Does This Heat Pump Make People Like Me Irrelevant?

Ideal Heat Pump

I’ve been in air conditioning and heat pumps for 34 years as of this week. For 25 of those years, I did tech support, but I hung up my spurs three years ago. Eventually, the stupid questions wear you down, and for your own sanity, you must give it up.

The industry suffers from three problems from the tech support engineer’s point of view:

  1. Mobile phones are too cheap, so it’s easier to call and ask a silly question than to look in the manual or try to work it out yourself.
  2. The instructions that come with the kit are awful and impossible to follow.
  3. The software in the kit is appalling and not intuitive; numbers for fault codes instead of words come to mind.

Points 2 and 3 are very important to me. I built and sold a business entirely based on them. But it looks like things are changing.

Example: I have just installed a new heat pump at home. Well, when I say I, I did the wiring; the plumbers did the tubing. I had never seen the heat pump I installed before. So, I did what any good installer would do: threw away the manual and used my own complete inexperience and ego.

It’s a heat pump, so it’s not very hard. You put it outside, tube it up to the pre-plumbed cylinder, and connect the radiator circuit. It’s a bit like doing a boiler, except you get to go outside for 10% of the job. Oh, and you can charge twice as much. The plumber, an experienced gas installer, had no problem with the heat pump at all and wanted to know what the fuss was about. He looked at the pre-plumbed and said, “All the hard work is done for you; this is a piece of cake.” He’s considering a move into renewables. It’s better money, and it’s easy.

The wiring was also simple: a 4-core from the heat pump to the pre-plumbed (note, one less wire than the boiler needed). They even label the terminals with what the cables do. That’s a first for me. I’m used to unintelligible numbers which bear no reference to what they do.

The only oddity was an ambient air sensor using a 2-core, used for weather compensation. I still can’t work out why they don’t use the ambient sensor in the outdoor unit (user-hostile software development again). Daikin sorted this out in the 90s: if you want the ambient air temperature, spin the fan for 10 seconds, read the air temperature on the back of the unit, and bingo.

When it came to commissioning, it really got to me. Written instructions and videos on how this is done in the past, multiple button pushes, pressing and holding buttons for 5 seconds, etc., setting the same setting on every unit time and again because the developers can’t be bothered to set the units up with sensible settings out of the factory. You know the drill. I still dream about setting up controllers at night.

This new heat pump was a revelation. Turn it on, it asked me three simple questions like, “Have you got radiators or underfloor heating? Have you got one or two zones?” and that was it. Even the halo thermostat was a cinch. Turn it on, press the pair button, get a glass of wine. Done.

I’m very happy to say that this Ideal heat pump would have put me out of a job. It’s a job that never needed doing if the manufacturers made simple-to-use and install kits. I’m very impressed.

It’s a lovely bit. The manual is easy to understand. I read it after I had finished. It turns out that in the back of the manual is a list of what to do if you have a fault code. Lunacy. What are tech support engineers going to do if this sort of idea catches on?

Well done, Ideal. A cracking unit, beautifully built, well thought out, and easy to use. You could be onto something with this sort of thinking.

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5468 kWhs
1 month ago

Be careful Graham, don’t bite your tongue whilst in your cheek like that!😉 Regards, Toodles.

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