209: In Hot Water – Heat Pumps!


Matt and Sean talk about heat pumps and the when, why and how of them for heating water. Hot water heat pumps are gaining in popularity, but are they a good idea?

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, The Genius Of Hot Water Heat Pumps https://youtu.be/abGiNL9IT54?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7HT9O73K9oYUe19eS-wjxX

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On today’s episode of Still to Be Determined, we’re going to talk about what Matt uses to wash his skin. Hi everybody. I’m Sean Ferrell. I got you with that one, didn’t I? I’m a writer. I write some sci fi, I write some stuff for kids, and I’m just generally curious about technology. And luckily for me, my brother is that Matt of Undecided with Matt Ferrell, which takes a look at emerging tech and its impact in our lives.

And Matt, how are you doing on this cold and rainy early March afternoon? It is

dreary outside. It is pretty good. Other than that, pretty good.

Yeah. Yes. It’s awful.


We thought we’d go out and meet some friends for a lovely afternoon brunch. And somehow I think both my partner and I got it into our heads that it was a lovely spring day. So we stepped outside wearing. Spring jackets. And it was just beginning to rain and we live in Brooklyn.

So we headed to the subway to go to meet our friends. And the subway line that we would need to take to get to our friends was shut down. So we had to walk and it was walkable, but it was a longer walk and it was cold and dreary and rainy and the wind started to pick up. And then as we left the restaurant, it had gotten even worse.

So I’ve decided. I’m not leaving my house ever again.

It’s a good choice. So it’s a good choice.

Before we talk about Matt’s most recent episode, which is about heat pumps. I said it like that anticipating that Matt would do some sort of interpretive dance hip thrusting, but he did not. So I am disappointed.

We always like to jump into the comments from previous episodes and usually I go through the comments and, and find ones that catch my eye. But this time Matt has caught a couple that are really worth sharing. So, from one of our previous episodes from User XT. User jumps in to say, Hey, Matt, I’m really interested in how the audio track feature works since yours is the only channel I have come across where this feature is enabled and consequently you start talking in German to me with a nasally voiced version of your voice.

I would really love for you to share some details. on how this works, is the voice AI generated, where did the translations come from, and so on, on your brother’s follow up podcast. Greetings from Spain. So here we are on your brother’s follow up podcast, and now is your opportunity to talk about this feature.

And this is a feature, just to give a little bit of background before Matt goes into it, this is a feature that Matt told me about, was going to be coming up, where he said, there’s this service that allows me to have a button on my videos, So that as people around the world watch them, they will have the option to watch them in their native language, and it will sound like my voice speaking in another language.

And I was like, all right, this is a thing now. It was then. Two weeks later, and I remembered that Matt had told me that this feature would be dropping on this coming video. So I turned on the video and I was listening to Matt say, blah biddy blah. Here we are talking about blah biddy blah. And then I clicked the little button and suddenly Matt was speaking in Japanese and it was still his voice.

It clearly doesn’t align with the lips, but it is Matt’s voice saying now, blah biddy blah. talking about blah bitty blah, but it’s all Japanese. And I had to go think about the future for a while and think about my life, the decisions I’ve made. And Matt, take it away. Talk to us a little bit about this service, how it works as far as you know, and what you, and also just in general, what are you hoping?

To accomplish in using it on your videos.

Well, there, there’s two ways to answer that are one, YouTube is trying to, is slowly rolling out a feature for multiple audio tracks for this exact thing, because they’re trying to make content accessible worldwide. So they’re slowly rolling this out. My channel got this multiple audio track feature, and then I started looking into, well, I need a service to help me dub these videos, and there’s a service called DittoDub.

That I finally came across. I tried several of them, wasn’t impressed. And then this one came up and I got to do a video on AI. I’ve got, there’s so much stuff to talk about, but specifically there’s all this horrific stuff we’re seeing where it’s like, Oh, OpenAI has this thing called Sora where they can make it look like anybody’s doing anything.

And it’s, Oh my God, our future is going to go down the toilet with misinformation. But there is awesome stuff you can do with this stuff. This tool, what it does is that whatever video you throw at it, it will take all the voices in that video, detect how many voices there are. So like if I did you and me, it would detect two voices and it would say person one and person two.

And then what I can do is I can then tell it to clone that voice and then Take that cloned voice and put it in German, put it in Japanese, put it in this. But here’s the thing that blows my mind about this service is that not only does it do a very good job translating to these other languages, but it will strip my voice out of the video, leaving all the music and sound effects in place, and then reinsert my cloned voice speaking in Japanese or speaking in Chinese or Hindi or whatever languages I’m picking.

And so you end up with a video that still has all the music, sound effects, everything, and then just this. Voice that is clearly speaking a foreign language. It is mind melting. It’s awesome because it’s going to open up. My hope is it opens up a new potential audience because YouTube will only push videos.

It prioritizes videos in the person’s net, you know, natural language because Germans are most likely going to watch German videos. Japanese are going to watch Japanese videos. There’s also cultural differences for why people would prefer one video over another, but language is the primary one. So if you have a video that’s in the native language of that viewer, it defaults to German or defaults to Japanese, and it’s more likely to then get Recommended on their homepage or the suggested videos.

And so it’s kind of like starting a dozen new channels in a way on my channel. So it’s like, it’s opening up new potential audiences and I’ve already started to see some comments in Arabic, some comments in Japanese. I’ve already started to see that pop up and it’s freaking awesome to see that. Um, I’ve also joked my wife that I got a marble mouth.

I have, I do a horrible job speaking in English. I joked, I should probably have it translate my English audio into English and then just use that audio because it would probably pronounce, the pronunciation would be way better than what So I’ve, I’ve thought about doing that, but regardless, I’m probably going to be doing a video about AI.

And I want to use this tool as an example of one of the good things you can do with large language models and machine learning. And I also want to try Uh, some patrons suggested I do this is take one of my videos, translate into German, and then have the tool translate it back into English and see what it’s like.

Not even that. I thought it’d be funny to do that and just keep doing it back and forth again and again and again and again and again and see what kind of game of telephone ends up happening. Like what’s it sound like after six translations? After 12 translations, how bad does it get? Yeah. You’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole.

Like, is it going to be talking about a completely different topic? What’s it going to be talking about? Uh, but regardless, that’s the whole, the whole point of doing this. And, um, I’d recommend anybody that’s interested go check out DittoDub. com. It’s very interesting what they’re doing.

I think it’s interesting, as you said, it would take music and sound effects and pull the voice out, those remain in place, and then the voice is added back in, which makes me want you to include not only what you said about like taking a track and dubbing it back and forth into various languages and seeing what it comes out with, the stage six, stage seven, but also like Have a video with tons of sound effects in the video, like

(Sean makes cartoon noises) like just locomotives and honking horns and like, uh, and see how effective it is at actively pulling the right track out and leaving those things in place. I’m curious about that side of it as well. There were also a couple of comments that made Matt laugh about us laughing about the Hindenburg, which as I say it like that makes us sound like terrible people.

But regular viewers and listeners will remember there was a episode of Matt’s channel, which was about hydrogen used in blimps. And of course the Hindenburg comes up from a safety perspective. And then a commenter on that video pointed out that. He knew an anecdote of somebody who had been on the ground when the Hindenburg blew up, witnessed somebody running from the disaster, who fell and then managed to run on his hands and knees just as fast as the running people out from underneath the disaster.

And I’m starting to laugh again as I recount that story. So there were a couple of comments like this. From Mark Loveless, who said, thanks, I now have this crazy mental image of Lance Armstrong cycling, Simone Biles doing gymnastics, Wiley Coyote running with 85 legs, and the little robot thing Chewbacca growled at running from the Hindenburg.

Collapsing. I would watch that movie. There’s also this from NJ Slacker who wrote, I haven’t laughed while listening to a podcast in a long time. Listening to the story of someone running on all fours from the Hindenburg and hearing you two laugh about it was so funny to me. Well, it was funny to us too, NJ.

Thank you so much for the comments. There was also this one from our most recent episode, episode 208, where we were talking about solar net metering. Reid jumped into the comments to say, such a brother vibe, brother one, I’m sick. Brother two, laughs. So it was that. That’s about right. Michael von Apert.

Came into the comments to say, after seeing how the power system failed in Texas during the snowstorm a few years ago, and the state’s indifference to the losses suffered by Texans, I’m not surprised solar with individual storage has become popular. I’d bet they are getting larger storage systems than the average as well.

I’m curious, Matt, do you know about. On a state to state level, or region of the country level, are there regions of the country where solar and battery is simply becoming more widely accepted for reasons like this because of natural disasters, because of lack of belief in the grid maintenance? Are we seeing pockets of the country where battery Storage purchase and solar purchase is on the rise for that reason

in particular.

Uh, my data is a little out of date, but California and Massachusetts lead the charge in the country for residential solar. Um, and they, they have a lot of battery installations, but it’s. A very small percentage of overall solar that’s getting installed. I have anecdotal references to Texas. Um, a lot of fans of the channel, patrons I’ve been in contact with, there’s a lot from Texas and solar is extremely popular among those folks.

And batteries is part of that conversation because there’s a, there’s a fierce independent streak in Texas. Um, and being in charge of your own destiny is very important. And so batteries would go along with that. So I think that’s part of the reason why, uh, but I don’t, I don’t know offhand If there’s been a surge in battery usage because of things like that, that snowstorm that knocked things out, I’d have to look into that to find out.

There was also this comment that stood out to me from AI4pix, who wrote in to say, The way many power companies calculate the value of the power you sell them will cause what I call, Stingy solar. That’s where I do not enter into a net metering agreement, but rather produce when I need and run my house on batteries.

I won’t sell power to the grid at all. I’ll only buy on rainy days. Many inverters, such as solar, can measure what comes and goes out of your meter and will make only enough to run your house. But not sell any power. I wonder if there is a growing number of people for whom pulling off of the grid entirely in this fashion is the preferred method to avoid the headaches of what you talked about in your video within

that metering issue.

It is again, I don’t have. Like research data behind it. I have a lot of anecdotal data behind it, but there’s a lot of people that reached out to me that are all very pro DIY solar, or even if you’re not doing DIY, going off grid for this exact reason. Uh, and I get it because some regions like Texas and others, they might have the net metering rules may almost incentivize you to kind of go at your own because it’s too.

laborious to get grid connected because of permits or the rates that you’re going to get paid out actually are almost negative to you. So it kind of incentivizes the opposite, which is what states shouldn’t be doing. They should be doing the opposite thing. But I hear from a lot of people that are talking about SOLARC that are doing their own thing.

Like one of my patrons, he is, he’s built his own little tiny home. And it’s off grid. It’s like he’s basically off grid. He’s got a whole battery system. He bought used solar, so he got it dirt cheap. And he did all of that because he doesn’t want to be relying on the grid. He doesn’t want to deal with the grid because of this nightmare.

From my personal perspective, Massachusetts, which is, actually has great, Net metering and stuff like that. Permitting is a nightmare. It’s like I’m, I had my solar installed months ago and I’m still waiting on my batteries to get installed because of a stupid permit and the utility allowing it to happen because it’s grid connected.

If I wasn’t grid connected, those batteries would be installed right now. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s kind of a. It’s a, it’s a, I don’t know what you would call it, like a bag of pain, like a, it’s a hell hole that you kind of wade through with the permitting. It’s not fun. A term that,

a term that I, uh, came across actually in work, my work environment was bureaucratic violence.

That’s what this feels like. That’s what it is. It’s bureaucratic violence. It is the infliction of pain for no reason other than bureaucracy doing a thing. So somebody somewhere for probably, at the time, considered very good reasons said, well, we should make sure people have permits to put these in. And if I had to guess At the time that that rule was put in place, the number of permits being sought was a very small number.

And now you’re in a situation where probably a huge number of people are looking for those permits, and yet they have no greater number of permit providers. So you end up with bureaucratic violence.

But my specific situation, what is perplexing to me, it’s the same utility, it’s Eversource, and my solar system, without batteries, is going to be pumping excessive amounts of energy in the middle of the day into the grid, which creates that thing called the duck curve, which puts strain on the grid, and like, the more of that happens, the utility has to manage that.

If I had a battery system, I would That would, they would avoid that, right? That problem. So it’s like, you’d think the utility would be like wanting to green light that battery system as fast as they could to get that on the thing. So I’m not like pouring all this stuff into the system. And then I also want to sign up for the connected solutions program, which is the virtual power plant system.

So the utility can actually use my battery at times of excessive use on the grid. So I would actually help in the grid. So again, you’d think they’d green light them as fast as they could, but they’ve been dragging this out for months. It’s like, I don’t. I don’t get it. I don’t understand. It’s so perplexing.

On now to our conversation about Matt’s most recent episode. This is his episode titled The Genius of Hot Water Heat Pumps. And he released this episode on March 5th, 2024. And amongst the comments that I found, there were a lot of people who are basically in the same boat as you. They use these, have potentially used them for quite a long time.

So the anecdotal evidence supports a lot of what you talked about. Like this comment from Derek Ross, who wrote, I live in Nova Scotia. I installed a 50 gallon heat pump water heater in 2018, but I didn’t remove my old 50 gallon electric water heater. Instead, I have the cold feed supplying the HPWH. and the HPWH feeding the EWH.

That way the heat pump does the majority of heating and the electric water heater just keeps the water at temperature. Doing that immediately cut my household electricity costs by a third and doubled the amount of hot water available to me. Thus no problems with recovery time and the basement is well ventilated so I have no regrets.

It’s worked very well over the last six years. I think this tandem water heater setup sounds It’s really like the best of both worlds. And I was wondering, is there a model of hybrid heat pump slash electric water heater that is available for somebody who wouldn’t do what Derek has done, added one to the system?

Is there one for somebody who’s building a new home who says, I want a combo, the heat pump and the

electric? That is the one I’ve got. My Rheem Proterra water heater is a hybrid system. It has resistive. Heating elements inside of it, as well as the heat pump that can heat it up. And so in one unit it’s kind of doing what he’s doing with two separate units.

Yeah, because I, I brought it up in the video and it caused some people to ask drop comments of like, how does that make sense? Where if you run it in what they call eco mode, which is using the resistive and the heat pump, it uses less energy overall than if you’re just doing heat pump. And you would think.

Just doing heat pump, which has got this high COP, it should be the best way to do it. Um, when you read into the description of from Rheem is why that works that way. It’s because of like what, um, Derek is writing about. It’s kind of like, uh, imagine like an electric car that has two different motors and one’s good for higher speeds and one’s good for like lower speeds.

So you’re using one like low speed motor to kind of get you going and then you’re using a different. You’re using a different motor when you’re at speed because it’s more efficient than the other one. So it’s kind of like flipping between the two. It’s the same thing for heating water. If, if like you have a family of four that basically drains two thirds of the tank and it’s refilling with two thirds cold water, it’s going to take the heat pump by itself a very long time to get that up to temperature.

But the resistive heating element can get it to temperature much faster, but it uses way more energy. So imagine they’re kind of working in tandem with each other, consolidating that time down. And the amount of electricity that’s used in the burst is a lot of electricity, but it’s for a much shorter period of time, which means over the course of days and months, it’s actually using less electricity because it’s working in tandem with each other.

So that’s kind of the benefit of having this kind of like hybrid system. And a lot of these water heaters are hybrid. Um, and there’s even ones that are like where mine looks like it’s a regular water heater with a hat on top. Uh, there’s ones where the hat is actually disconnected. So it’s like, it’s just the regular water tank and then it has tubes coming off of it.

And then you’ve got a separate just heat pump and you can put it anywhere. You can put it in the same room. You could actually put it outside and have it vented inside. So there’s these systems that allow you to kind of be more flexible in how you’re using it and putting it. Uh, but the bottom line is.

These hybrid systems are kind of like where it’s at. That’s kind of the best solution.

There was also this comment from Jonathan Daviris who wrote, Plumber here, I’ve installed maybe 10 of these and they’re pretty cool. The downside is the inlet and outlet are on the side of the tank, which makes installation a little tricky to look neat and organized.

Also, they have extra step since the Condensate needs to be piped to the floor drain. One small downside for end users is that the filter needs to be cleaned once monthly, where a tank water heater only needs maintenance once a year. Do you have any experience with the filtering aspect that that Jonathan is

bringing up.

It does have to be cleaned and dusted out because stuff may build up in it. But once a month seems excessive to me. I don’t know what models he’s installed, but like my Rheem does not say that I should be doing it monthly. Um, I’m just going to be checking it probably every six months. But again, I’ll let you know in time how that works.

But yeah, it’s, it’s not like it’s hard to clean. It’s just something that you have to kind of keep on top of because the, it’s like a radiator. So like as if dust and gunk starts to build up in it, it starts to lose some of that effectiveness. You just have to kind of keep it clean. There was

also this comment from N Hunter who seems to be channeling the comments that you were just talking about, about indoor outdoor installation.

I also live in Massachusetts and says, and have had a heat pump water heater for 12 plus years. A lot of people are commenting that these units should be installed outside of the building envelope, but you can’t practically do that in Massachusetts or any Northern climate because the pipes would freeze.

If you live in a warmer climate zone, it absolutely makes sense to put it in a garage or somewhere similar, but not here in Massachusetts. Is there. A strict limitation on that in Massachusetts. Would you agree with that? That putting it outside just doesn’t make sense. Or are there models available that would be more of a standalone and super insulated, probably more expensive to keep the pipes from freezing?

I. In Massachusetts, I never see any kind of water heater outside. I’ve never seen that. I don’t care if it’s gas, electric, heat pump. You really don’t see that partially because of what he’s saying. It gets too cold. It gets below freezing temperatures. And then for a heat pump water heater like my Rheem, it’s only really effective the heat pump portion down to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, if you have a basement or a garage that doesn’t get below 40 degrees, you could put it in there. Uh, but you’re kind of asking for problems, I think, in this region. Um, and to kind of jump off of what NHunter is bringing up here, there was also a ton of comments I saw about these don’t work in cold climates or it’s stupid to do it because It’s going to be stealing heat that you’re using from your, your HVAC by your heating systems, heating the air.

And then this thing is stealing the heat from the air to make the hot water. Um, and that’s not effective. And my rebuttal to that is it is effective because the amount of heat that it’s pulling out of the air is so negligible compared to what you’re doing to heat your house. You’re not going to notice. in a electricity use or your bill that this thing is doing it because it’s so much more efficient so much more efficient that even though it does kind of eat into your HVAC costs and usage just a little bit you’re still coming out ahead it’s it’s still beneficial and I don’t think people are kind of wrapping their head around that um

and on top of which, a lot of people here in Massachusetts, mine’s in a mechanical room. My mechanical room was like a meat locker when I first did it. I talked about that in the video. Most people have them in a basement. It’s like, you’re not heating your basement. You’re not heating the mechanical room.

So it’s like, it’s not going to be fighting as much with your HVAC system as you think it might. Um, so I think a lot of those comments might be coming from people who don’t live in this climate or people who have heard The grape Vine that you’re not supposed to do this, but as somebody who’s living with one, and I know lots of people in this area that live with one in the exact same way I am.

It works great. First hand experience. It’s, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do and it works just fine and it’s not jacking up my HVAC costs. Um, it’s, it’s, they work surprisingly well in cold climates.

So listeners, viewers, let us know in the comments, do you personally have similar experience to Matt or do you have an experience that Matt maybe hasn’t touched upon in either his original video or in this one?

Let us know in the comments

and yes. One last thing. I got to apologize to people. There was a graph I put in the video that got some people worked up and they were right. Um, I had a graph that came up and showed my old gas heater therms to kilowatts. Kilowatt hours. And the graph, of course, it’s two, it’s like apples and oranges on one graph.

And so it’s like, uh, what, what am I looking at? And people were saying you should have converted that to kilowatt hours and they’re a hundred percent right. And so I just wanted to put it out there on my website. I put a link to this in the description of the YouTube channel, but I also put it on my website, a new graph where I converted therms to kilowatt hours.

So on the graph, it is apples to apples comparison for how much energy the gas used versus the heat pump and It’s kind of fun to look at because holy crap, if you want to see the efficiency difference, that graph drives it home.

It’s actually clearer and more useful in that regard.

Yeah, it’s way clearer and much more useful.

So before we sign off, Matt, do you want to give our listeners and viewers a hint about your next video coming up?

Oh man. Um, the next one is, it’s about Small hydro, because some people have asked about, can you do hydro at home? Like if you have a creek or a river in your backyard, can you do something with that?

So I did a video about small hydro and one of the systems we talk about is a turbine that actually has no blades. It’s crazy. Kind of trippy how it works.

Looking forward to that one. As usual, jump into the comments. You can also like and subscribe and share it with your friends. All of those are great ways to support the podcast.

And if you’d like to more directly support us, you can click on the join button on YouTube or go to stilltbd. fm and click the become a supporter button there. Both those allow you to throw coins at our heads. We appreciate the welts and then we get down to the hard business of talking about the Hindenburg yet again.

Thank you everybody for taking the time to listen or watch and we’ll talk to you next time.

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