Quality of Heat Pump Manufacturers

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4barrel

Member
Feb 15, 2013
47
So I have been looking at heat pumps lately, fujitsu and mitsubishi are supposed to be the 2 best. Then I came across 3 other brands, Blueridge, Comfort air and Caribou. Does anybody have any experience with any of these brands. How do they compare to Fujitsu and Mitsubishi. The Blueridge and Comfort air are priced much lower and the Caribou's are a DIY installation type.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
84,334
South Puget Sound, WA
Daikin and Panasonic also make good units. Not sure about the DIY aspect with refrigerant lines and wiring, but possible for the careful and more technically savvy DIY perhaps.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,242
SE PA
In the ducted flavors, all the furnace manufacturers sell them...Goodman, Trane, Bryant, Rheem, etc. I think they all use the same parts inside.

If you are in a more mild climate, the cheapest minis would prob be a good bet...Chinese-made Gree.
 
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4barrel

Member
Feb 15, 2013
47
The caribou line from canada is a true DIY system. The one ton and under systems will plug directly into a 120 volt electrical outlet, so says the company.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,242
SE PA
Some folks around here have done the entire minisplit install....wiring, mounting, running the refrigerant pipes, etc, DIY and then just had an HVAC guy do the refrigerant hookup between the two units, and check it out, for a couple hours time/pay. I believe that it is not legal for anyone without an appropriate license to make/break refrigerant connections. Not that it isn't done, I'm sure. While I think the two parts are each precharged or evacuated and sealed, any air, moisture or dirt in the refrigerant loop will affect performance and lifetime of the unit.

A one ton system is not going to deliver much heat when it gets cold out. Could be useful in AC mode....
 

Where2

Feeling the Heat
Feb 3, 2013
364
South Florida
If you are in a more mild climate, the cheapest minis would prob be a good bet...Chinese-made Gree.
Having traveled to mainland China this year, I can tell you there are plenty of Gree mini-split units in use on the other side of the planet. They're available cash-n-carry in the larger "department" style stores like Carrefour. If the common electrical system on the mainland hadn't been 230v, 50hz, I would have considered shipping one back to myself using China Post.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,242
SE PA
The sell the gree units cheap in Home Depot here in PA. I saw them all over Hong Kong. I think they have a lot of real world experience, but maybe less so for extreme cold.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,523
Northern NH
The EPA license is bit of farce, the course and certification are on the web. I have done two partial installs where I did everything and hire a tech to do the final gas connections, the inert gas purge and the vacuum test. I have acquired the gear to DIY the final work but haven't done it myself yet but have no doubt I could as its not rocket science once you have the tools. I have Mitsubishi mini one ton mini split and it puts out plenty of heat down to around 10 degrees in clear weather and 20 degrees when its damp out. still puts out heat down to minus 10 but a lot less. Over 40 degrees it put out far more than its rating. The Mitsubishis are the Cadillac's, the service techs I have talked to all said the same thing, the only time they fix them is when there is external abuse, someone hitting the external unit or kids or animals messing with the equipment. Beyond recharging the units, they don't actually fix the unit, the just replace whatever unit is acting up. Fujitsu's have a good rep in Maine, they control their distribution so the quality of the installs may be better. They haven't been around as long so they don't have long term rep. The utilities are fans of the product.

In NH the rebates strongly encourage an installation by a pro and there are no pros that seem to rep the other lines. I expect its a territory thing where Mitsu and Fujitsu try to keep distribution in the hans of pros while the other brands are not, thus the installers don't have interest in installing them. I think Maine requires a pro install so that also tends to exclude the lower cost units.

Cold weather operation is very hard on a unit and I expect that is where the differences between a high end unit and a commodity unit would become apparent.

I bought my Mitsu off the web and the cost wasn't a lot more than the commodity units. If you go through a dealer the installed costs could be triple the cost for the unit on the web so my theory was buy a good brand with good rep for a few more bucks and then save the money with self install
 

scooby074

Feeling the Heat
Jan 7, 2011
423
Nova Scotia
Talking to several dealers, even ones that dont sell them, Fujitsu is #1, in efficiency, parts availability. low temp operation and longest warranty. Unfortunately they are among the most expensive.

#2 is Mitsubishi, good quality, but parts can be an issue.

Tied for #3 are LG (right from a tech at a LG dealer), Daikin, Panasonic. Depending on who you talk to, Daikin and Mitsubishi can trade places.

Pretty much everybody, other than those that sell them, say to stay away from the "off brands" like Klim-aire(?) and stick with one of the 5 or so majors.

Gree would not make my list. Remember they are the ones who made those dehumidifiers (sold under various brands) that had the nasty tendency to burst into flames. Having been burned by that company as a result of that recall, and experiencing the somewhat shoddy build quality of the Gree units, I'll pass.
 

AK13

Feeling the Heat
Oct 15, 2010
254
Seacoast, NH
In NH the rebates strongly encourage an installation by a pro and there are no pros that seem to rep the other lines. I expect its a territory thing where Mitsu and Fujitsu try to keep distribution in the hans of pros while the other brands are not, thus the installers don't have interest in installing them. I think Maine requires a pro install so that also tends to exclude the lower cost units.
Can you point me towards information on the NH rebate program?

Thanks,
Adam
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,523
Northern NH
Can you point me towards information on the NH rebate program?
I will but unfortunately the funding it dried up for this year
http://www.nhsaves.com/save-home/save-more/heating-cooling-water-heating-systems/

Same thing happened last year and they funded it again for this year. You cant buy one now and apply for the rebate later, so if they put more funds in the program (likely) then you have to wait until January. I think I got $900 in 2013 as I bought the most efficient unit and this year it was down to $500
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,866
SW Virginia

DBoon

Minister of Fire
Jan 14, 2009
1,179
Central NY
I agree with scooby074 on brands you should look for. If operating in really cold weather, I would narrow the list to Fujitsu and Mistubishi, who both make units for very cold weather heating.
 

4barrel

Member
Feb 15, 2013
47
Does anybody know anything about the Blueridge and Comfort Aire lines. The prices for the Blueridge's are terrific, except I can't find the company's website on the net.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,242
SE PA
On possibility is that they are just relabeling units made by someone else. What state/climate are you in?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
84,334
South Puget Sound, WA
This is not a place where I would shoot for cheap. There are lots of units on the market but only a few that have the remarkable heating efficiencies in very cold weather. Being able to use the heat pump for the longest season is where you really get the best return on investment IMO. And a variable or 2 speed compressor is going to be quieter and more energy efficient.
 
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4barrel

Member
Feb 15, 2013
47
I live in massachusetts. Looking on the internet, the Blueridge units are less than half the amount of a Mitsubishi or Fujitsu. The other unit's called Caribou are made in Canada, I think they would work well in cold climates.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
84,334
South Puget Sound, WA
They are not comparable units in technology or efficiency. The Mitsubishi and Fujitsu units are mini-splits with a dc inverter compressor. The BlueRidge line appears to be a conventional style compressor. Not sure about the Caribou, but their specs are not impressive. Remember that you need to add in the cost of the air handler to the system cost for a conventional split system.

You can find fairly extensive testing and real world experiences with the Mitsubishi, Fujitsu and Daikin units. Not so much so with generics. Also, I would be concerned about getting parts and service, particularly 10 yrs from now. Caveat emptor.
 
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woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,242
SE PA
Agree completely w/BG. In MA, you are best to deal with one of the big three for mini's. If you want a split system, you would also want a high-end system with a variable speed compressor and/or demand defrost, such as the 'GreenSpeed' system, but that is also very spendy.

I have a cheapo Goodman conventional split....but my climate is +4°F relative to Boston on average, fewer cold spells and a lot less snow, and I have hacked my system to retrofit in a demand defrost system.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
84,334
South Puget Sound, WA
Besides much better heating and cooling, another benefit of the higher end mini-splits is low noise level. They are exceptionally quiet running units.
 

4barrel

Member
Feb 15, 2013
47
Would you guys try to install one of these yourselves. Some of the installation prices I see are outrageous for just 3 to 4 hours of labor.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,242
SE PA
For a mini, if I could find a 'buddy in HVAC' to do the refrigerant line hookup and test for a reasonable price: for 1-2 hours of work a couple hundred bucks, I would then not have a problem doing the rest of the install myself. Whether you can find a wiling party with the tools, is another question.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
84,334
South Puget Sound, WA
Agreed. I know all the steps to install and have been a helper on installations. Still, I would set the outdoor unit on a proper pad, install the head unit. Run the wiring too, but I would let the pro do the tubing, evacuation, and refrigerant charging. Flare connections are fussy and you really need to watch contaminating the lines with anything.
 

STIHLY DAN

Minister of Fire
Jan 15, 2013
1,431
So NH
Be careful running the insulated copper lines for kinks. Especially on the larger ones, you can get a kink and not realize it because of the insulation covering.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,523
Northern NH
Would you guys try to install one of these yourselves. Some of the installation prices I see are outrageous for just 3 to 4 hours of labor.
I will repeat my standard reply. A reasonably capable person can do 80% of the install themselves. One thing very important is that you need to decide if you want mostly heat and some summer cooling or mostly summer cooling and some heat. If you want heat you need to install the unit on the sunny side of the house out of the prevailing winds. If you have snow, then you need to mount the unit up off the ground. The suppliers sell wall mount brackets that you need to screw into studs in the wall. If you cant find the studs under the siding, then its time to call a pro. If you are comfortable about wiring you need to run a dedicated 240 volt circuit to a wall mounted disconnect designed for air conditioners (no need for fuses). Then you need to install the inside unit. The Mitsubishi units come with a full size template that you line up on the wall and mark off a few anchor points that also need to tie into the studs. You also need to drill a hole through the wall missing any studs or missing wiring for the tubing. You can buy a wall pass through tube from the suppliers that goes in the hole in the wall before the tubing goes in. I caulked mine tube in to cut down on air leaks. You should go to Pex supply and look for speedichannel made by diverisitech. This runs along the outside wall and acts as a gutter to hide an protect the tubing. If you feel comfortable with electrical you can run the wiring from the disconnect to the outdoor unit and run the control wires into the indoor unit. The instructions make it pretty clear what goes where. At that point call the HVAC tech to run the tubing, flare the fittings, purge the lines, apply vacuum and open the valves. This shoudl take the tech no more than 2 hours. They also can run the drain when the run the tubing as otherwise it gets in the way. The speedichannel has connections for ty wraps to hold tubing in place. Then once the unit is running, spray some foam in the opening in the wall where the tubing runs and then snap on the cover for the speedy channel.

If you get a lot of snow, I recommend installing a 45 degree pitch roof over the outdoor unit as it cuts down on frost on the coils. Just make sure to leave a good amount of space to allow air flow. I ended up leaving it on year round as it also provides some shade on the coils in the summer
 
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