat pump to a lower temperature. But even using R-410a, we aren't able to cool efficiently below 0 degrees F.

      Of course, there are little tricks the manufacturers use to keep a unit working, i.e., defrost mode, small heaters on the compressor, etc. But those addons are limited in how much value they can add to your experience with a heat pump. When the temperature gets below a certain point, it's useless to have a heat pump working at all because it may be producing air that is below your comfort level, even though the air produced is still warmer than the outside air. That's why heat pump units typically have an auxiliary heat source - maybe a resistance heat burner, or a furnace to pick up where the heat pump leaves off.

      What you ultimately have to ask yourself is, "Am I saving enough money annually by running my heat pump to justify the additional cost of having one installed?" To answer this question, you must compare the amount of "heater running" time you are able to use your heat pump to the amount of time you must rely on your auxiliary heat source. If you are able to use your heat pump enough, let's say down the 0 degrees F that I agree an R-410a heat pump is useful, then it's probably a worthwhile investment.

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      streakxii 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Awesome, please do!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      @streakxii: Fabulous. If I get info before you do I will share

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      streakxii 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Bob, thanks for your comments. I'm in the process of getting quotes for both systems and I'll definitely post the details when I have 'em. We need to duct our entire place, but I'll get the price breakdown so we have numbers on just the units themselves too.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      What I cannot find is pricing. We know what geothermal costs, we know what it would cost to replace our existing furnace but how much does the actually Zuba cost up front?

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Hard to find any first hand knowledge of these... but, I am on the verge of buying the Mitsubishi so I will be posting online my own about it so that others know.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Lovely work you have done! Keep it going!

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      Amy Fricano 7 years ago from WNY

      nice comparison and summary. :)