Rumer-Loudin, Inc.

Another Refrigerant Phase Down?!

The purpose of this article is to try to explain the next refrigerant phase down. I am not espousing a certain political or scientific view, simply trying to inform property owners about what they might be facing in the very near future regarding residential air conditioners and heat pumps. Please don’t kill the messenger! We contractors groan at having to deal with these changes too because we have new safety regulations, equipment operation, and refrigerant properties about which to learn and adapt.

Basically, a refrigerant is a medium to convey heat from one place to another. Various types of refrigerants are evaluated for their global warming potential (GWP), toxicity, and flammability. The Montreal Protocol and AIM Act calls for the phase down of refrigerants with higher GWP. R-22 was the go-to refrigerant for decades used in residential HVAC equipment through 2009. It has been phased down during the time frame of January 2010 through 2020 when manufacturing and import was no longer permitted. Any R-22 on the market has either been stockpiled or possibly recycled. Of course scarcity increases price. I can remember when my father, Larry Rumer, the founder of the company, was angered when a 30lb jug of R22 went to $30 per can. I have recently seen a jug priced at $3000 and R22 is typically sold to the consumer at about $180 to $300 per pound. Please realize these prices include the cost of machinery and tools to recover, weigh, measure, and check the pressures in the system. The replacement for R-22 in newly manufactured equipment from 2010 to current was 410A.

Now, the industry, as required, is phasing down 410A by 85%, in increments, through the year 2036. The replacement lower GWP refrigerants being used by HVAC manufacturers are R-32 and R454B. The latter has increased thermal conductivity which meets future efficiency goals which keeps operating costs lower. These gasses are classified as A2L refrigerants. “A’ referring to toxicity of A (lower) or B (higher) and “2” referring to flammability (1,2, or 3 with increasing value indicating increased flammability.) The “L’ indicates lower (than level 3) burning velocity.

I was bit alarmed when I heard the word “flammable” associated with refrigerant. My research found that, handled properly, like many other flammable substances (propane, gasoline fumes, a candle wick, lamp oil) the conditions needed to create an event for A2Ls to ignite are extremely rare. Mildly flammable does not mean explosive. Even if ignited, the flame will likely burn slowly and self-extinguish. As well, HVAC manufacturers are incorporating sensors and mitigation panels as an added precaution

Three conditions are needed for an A2L to ignite:

  • Leak: A significant leak occurs that reaches the lower flammability limit (LFL) concentration, which is above 10% for A2Ls. In an enclosed space, this could require a leak of around 300g/m3.
  • Concentration: The refrigerant is highly concentrated.
  • Ignition source: The refrigerant is exposed to an open flame or high-energy ignition source. However, laboratory tests have shown that even a blow torch flame may not be able to ignite A2L refrigerants. 

You may be surprised to learn that self-contained refrigeration appliances like a window unit have used A2Ls since 2015, that 9 out of 10 cars on the road today use A2Ls, and that 70 million units worldwide (especially in Europe and India) use A2L refrigerants.

As a property owner, what does this mean for you? If you have an R-22 unit that is working fine, you can continue to use it. If you have one that is leaking, the cost to repair it may out-weigh the benefits of keeping it, but, if you can find a contractor that has R22 stock and can recharge the system, you can do so. Just remember that leaks are very hard to find and that a recharge may last you hours, days, or months. That is the gamble. You may want to be planning for replacement soon. If you have an R410A unit, it can still be repaired, and current manufacturer inventory can be sold. R410A has not yet been banned for manufacture nor import (most 410A refrigerant comes from China); however, it is being phased down. Regarding the new A2L refrigerants, some models are currently available and will be heavily phased in over the next year. Because of the new technology used, the equipment prices will be higher than the 410A units. Things to consider are how long you want to stay in your home, will you be selling soon, do you want to increase your homes’ value, or do you just want to survive the heat and get by?

It is so important to choose a professional company who will properly handle the refrigerant, explain your options, handle any warranties, and be able to make proper repairs. The refrigerants and components cannot inter-mix. Unfortunately, we have come across situations where a previous company put R410A in an R22 unit with disastrous results.

I have tried to simplify this topic. There are many scientific and technical explanations plus government acronyms that can be found online. As well, changes are frequent in this industry so this information is current…for now.

Rumer-Loudin, Inc. has been in business since 1975 with offices in St. Clairsville, Barnesville, and Moundsville. If you have questions about this article or any other HVAC topic, feel free to email them to info@rumerloudin.com


Belmont College Students Receive Rumer-Loudin, Inc. Scholarship

Rumer-Loudin Scholarship at Belmont College

So many companies complain about the lack of available workforce so we thought we would try to alleviate that in our own small way.

We decided to become involved with the HVAC program through Belmont College’s HVAC advisory board, instructing, as well as offering three $2,000 scholarships to students in Belmont College’s HVAC program. That way, we can support the program, encourage students, and create awareness of the heating, air conditioning, and ventilation trade.

It is important to us to award students for their diligence and responsibility. We hope to continue awarding scholarships well into the future.

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Geoexchange Systems: Renewable & Ready

Why Geoexchange Systems?

Geoexchange (geothermal) heating and cooling systems are the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA found that geoexchange systems can reduce energy consumption – and corresponding emissions – by over 40% compared to air source heat pumps and by over 70% compared to electric resistance heating with standard air-conditioning equipment. Combining geoexchange with other energy-efficiency measures (such as window or insulation upgrades) can increase these savings synergistically.

How Geoexchange Works

Geoexchange systems use the earth’s energy storage capability to heat and cool buildings and to provide hot water. The earth is a huge energy storage device that absorbs 47% of the sun’s energy – more than 500 times more energy than mankind needs every year – in the form of clean, renewable energy. Geoexchange takes this heat during the heating season at an efficiency approaching or exceeding 400% and returns it during the cooling season. Geoexchange heating and cooling systems use conventional vapor compression heat pumps to extract the low-grade solar energy from the earth. In summer, the process reverses and the earth becomes a heat sink.

Heat exchanger designs include closed loop systems which use horizontal or vertical heat exchangers made of heat-fused, high-density polyethylene pipe. These systems usually circulate water with a biodegradable antifreeze added. Open loop systems generally draw ground water through the heat pump and return it to the ground unaltered except for a temperature change.

Geoexchange Is Renewable

Geoexchange is a renewable resource. In the heating mode, an efficient geoexchange system will move at least three units of solar energy from the ground for each unit of electricity used by the heat pump and its accessories. In the cooling mode, the same heat exchanger rejects heat to the surrounding ground, which equilibrates with the atmosphere. The energy flux attributable to the heat pumps is orders of magnitude lower than the solar energy received at the ground.

Geoexchange Synergies with Building Efficiency

More efficient systems, better building envelopes, and art ventilation in commercial systems minimize the amount of geothermal heat exchanger required, giving geoexchange building designers strong incentives for more efficient building designs. In residential geoexchange applications, improved shell efficiency also pay strong dividends in both first costs (by allowing equipment down-sizing) and operating costs, to a far greater extent than for conventional heating and cooling systems. Geoexchange domestic hot water, through “desuperheaters,” shipped with about 80% of all units today, and through “full condensing” hot water systems, can save consumers several hundred dollars per year.

Geoexchange Synergies with Other Renewables

Passive solar design strongly supports geoexchange heating and cooling efficiency and economics. For larger buildings, solar warming of ventilation air in winter also may have excellent economics for many owners. In the future, efficient buildings with ground-connected heating and cooling systems will meet peak or total loads with user-site photovoltaics, using the electric grid for efficient load management.

Geoexchange: A Great Choice Today

The EPA found that even on a source full basis – accounting for all losses in the fuel cycle including electricity generation at power plants – geoexchange systems are much more efficient than competing fule technologies. They are an average of 48% more efficient than the best gas furnaces on a source file basis and over 75% more efficient than oil furnaces. In fact, today’s best geoexchange systems outperform the best gas technology, gas heat pumps, by an average of 36% in heating mode and 43% in cooling mode!

No alternative has such great opportunities to maximize savings by combining good design, good construction, and a system customers like. Surveys by utilities indicate a higher level of consumer satisfaction for geoexchange than for conventional systems: more than 95% of all geothermal heat and cooling customers would recommend geoexchange to a family member or friend.

What About Economics?

Geoexchange systems represent a savings to homeowners of 30% to 70% in the heating mode and 20% to 50% in the cooling mode compared to conventional systems. Well-designed residential systems exhibit positive cash flows from the first month; the incremental cost of amortizing the geoexchange system is less than the cost of the fuel or electricity not used. Closed loop commercial and institutional systems today can cost less than alternative designs, and larger open loop systems may save hundreds of dollars per ton relative to conventional systems.

Transforming the Market

Today, there are 750,000 geoexchange installations in place. Success will show that the combination of government, utility, manufacturers, and other trade allies can accelerate the acceptance of renewables as mainline design choices. This reinforces public understanding that renewable readily integrate efficiency in buildings is an economic key for renewable energy successes.


Which Home Improvements Pay Back?

Recouping your remodeling investment may be your goal when you sell your house. But when it comes to resale value, all home improvements are not created equal.

As a rule, kitchen remodeling projects and bathroom additions almost always pay back 90 percent or more of their costs. However, finishing a basement usually pays back less than 50 percent. Other improvements fall somewhere in between.

Consider these payback estimates for the most typical home improvement projects:

ProjectCostAverage Payback
Add a new heating or air conditioning system$2,000 – $4,500100% fore heating; 75% for air conditioning
Minor kitchen remodeling$2,000 – $8,50094 – 102%
Major kitchen remodeling$9,000 – $25,00090%
Add a bathroom$5,000 – $12,00092%
Add a family room$30,00086%
Remodel a bathroom$8,50077%
Add a fireplace$1,500 – $3,00075%
Build a deck$6,00073%
Remodel a home office$8,00069%
Replace windows$6,00068 – 74%
Build a pool$10,000 and up44%
Install or upgrade landscaping$1,500 – $15,00030 – 60%
Finish basement$3,000 – $7,00015%

Understanding Payback Value

Payback value depends heavily on the real estate market and prevailing property values. If the market is slow, expect to see less payback than you would in a fast market. Also, consider the neighborhood: If you remodel your house to twice the size of the other homes on the block, it is unlikely that you will be able to sell at double the price. Issues that can influence payback value include:

  • Type of Improvement – Kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects consistently return the most in resale value and almost always help sell a house. Converting a basement into a family room yields the smallest return on the investment.
  • Scope of Improvement – Projects can be large or small. Sometimes, the cumulative effect of small projects can pay back more in resale value than that of larger projects. Small projects tend to be cosmetic in nature: fresh paint, new doors, garden windows, and ceiling fans. Large improvements involve adding or upgrading living space.
  • Desirability – Today’s fad may be tomorrow’s standard. Backyard decks, for example, were difficult to find 30 years ago; now they are common. Decks may not have paid back very much in resale value decades ago, but as decks have become more desirable, their resale value has increased.
  • Cost – The price of home improvements fluctuates depending on economic conditions and region. If remodeling costs are particularly high in your area (or home sale prices are particularly low), you may not recoup as much on your investment as you would if costs were in sync with sales prices.

Looking For a Good Contractor?

Whether you’re shopping for a new heating and cooling system or making an emergency purchase because that “excuse for a furnace” finally conked out, there’s a lot riding on the choices you are about to make. And, of all the choices you’ll make, one of the most important is the first one: finding the right contractor.

The contractor is the linchpin of a quality installation. Get the right one, and you’ll reap the comfort and energy-saving benefits of a correctly sized and installed system operating at peak efficiency. Choose the wrong contractor who installs oversized equipment and your new system’s efficiency and comfort will not meet your expectations. Because finding the right contractor is so important, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program has compiled the following recommendations to help you make this selection.

Find the Right Contractor

A reputable contractor should always:

  • Inspect the job on-site and provide a detailed bid in a timely manner.
  • Be licensed and insured to conduct business in your area.
  • Show their certification for refrigerant handling.
  • Provide examples of other quality installation work, with customer names to contact.

Get Quality and Value

The contractor should:

  • Show you a layout of where the equipment will be installed.
  • Calculate the size of your new equipment using Manual J or an equivalent calculation tool.
  • Show savings calculations for installing high-efficiency, ENERGY STAR qualified equipment.
  • Diagnose needed duct repairs.
  • Provide financing for the purchase, if necessary.
  • Explain clearly how to properly operate the system.
  • List in detail all the work that is being contracted.
  • Specify all products by quantity, name, model number, and energy ratings.
  • Provide and explain the manufacturer’s warranty and the labor warranty the contractor will stand behind.

Sign an Agreement

You and your contractor should sign a written proposal before work starts that includes:

  • The total price and payment schedule.
  • The scheduled start and completion date.
  • A description of how disputes will be resolved.
  • The contractor’s liability insurance and licenses, if required.
  • List of paperwork and permits needed for the project.


Rumer-Loudin, Inc Adds Third Location

Rumer-Loudin Inc. is excited to announce a third location as of July 1, 2023, located in Moundsville, West Virginia. We purchased the long-time home service company of Whipkey Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning at 1407 1st Street, Moundsville, WV.

The location remains the same as does the employment of Jake Whipkey, son of Pam and Jerald Whipkey, the founders of the company. High demand for their services meant they needed a bigger team to back them up so a purchase agreement was arranged. The 20 employees of Rumer-Loudin ensure quick service for the residents of the area. Danae Rose will head up customer service in the office.

Rumer-Loudin is an independent Trane dealer, as Whipkey was, and any Trane warranties currently in place will be honored as well as any service parts and the labor to change them for the year after installation. The phone number, 304-845-8354, is also the same as under the Whipkey name. Estimates on new installations are free so call for one as soon as possible. You can also contact Rumer-Loudin via our website at www.rumerloudin.com



15 Home Comfort Tips for Heating Season

Home in Winter

Looking for ways to keep your home comfortable during the colder months? Here are 15 home comfort tips for the heating season.

  • During the a/c days but heating nights, be sure your thermostat is in the correct mode to accomplish what you need.
  • Make sure your furnace works before it is an emergency.
  • Check your flues to be sure they are clear from obstructions like bird/bug nests, leaves, etc.
  • Check any fuses or breakers to be sure they haven’t blown or tripped.
  • Check and change or clean your air filters regularly
  • Ensure all registers are open and uncovered, not blocked by rugs or furniture.
  • If the sun shines in a certain window, keep coverings open so you can use the sun’s heat gain to help warm your home (unless the windows are leaky!)
  • If your thermostat screen is blank, check for batteries and change as needed.
  • Check your gutters to be sure they are not leaking onto the outdoor unit of your heat pump, which can then freeze and damage your condenser fan blades and motor.
  • Make sure you have propane or oil in your tanks.
  • Always have a form of back up heat such has an electric or kerosene heater or on the wall gas heater.
  • If you need to have service done, make sure there is access to the furnace.
  • Consider adding insulation to your attic for better heat retention. If the snow melts off of your roof when at or below freezing, then you need more insulation.
  • Consider covering leaky windows with a layer of plastic for better heat retention.
  • Block those drafty doors with improved threshold seals.

When Ice in the Summer is Not a Good Thing

snowflake

When the weather is hot, ice may sound like a good idea… but not when it concerns your air conditioner.

If you see ice or frost on your refrigerant lines or your outdoor unit, you should take action. This build-up means the coil in the metal box, called a plenum, above or below your furnace is already iced over.

That ice is working its way down the lines to the outdoor unit. To perform a repair, the ice needs to be melted and the unit should be turned off.

Airflow restriction is a common cause of icing. So, check your filters to be sure they are not clogged. Also, be sure all registers are open and exposed.

Sometimes the air conditioner will run, ice up, then thaw when it cools in the evening and then ice up again during the day. A sign of this is water under the furnace.

Another cause of icing is a low refrigerant level, which means there is a leak somewhere and a service repair call is needed. Sometimes a leak can be found and sometimes not, which can be discussed with a service technician.


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