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Heat Pumps, Split Systems and Air Conditioners


ChipR
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I am having a little trouble determining which system I am looking at if the label isn't readable. I came across a system that wouldn't turn on when I cranked up the stat. My thinking was that it could possibly be a air conditioner and it doesn't want to help with the heat.

I am a little confused on how to inspect these systems so I would like to find out how the seasoned veterans handle these inspections.

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Chip,

I know George Moomaw, I've posted with George Moomaw, and sir, I'm no George Moomaw.

But I'm assuming you would have noticed a gas or oil burner on the air handler, so I must guess you were looking at a heat pump or electric furnace. A heat pump or electric furnace that doesn't heat the house when the thermostat is raised is busted. I think If I raised the thermostat on an inspection like that, checked the breakers, the thermostat, and the shutoff, and still nothing happened, I'd tell my client the heat didn't work and someone smarter than myself should figure out why and fix it.

However, finding a furnace that won't heat in the winter is rare where I come from. Was the house warm and cozy or as cold as a well digger's thumb when you got there?

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The house was warm and cozy. It had electric heat. It was difficult to tell if it was a heat pump or a air conditioner since the label was faded. I would like to now how I can tell the differance between heat pumps and air conditioners when it can't be read on the label? Chip

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Chip, if you're from an area cold enough to have an auxiliary heater to back up the heat pump, then the thermostat will have settings for Cool/Off/Heat/EmHeat (or AuxHeat). In warmer climes there often is not any auxiliary heat.

Going outside, with your flashlight, look into the condenser unit. What you're looking for is the reversing valve. Heat pumps have'em, AC's don't. While the shapes differ somewhat from maker to maker, you're looking for a gizmo that's a small canister about 1.5-2" in diameter and 6-7" tall -and with four regrigerant tubes going in and out of it. Once you know you have a heat pump sometime, go out and look for this, and you'll get to recognize these.

-David Lee

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Chip:

If you're truly earnest in trying to become a professional then attend a professional school. ITA is one of them however, there are others.

If your post was of a serious nature then my reply is of a serious nature as well.

If you can not tell the difference between a condensing unit and a heat pump then you really need to seek professional training. You are doing your customers a dis-service if you do not have, at least, a rudimentary knowledge of the systems/components of a home. Perhaps you can talk to some of the home inspectors in your area and see if they are hiring and are willing to train.

To sum it up, you would hate to hear your doctor asking another doctor if he knows where the heart is located.

I do not profess to know everything, I still ask a lot of questions however, (hopefully) the questions I ask are geared more towards fine tuning than "why doesn't the air conditioning help the heat".

If we don't raise the bar of our profession the lawyers/politicians will.

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Hi Terry,

I don't think your's or George's or anyone else's message about learning is lost on Chip, but maybe his is lost on you guys.

He's new to the business and trying to learn. However, he could just as well be a veteran inspector in the Seattle area that learned about heat pumps in a course 10 years ago, has never seen one since, has one on a home tomorrow and has virtually no memory left of any of the key things he learned about heat pumps while in the course he attended, lo those many years ago. Heck, that could be very possible, I had one yesterday - perhaps only the 11th or 12th I've seen since 1996 and working on it I had the distinct impression that I'd just donned a t-shirt backwards. Can you relate to that sensation?

Not everyone in this business has a natural intuitiveness for understanding machinery or mechanical concepts and not all are from trades backgrounds. Yet, even some of these folks who have never struck a nail in their lives, have managed to learn enough about construction, electro-mechanicals and the building sciences to do inspections which, if they aren't better, are technically at least as good as some of those I've seen done by some of the alleged 'veterans' in this business.

Essentially, what I'm saying is that the bar does need to be raised, but across the board in the entire profession. Lecturing new guys about their inexperience and how it does a disservice to the client isn't doing anything to address the thousands of 'veteran' home inspectors who routinely do a disservice to their clients with quicky, minimalist inspections that are light on technical expertise and heavy on schmooze factor. Before we lecture the new guys, we really need to clean up our own act first.

Anyway, people come to TIJ to learn. Every home inspector who comes here, whether in the business for 24 hours or 24 years, whether a member of a professional association or not, whether trained by a school or strictly learn-as-they-go is welcome here, and I would ask that all participants respect the right of everyone who comes here to choose his or her own path in life, to respect one another, not to belittle one another and to be as helpful to one another as possible.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Terry wrote:

We all took our first steps. It's worrisome though that there are those practicing on warm bodies without the watchful eye of professional training/instruction. It's a recipe for unhappy endings which ultimately gives all of us a black-eye.
Yeah it does. But don't get the idea I'm trying to shut you down. I'm not. I just want folks to recognize that, if we don't know the capabilities of those whom we address here, our criticisms are not always founded.

Terry, you know that not all schools are turning out capable inspectors. Besides, there are people capable of learning the business without any schooling. That's been proved time and again. What's more important is how we shepherd these new folks after they are already on the ground doing inspections.

Ask yourself why so many people come into the business and leave every year. Is it because it is too tough and they can't figure it out? Or, could it be that they had the skills to do a good job and left because of prevailing attitudes in the business?

How many new folks coming in can't find mentors in their own areas who are willing to help them become successful, and when they come onto these forums for help they are afraid to ask questions, for fear that someone will chide them for not knowing the answers? I think there are a lot, and I think many of them leave the profession frustrated and feeling defeated.

Consequently, the inspection training schools make money hand over fist with new hopefuls, while the rest of us are constantly treated to an ever-changing crop of new inspectors who charge consistently lower prices than everyone else and artificially depress fees within the profession.

Please understand that I was an Army NCO most of my adult life to this point and mentoring and training younger, inexperienced folks is what NCO's do best. I've had soldiers who couldn't lace their boots up right when assigned to a squad with an overbearing NCO, but who blossomed and who's skills eventually surpassed those of their peers when assigned to squads with NCO's who listened, mentored, gave them opportunities to excel and even allowed them to fail gracefully and learn from their mistakes.

We, the veteran inspectors in this business are the NCO's. The schools do nothing but turn out green inspectors with sometimes vastly different capabilities and acquired knowledge. If we want to see this trade grow into a profession, we've got to be more understanding and work harder to inform and train everyone in it.

Ah, enough of this. Let's give George back his forum and leave it alone. Just think about what I said the next time someone new signs on and try to remember that you and I were both there once.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Thanks Mike, Now I feel a little more welcomed. I was ready to leave and never come back with the responses I received from my first post. Yes, I am new, I have a lot to learn, but I have already come a long way from where I started. I did go to a 2 week training program, and I study every nite. I will always have questions, and if nobody minds I would like to ask some of them here.

Chip

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Chip,

I'm new also. Very new. The sum total of my actual home inspection experience is what most of these experts do in a week if they take Friday off.

When I first came to TIJ I had the small advantage of sort of knowing Mike from the Journal of Light Construction forum (which I highly recommend as daily reading).

When I posted a question or an answer here, I'd sit for 20 minutes and make sure that it wasn't something that'd embarrass me, and it was always w/ some trepidation that I hit the "enter" key. Since then, these guys have taken care of me like an old crippled dog and nursed me along. There is simply no better place to find the best of the best. There is also no other place where people will tell you exactly how it is. If you can take the lumps, the gravy here is excellent.

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Chip:

My apologies if I sounded like sandpaper.

People are trusting your knowledge to properly guide them with their hard earned money, hundreds of thousand of dollars. It's akin to giving your money to a stockbroker, who's lack of proper training, causes you to lose money. You wouldn't be happy.

Mike is right, we need a smaller hammer and a brighter light.

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Chip,

There are some real fart smellers here and we all learn from each other every day. If you're humble, thick-skinned, and hard-working, you'll learn a lot here.

Most inspectors (myself included) think we know more than we do. Not one of us will ever document more then 15% of the defects in a given house. We just hope we find the most important ones.

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