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Want to install mini split heat pump

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Posted by: from Victoria
8/13/2012 at 11:34:16 PM

I have been looking at installing a mini split heat pump and having a great deal of difficulty with the quotes I am hearing. I can buy the unit I want in Canada from a place in BC. The system consists of the out door unit and two indoor units, at a Canadian cost of about 2500.00 (which is still a lot considering in the US the same outfit costs about 1200.00).

The indoor units would install on the same side of the house, same wall one in the above ground basement and one higher up that wall for the main floor. Both are going into open concept rooms and would nicely heat most of those areas with the electric baseboards being back up.

I am being quoted over 7,000.00 for the unit and installation from local business and they won't install a unit I buy elsewhere or if they will install still want almost 5000.00 for installation.

I am a very handy person and looking at the requirements could install this myself, minus the electrical wiring if it wasn't for the regulations.

Why the huge install price? Is there anyway to get this price down?

I would feel this is an attempt to take advantage of me but hear similar stories from others. I am the single breadwinner here and won't make that kind of cost back on heat savings for more years than its worth and am now considering it isn't worth doing.

REPLIES (11)
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Date/Time8/14/2012 at 3:34:47 AM

Hello Susan,

I know, the plumber will hate me for this post, but I think you are absolutely right. Just use your brain: When you bring your car to a car repair workshop/garage they will charge you about $100 to $120 per hour + material. Which is in my opinion already pretty expensive. However everyone is doing this, so you don't really have another choice.

Assuming the plumber needs $1000 for the material (which I don't think he will never need) Then he'll charge you $4000 for installing your mini split heat pump system. Assuming he needs 3 full days to install it (which I think he'll never need) Then he spend lets say (including his driving time 2 hours a day) 30 Hours in total. $4000 divided by 30 hours = $133 per hour. ☻

You as the customer spend 2500 for your mini split heat pump, He'll get it much cheaper. So he'll lose the profit at the heat pump and therefore he will charge you more to compensate his profit loss. However he has no work with the heat pump: No order, no pick up, no delivery etc. So it's not very polite what he is doing.

Another story is the warranty. I don't know exactly how it works here in Canada. I am originally from Germany and when I installed over there a bathroom and the Customer was buying the material by himself, I was unable to give them a full warranty for my work, because I didn't buy the material and therefore I can't warranty for it. For example: If the thinset which the client bought was already too old (maybe it was a special offer at the hardware store) the installation could fail because of the weak bondage strength.

Every business owner has his own costs. And these costs are not for everyone the same. We have to take care of our self for medical expenses, wear and tear of our tools, cars, wages for our workers. Office etc. Our wage rates are not = profit!

My advice: Ask him how much time he will need to install the system. Ask him also how much he'll need for material. And ask him how he will accomplish his work. If he is "transparent" and willing to answer your questions accordingly and if he is able to explain the price so you can better understand, then everything should be ok. If not, then better let him go. Furthermore get more quotes from other installers so you can better compare the quotes.

Regards,

3D-Tile-Design - Bertram Tasch

Maple Ridge, BC (Greater Vancouver)

+1 (778) 886

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Date/Time8/14/2012 at 8:19:58 AM

I can't comment on the labour costs. That just might be the going rate in your area, or not enough competion. However in Ontario, a homeowner can work on his/her principal home. This includes electrical, gas and HVAC. They don't advertise this of course, but it is allowed. The work just has to be inspected.

If you want to do some of the work yourself. I would check with your local authorities and push the issue if you have to. Then find a decent company that is willing to work with you. You might have a problem with the warranty, but if you buy a known quality brand, you shouldn't have a problem. Most warranties now a days have so many restrictions, they aren't worth much anyway.

Good luck.

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George from CDM Services Ltd. in St Albert
Date/Time8/14/2012 at 9:45:28 AM

Your heating system is like an expensive car. Although it's essential to choose one with a history of quality, performance, reliability and customer satisfaction, it's the equipment and the customer service that's most important.

While it's essential to choose a heat pump with a history of quality, performance, reliability and customer satisfaction, the most important factor is the installation itself.

A heat pump is calculated in "tons" and it is the correct tonnage that gives you the comfort and economy for your home. Some my think a larger unit is better but not in the instance of a heat pump. If the air conditioning portion is oversized, your home will retain moisture and you'll feel uncomfortable. Resulting in the air-conditioning not running long enough to take the humidity out of the air.

Remember, this is a highly sophisticated machine; all components must be exact. Not only is the calculation for correct sizing important, but also properly "sized" and installed ductwork is crucial. These are but two (2) areas that will determine the enjoyment you can realize with your new heating and cooling system. There are many technicalities in a proper installation, and Universal has the capability to provide this critical factor.

Another factor in pricing, is the area in which you live...

Thank you and good luck, I hope a respectful, honest contractor finds you...

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Big Rock Mechanical Inc. in Burnaby
Date/Time8/14/2012 at 1:05:16 PM

For installation consider this:

The outdoor unit needs to be placed somewhere accessible for servicing. If it's on the roof of your house, a crane may be required. How would you secure the unit? Do you require structural engineering to ensure the load is not too great?

The indoor units will need to be mounted securely somewhere. Do the units come with hanging brackets, or would you need to fabricate some yourself?

Brazed copper pipe will need to be installed between all three units. This tends to be fairly expensive, as brazing takes time, and in the confined spaces of your home there is a fire hazard. Copper itself is also fairly expensive.

The system will then need to be evacuated, and then charged with refrigerant, by a certified refrigeration technician.

Electrical wiring will be required to be installed by an electrical contractor in order to meet local codes.

When you take into consideration all these factors, including time spent picking up material to complete the job, installation time, testing time, etc., you're looking at probably a multi-day installation. In the case of your average split heat pump, the cost of the equipment itself is significantly less than the work required to install it.

While a handyman may be able to install one of these, some of the materials cannot be purchased by a handyman (such as refrigerant), and what happens if something goes wrong later on? Maybe a compressor overload due to too little refrigerant causes an electrical fire. The cost of replacing a portion of your home is far greater than the savings you gain by installing the system yourself.

Also, which companies may I ask provided you a quotation, and are they local to Victoria or in the lower mainland?

Cheers,

David @ Big Rock Mechanical Inc.

604-564-6684

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Susan in Victoria
Date/Time8/14/2012 at 10:58:42 PM

Wow - thank you for your e-mails. It always helps to understand the contractors point of view.

I still think my particular case is very straight forward and the quotes too high. The installation would have been a straight up from the outside unit to the indoor ones and I have a cement base at ground level under a four foot roof overhang for the outdoor unit.

I understand the comment about warranty but the manufacture of the mini split unit warranties the unit as long as it is correctly installed.

I am not sure what I am going to do, but appreciate everyone's comments, I wrote this in frustration trying to understand the pricing, my husband when he was alive was a tradesman and I helped with his books so I do understand the need to ensure your income compensates for the benefits that others have.

For now a wood or propane stove is beginning to look better and better and I will probably give up on this idea. My nephew is an electrician and if I can get him to come for a visit I might revisit the idea of doing some of the work myself.

Thanks,

Susan

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Jen in Victoria
Date/Time12/13/2012 at 11:04:36 PM

Susan,

I wonder if you purchased and installed a mini split heat pump? I am hoping to install my own system and am having the same thoughts and experience as you, in fact, I could have written your letter our experience is so similar.

Jen

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Kent in Victoria
Date/Time1/8/2013 at 10:31:35 PM

Hey,

Just saw this post. I live in Victoria and have installed 3 of these systems and have 3 more to do in the next couple months before the home energy grant ends. All 3 systems were easy to install and have worked flawlessly from day 1. It's not for everyone but I have a background as a licensed mechanic and have done many home renos so I had no problem with it.

Brazing copper lines and charging the units is not required as the system uses flared lines and comes precharged. An important final step is to pressure test and vacuum the copper lines before start up. It's not mandatory but highly recommended as any moisture or contaminates could affect performance and shorten the life span of the compressor. This is what scares a lot of people away from doing the job themselves or having a non-hvac installer do the work.

When I did the first system (my own) I had a heck of a time finding someone to do the final step, I guess It's a job protection thing. Anyway luckily my brother knew someone, he was a real nice guy and charged me $200. I bought the equipment and will be doing it myself from now on. In the end I saved over $3000 by doing the job myself and it's prob the best thing I have ever done for my house.

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Dean in Victoria
Date/Time5/16/2013 at 4:05:38 PM

Susan,

You will find a lot of HVAC companies will only install reputable manufactures equipment, this will always cost the contractor more than purchasing "internet" units but ensure their name is not tarnished. We have replaced a lot of internet units for customers as the companies never seem to be around a year later, or will not honour warranties (loop holes, etc.) As I am sure you are aware most companies need to make a profit to survive until next year so will of course mark up their equipment and materials to pay for insurance, heat, hydro, WCB, vehicle, gas., etc., etc., etc. This will of course add to the costs to the consumer during the installation. I looked up an average equipment costs for a 3 head multi-split and 2500 is less than we can buy reputable equipment for, and we are one of the larger installation companies.

The other cost factors stem from a correct installation of the equipment to ensure your investment does fail years before it should. A proper installation with todays R410a refrigerants MUST be completed using a dry nitrogen pressure test, followed by a triple evacuation procedure of pressuring and evacuating, to ensure that there is no moisture in the system. Failure to remove this moisture below 25PPM will significantly reduce the life expectancy of your unit, as the R410a refrigerant is hydroscopic and will create acid in your system by breaking down the oil. This procedure alone can take hours, and sometimes days to complete. Also adding to the costs of course are the electrical circuits, this type of installation will require a circuit from your panel to the outdoor unit, as well as a circuit from the outdoor unit to each indoor unit. These costs are generally near 1000 with proper permits but varies greatly depending on the installation difficulty.

Of course having said all that we have installed/assisted and started customer supplied equipment in the past, as I feel its VERY important that these types of units are installed correctly to ensure their longevity. BUT we make certain that the homeowners understand that if something is to fail in their unit, they are solely responsible for the claiming/receiving any possible warranty from their manufacture or internet sales company. Note: read warranties CAREFULLY most manufacture will not honour "internet" sold units. AND most cheaper manufactures are here today gone tomorrow.

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Doug in Duncan
Date/Time9/13/2013 at 12:36:12 PM

This has been a most interesting thread. I too wish to install my own split system. I have been maintaining my old system for some years, have the tools (including evacuation pump), and understand the process of installation. However, I have had no luck finding a source to purchase the system. Seems some of the better manufacturers deal exclusively through dealers who will not sell the units without also doing the install. I would be grateful for any leads.

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Doug in Duncan
Date/Time3/21/2014 at 5:51:08 PM

I did manage to find a new replacement unit for my heatpump. It was quite the journey. Anyone and everyone I spoke to in the HVAC business told me it was impossible and my house would blow up and my ears would fall off, if I attempted to do this kind of work myself. I admit the work of installing, brazing the lines (with a nitrogen shield), evacuating the lines, testing static pressures to insure the heat exchanger in the air mover would see enough air, testing subcool, ect. was complex and needed to be done with great care and attention.

Also certain specialized tools are needed: gauges, vacuum pump, high vacuum gauge, static air pressure gauge, gauge manifold, brazing torch and tanks, nitrogen tank and fittings.

It is more than a weekend job for a person doing this and having to train themselves, and if you consider your learning time to be work, perhaps it is a large project to take on. BUT! If you consider the learning of new skills more fun than work, the actual physical work is quite moderate.

The specialized tools are all available off Kijiji, Craigslist and Ebay. I bought used tools, went to the trouble of insuring they were in good shape and calibrated. I discovered that the original installation done by professionals a decade ago, was lacking in some areas and professionally done in other areas. As you know, if you do it yourself, you can take the time to make sure steps are not skipped.

I was quoted between $8500 and $11,000 above the cost of the pump and airmover for what I estimate would take an experienced HVAC company 2 to 3 days labour. My cost for all the tools and materials above the cost of the pump and air mover was less than $800. They have a cartel and a monopoly and they use it. So if you are an avid DIYer with reasonable tools and skills, I would highly recommend it. I enjoyed every moment.

Doug

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Date/Time4/26/2014 at 6:31:13 PM

Hello there,

The price for an installation on a ductless system is a wide discuss topic on every forum.

The truth is that the price will range from $ 2.500 to 4.500 for the same system ( make, model number, capacity etc.)

What does it make the difference? The company that provide the service. Right now at Riroxs Refrigeration, we have a spring sale going on, where a 9.000 BTU ductless system ( good up to 350 sf) will go from $ 2,200 to 2,900 for an LG top of the line unit. Including installation

Alway keep on mind that more important that the brand name on any equipment, the key component is the installer.

We attend all the time service call from units that where not installed properly. Regardless of how handy a person can be, the installation of a complex system ( Furnace, boiler, air conditioning) has to be done by certified professionals.

If you decide to do the installation yourself, you can buy the proper tool online practically anywhere, but the warranty of your new unit will be void.

We do not advice to buy online any kind of ac or heat pump units.

Pay close attention to the small print when buying online.

1.- The on line seller will usually no honour any warranty.

2.- If they do honour the warranty they ask you to ship the equipment back to them...really?

A wall mounted unit? And you will have to cover shipping cost, and wait for weeks.

3.- Some sellers offer to reimburse the repair cost. There is so much paper work that many people simple give it up.

Ricardo Chappa

Riroxs Refrigeration service manager


Want to install mini split heat pump

Want to install mini split heat pump

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