InSinkErator Garburators: Vancouver area garbage disposal installations

InSinkErator, a division of General Electric, is the top selling brand of garburators. They are known for making the quietest garburators on the market (for their Evolution series).

Badger Series

The Badger Series is InSinkErator’s lower cost line of garburators. They have galvanized steel grinding components, which are not as durable as the stainless steel components in the higher-end Evolution Series models.

 

InSinkErator Badger 5 Garburator

InSinkErator Badger 5 Garburator

Badger models include shorter warranties (1-3 years) than Evolution Series models. Note that the manufacturer’s warranty only covers manufacturing defects- it does not include things such as normal wear. For this reason we suggest you don’t expect all repairs to be covered, and that you should mainly consider the guarantees offered by the installing company.

The Badger Series includes the 1/3 hp Badger 1, the 1/2 hp Badger 5, and the 3/4 hp Badger 5 XP. The models share similar features except for the horsepower level.

 

Evolution Series

The Evolution Series is InSinkErator’s higher-end line of garburators. These models feature stainless steel grinding components for enhanced durability, and they have longer warranties (4-7 years). They are also the quietest garburators you can buy.

Evolution Excel: This is the top InSinkErator garburator. It features a powerful 1 hp motor and is the quitest garburator you can buy, besides the Evolution Cover Control (which features a drain cover that reduces noise).

Evolution Essential: This is the second best InSinkErator garburator, with a 3/4 hp motor. It is slightly louder than the Evolution Excel but still one of the quietest garburators available.

 

InSinkErator Evolution Essential Garburator

InSinkErator Evolution Essential Garburator

Evolution Compact: Similar to the Evolution Essential but designed for situations when there is a lack of space under the sink. It has less sound insulation than the Essential, which makes it a bit louder.

Evolution Cover Control: This is also similar to the Evolution Essential, but it has a cap that must be put in place before the garburator can begin to grind. This is for when additional safety is desired, such as when children are present in the home.

 

How much power do you need?

This depends on what you want to grind.

Lettuce and carrot peels can be problematic for less powerful garburators (1/3 and 1/2 hp units). These should be slowly fed down the drain.

If you want to grind tougher, more fibrous items such as corn husks, potatos and potato peels, celery, artichokes, fruit pits, bones, and egg shells, then you should select a more powerful unit (3/4 hp or 1 hp). Even with more powerful units, these items should be ground with caution.

 

We currently install garburators starting from $199. See our online specials on garburator installatons.

To schedule a garburator installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Waste King Garburators: Vancouver garbage disposal installations

North America’s best regarded consumer publication has rated Waste King’s higher end garburators (the Gourmet SS3300 and Legend 8000) as the best systems available (the Gourmet SS3300 was recently replaced with the Legend 3300). They were found to grind food faster and more finely than other garburators, minimizing the chances of jams or clogs. Their noise levels were also quieter than average.

Compared to InSinkErator garburators, Waste King models generally have higher RPM motors. This is why they are generally better at grinding food, but also somewhat noisier.

Higher end Waste King models include a stainless steel grinding chamber and grinding components, which makes them more durable than models with plastic chambers and galvanized steel grinding components. These models include a lifetime corrosion warranty.

 

Waste King Garburator

Waste King Legend 3300 Garburator

Waste King models also include the longest warranties in the business, with some models even including lifetime warranties. These are in-home service warranties, which means that Waste King will send someone out and replace it for free if necessary (so you don’t even pay labour). However, note that this warranty only covers manufacturer’s defects. It does not include drain blockages that the garburator fails to prevent, nor does it include normal wear and tear, jams, or other issues. The network of contractors who provide this service (who may not be the same as the installing company) might also change and service might not be available in your area.

For these reasons, we suggest you mainly look at the warranties and guarantees offered by the installing company rather than the manufacturer.

However, while we don’t recommend you assume the manufacturer’s warranty will cover required repairs, the length of the warranty is an indication of the units overall durability and reliability.

 

Features to consider

Power

More powerful units typically also have more durable grinding components and are suitable for grinding a larger variety of food waste.

Lettuce and carrot peels can be problematic for less powerful garburators (1/3 and 1/2 hp units). These should be slowly fed down the drain.

If you want to grind tougher, more fibrous items such as corn husks, potatos and potato peels, celery, artichokes, fruit pits, bones, and egg shells, then you should select a more powerful unit (3/4 hp or 1 hp). Even with more powerful units, these items should be ground with caution.

Stainless steel grinding chamber & components

Some units have stainless steel grinding components, while some have less expensive galvanized steel grinding compontents. The stainless steel components are more durable, and will not corrode over time. Stainless steel units typically last longer.

EZ Mount or 3-Bolt Mount

In the past, garburators were fasted to the sink adapter by 3 bolts. Now, garburators with a rubber attachment (called an “EZ mount” system by Waste King) are becoming more popular.

While resulting in a slightly less sturdy installation, the EZ mount system is also slightly easier to install and enables a quicker replacement when necessary. The splash guard can also be more easily removed to allow clearing of the grinding components (if necessary- but be careful the power supply has been disabled when doing so).

Since the slightly lesser support provided by the EZ mount system is rarely a problem, these systems have become more popular and are much more widely available. For this reason, we usually install EZ mount Waste King garburators.

Batch feed

Batch feed models require a cap to be inserted above the drain before the garburator can be operated. This is useful when additional safety is desired, such as in homes where children are present (it also prevents the accidental dropping of silverware, watches, etc. down the drain which may damage the garburator or the items dropped).

 

Waste King Garburator Model Guide

Waste King basically makes 6 different models of garburator. However, they each come in up to 3 different versions: an EZ mount version, a 3-bolt mount version, and a batch feed version.

1/3 HP, 2 year warranty, galvanized steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 111   3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9910   Batch Feed Model: NA

1/2 HP, 2 year warranty, galvanized steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 1001   3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9920   Batch Feed Model: NA

1/2 HP, 5 year warranty, stainless steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 2600   3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9930   Batch Feed Model: Legend 2600TC

3/4 HP, 8 year warranty, stainless steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 3200  3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9940   Batch Feed Model: NA

3/4 HP, 10 year warranty, stainless steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 3300   3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9950   Batch Feed Model: Legend 5000TC

1 HP, lifetime warranty, stainless steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 8000  3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9980   Batch Feed Model: 8000TC (batch feed model only includes 10 year warranty)

 

We currently install Waste King garburators starting from $199. See our online specials on garburator installatons.

To schedule a garburator installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Rheem Water Heaters: Install an Energy Star hot water tank and get a $200 FortisBC rebate

We are now installing Rheem Energy Star hot water tanks. These tanks have an Energy Factor (EF) of 0.69 for the 40 gallon model, which puts them ahead of most other Energy Star models (which are usuly rated .67 or .68). They are about 10% more efficient than standard new hot water tanks (which are usually rated at 0.62) and up to 25% more efficient than older tanks (which can be rated at 0.53 or less).

Rheem Hot Water Tank

Rheem PRO 40 Energy Star Hot Water Tank

Rheem also includes a 6 year parts warranty on functional components, in addition to their 8 year warranty against tank leakage. Most other water heaters only have a 1 year warranty on parts.

When you install a new Energy Star hot water tank, FortisBC will give you a $200 rebate. This program has just been extended until December 31st, 2013.

Right now, we also have an online special where you can save an additional $130 on a new Energy Star hot water tank (subject to end at any time).

Energy Star Water Heaters

Also note that FortisBC rebates of $400-$500 on tankless water heaters and $1000 on condensing storage tanks are available. Learn more about these systems on our tankless water heaters post.

When is it time to replace your old hot water tank?

With some home insurance companies, if your hot water tank is over 8 years old, any water damage caused by leakage will not be covered. So this is when you should start to consider replacement. We estimate tanks last for 11 years on average (although this varies considerably).

To schedule your hot water tank installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

 

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How to unclog a kitchen or bathroom sink drain: Things to try before calling a plumber

If your sink is clogged, there are a number of things you can try before calling a plumber.

Use a plunger

Many sink blockages can be cleared with a sink plunger. You can also use a toilet plunger if you push in the flange- but it will be more difficult to use and potentially unsanitary as well.

Sink vs Toilet Plungers

It is easier to unclog a sink with a sink plunger than a toilet plunger. Image by Caitlin McCormick- Dribbble.

When using a plunger, be sure to get a tight seal between the plunger and the sink, as this is necessary to create suction. Also be sure that the plunger is filled with water, as it can only create strong suction when acting on water, not air. You might have to refill the sink multiple times before you’ve cleared the blockage. Cover the overflow (the hole at the top of the sink) with a damp towel, so that pressure cannot be released. If it’s a double sink (as in a kitchen) you must also cover the second drain. It always helps if the sink is filled with hot water (but not boiling water, as you could burn yourself) since this can help soften up blockages.

The below video shows how a plumber with 35 years experience unplugs a sink. Some prefer to use quick, repeated plunges rather than the slow single plunges demonstrated here.

If you’ve already tried drain cleaning chemicals, then don’t use a plunger. You could potentially splash corrosive chemicals on yourself or your bathroom.

Clean out the P-trap

Your sink will have a P-trap below it, which is where the drain pipe goes down and then comes up again (the purpose of this is to leave a layer of water in the drain that will prevent sewer gasses from entering your home). The bottom of the P-trap is a common location for clogs. If you’re a bit handy, you should be able to remove and clean out the P-trap yourself. For many types of traps, all you’ll need is a bucket to catch any water that comes out when the trap is removed. But for some types, you’ll need a pair of water pump pliers.

 

P-trap Blockage

A P-trap is a dip in the drain pipe that is a common location for clogs.

The below video shows how a P-trap can be removed.

Remove stopper

It is not uncommon for hair and other items to become stuck to the stopper and slow down the drain. Fortunately this can usually be removed and cleaned without any tools. The video below shows how.

Use a coat hanger

After you remove the stopper, you may be able to remove any nearby blockages with an untwisted coat hanger. If you’ve already tried cleaning the P-trap and plunging the sink, this probably won’t solve your problem, but it’s worth a try in some cases.

Drain cleaning chemicals

We usually don’t recommend drain cleaning chemicals. Not only are they bad for the environment, they’re also dangerous.  Using corrosive chemicals might also lead to additional charges if you have to call a plumber, as extra care will have to be taken and the equipment will have to be washed extra thoroughly after cleaning the drain. This is especially the case when dealing with a complete blockage (as opposed to a slow drain).

One less hazardous (but still requiring caution) method is adding baking soda and vinegar, followed by warm water. This can clear some blockages.

What about grease?

Grease is the worst substance when it comes to clogging drains, so it should never be poured down a drain. If you think your drain might be clogged with grease, one thing you can try is pouring dish soap down the drain. Dish soap is specially made to break up grease. See how in the video below.

If these tips don’t work, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) to schedule a service call, or use our online form.

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Electronic Air Cleaners: How effective are they?

When electronic air cleaners (EACs) started to become popular about 15 years ago, they were hailed as a highly effective and economical way to clean indoor air. However, more recently, they have been criticized for their production of ozone (a lung irritant) and because they require regular cleaning (which many homeowners do improperly or not at all). For these reasons, most major heating & air conditioning manufacturers have stopped promoting them, and switched back to high efficiency media filters. But some still believe EACs are a good solution due to their overall effectiveness and relatively low maintenance costs.

Amana Electronic Air Cleaner

An Electronic Air Cleaner

Tabletop vs Whole-House EACs

A well known vacuum cleaner company has been promoting a tabletop EAC using TV infomercials. However, for homes with ductwork, we recommend EACs that hook up to your furnace, as they can provide whole-house air cleaning with only a single system.

An electronic air cleaner usually works in 4 stages:

1) A pre-filter removes large particles. These are usually made of a steel mesh, and can easily be cleaned under running water.

2) An ionizer gives the remaining smaller particles a negative charge.

3) The particles are collected on positively charged plates.

4) An activated charcoal filter removes odours and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Many odour-causing molecules and other harmful compounds are too small to be removed by any filtration system, except for activated charcoal filters, which capture many of these compounds. This is the only part of the system that requires regular (usually annual) replacement, although it is optional.

Electronic Air Cleaner

How an electronic air cleaner works: Particles are given a negative charge by an ionizer and are then collected on positively charged plates. Illustration by Evan Mason.

Effectiveness

An EAC can capture most particles as small as 0.1 microns (1/250,000 inch, smaller than most bacteria). A 1999 CMHC comparison of 10 different filter types found them to be highly effective,  removing about 90% of particles. They were found to be the most effective, and were ranked #1 for value, because they can be used for many years without requiring replacement of any filters or other components (except for the odour-removing activated charcoal filters, as odours were not included in the study).

Furnace Filter Comparison

CMHC Study comparing the effectiveness of furnace filter types. ESP (electrostatic precipitator) is another name for an electronic air cleaner. 1”MED = 25 mm pleated media high quality, 4”MED = 100 mm pleated media, and E.PAD. = electronic charged pad. The HEPA filter also had a very high efficiency (90%+), but the bars are shorter as only a portion of the total airflow was passing through the filter.

Ozone production

A study showed EACs to increase indoor ozone levels by 7-10 parts per billion (ppb) on average. This compares to the EPA’s 80 ppb standard for declaring a “bad air day”, so it may be the case that the overall cost effectiveness of EAC’s still makes them a good option. Indoor ozone levels with the EAC running were still usually lower than outdoor ozone levels. However, ozone considerations may lead homeowners who are especially concerned with air quality to opt for other filtration systems.

Cleaning

A more recent CMHC study showed that these filters must be cleaned regularly (as often as once a week) to keep them operating at top efficiency. You can see an EAC cleaning video here. Homeowners who are unable to regularly maintain the system should consider other filtration options.

To see other options for whole-house air purification, visit our whole-house air cleaners post. For information about installing an EAC or other air cleaner type, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Whole House Air Filters: Comparing HEPA filters, electronic air cleaners, UV lamps, and 5″ filters

How do professionally installed air cleaners compare to 1” filters and portable air cleaners?

According to North America’s best regarded consumer publication, professionally installed whole-house air cleaners with 4-5” filters outperform  standard 1” models (even including the more advanced “allergen reducing” filters that are sold in hardware stores). They outperformed room air purifiers by an even greater degree, as most of these systems ranked very poorly. According to the EPA, most portable air cleaners currently on the market do not circulate enough air to effectively remove large particles such as pollen, dust mite, and cockroach allergens.

This is why we recommend you install a whole-house air purification system. These systems utilize the airflow provided by your furnace to clean all of your home’s air, which also means you will only have a single system to maintain. We install several types of whole-house air cleaners, which are described below.

Electronic Air Cleaners

Electronic air cleaners (EACs) consist of an ionizer that gives particles a negative charge followed by a series of positively charged plates that collect the particles. Most also have an optional activated charcoal filter, which can remove certain odours and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

Amana Electronic Air Cleaner

An Electronic Air Cleaner

EACs are popular because they do an extremely good job at cleaning air, removing most particles as small as 0.1 microns (1/250,000 of an inch, smaller than most bacteria). A 1999 CMHC study ranked them #1 out of ten different filter types. They also do not require the regular replacement of any filters, UV lamps, or other components (except for the optional activated charcoal filters).

Unfortunately, these filters have also been found to produce ozone, a lung irritant. However, indoor ozone levels usually remain below typical outdoor ozone levels, so it’s debatable whether this is a serious concern (except with some individuals who are especially sensitive to ozone). Still, homeowners who are especially concerned with IAQ may opt for other filter types for this reason. See our electronic air cleaners post for more information on this issue.

A more recent CMHC study showed that these filters must be cleaned regularly (as often as once a week) to keep them operating at top efficiency. You can see an EAC cleaning video here.

HEPA Bypass Filters

HEPA filters remove over 99.97% of all particles that are over 0.3 microns in size. The CMHC study confirmed that these filters remove almost all of the particles from the air passing through them. Replacement filters are more expensive than with other filter types, but overall operating costs are still moderate since the main filter can last up to 5 years. Only part of the airflow is directed across the filter, and this can be a concern when the furnace is not regularly circulating air (as is usually the case with older, non-variable speed furnaces that are not used for continuous circulation). The ease of installation depends mainly on how your home’s ductwork is arranged.

4-5” Media Filters

North America’s leading consumer publication gave Lennox’s 5” MERV 16 filter the highest rating they have ever given an air purifying device. They greatly outperformed 1” models (which don’t require a new filter cabinet to be installed), including even the fancier “allergen reducing” kinds. These filters have a large surface area (since the filter media is folded over a 4” or greater width), so they only require annual replacement in most homes. They are nearly as effective as HEPA filters.

Lennox Furnace Filter

Lennox’s MERV 16 filter removes most air contaminants and allergens, even including viruses and odours.

Lennox PureAir Air Purification System

Lennox’s PureAir air purification system includes a spot for their top-rated MERV 16 and MERV 10 5” filters, followed by titanium dioxide catalyst plates and UV lamps. The catalyst plates attract bacteria, viruses, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and odour-causing molecules, which are then destroyed by the UV lamps.

Lennox PureAir

Lennox's PureAir system “Cleans the air in your home better than any other single system you can buy"

Lennox claims this system:

-“Cleans the air in your home better than any other single system you can buy”

-“Removes OVER 95% of particles ranging in size down to 0.3 micron [1/75,000 of an inch, smaller than most bacteria and many viruses].”

-“Removes OVER 90% of bioaerosols ranging in size down to 0.01 micron [1/2,500,000 of one inch].”

-“Removes and destroys approximately 50% of household odors and chemical vapors in a 24-hour period.”

UV Lamps

Lennox UV Lamps

Lennox UV Lamps: "Reduce concentrations of airborne bioaerosals (bacteria, viruses, pollen, etc.) by 50% within as little as 45 minutes."

UV lamps destroy living contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and pollen. They are more effective when coupled with a special filter that traps these things (such as with the PureAir system). However, they can still be effective when installed by themselves in the ductwork. Lennox’s UV Germicidal Lamps can “reduce concentrations of airborne bioaerosals [bacteria, viruses, pollen, etc.] by 50% within as little as 45 minutes.”

Also, when installed above an air conditioning coil, they can prevent bacteria from growing on it.

To have one of these air cleaning systems installed, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489), or use our online form (select “Other” for “Type of service” and “Type of system”).

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Lennox Vs. Trane Vs. Carrier Heat Pumps: Which brand is best?

The major heat pump manufacturers all make lines of heat pumps with comparable specifications. The specifications for HSPF (heating efficiency),  SEER (cooling efficiency), noise levels, and warranty duration are very similar when comparing models within each class. This is probably due to the fact that the different brands often use the same components.

Overall, Carrier and Lennox units tend to have very similar efficiency ratings (Carrier units usually have slightly higher heating ratings but slightly lower cooling ratings). In terms of published specifications, Trane systems fare the worst, having lower efficiency ratings and higher noise levels than competing models.

The HSPF & SEER ratings are measured by the AHRI, an unbiased organization.  The noise levels are measured by the manufacturers, so the differences here might be due to different testing procedures rather than real differences.

If noise levels are a major concern, we invite you to visit our Surrey showroom, where you can see the Lennox XP17 in operation, which is advertised as the quietest heat pump on the market.  The noise levels are rarely a concern except when installed in a bad location or when dealing with strict strata councils.

Comparing the systems

Each manufacturer makes a range of heat pumps, with the more expensive models generally having higher efficiency ratings and lower noise levels. Comparable units from each manufacturer are arranged side by side.

Lennox Carrier Trane
XP21 (2 stage)
9.70 HSPF, 19.20 SEER
67 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HNA9/B9 (2 stage)
10.0 HSPF, 19.00 SEER
69 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XL20i (2 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 17.90 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
12 year compressor warranty
10 year warranty on other parts
XP17 (1 stage)
9.50 HSPF, 17.70 SEER
62 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HNB6/A6 (2 stage)
9.75 HSPF, 17.00 SEER
69 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XL16i (1 stage)
9.2 HSPF, 17.00 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
12 year compressor warranty
10 year warranty on other parts
XP16 (1 stage)
8.70 HSPF, 16.50 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HNB5/PA5 (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.00 SEER
68 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XL15i (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.00 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
12 year compressor warranty
10 year warranty on other parts
25HCB6 (2 stage)
9.5 HSPF, 16.50 SEER
70 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XR16 (2 stage)
9.5 HSPF, 18.00 SEER
73 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XP14 (1 stage)
9.50 HSPF, 16.50 SEER
71 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XR15 (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.50 SEER
75 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XP13 (1 stage)
8.70 HSPF, 14.50 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XB14 (1 stage)
8.5 HSPF, 15.00 SEER
78 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
14 HPX (1 stage)
7.70+ HSPF, 14.00+ SEER
76 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HCB3/C5 (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.00 SEER
69 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XR13 (1 stage)
8.5 HSPF, 14.00+ SEER
76 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
13HPX (1 stage)
7.70+ HSPF, 13.00+ SEER
62 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HBC3/C5 (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.00 SEER
69 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XB13 (1 stage)
8.5 HSPF, 13.00+ SEER
78 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components

Each model is available in several different sizes, usually ranging from 24,000 to 60,000 BTU. Generally, the smaller sizes are quieter and more efficient than the larger sizes. For ease of comparison, the best rating (among all sizes) is listed for the HSPF, SEER, and noise levels.

The warranty terms listed here apply when the system is properly registered by a qualifying dealer. Some systems may include shorter warranties depending on the dealer and whether or not the system is registered properly.

Carrier Greenspeed

Carrier recently introduced their Greenspeed lines of inverter heat pumps, which are about 30% more efficient than other air source heat pumps, and maintains their heating capacity down to much lower temperature. However, we’re still waiting to see how reliable these units are. We currently install the Mitsubishi Zuba inverter heat pump, which has been in production much longer, and offers similar low-temperature performance.

Importance of a quality installation

In a recent report, Consumer Reports found that “28 percent of the builder-installed units failed compared with 18 percent for owner-installed systems.” (Note systems “installed by homeowners” refers to homeowners who hired a heating & AC contractor, not to homeowners who performed the installation themselves.) This shows the type of installer chosen can increase breakdowns by more than 50%.

Aa UK study by the energy saving trust measured the real world efficiency levels of 28 heat pumps. They found that only 4 of the systems performed near their potential efficiency, and several of them were operating less than half as efficiently as they should have been. So installation quality can more than double the performance of a heat pump. This suggests that choosing a contractor that performs quality installations is much more important than which brand you choose.

Heat Pump Installation EfficiencyUK Heat Pump Efficiency Study: Only 4 of 28 heat pumps were classified as “well performing.” The rest suffered significantly due to poor installation quality. Several of the heat pumps were operating at less than half of their potential efficiency. This suggests selecting a quality installer is more important than brand selection.


These results suggest that while some brands may be slightly more efficient or reliable than others, choosing a poor company to install your system can increase breakdowns by more than 50% or decrease efficiency by more than half. In general, choosing a good installer seems much more important than brand selection.

To learn more about your heat pump installation options, visit our heat pumps page.

To schedule a free quote on a new heat pump, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Air Source vs. Geothermal Heat Pumps: Comparing efficiencies

It used to be considered “common knowledge” that geothermal (or ground source) heat pumps are a lot more efficient than air source heat pumps.  During the winter,  temperatures are a lot higher under the ground than they are in the air, which means a geothermal system should be able to extract heat much more efficiently. The opposite will be true in the summer- a geothermal system should be able to move heat into the cooler ground more easily than an air source unit can expel it into the warmer outdoor air. However, you also have to remember that a geothermal system has to pump a heat transfer fluid (usually a mixture of water and antifreeze)  through the ground, and running this pump can take a lot of energy. Recently, “cold climate” air source heat pumps that specialize in extracting heat from cold winter air have been released. This has caused some to question whether geothermal systems are really much more efficient.

Comparing the efficiency ratings of geothermal and air source heat pumps

Geothermal heat pumps are given a COP (coefficient of performance) rating. This is the ratio of heat energy produced to the amount of electricity consumed. For example, a system with a COP of 4.0 is estimated to produce 4 watt-hours of heat for every watt-hour of electricity it consumes.

Air source heat pumps are given a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor rating, which is an estimate of the BTU’s of heat  that will be produced by each watt-hour of electricity. Different HSPF ratings are given for different regions, as the efficiency of an air source heat pump is highly dependent on the climate. The average COP (across all temperatures) of an air source heat pump can be roughly estimated by dividing the HSPF by 3.41 (the number of BTUs in a watt-hour). Note that the HSPF also takes into account the need for back-up heat (it assumes an electric furnace with a COP of 1 is being used on very cold days). Some manufactuters publish tables of the COPs their systems achieve at various temperatures, but others do not.

The pump reduces the efficiency of a geothermal heat pump

The COP (coefficient of performance) numbers that are published by geothermal heat pump manufacturers do not account for the electricity required to run the pump, as this will vary from case to case. However, this can be a substantial amount of energy. In an article on Green Building Advisor, energy consultant Henry Gifford estimates that pump usage will cause a typical geothermal system’s COP to drop from 3.5-4 down to less than 3.0- a level that can be achieved by many air source systems.

New air source systems deliver much higher COPs at lower temperatures

Until recently, air source heat pumps were just moderately modified central air conditioners. They were primarily engineered for maximum cooling efficiency. But now “cold climate” air source heat pumps are being released. Mitsubishi has been a leader in this regard, and their Zuba central heat pump maintains most of its heating capacity and efficiency down to -25C. Carrier recently released their Greenspeed heat pump which is rated at 13 HSPF, meaning it offers superior efficiency levels than many geothermal systems. Other manufacturers are expected to follow.

Are geothermal systems worth the extra expense?

Installing a geothermal system usually costs at least $20,000 more than an air source unit- and that doesn’t include the cost of repairing your lawn after it is dug up. With geothermal systems offering marginal or even no energy savings over cheaper air source units, we don’t feel they are suitable for many homes.

Real word performance comparison: UK study

A study done in the UK by the Energy Saving Trust measured the real world performance of 28 air source heat pumps and 53 geothermal systems. Although the geothermal systems performed slightly better on average, note that the best performing geothermal systems had similar performance to the best performing air source units. The wide range in performance within each category highlights the importance of a quality installation.

UK study on real world heat pump efficiencies: The geothermal systems did slightly better on average, but the best performing air source systems performed just as well as the best performing geothermal systems.

Learn more about air source heat pumps on our heat pumps page.

To schedule a free quote on an air source heat pump, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489), or use our online form.

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Bosch Vs. Navien Vs. Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters: Who makes the best tankless water heater?

Deciding which brand of tankless water heater to install can be a difficult decision, as there are no consumer publications that provide brand recommendations and seemingly no sources of unbiased reviews. Hiring an established contractor that guarantees their work remains the best way to ensure you get a quality unit, as such a contractor will only install units that have a good reputation within the industry and have worked well for them in the past.

Bosch

Bosch offers a fairly complete line of tankless warer heaters. Their models have efficiency rating of 78-95%, and heating capacities of 75,000-225,000 BTUs. The larger units are capable of supplying 2 showers simultaneously. All systems include a 15 year heat exchanger warranty and a 2-5 year warrranty on other parts, depending on the model. We mainly install Bosch  tankless systems  when the homeowner does not wish to install a condensing (more efficient and expensive) model. We have been installing them for over 10 years and find them to be very dependable when installed correctly.

Bosch Tankless Water Heaters

Bosch Tankless Water Heaters

Rinnai

Rinnai also offers a complete range of tankless water heaters. Their systems range in efficiency from 82-98% efficiency, and have capacities of  120,000 to 199,000 BTUs.  They claim their 199,000 BTU high efficiency model can supply up to 4 simultaneous showers, but we think this might be an overly optimistic claim (probably referring to  light showers on a warmer day). Their 10-12 year heat exchanger warranties are shorter than Bosch’s, but all other parts are covered for 5 years for all models. We mainly install Rinnais when the homeowner wishes to replace an existing furnace and hot water tank with a tankless water heater and attached hydronic air handler. This is usually done when a new high efficiency furnace will be too difficult to install. Since we still have mid efficiency furnaces in stock, we don’t do this very often right now. However, we expect it to become a more popular option in the future.

Navien

Navien introduced the first condensing tankless water heater (“condensing” means “high efficiency” or over 90% efficient), and they currently make the most efficient systems on the market, with verified efficiency levels as high as 97%. Their heat exchangers are made from durable stainless steel and are warrantied for 15 years. Other parts are warrantied for 5 years. We usually install Naviens when  a homeowner requires a very efficient high capacity system.

Navien Tankless Water Heater

Navien Tankless Water Heater

Tank or Tankless

Tankless systems offer advantages such as lower energy costs, an unlimited supply of hot water, and  longer system life. But they are also much more expensive to install.

To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of tankless water heaters, visit our water heaters page.

To schedule a quote on a tankless water heater, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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Hot Water Tank Reviews/ Ratings: Which brand is best?

When buying a new hot water tank, one of the main questions homeowners ask is “which brand is the best?” Unfortunately, no major consumer publication  (such as Consumer Reports) or surveying organization (such as JD Power)  conducts brand reliability surveys. Consumer Reports just recommends to install a tank with a longer warranty, because ”sawing open a cross-section of gas and electric storage-tank models in our lab confirmed that paying a little more typically buys a better water heater. Those with longer warranties tended to have larger heating elements, thicker insulation, and thicker or longer corrosion-fighting metal anodes. ” However, since efficiency standards are higher in BC than the rest of Canada and the US, only the tanks with longer warranties  (8 years) are available.

Hot Water Tank Rankings2006 JD Power Water Heater Subcontractor Satisfaction Study. This is the closest thing to an impartial reliability survey that can be found. Reliability, product quality, and warranty fulfillment were among the factors considered.

The closest thing to a reliability test ever performed was a 2006 Subcontractor Satisfaction Study performed by JD Power. Some of the most important factors surveyed included reliability, product quality, and warranty fulfillment. Of the three major manufacturer’s, Bradford White finished first an Rheem finished  a close second. Incidentally, these are the two  brands we install (we install Rheem Energy Star  gas hot water tanks and Bradford White tanks for other purposes). We have found both brands to be relatively reliable.

Learn more about the hot water tank models we install on our hot water tanks page.

To schedule a hot water tank replacement or repair, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

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