If so, a Daikin FIT or Daikin VRV Life HVAC system may be the answer to your questions.
In this episode, Mike Gundersen discusses:
Jack: Heat pumps offer amazing comfort and energy efficiency, especially when you compare them to conventional heating and cooling options. In particular, Daikin’s line of mini-split systems seemed like they were made especially for homes here in the Fox River Valley.
Today, we’re talking with Mike Gunderson from Compass Heating and Air based in East Dundee, Illinois. Mike’s a big fan of the Daikin Fit and Daikin VRV life systems. He even has one of these systems in his own home.
In our last episode, Mike told us about how well today’s heat pumps work for homes in Northern Illinois. Today, he’s talking about these two great systems in particular, and he’ll walk us through how he and his family used theirs.
Let’s start with the Daikin Fit system. What is the Daikin Fit and how is it different from say a conventional furnace and central air system?
Mike: Well, the Daikin Fit fit has a very small package as far as its footprint. They’re roughly 13 inches front-to-back.
They look similar to a mini-split unit outside, but it’s actually a little deceiving as it’s made for unitary equipment. What I mean by that is it attaches to a gas furnace or air handler, and the ductwork that already exists in your home.
It has an inverter compressor, so it allows for very high efficiency, it’s super quiet so most of our customers who have had these, one of their biggest bonuses that they like from this system is the fact that even though the air conditioner is close to their patio or their deck in the backyard, they don’t hear it running when it’s on and they’re back entertaining or hanging out in their area.
Jack: So with the Daikin Fit, not only do you have a very quiet and very out of the way outdoor unit, inside you’re able to use your existing ductwork, but you’re going to get better comfort, better heat, better air conditioning, and you don’t need to install a lot of new equipment inside.
Mike: One of the great benefits of this guy is the inverter compressor, until they came out with a Fit a couple of years ago, the inverter compressor was only available in the very high-end units manufacturers put out.
By putting it in a mid-efficiency category, they have really given the opportunity for virtually everyone to be able to afford to have an inverter system and get the advantage of the cost savings and the benefit of efficiency that is provided with those types of units.
We had a system test down in Peoria, just a little bit downstate from here. The Fit system uses 60 percent less electricity than a standard compressor. So that was a pretty big eye-opener for people when you’re looking at the efficiencies and all these systems.
You’re going to be between 16 and 18 SEER, depending on which size Fit system you go with.
Jack: When you’re talking about energy efficiency, what does SEER mean, exactly?
Mike: Your SEER is seasonal energy efficiency ratio. So that’s how much energy you’re using to get a set amount of cooling. It’s specifically geared towards air conditioning efficiency with heat pumps, HSPF is the rating you’ll use.
Jack: So the higher the SEER rating means you can use less energy, but get the same amount of cooling as a different model that has a lower SEER rating.
Mike: If you had a three ton or 36,000 BTU air conditioner, that’s going to produce the same three tons of air conditioning as a 14 SEER. It’s just going to cost less to operate and use less electricity.
Jack: So the same cooling, lower bills?
Mike: That’s correct.
Jack: So that brings us to the Daikin VRV life system. Now my understanding is the VRV Life essentially does everything the Fit does and then some more.
Mike: The VRV Life is available as a heat pump. There’s not an air conditioning only option like there is with the Fit.
However, as we’ve talked about in the past, I’m a huge fan of heat pumps and I really think that if everyone had one in their home, it would be a great service to themselves and to the environment. It keeps you a little bit less dependent, I should say, on your utilities.
The VRV Life system allows you to combine multiple indoor units with one unit outside. As an example, we have put some of these in where they have two furnaces and coils inside.
So you have one furnace upstairs, one downstairs, or maybe even both of them are in the basement. But we’ve put them in and had one unit outside be able to take care of the whole load.
You have heating and cooling both out of the heat pump and you also have your furnaces to back up anything that you may need.
The VRV Life is rated to go four degrees below zero. I can tell you from personal experience, they go much cooler than that. It really depends on where you want it to be able to operate down to.
A lot of times you can figure that based on your cost of energy. So in our area, it’s hard to believe in Illinois, but we have pretty cheap electricity and I won’t cry about it. So when it comes to a VRV life, you can do the two furnaces together.
You can do one furnace and one unit outside and utilize the fantastic heating abilities it has with the heat pump.
We went ahead and put a ductless unit up there. It runs off of the same outdoor unit as the rest of the ducted system in the home and we’re able to control it separately. You can do up to nine zones with a VRV life. So VRV life is a very capable system, very versatile.
One of the very big problems in our area is a single furnace with multiple floors or a home that has split-level. So you’ll have the basement and then you kind of jog over to the first level and then jog back over for the bedrooms upstairs and it makes very tight ductwork.
So when you have the area you’re trying to sleep upstairs, it gets very hot in the summertime and that’s really something that people always are battling. With a VRV system, you could put a separate air handler in the attic and duct it to those rooms. You can put a ductless unit in each of the rooms.
It’s really all dependent on what you want to do. You could put a new air handler, you could run another furnace and again, run off of the same outdoor unit that you have for the house.
Jack: Decades ago, you had a furnace and then you had a furnace and a central air conditioner. Now we see more homes with vaulted ceilings in the bedrooms, split level homes, where those have been popular since the seventies and they were always notoriously hard to heat and cool.
You could have a furnace and air conditioner, and then maybe the best you could do if you had a lot of square footage was two furnaces. With the Daikin VRV life, you can sort of get the best of all worlds.
You can go partial mini split. You can combine that with your gas furnace. Maybe you still have two gas furnaces. Maybe you only have one with some ductless air handlers. There really is a lot you can do with this system.
Mike: Where it was very difficult to take care of some of the issues that we’re dealing with the VRV life. This makes it very hard to find an issue that we can’t solve with one of these systems.
Jack: And you mentioned too, a couple of times now, how you can combine this with your gas furnace. In our last episode, when we talked about heat pumps, we also touched on just how cold Northern Illinois can get.
That was a big reason why heat pumps didn’t catch on up here for a very long time, because down in the Southwest, let’s say, where it never got that cold, the capacity of the older heat pumps was just fine.
But these things couldn’t handle an Illinois winter, but that’s changed now and being able to combine your heat pump with your gas furnace takes out a vantage even further.
Mike: With a heat pump that can run the way these do and the efficiency levels they do with cold temperatures, we are able to really offset the amount of time you have to run a gas furnace.
The heat pumps provide a larger amount of heat at a lower cost than a gas furnace, which is pretty amazing for some people to fathom because we’re so accustomed to using natural gas.
I’ll give you an example: On my specific system, at 15 degrees outside, it’s producing 45,000 BTU’s. You would be lucky to get 5,000 BTUs at 15 degrees on an old heat pump.
Jack: So you’re actually staying more comfortable and you’re getting off the grid at the same time, using less electricity, less natural gas, less utilities in general.
Mike: Exactly correct.
Jack: You had brought in some great data points there. You talked about the performance where the heat pumps today at 15 degrees can give you 45,000 BTUs, whereas he old ones at 15 degrees would maybe give you 5,000, can you describe what 45,000 BTUs feels like or does versus 5,000?
Mike: When it comes to BTU’s when we’re looking at this, so you have to say, okay, well Mike’s house is designed to operate at 45,000 BTU’s but it is slightly different when you’re looking at the operation of something that is capable of part capacity, like an inverter compressor.
It’s not going to operate at 45,000 BTU’s very often, it’s actually operating at much less than that to maintain your temperature. That 45,000 BTUs is if it’s running at full capacity at that given temperature.
As an example, I have an 80,000 BTU furnace to heat the house. The difference is, the gas furnace turns on when the temperature has already dropped. So it has to overcome temperature to get me back to where I want to be.
The heat pump runs at a level to maintain that temperature so I don’t really have that drop. Granted when it stays really cold for an extended period that’s when your gas furnace will kick in and give you a little bump to get you back up and then you’re back to the heat pump.
Jack: So because it maintains the temperature it actually has to produce less warmth, less BTU’s, but your house is actually more comfortable and has more even heating than a furnace that’s just blasting out your 45,000 BTUs constantly every time it’s on.
Jack: So now when it comes to the Daikin Fit, speaking of furnaces, from what I understand, you always needed a specific Daikin furnace to go with the Fit.
Mike: The Daikin Fit, they’re going to be coming out with a version that we can use with any gas furnace for any manufacturer.
Jack: So if you have a newer gas furnace or a high-efficiency gas furnace, you’ll now have an adapter where you can add on the Daikin Fit to get that extra comfort without having to replace any equipment.
Mike: That’s correct.
Jack: So now that we see what these do, let’s talk a little about the differences between these two specific models. When you’re talking to a customer that’s interested in upgrading to one of these systems, how do you help them decide between the Daikin Fit and the Daikin VRV Life?
Mike: The VRV life system is a higher-end system. It’s designed to take care of a lot of problems and it’s pretty robust. So when you start adding all these things in it, the cost does add up.
The Daikin Fit costs less. It’s a mid-efficiency system designed to directly replace an already-existing system, just like you would with any other air conditioner or heat pump. The difference between the Fit and the standard, they’re super quiet. You literally have to look and see that the fan is turning most of the time to know that it’s even on and they’re very small footprint.
So you’re able to enjoy your backyard and talk to people without raising your voice, get to hear your kids having a good time in their pool, or take your garden area back, get rid of that giant box. The VRV life is designed to solve specific problems that are tough to do with other things.
Jack: So you mentioned cost briefly, but let’s get into that a little more now. What’s somebody paying upfront for a Daikin Fit versus a Daikin VRV?
Mike: We’re talking with a Fit and VRV, the difference between the two, you’re probably looking at about 30 percent more for VRV than the Fit.
Jack: But we can offset those costs, you mentioned briefly before that you can get rebates through ComEd, what do those look like for these systems?
Mike: They actually are pretty good, between Daikin’s rebates or you can get upwards of $1,200 in rebates. They do have promotions for free thermostats and communicating controllers.
ComEd does have some rebates with the VRV because of the type of system it is. They consider that to be a ductless system. So you’d be looking at $450 rebate on that. On the Fit system, depending on the efficiency and if you’re doing air conditioner or heat pump, you’re going to be looking at anywhere between $150 and $500.
Jack: So you can take a big chunk out of that price tag if you combine the incentives from ComEd, plus the promotional offers you get through Daikin directly?
Mike: Yes, you could.
Jack: And of course, the energy efficiency comes into play. Now, that’s not an upfront saving, because that’s something that you see over time.
Mike: Yes, so your energy efficiency and its resulting savings, as well as the additional comfort that you get from these systems.
Jack: So when we’re talking about price on these, it sounds like because they’re so versatile, it’s almost not worth talking about the price because the bigger conversation sounds like it’s about what any specific home needs, especially when you’re talking about the VRV life, because that’s designed to solve specific problems and it’s designed to be able to use in different configurations.
Mike: It’s all about laying out their overall plan.
Jack: Well, Mike, thanks for speaking with us today.
Mike: Thank you for speaking with me, Jack, it was a pleasure.
Jack: If you want to learn more about Daikin systems and about heat pumps in general, you can check out the show notes from our conversation.
Or, if you’re ready to make your home in the Fox River Valley more comfortable and energy-efficient all year ‘round, reach out to Compass Heating and Air for a free consultation. You can reach Mike at (630) 504-8688 or visit www.jubilant-knot.mysites.io.
Thanks, and we’ll see you next time.