Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nuts 'N Bolts - Installing the Heat Pump

It's been quite a long time since I last made an appearance around here. Figured it was better late than never to continute the saga of our heat pump installation. You can read the first part, explaining what the system is and why we decided to go with it, right here.

After we knew for certain we were going the heat pump route, the unit sat in our garage for a few weeks waiting to be installed. Finally, my contractor friend and I were able to find a time that worked for both of us and the installation process began.

Our first step was to anchor the mounting bracket to the side of the house and bolt down the condenser onto the bracket. When the unit was mounted on the wall we installed an electrical disconnect switch to meet code regulations and ran power from the main circuit breaker to the disconnect box. I used ½” PVC conduit to run the wires from the outdoor unit to the separate indoor units. The electrical consists of 4 wires including the ground wire, and the terminals are clearly labeled and the directions provided a wiring diagram as a backup for those who might not be 100% sure of what their doing. I must admit, I tend to ignore directions but I'm glad I looked them over because I realized we were missing a wire before I got too far into the installation.

The outside condenser unit, mounted to the wall with the disconnect switch below.

I took care of the electrical myself and wired the entire system together, the hardest part was anchoring the PVC conduit to the wall without any spare hands. We did have an electrician come and take a look at my panel to tell me which spot was best for the system, and we were able to utilize the same circuit that the old AC unit had been on.

Once that was done, we worked together to run the copper tubing. Two sets of hands were better than one in this situation, since we needed to straighten the roll out and slide the insulation over the tubing while attaching it to the PVC with zip ties.

The most difficult part of the tubing is making sure your fittings that tie the units together are solid so that the coolant doesn’t escape. You will need a specialty tool to ‘flare’ the ends of the tubing which can be purchased at a home improvement store for around $75. Fortunately, I didn’t need to buy one. You will also need a tubing bender to make the 90 degree turns without kinking the tubing. The last thing you want to do is kink the copper, have to cut it and then put an unnecessary fitting, creating yet another spot for potential leakage.

Hanging the indoor units was relatively easy, anchoring them into the wall studs or using extra drywall anchors if we couldn’t find two studs. The most difficult part was getting through the brick for the unit in the kitchen but with the help of a hammer drill we made quick work of it. I used ½” black plastic tubing as drainage piping from the indoor unit to the ground below the unit on the outside of the house.

The pipes coming out of the brick, in the back of the house, from the kitchen mounted unit.

The unit comes pre-charged with environmentally safe refrigerant, so after your tubing connections are checked for tightness, you open the valves and it's almost ready to run.
After tying in the system to the electrical panel we powered up and worked out the bugs in about a half hour. The top of the condenser unit comes off and has a diagnostic chart and two LED lights on the control panel indicate any problems.

I still need to decide how I am going to cover the lines on the outside of the house, for now they are tucked under the overhang uncovered. A protective shroud is available for purchase which kind of resembles a down spout and is paintable, I think we will wait until we stucco the house before that is installed.

We'll eventually hide all of these pipes with the shroud.

My contractor friend is a family man with a very busy schedule to say the least so it was over the course of 3.5 days in which we installed the unit. If we had everything we needed and put in a full days work we could have hammered it out over the course of a weekend. The installation was a little frustrating at times because neither of us had done this before but now after completing it I would have no problem doing it again. My buddy plans on installing another unit in the near future and I offered my services to help him install it (I will work for beer!) since he didn’t charge me installation on my unit since it was considered his learning experience.

Interested in tackling something like this yourself? Here's what you'll need...

Tools required:
Hammer Drill
Flare Tool
Tubing Bender & Cutter
Cordless Drill
Wire Strippers
Crescent wrench & Ratchet Set
Saw for PVC Conduit

Supplies Required:
Romex Wire (check power requirements on your unit)
PVC Conduit and fittings
Disconnect Box w/Switch
Copper Tubing
Anchors or Epoxy and Threaded Rod
Zip Ties
Drainage Piping and fittings
Spray Foam
ScrewsTubing Insulation

So what's the consensus? Helpful rundown? Would you try to install something like this on your own, or with the help of someone else? Have you ever considered a heat pump for your own home, or had one installed? We'd love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences - share away!


  1. Oh goodness, this seems to complicated for me, so I would probably get someone else to do it, but kudos to you for doing it yourself!

  2. Whoa, my eyes totally glazed over. I still don't even fully understand how it all works! But you are a pretty impressive DIYer, that's for sure.

  3. SOOO crazy...I read every other sentence cause I kept blanking out ... ummm here is how we installed our heat guy, sign big fat cheque...

    That's, like, crazy DIY skills! Good jobbie!

  4. That's my B! He likes getting his hands dirty. Blows me away as well. I'm with the rest of you, it's way over my head. All I know is we have two heat pumps in our house and they work wonderfully. B is the brains behind the rest!

  5. Great post and an impressive job to tackle. I personally would not try it myself, cause i'm not so great with heights. But i think you've given me some very handy info. My heat pump which is only 2 years old seems to be running much less efficiently, so i'm going to get a technician to check how much Puron is left, i suspect there may be leak in one of the fittings.

  6. I thought your work in the cellar was wonderful, but, I'm equally impressed with your ability to deal with things I wouldn't think of touching!! There probably won't be too many people looking to duplicate your efforts. They most likely will turn to a private contractor which is what I would have to do. Congrats on a job well done! I'm so proud of you!!

  7. I live in Georgia and was quoted $2700.00 for the price of a new 1 1/2 ton heat pump to be installed. This is the total price. Is this reasonable. It is just for the upstairs of our house. Our total square footage is about 1800.

    Betty Compson.


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