Mini-Split Musings

Could You, Should You, DIY?

August 1, 2016

In this age of do-it-yourself-ing, the more industrious of us might be tempted to think that installing a ductless heat pump without benefit of an installer is do-it-yourself-able. While it’s possible to do most of the work yourself with the purchase of a small chest of special tools, and way more trips to the hardware store than a do-it-yourself plumbing job takes, there are parts of the operation that you simply cannot do without specialized tools and knowledge.

But, let’s review what is involved in the installation of a ductless heat pump and you can make up your own mind. First of all, when you decide to install a ductless heat pump, you need to choose the right sized ductless system for your square footage. Then you must choose the optimal placement for your outdoor and indoor units. The choice and placement of these items is based on the size of your home, the air flow routes; and ventilation and insulation within your home. You need to know a lot about heating and cooling patterns, which is what installers, contractors, and even salespeople take hours of training courses to learn.

Once you have figured out the proper placement of both your indoor and outdoor units, then you will need to bust out your carpenter moves. You will need some specific tools. The most basic of these tools is a drill that can drill through your home's outdoor wall composition. And, you should absolutely possess (or borrow) a level so that your indoor unit won’t sit on the wall leaning one way or the other. You need to be able to do a little masonry because outdoor units must be placed on a stable pad. Installers have all of those skills, tools and more!

After you have drilled (and possibly patched then re-drilled) the hole and placed your indoor and outdoor units, it’s time to connect the refrigerant, electrical and communication lines between the two units. Keep in mind that this is high-voltage stuff. You also need to be able to ‘flare’ copper pipe and torque it to the proper foot pounds for ductless heat pumps. I wonder what tool you would need to do that?

Once the line set is all connected and insulated, you will need to pressure test for refrigerant leaks. This is done using high-pressure nitrogen! Refrigerant cannot be allowed to leak, it’s an environmental hazard… and probably not legal to handle! After you do the nitrogen test, you need to vacuum down the lines to 500 microns. Oh boy, now you need a vacuum gauge. Installers have gauges and lots of patience to do this.

Then, there is a little matter of knowing about electricity. Installers work under the direct supervision of a licensed electrician. Because, of course, electricity is dangerous. And, you need an electrician to make sure that you are in compliance with codes and that you will pass the electrical inspections…Yes, there are inspections.

And, here’s another reason to just let the experts do it…the warranties. If you do it yourself and it doesn’t go well, you cannot call up the ductless manufacturer to get your money back. But if you have a licensed, authorized installer do the job, and something goes wrong, you can call them and they will make it right. Most warranties by manufacturers specifically say that you need to use a licensed ductless installer. Not installing a system properly can damage property, or (if you don’t know your way around refrigerant and electrical stuff) injury.

So, just relax. Look for a heating and air conditioning installer or contractor that is licensed and bonded, offers guarantees, and has highly-trained employees. Let the experts come in and take care of you. It takes a day or less and they’ll make sure it’s done right. And, the costs of a system can often be offset by rebates and low-interest loans.

So, all you have to do to have clean, comfortable, energy-efficient and cost saving heating and air conditioning is call an expert... You'll be SO glad you did!

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