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Old 02-05-2014, 09:25 AM   #1
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Electric Plenum Maintenance?


OK, i have a trane air source heat pump with an electric plenum heater as the auxillary unit. I live in minnesota and this winter has been brutal to say the least. in the december billing cycle the average temp was 8 degrees so for nearly the whole month the plenum heater was the main source of heat . for that billing cycle my daily usage was about 230 kwh. this is heating about 2500 sq ft. I'm not complaining i know what i have and accept it, my question is this:

What can go wrong with plenum heaters? i am not familiar with their construction, are there individual elements that can go out like a water heater that need to be replaced? Are there regular maintenance items that i need to be aware of?

Also I am still getting used to this form of heat, given the size of the heating area and the brutal weather, is 230 kwh per day expected? ballpark of course.

thank you all and stay warm!

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Old 02-05-2014, 01:46 PM   #2
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Electric Plenum Maintenance?


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Originally Posted by thegopher View Post
i have a trane air source heat pump with electric auxillary heat. ... I live in minnesota...
You should have a REAL furnace (gas, oil, etc).
Get one.
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Last edited by TarheelTerp; 02-05-2014 at 01:50 PM.
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Old 02-05-2014, 03:15 PM   #3
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Electric Plenum Maintenance?


Thank you for taking the time to reply with such a helpful response.
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Old 02-05-2014, 04:32 PM   #4
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Electric Plenum Maintenance?


The strip heaters are very much like the coil you see in a toaster. They can break. There should also be a thermal limit. it can go bad, if you have low air flow. But no actual normally serviced parts.

While your KWH consumption seems high to me. You are in a much colder area then me. So it may be normal/average for your area.
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Old 02-05-2014, 08:47 PM   #5
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Electric Plenum Maintenance?


I don't think Tarheel's comment was bad.

For $1000, why don't you just install a gas furnace right beside the heat pump contraption and run it in the winter and shut down the heat pump?

I realize you get some cheap rate on your electricity, but what does 230 kw cost you per day? Seems like I used to get monthly electric bills for around 400 kw.
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Old 02-05-2014, 09:03 PM   #6
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Electric Plenum Maintenance?


The plenum heater is in the basement of a the story house, there was never a had furnace in this house, or gas water heater etc, everything was electric. So although there is now ductwork as part of a remodel by the previous owners, there are still no gas appliances. I think it would be quite expensive to install a gas furnace where there currently is not one due to venting and such. Am i wrong? And where can i get a gas furnace for 1000? Don't get me wrong, I've thought about replacing it, but i don't have the luxury of spending that lump sum of money. I was simply asking if there are things i should be looking for on my current system.
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Old 02-06-2014, 05:23 AM   #7
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...there are still no gas appliances.
The question is whether there is gas service (or not) in the house.
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I think it would be quite expensive to install a gas furnace where there currently is not one due to venting and such. Am i wrong?
Pretty much.
As said above (and if you have gas) it's the path to take.

If you don't have gas in the house but it's in the street the gas company will often have good deals available to get that work done.
The next choice is going to oil.

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And where can i get a gas furnace for 1000?
LINK to one of many options

Quote:
I was simply asking if there are things i should be looking for on my current system.
Not really. The HP is doing what it can and as designed.
It's just inadequate to the job you want done.

Last edited by TarheelTerp; 02-06-2014 at 05:26 AM.
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Old 02-06-2014, 09:08 AM   #8
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Electric Plenum Maintenance?


I wish I had a dollar for every heat pump set-up with an in-line "toaster". An engineer and a hvac company installed one in a large public building where I used to live and it couldn't come close to keeping up in the mild winter. Their explanation was that the heat pump had sucked all the warmth out of the earth in that area. !!!!!!

They ended up installing a few supplemented natural gas fired furnaces so they could heat the place in the winter.

Yeah, it's not a big deal to get gas to your house if it is in the street. I've never been charged for it, but it was always new construction. I think part of their franchise agreement says that they have to supply residences within the franchise area, subject to a service agreement, blah blah blah.
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Old 02-06-2014, 04:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
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I wish I had a dollar for every heat pump set-up with an in-line "toaster". An engineer and a hvac company installed one in a large public building where I used to live and it couldn't come close to keeping up in the mild winter. Their explanation was that the heat pump had sucked all the warmth out of the earth in that area. !!!!!!

This is common when they under size the earth loop. Which often happened to engineers that spend enough time learning about Geos before designing and sizing earth loops.

They ended up installing a few supplemented natural gas fired furnaces so they could heat the place in the winter.

Yeah, it's not a big deal to get gas to your house if it is in the street. I've never been charged for it, but it was always new construction. I think part of their franchise agreement says that they have to supply residences within the franchise area, subject to a service agreement, blah blah blah.
In some areas, where people have a choice of who to buy gas from. The gas company that owns the lines, charges the customer instead of using a service contract if the line run is over X hundred feet.
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Old 02-06-2014, 04:13 PM   #10
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LINK to one of many options
Now add on the cost of the B vent chimney that he will need for that furnace.
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Old 02-07-2014, 12:22 PM   #11
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Electric Plenum Maintenance?


While you can purchase an 80% efficient furnace for $1000, installation will be 2-3 times that for a basic replacement install. If you don't already have a vent/flue system in the house, then that option is likely not financially viable. You will need a 95%+ efficient condensing furnace with direct, through-the-wall venting which will likely double the price. Why not call two or three HVAC companies and ask them what they can do to cut your heating bills and work out the payback time?

Edit: As far as your original question, there's not much to go wrong or maintain with resistance strip heating - they either work (if there's continuity) or don't work (if the coil is broken).


Last edited by sktn77a; 02-07-2014 at 12:25 PM.
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