217: Heat Pump Teamwork – Are They Worth It?


Matt and Sean talk about whether or not networked, cascading heat pumps are viable for home use. Are they worth it?

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, How This New Heat Pump is Genius https://youtu.be/wSgv5NwtByk?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi7uzySCXq8VXhodHB5B5OiQ

YouTube version of the podcast: https://www.youtube.com/stilltbdpodcast

Get in touch: https://undecidedmf.com/podcast-feedback

Support the show: https://pod.fan/still-to-be-determined

Follow us on X: @stilltbdfm @byseanferrell @mattferrell or @undecidedmf

Undecided with Matt Ferrell: https://www.youtube.com/undecidedmf

★ Support this podcast ★

On today’s episode of Still to be Determined, we’re talking about taking your little heat pump and attaching it to another little heat pump and so on and so on and so on. Hi everybody. As usual, I’m Sean Ferrell. I’m a writer. I write some sci fi, I write some stuff for kids, and I’m just generally curious about technology and with me, as always, is my brother.

He’s that Matt from Undecided with Matt Ferrell, which takes a look at emerging tech and its impact on our lives and his videos start our conversation, but they also incorporate your comments and we love to hear what you have to say. So let’s get the conversation rolling. But first, how are you doing, Matt?

I’m doing well. It’s been a good weekend, . I’m looking forward to talking about heat pumps all the way down . That’s basically what we’re doing right now.

It does feel like that, uh, the. We’re going to get into that conversation. Uh, we’re going to get into the topic around, is this something that seems viable for, for homeowners?

And we’re going to look at what the breakthroughs in the, the company called Fluid, what they’re actually managing to do. But before we do that, we always like to revisit the mailbag and take a look at what you had to say about our previous episodes. And from our earlier episode, episode 216, solar panel scams, there were comments like this from Cassius Drake.

The conversation around the gap between expert and popular understanding of a topic and the way that information is discussed really brought to mind two laws from the sci fi fantasy realm. Clark’s law says any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Sanderson’s second law states an author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional.

To how well the reader understands said magic. You could perhaps summarize the interaction here as people’s willingness to accept an advanced technological solution is directly proportional to how well they understand that technology, which I will henceforth refer to as Drake’s law. This of course, being the commenter’s name.

I really like that. The public doesn’t trust new technology to solve their problems because those technologies no longer function at a level that they can understand or meaningfully distinguish from magic. I, this is something we talked about last time. We talked about this. Uh, I think this is, I really like the idea of Drake’s law as far as marketing goes and public summaries and public media talking about breakthroughs that are involved in research.

It really does seem like there’s a need to take a step back to fundamentals. And I think that’s one of the things you’ve tried to incorporate. And I wanted to ask you to talk a little bit about how do you know when you’ve gone enough into fundamentals? To be able to give the viewership the ramp they need to get up to the harder topic.

Oh man, this is a, it’s a tough balancing act all the time. I mean, another way to rephrase kind of what Cassius brought up, it’s confirmation bias. It’s people tend to believe the things that strengthen their own values and structures and beliefs that they already have. So if they think that the green agenda and climate change is a hoax and they see somebody talking about solar panels, they’re going to be more inclined to kind of like shut it down.

For me, when I’m going into these topics, for me, I find context is key to everything. So it’s a matter of, okay, we’re going to talk about this technology. We have to give everything context and have to lay down that groundwork, uh, that, that kind of ground floor understanding of what this stuff is to give everybody enough information so that they can kind of.

understand it and hopefully get past those confirmation biases that we all have. Um, And it’s always a balancing act because there are times where we go a little too far and we provide too much detail. And then I see in the comments, real video begins at six minutes, 40 seconds, because people are like, you’ve been talking about all the groundwork for six minutes and we didn’t need all that stuff.

So it’s like, I’m not, I’m never like hitting it right in the head. Sometimes I’m not giving quite enough. Other times I’m giving too much. So it’s constantly like Trying to weave that, uh, weave that all in. One of the things I do is there’s a lot of people have their fingers into the scripts of these videos.

Everybody from, I have science advisors that read them. I have non science people reading them. So like my wife is a good example. So it’s one of those, I have people who don’t know a thing about this stuff reading it. And then I have people that know everything about this thing, talking, looking at it. And it’s really interesting to see the feedback that we, I get on scripts as they’re getting put together.

Because sometimes the people who know all the details are like, Oh, you should add this, or you should add a comment about that thing. And it’s like, it’s like Pandora’s box. It’s kind of like, Whoa, we’re kind of getting a little too technical here. We’re getting a little too much information. And then on the flip side, you get somebody who reads it, who knows none of this stuff.

If their eyes start to glaze over, you know, at a certain point, it’s like, we’ve gone too far. We got to dial that back. Um, but yeah, it’s, it’s a constant challenge because we have to give enough context for people to wrap their heads around it and hopefully get past their confirmation bias. But we don’t always succeed at that.

Yeah. Once again, I’m reminded of Homer Simpson trying to fix the crack in his foundation, watching the foundation work for dummies video. And he’s surprised when the gaps in his knowledge don’t get filled automatically by the video. I wonder, have you ever considered using timestamps with markers and titles for the various sections where you could say, like, first we’re going to talk about some basics and then we’re going to get into the nitty gritty.

Have you ever tried that?

Yeah. Yeah. Imagine it

makes it easy for people to skip the basics and then complain that the video is too complex.

Well, here, here’s the thing about the, the chapters. Sometimes chapters don’t fit neatly into my videos and then other times they do. If And the, just the truth of the matter is I’m a little lazy.

And so I constantly am forgetting, oh, we should be adding, adding the chapter markers to the description, which will give you those nice breaks in the thing. So it’s one of the, I’m trying to get better about that. I want to put those into all my videos. Um, but it, there’s a, Like I said, sometimes it fits neatly.

Sometimes it doesn’t because it depends on the narrative story and the script and the things that we’re putting together. So it’s sometimes they’re hard to put chapters on. Uh, other times they’re better and we’re going to be experimenting with that kind of stuff going forward.

I also saw a lot of comments on the last video in which we were talking, of course, about pulling technology.

Uh, like solar panels or other sustainable tech, new tech into your home and the pushback other people have against like, you’re getting scammed. And there were lots of comments from people sharing their personal experiences. I didn’t see anything. And I looked for quite a while. I didn’t really see anything that looked like somebody saying, yeah, I got scammed, but I did see a lot of comments about personal experiences, like somebody jumping in.

This is from Darth Sirius, who said, I have a 19 kilowatt solar system on my roof. My bill last month was negative 15 dollars and 43 cents. Man, I sure feel scammed.

Do you know, Sean, do you know what my electric bill was this past month? Sure. Negative 45 dollars. I feel so scammed. So, yeah, I’m in the same boat.

There is also this from Canastel who said, Solar panels are great, but the installers overcharge, in my opinion.

And there are many underhanded installers that take advantage of the uninformed, giving the industry a bad rap. Do you have any insight into this kind of complaint? Is there, I know there’s uneven Standards from state to state, from region to region, from country to country. But is there a way for people to find an installer that operates?

in some kind of standard that provides guidance for the consumer around maybe ethics, good billing practice, good quality of work. Is there a seal of approval that somebody gives along those lines that you’re aware of?

Here in the United States, the answer to that is no, there’s no, it’s, it is kind of the Wild West, which is part of the problem.

And so that commenter is a hundred percent right. It’s, there are shitty installers that give a bad rap to everybody. It’s like a really seedy car salesman making all used car salesmen seem seedy. It’s like, there are reputable ones out there, but they get a bad rap just because of the notoriety of the bad ones.

I’ve looked into Finding data or research into like how prevalent the problem is, because the problem I’ve found is it’s all anecdotal. Um, and most of the time when I hear about these scams, it’s like my neighbor, my cousin’s best friend, it’s always stuff like that. It’s never somebody going, I got scammed.

It’s almost always stories of people getting scammed, secondhand, thirdhand information. And so, I always take it with a massive grain of salt. I don’t think it’s as bad as people say it is, but there absolutely are bad companies out there. My word of warning is if you have somebody going door to door, showing up at your house saying, Hey, we’re such and such solar company.

We’re going to your neighborhood to talk to you about solar. Close that door. Lock it and walk away. It’s like, those are the kinds of companies you want to stay away from. It’s, you always want to be doing the outreach on yourself, doing your own research. And I’m going to bring up EnergySage. I am an affiliate of them.

I am partnered with them. So take this with a grain of salt. I love EnergySage here in the United States. There’s another service called EnergyPal, which does U. S. as well as Canada. And there are other services like this around the world. But like what EnergySage does is they try to create an apples to apples Comparison of solar installers so that you could, you know, what the average prices are for your region.

And then when you’re getting the quotes from different installers, they’re all presented in the same exact way. So it makes it very easy to do kind of a side by side comparison between different installers in your area. Oftentimes. Like in a used car salesman, you know, they do this thing like tricks where they’ll sketch in a piece of paper, a quadrant is like this quadrant thing where they’ll put in like what the car is worth and all this stuff.

And the way they do the math and the way they present to you is very confusing. They do that deliberately. Some solar installers do that. So it’s like the nice thing about EnergySage is they have a standardized way to present the information to you to give you all the facts and information you need. Um, so I’m a big fan of services like that, but it’s not a Certified installer stamp of approval that if you see the UL label on something that you’re buying, it’s like, you know, it’s not, it’s going to be safe for your home.

There’s nothing like that for installers at this point. And I really wish there was.

There were also some comments that sat in the category of, uh, talking about the DIY of it all. And we’ve talked about that quite a bit for the past couple of. Episodes. Octothorpe jumped in to say never underestimate the power of being able to throw money at a problem and have it solved.

There’s a lot of stuff I could totally DIY, but I don’t, because my hourly rate is vastly higher than the cost of labor for the install service, etc. Also, DIY doesn’t mean you can perform the task as well as a professional with years of wisdom and experience. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

This is something that I have experienced a lot of recently as I’ve hit the point of, oh, I’m working on a project and I need somebody to do this for me. Oh, but that’s so expensive. Maybe I should just do it myself. And then I give it a shot and I do a really, really terrible yet Could be considered adequate job and I’m like, that’s not even meeting my standards of what I wanted.

So why did I take this path? How often have you stumbled upon that path of, Oh, absolutely good, but I, my time is better spent doing this other thing and I’ll pay somebody to do this.

Oh, it’s all the time, Sean. There are so many things that I could do, but somebody, somebody who’s a specialist in that is going to do it in half the time and they’re going to do a job that’s probably better than what I would do.

It’s like, so why would I not pay them to do that? Like my, my hourly rate, what my time is worth to me is going to outstrip what that person’s going to charge me. So yeah, go ahead, buddy. You do it. Here’s the money. You do it. And it’s going to be great. Um, like a good example would be my electrician. When I built my house, he ran all my ethernet cables and terminated all the junction points and all that kind of stuff.

Like the ends of the cables. I have the tools to do that. I know how to do that. It’s incredibly tedious work to do that. And when I tallied up how much time it would take me to do that stuff. versus the electrician doing it. They were going to do it faster than I would do it. And I didn’t have to do it.

So it was like, I was perfectly happy to pay the hourly rate for that electrician to sit there on the network closet, terminating all the ends of the cables. It’s like, I was more than happy to have that done. Uh, it’s, it’s, yeah, it’s what, what is the value to you? Value isn’t always just saving money, period.

It’s there’s, there’s a lot to it. You have to equate to it. I love that comment because it hits the nail right on the head.

Yeah. Finally, there was this from David Tull who said about. Again, we’re going to probably going to keep revisiting this because it’s a topic I like and apparently commenters do as well.

A comment about analog computing and David had this to say, I remember watching another YouTube channel and learned that the Duesenberg car engine built in 1929 had an analog computer telling you when to check and change the fluids. That’s awesome. There we go. They’ve been around us for a long, long time.

On now to our conversation about Matt’s most recent. This is how this new heat pump is a, is genius from April 30th, 2024. And there were a couple of comments that when I realized I was putting them next to each other, they really kind of worked in tandem. So I want to start there. First, there was this from MachDeath who wrote in, I’m a manufacturer’s rep for hydronic equipment.

And part of what we do is design and sell air to water heat pump systems for radiant heating and radiant cooling. And we need this. Looks like it will have built in buffer tanks and can cool to pretty ridiculous OA temps, depends on how big they will be, but I’m looking forward to seeing them in the future.

So I thought it was interesting that this is not somebody who’s like, I want this in my home. But as a representative who sells these and thinks there’s a place in the market for them. Especially when I realized I was inadvertently pairing it with this comment from Stacy S who wrote in the early 2000s a company called Hollowell International based in Maine developed a two stage heat pump that did pretty much this exact thing.

It had two different compressors as well as a heat recovery loop. Which would divert friction heat from the compressors into the refrigerant in heating mode. We had one of their systems and it performed very well, able to heat our house for about the same dollar cost as the gas furnace it replaced, which was unheard of in 2006.

We’re in snow country and it definitely gets cold here. Unfortunately, The company didn’t survive, mainly due to quality and durability issues with their control boards. Our system eventually died from a bad control board, which we couldn’t replace. We ended up replacing it with a variable speed drive heat pump from Amana.

It’s good to see people are still tinkering with the concept though. I thought these two comments created a strange Balance between here are the people who want to sell these, who think that there is a marketplace for them, and people who’ve been trying to get them on the consumer side, it really does seem like there is A demand for these, and it seems that the manufacturer that you talk to, Flooid, in their research and putting together their prototypes are really looking at this kind of market given the size of the product that they’re trying to put together.

Is that, is that what your sense was from your conversations with them?

Yes. A hundred percent. Um, the interesting thing about Flooid as a company, they have, I don’t want to get into it in too much detail, but they have different technologies they’re trying to bring to market. One of them is an energy generator device, and as part of that device, they have this cascading heat pump system that works as part of that generator.

And they are taking that, their approach to how well they’ve engineered that. and moving it basically over into the residential market and trying to create these cascading heat pump systems for the residential market because they see a massive gap in the market for that. Um, for high performance, really high COP systems that could work and be tailored to anywhere.

Um, and could even go beyond that into boilers and, and very high, high temperature systems for industrial uses. So, they’re, they’re going where they see the gap. And as I mentioned in the video, this is not a new idea, like that one commenter saying, uh, Stacy bringing up, this has been, they had something like this.

This is something that’s been tried again and again, and it’s actually used in industrial settings today for large buildings, but nobody has really brought it to the residential market. And the question that keeps coming up is like, in my mind is like, why? One, it’s size. Two, it’s cost. And then I would argue three is that the large players don’t have an incentive to do this because they’re already making and selling very profitably single loop heat pump systems that are good enough and they’re trying to find one coolant or one fluid for their loops that can get them a wide enough performance range that can work in cold climate and meet the goals that are being required by the government. So it’s, I think there’s, A little resistance to this.

Um, but they’re, they’re definitely going after this, this, this market that they see a gap. So they’re trying to take their knowledge and put it into where they can make the biggest impact.

There was also this from C. H. Hunter who had an interesting take connecting to what you just said. The whole heat pump conversation, especially resistance to them is fascinating to me because we’ve been using them in Virginia for decades.

I’m 43 years old and every house I’ve ever lived in has had a heat pump. I only recently found out that heat pumps are not the norm everywhere else. Are there any other pockets that you’re aware of in the U S or worldwide where heat pumps are the standard and. Virginia being what it is like temperature wise, I could understand why maybe it’s more common there.

It’s a little more temperate. It gets some snow occasionally, but it’s not going to be overwhelmingly cold for a good part of the winter. And it can get beastly in the summer, but it’s not going to be, um, the kind of wide ranges that you described for Massachusetts going all the way down to negative freezing to above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

So across the U. S. is it, is there basically a band that goes through the middle of the country where it’s a zone of heat pump usage versus what we would see here in the northeast or in the northwest?

Yeah, it’s exactly that. Um, you see a lot of heat pump usage in European countries, um, and I would argue that’s probably the case for why in places like Virginia it is, because they’re more temperate.

It’s like maybe it gets down to the upper 30s. Low 40s in the winter and it’s getting up into the 75, 80 degree Fahrenheit range in the summer. Those are the areas where you may not need air conditioning in the summer. Those are the areas where you don’t need to get into those 20 below Fahrenheit temperature ranges.

Like, Minnesota or Michigan or something like that. Um, so there’s definitely kind of like bands based on the temperate region that you live in, where you see a lot of heat pump use in those areas because traditionally heat pumps start to struggle a little bit in the cold. And it’s not that they don’t work.

It just, they can’t get to the temperatures in an energy efficient way that we as a human being feel comfortable in. Because the thing about heat pumps, the air that’s coming out of a vent may be 80 degrees Fahrenheit. coming out and you want the room to be 72 and so it’s technically warming the room but how do you feel when 80 degree fahrenheit air is blowing on you it feels cold because we’re 98 degrees fahrenheit so it’s like it feels like cool air coming on you even though it’s warm air at the above the temperature you’re trying to hit in your room it feels cool Where if you have a gas furnace, the air that’s coming out, it might be a hundred degrees coming out of the vent.

So it feels warm. So it’s like, Ooh, this is warming me up. But it’s like, it’s actually doing what it’s supposed to be doing. It just feels weird. It doesn’t feel hot, even though it’s doing its job. That’s been a part of the perception issue around heat pumps. So heat pumps like this could hit that hundred degree Fahrenheit air coming out of the vent.

And so it would still feel hot and you’d be like, Ooh, yeah, this is warming up the room. Right. So it’s like, there’s a perception issue around this as well.

I’m suddenly, as you’re describing all that, flashing back to the house we grew up in central New York, which had a forced air furnace or a gravity furnace, right?

It was, it was a gravity furnace and the furnace would kick on in the morning and I would hear It popping on and there was a floor grate in my room. And when I would hear that it was time to get up, I would wait until that was going. And then I would jump out of bed and stand on that grate and the air coming out of that must’ve been 110 degrees.

And it would just be flying up and it would fill, you know, like fill the area around my, the, the grate. And the grate would occasionally get so hot that it would actually burn my feet and leave red marks on the bottoms of my feet. And I considered that the cozy branding that I was looking for in my life.

So listeners, what do you think about this conversation? What do you think about these topics? Let us know. Jump into the comments. They do drive the content of this program and they help shape the content of Undecided with Matt Ferrell, which is of course our mothership. Leaving a comment, leaving a review, subscribing, sharing with your friends.

Those are all great and easy ways for you to help support the podcast. And if you’d like to support us directly, you can go to still TB. Sorry, let me say that again. You can go to stilltbd. fm or you can go to the join button on YouTube. Both of those have the ability to throw coins directly at our heads and we appreciate the welts.

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

← Older
Newer →

Leave a Reply