Heat Pump Helper leaders converge on Ohio home

August 17, 2023 By    

Representatives from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), Rinnai America Corp. and others including LP Gas magazine visited a home in Ashland, Ohio, earlier this summer to learn more about the propane industry’s response to electrification through its Heat Pump Helper (HPH) solution.

Harpreet Brar, right, visits in his home with representatives from Rinnai and Rewak Mechanical. (Photo by LP Gas staff)

Harpreet Brar, right, visits in his home with representatives from Rinnai and Rewak Mechanical. (Photo by LP Gas staff)

This hydronic hybrid system design uses propane tankless water heating technology to help homeowners upgrade their electric heat pump to a dual-fuel space heating system designed to provide greater comfort and lower costs when temperatures drop.

The northern Ohio home is one of 10 pilot sites used to showcase the technology and help technicians, especially those within the propane industry, learn how to install it. The Ashland, Ohio, site is different from the others in that the HPH hydronics are supplementing geothermal heat. Even with geothermal and electric resistors as their backup, the homeowners couldn’t keep their 6,500-sq.-ft. home comfortable in the winter, and their energy bills soared past $1,000 a month. That changed when they removed the electric resistors and added hydronic, tankless technology.

“My wife noticed for the first time that the house was warmer. It hasn’t been that way,” says Harpreet Brar, the homeowner who initially undertook his own research into how he could reduce his high energy costs. “Geothermal heat just feels kind of cool. I’m telling you that it was the first time it felt like we had a propane furnace or gas furnace. We’ve lived in gas-fired houses before, and that’s what it felt like. The heat was radiating from the floors, and it was comfortable.”

HPH allows propane marketers to convert homes with electric heat pumps to dual-fuel space heating systems by installing a gas-fired water heater or boiler or using one already on-site. The application will allow the propane industry to protect and grow gallons in the residential market, especially where electric heat pumps are prevalent and customers are not comfortable when temperatures dip below 30 or 40 degrees.

HPH integrates the hot water source, a hydronic heating coil and air handler. Bindus Manufacturing’s Aquecoil is a hot water-to-air heat exchanger that mounts directly to all brands of residential-style air handlers. HPH moves hot water from the propane tankless water heating unit through the Aquecoil to create hot air that is then blown through the existing ductwork to heat the home. The Ohio home uses a Rinnai M-Series tankless boiler.

“Electric strip heat is uncomfortable and expensive,” says Ryan McMichael, lead project engineer at Rinnai. “By going to hydronic heating, you have both the comfort of water and the lesser costs of propane or natural gas. For me, it’s a solution moving forward.”

The heat strip had been “chewing up so much energy” at the Ohio home, explains Armistead Mauck, formerly of Cherry Energy and now working with PERC on the project.

“He’s drawing heat from the ground all the time [with geothermal], and supplements with the hydronic heat powered by propane,” Mauck says of Brar, who recently upgraded to a 1,000-gallon tank and uses Victory Propane for his fueling needs.

Mauck and Randy Doyle, an industry veteran who now consults for Holtzman Propane, have been leading the way for the industry on the HPH project. Doyle’s work in the area extends back to 2015 when he served as CFO of Blossman Gas. Now they’re looking to commercialize the application through a “one button” sales and installation process.

Joe Rewak of Rewak Mechanical, the local installer of the system, also attended the pilot site visit at the Brar home.

With the system installation late last year, the homeowners anticipate lower energy expenditures over the course of a full winter.

“The true story will be told this December, January and February,” Mauck says.


About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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