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We upgraded our HVAC this autumn-it was a learning experience!

Mama rat nursing her babies

We keep our home very warm because of our rats, and our energy bill is too high during the winter. After inspecting our 12 year old 13 SEER HVAC, a Florida licensed HVAC contractor (that I cannot name) recommended replacing it with a new 17 SEER HVAC which they said is more efficient. They installed it this Autumn.

Our old HVAC used the condenser for both heating and cooling. After the installation, I discovered that my new HVAC used the condenser only for cooling, and not for heating the house. So I had to reconfigure my thermostat which was still configured for a the other type. I then also learned that the two types are called “Heat Pump” and “AC Only”, respectively. Good to know for next time.

According to the 2023 Florida Building Code, Energy Conservation, Eighth Edition, R403.7.2. Electric space heating, new or replacement Florida HVAC installations in zone 2 cannot use “Heating Strips” as the main source of heat.

TIP: If you want to reduce your heating bills, “Heat Pumps” are probably a better choice. After the installation, I learned that they only cost a few hundred dollars more than AC Only HVACs. And I learned that a higher Federal Tax credit may cover much of the difference! The SEER rating measures cooling efficiency, while the HSPF measures a Heat Pump’s heating efficiency. AC Only HVACs don’t have an HSPF rating. A new HVAC can be more efficient at cooling, but less efficient at heating. Your annual electric bill will depend on how much energy your household uses for both heating and cooling, so you need to consider both.  I wish I had known then what I know now. But, at least, I can tell you: I hope this information helps you.

If you want to heat your home as efficiently as possible, specifically ask the HVAC salesmen about a “Heat Pump” in case they don’t mention that option. Then make sure to look for “Heat Pump” and the HSPF rating on all estimates and communications with them. If you don’t say and see “Heat Pump”, you might be getting an AC Only HVAC.

If this tip helps you, please donate to my rats’ GoFundMe!

Recently, a contractor friend noticed that no permit had been pulled prior to installing the HVAC. And permits are required. He also mentioned that it looked like the installation might fail inspection.

Tip#2: In the USA, many home improvement projects require that a “permit” is obtained prior to starting work. The rules regarding permits are complicated, depend on the state or, even, the local government. Most of you probably don’t know what the requirements are where you live. I admit I don’t, either. But that’s OK, because if you hire licensed contractors to do the work, they are certified by the state to know every step that must be followed and in what sequence. So, for example, if permits are needed prior to starting work, a licensed contractor knows that somebody needs to get them, and display them on the job site if necessary. Sometimes, a licensed contractor will offer the homeowner the option to pull permits themselves to save money. But, regardless who gets then, if permits are needed by law prior to starting work, then work should not commence until permits are pulled.

One reason why permits are so important is because they often trigger “inspections.” In the case of an HVAC installation, the associated permit requires that the installation is “inspected” after the contractor says the work is finished. The word “inspection” may sound scary, but it’s actually for your protection! You want your HVAC installation to pass inspection, because that helps keep you and your family safe. So, always hire licensed contractors, who are certified to know how to ensure that all of the rules are followed, and that their work passes inspection. Again, if this tip helps you, please consider donating to our GoFundMe!

Fortunately, the folks at the Osceola county permit office were very understanding, didn’t fine us for not getting the permit prior to starting work, and helped us through the process in a couple of hours. We were able to schedule an inspection for Monday, 12/18/2023. Unfortunately, the HVAC did not pass inspection. In fact, the inspector told me that the issue he found could potentially cause a fatality. Not good. We let the HVAC company know about the code violation, and they sent someone out to fix it and the air leak.

Unfortunately, we had their work re-inspected, and it still didn’t pass. The county sent a different inspector, who said they didn’t completely fix the first issue, and found yet another code violation! He even wanted to fine me $100, but I explained that it was an Owner/Builder permit and he waived the fine because this wasn’t my fault.

Our contractor friend recommended another HVAC tech, and we are currently talking to them about replacing the AC Only condenser with one that heats as well as cools. It’s not going to be cheap, but at least we’ll finally have closure!

Tip #3: After your licensed HVAC contractor finishes installation, always ask them to use the thermostat to demonstrate that the HVAC is heating and cooling as expected. It’s important to check that the thermostat is able to correctly control your HVAC, because as I’ve learned, your thermostat must be configured to match your HVAC or things won’t work right. And make sure that that both you and the contractor check for leaks: the inspector told me that there is a “smoke test” that can identify leaks, but mine was bad enough that I could easily feel it with my hand. And, please, if this tip helps you, consider donating to our GoFundMe!

Errol the roof rat

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