Home Heating DIY

The house at Sunnybrook Lane was built with wall heaters in the main living/sleeping areas, and a heater in each of the bathroom vent fan units. There is no existing ductwork, so adding a standard furnace would be a pricey, complicated affair.

The home’s original heaters are still in fine working order, but the wall units are neither energy efficient nor the safest heating option. We decided to keep them as auxiliary heaters, rather than rip them out and create a mess of unnecessary plaster patching. We thoroughly cleaned the metal covers, and replaced them after painting, and they’ve kept us warm as we work, though the electric bills agree an upgrade is overdue.

Jeff researched heating units that were suitable for home-owner installation, and discovered the “split pump,” which seemed to suit our needs very well. Because we had no existing ductwork, we wanted something that we could install in the large central area, the open kitchen/living/dining room, and something with enough oomph to heat (or cool) the entire 1300 square feet.

There was no air conditioning at Sunnybrook Lane, which is not a huge issue the majority of the summer on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where summer highs generally don’t edge much past 80*F. However, there are always a couple weeks where the thermometer gets up there to a point where it would be rather nice to have the option to cool the house down, especially if we’re entertaining guests.

When we decided to upgrade the system, we opted for a “split heat pump system” by MrCool. MrCool is a ductless heating and cooling unit which will keep our home comfortable year-round very economically. Bonus points to MrCool for making a unit specifically for do-it-your-selfers. However, it helped us immensely to have our amazing plumber Dean on hand, a guy who’s done a bit of nearly everything in his decades of build-outs and remodels–including installation of a few MrCool units. I

Jeff and Dean unboxed the part of the unit that will be mounted inside the house, and read through the instruction manual. The unit needs to be mounted high enough that there is sufficient drainage for the water hose (for the air conditioner), and close enough to the outside part of the unit that the bundle of copper tubing and wires will reach.

Jeff got everything prepped for the install. While theoretically it could be installed by one person, we were very glad to have three of us on hand. Jeff and Dean hoisted the unit up the ladders onto the mounting bracket, feeding the tubing through the hole to Lisa, who directed them through the attic.

Next up on this project: hooking up the workhorse of the MrCool mini-split heat pump outside. We prepared a solid, flat surface for the outside unit to sit on. Jeff made a square frame larger than the outside dimensions of the unit, which we dug in, leveled, filled with cement, smoothed, and allowed to cure for a few days.

The cement needed time to harden, giving us time to run back to Home Depot for the final supplies needed to install the outdoor part of the mini split unit. To make this project jive even better with our long-term plans to do lots of travel, we’ve been utilizing our Alaska Airline credit card, gathering miles on our fave airline as we round up needed tools and supplies.

The exposed tubing and wiring was fed through a length of PVC, then attached to the home’s siding. Jeff has lots of experience working with electrical projects, so was able to confidently put in the additional breaker box (required by our local codes) and attach the power to our MrCool.

We carefully lifted the unit onto the prepared cement pad. We opted to keep the wood form in place, adding 2″x4″s to secure the unit to a raised surface. The instructions for installation guide one to mount the unit on a level surface. We can always re-mount it directly on the cement later, when we put a small roof over it to protect it from the Pacific Northwest’s famously long rainy season.

Almost ready to fire it up–we’ll update here as we finish installation of our new mini split!

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