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Old 04-06-08, 10:42 AM   #1
banerjek
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How long do heat pumps last?

I recently had to have a fan capacitor replaced for about $400 including emergency off hours surcharges -- my wife wanted the problem fixed instantly because she didn't want to sit in a house for 2 days with no heat while I figured out how to do things the cheap way. I must admit it was nice having a guy over within an hour of the time we noticed no heat and have the whole thing fixed within another hour.

I know that people normally use an economic rationale to replace things, and that repairing is usually more efficient. However, the experience got me thinking. The unit is 18 or 19 years old, so I was wondering what I should do if a more expensive component like the compressor or reversing valve fails?
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Old 04-06-08, 10:53 AM   #2
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I'd replace it. When I bought the place I live, it came with a 5 year old heat pump. Now, about ten years later, it has had multiple service call visits, and its going to fail for good between the next second and 1-2 years from now. To boot, the brand that was installed changes its parts every so often, so even basic stuff like fuses are impossible to come by, even though they are just regular 4A fuses with two prongs soldered on them.

I say be proactive and when summer is here, go with a standard furnace and A/C combo. In my experience, 10-15 years is as good as it gets for heat pumps, so you are lucky so far.

Plus, most heat pumps, when it is really cold, just turn on a backup heat element, so it negates most of their touted efficiency.
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Old 04-06-08, 11:26 AM   #3
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Given the pace of technology, I would have replaced the entire unit vice replaced the capacitor for $400. Yes, that option is more expensive. But your current unit is probably near the end of its useful life (18-19 years) and today's heat pumps are more efficient, quieter, and less nasty to the ozone (different refrigerant).
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Old 04-07-08, 10:15 AM   #4
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Given the pace of technology, I would have replaced the entire unit vice replaced the capacitor for $400. Yes, that option is more expensive. But your current unit is probably near the end of its useful life (18-19 years) and today's heat pumps are more efficient, quieter, and less nasty to the ozone (different refrigerant).
I considered it. The problem was that the unit kicked out in the middle of night on a Friday when it was well below freezing. I actually don't mind having the house freezing cold for a couple days while we got a fix, but my wife doesn't have much patience for stuff like that. I did talk to the repair guy, and he said the new units were probably about 1/3 more efficient than mine.

I may just wait until summer and replace the thing when I have time to get competitive bids and know what I'm buying rather than wait until things break and pay a premium. I have one of those cheap contractor units, and the way mine is wired, the emergency heat element _always_ kicks on when it is in heating mode even if the compressor is running. Just for the heck of it, I pulled the wire for the emergency heat element, but then the compressor wouldn't kick on properly.
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Old 04-07-08, 06:03 PM   #5
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I think in 1-2 years, the Freon needed for your heat pump may not be available, so the sooner you rip out that beast and plop in a replacement the better.
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Old 04-07-08, 06:28 PM   #6
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It depend on who you talk too. If taken proper care a heat pump can last 25 years. I have friends with Geothermal systems 30 years old. But dirty coils and abrupt power outages can make life short. In your case a new heat pump with a variable fan will lower your electric bill.

Good thing it is running. You can shop around and decide.

Good Forums on Heat Pumps - http://www.hvac-talk.com/vbb/

Site with Good Information - http://www.toad.net/~jsmeenen/

Certification Organization and tables of info on systems - http://www.ari.org/

Comparing R22 to R410A - http://www.google.com/search?q=R410A...&start=10&sa=N

Lennox Training Site. What this. Not for the consumer.
http://www.lennoxcommercial.com/res/...10a/frame1.htm

Site to find who owns what - http://www.johnmills.net/work/history.html

Not sure why I have this - http://www.highperformancehvac.com/a...ditioning.html

Carrier Link - http://www.residential.carrier.com/p...ps/index.shtml

Another Forum Site - http://www.hvacmechanic.com/

Luxaire Site not sure why I have it- http://www.luxaire.com/heating_cooling.asp


Buying Guide Site - http://www.air-conditioner-selection...ing-guide.html
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Old 04-07-08, 06:38 PM   #7
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I considered it. The problem was that the unit kicked out in the middle of night on a Friday when it was well below freezing.
Well, if it's any consolation, when I lost my first compressor after ~10 years on the job (split system, builder quality grade), I did the same thing and sunk the $ into repairing it (ouch). As a result, when the second system started acting up (now year 17+), I took the time while the weather was nice to research my options and ended up replaced both units with much more energy efficient versions.
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