Heat in a cold climate

Heat in a cold climate

Summary: If you want to build a better home heating system, it would make sense to look to folks who've dealt with real winters. Global warming does NOT promise to do away entirely with sub-freezing temperatures on this planet.

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TOPICS: CXO
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hallowellfamily01.jpg If you want to build a better home heating system, it would make sense to look to folks who've dealt with real winters. Global warming does NOT promise to do away entirely with sub-freezing temperatures on this planet. So a company in a cold climate is working to provide what they claim is the first major home heating tech breakthrough in a long time.

The privately-held company is Hallowell. Of Bangor, Maine. I looked up Bangor's January temperature averages: 27.6 is the average daytime high. The overnight lows average 8.3. And the average daily average is only 18.0. Yes, those are all Fahrenheit. So those folks at Hallowell have a vested interest in keeping warm. If you want to see their data on heating efficiency, with stats on BTU capacity of Aradia,click here.

I spoke with Duane Hallowell, founder, CEO and President of the firm. He and his partners are engineers who stareted the company in 2005 without using V.C. backing. Their goal was to use existing hardware in the heat pump (and air conditioning) industry to build a system that would produce home heating even in sub-freezing weather. Hallowell was way beyond my abilities on the tech side but you can read the details about their new Acadia home climate system here.

The Breakthrough

Though it uses existing hardware manufactured for the entire heat pump and air conditioning industry, Hallowell does assemble their unique system and have added a patented process that is crucial. They've patented a method for boosted compression. That allows their system to continue to draw heat from outside air even as it drops below O Fahrenheit. In the past this has been the fault point of air-to-air heat pumps in northern North America's winter months. To prove its mettle, Hallowell's Acadia has been tested by independent utility co-ops, and not in Puerto Rico either. Cold places like northern Canada, Alaska and even Bangor, Maine.

Now says Hallowell, the man, Hallowell the company can sell you a system that does not require back-up heating systems. It runs on electricity alone. Of course, that electricty can come from the utility gird, wind, solar, geothermal or five hundred loping gazelle in harness. [Hallowell does not endorse gazelle power, that was just my invention.]

Standard Parts

Hallowell said it was necessary to build a system that uses standard components. The parts are sold all over North America. Though Hallowell asemble the system, it arrives at the building site with instructions and repair manuals that are widely-used in the HVAC industry. Not special installation training or ducting is needed. This is the hardware verison of open source tecnology. And Hallowell's Acadia does not use a single part that's unique or specially made.

I've heard this from numerous Green Tech firms from electric cars to solar companies to numerous building trades: you have to have a product that the workman and repairman can efficiently install or repair. The battery, the heat pump, the piping, the system parts need to be standard. If the size of normal plasterboard is 4 X 8, then your green, recycled, compostable plaster board substitute better be 4 X 8 and worked with the same builder's tools. Got it?

Hallowell understands that customer comfort is king in home systems. And cutting energy costs is becoing more and more necessary. So Arcadia need to be both efficient, and effective in providing dependable heat when those Bangor winds begin to blow big snow drifts. In his part of America Hallowell frequently sees home monthly heating bills reach $1,000. In many parts of the U.S. the Acadia system promises 40-60% savings on winter heating bills.

Some final notes from my conversation with Hallowell: they see further improvement coming in their industry. More efficiency, more energy saved. They are not for sale, having turned down past offers. Hallowell says their job is important and he doesn't want to see his company swallowed by some giant corporation and their mission lost. Besides, he added, I'm too young to quit. Finally, here's how they describe their goal on the Hallowell website: "all of our products contribute to the fight of making the world a cleaner and safer place for generations to come."

Topic: CXO

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14 comments
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  • What about below -30?

    Interesting...but what about below -30? Hallowell doesn't address that issue.
    Chad Strunk
  • RE: Heat in a cold climate

    The unit will run all the way down to -45deg F that is when it will cut out on low pressure. At this point you would need some typ of back up heating source.\

    Norm @ Hallowell.
    Norm@...
  • Geothermal has an advantage

    A Waterfurnace geothermal runs 4.5 to 5.0 coop numbers pretty much regardless of outside temperatures. This firm has numbers that vary from 4.5 to 2.2 depending on temperature.

    It might be interesting to see if the compressor here could beat a regular one in a geothermal (closed loop) system.
    nak@...
    • Hallowell compression and geothermal

      You can't beat geothermal for coop numbers in cold climates because the ground temperature is going to be warmer than outside temps.

      With regard to taking advantage of the multistage compressor to make geothermal even more efficient, I'd like to hear from Hallowell, but I've briefly looked into it (I was an electrical engineer, so not my forte, but not far away). Basically, you use more electricity to run multiple stage compression. Plus, for max efficiency, there is going to be an optimum temperature difference between your closed loop water temp where it enters your heat pump, and your refrigerant temperature. The bottom line is that multistage compression is overkill and not warranted for geothermal systems.

      The advantage of the Hallowell system is that it yields better coop than traditional air-air heat pumps, and that it actually works down to -30F without relying on backup heat, such as an electrical resistance element. Also, you don't incur the cost of ground loop installation of the geothermal system. It's an easy retrofit if you're replacing your existing air-air heat pump, or even subsituting for your gas furnace and air conditioner.

      Personally, I am very interested in geothermal, but I like the innovation that Hallowell is doing as well. When upgrading, I would get quotes on both a geothermal heat pump and the Hallowell heat pump, and compute the energy costs over the life of the system. With rising gas prices looming, either solution is going to save you a boatload. Note than the ground loop of the geothermal should last a couple hundred years, which makes computing the payback more complicated. Note that geothermal heat pumps are located inside your building, thus yielding higher lifetimes.
      mike.obri@...
    • Total cost

      Don't forget to compare installed cost. That coop of 4.5 may look good but when the installation cost takes 20 years to catch up with the istalled cost of equipment that is getting 4.5 to 2.2 you should take a serious look at this system.
      hansen58@...
    • Total cost

      Don't forget to compare installed cost. That coop of 4.5 may look good but when the installation cost takes 20 years to catch up with the installed cost of equipment that is getting 4.5 to 2.2 you should take a serious look at this system.
      hansen58@...
  • RE: Heat in a cold climate

    We had a Hallowell Acadia system installed last fall. We have seen our monthly electric bill go from $120 to $2000! And the system has failed to keep us comfortable. With outside temperatures, the house could be heated to 68-70, but when the outside temperature dropped below zero, the unit could only heat the house to 55-60. Very disappointing for a $16,000 investment.
    fdow
    • Agree

      I agree. My unit has not lived up to expectations
      and reliability is terrible.
      nedhead09
    • RE: Heat in a cold climate

      @fdow, i'm considering purchasing one of these. any followup info available on your situation? wondering if you pursued this with Hallowell. thanks for any info you can provide
      greggler
  • RE: Heat in a cold climate

    We installed a Hallowell Acadia in our new home in Colorado last spring. Since then it has been nothing but trouble. Today, my wife says the unit just popped and smoke came out of the condenser unit. We'll have to see what this latest problem is.
    About once a month the unit stops working and we have to have a tech come out. So much for savings.
    Not only do constant breakdowns occur, but the amount of electricity this thing sucks is unbelievable. Our electric bill runs about $500 a month... and we have a 7Kw solar panel array!
    DO NOT BUY THIS SYSTEM!! IT IS JUNK!!
    nedhead09
  • RE: Heat in a cold climate

    Just to update my experience with Hallowell.
    My unit
    went up after 10 months in service. Hallowell
    said my
    unit was a recall and sent out a new unit.
    On Friday, March 5, 2010 the new unit was
    installed.
    My installer did this while on the phone with
    Mark
    from techincal assistance at Hallowell. That
    afternoon we had a working heat pump. It is
    now
    Sunday morning and the new unit has stopped
    working
    and we are back on emergency heat.
    This is not going well. Hallowell really needs
    to step it up!
    nedhead09
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps

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    shop <a href="http://ingramswaterandair.com/">Geothermal
    Heat Pumps</a>
    Geothermal Heat Pump
  • RE: Heat in a cold climate

    Hallowell replaced my faulty unit and paid for the
    installation. The new unit is a million times better
    than the original. It is very quiet. The original was
    extremely loud.
    I will give Hallowell credit for standing behind their
    product. Given that this is the 3rd unit in less than
    a year, you can imagine I was not a happy camper.
    However, if this new unit performs like it is supposed
    to and lasts for many years then I will be happy. As
    it is, I'm just glad I have a unit that appears to be
    working as it was supposed to from the beginning.
    nedhead09
    • RE: Heat in a cold climate

      @nedhead09, please keep us posted. i live in the front range area and considering purchasing that same unit. understand you had a rough time going through 3 units but hopefully it is working now? i'd be grateful for any technical details or other impressions you are willing to share.
      greggler