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We appreciate our heat pumps. The theory behind them is irreproachable—reverse refrigeration—taking heat from the outside and putting it inside in winter, and taking heat from the inside and putting it outside in summer. A local company installed our main floor unit fifteen years ago and the lower level unit fourteen years ago and then promptly went bankrupt. We found a good serviceman to keep the units in repair, after lightning did some damage to the upper unit’s electronic components. Although the manufacturer was a reputable company, he reported that it contained several outdated parts. He kept it going for us nonetheless. The lower unit, on the hand, has never given us a bit of trouble. It keeps plugging along, passing every inspection.  Finally, a year ago in the fall, when the upper unit fan and compressor warned that they did not want to survive another winter, we decided to find a replacement.

We examined several alternatives and finally narrowed the search to another major manufacturer. A Trane would replace a Carrier. It sounded like a very good system, but when it was installed it did indeed sound like a train. The blower, starting out as barely a whisper, built up the wind pressure of a gale in a Midwestern thunderstorm, pillowing the vinyl flooring in the bathroom and kitchen. A few days later we recalled the installer, who adjusted it to a moderate wind, saying that it had been set for Florida, instead of an Arkansas setting. Florida homes require such a tempest because of their high humidity. I accepted the explanation. The Arkansas setting provided a tolerable breeze, and the flooring stayed where it belonged.

We finally got the missing panel delivered for the air handler, which somehow had gotten lost in New Orleans, and the programmable thermostat that had been promised finally replaced the temporary manual adjustment model. By that time, our winter stay concluded, and the need for neither heat nor cool was evident in the mild spring, summer, and early fall visits that followed.

Our November stay provided the first serious test of our new system since February as the outside temperature fell to freezing, and we let the thermostat kick into action. Very little happened. The blower provided markedly less sound than it had, and the heat, drifting out of the vents, was warm enough, but lacked motivation. When I checked the crawl space where the air handler is located, I found the problem. The return air vent, stressed by the new fan pressure, had collapsed, flatter than a proverbial pancake. Not much air was going to get through that vent, which had severed its connection to the rest of the house.

We called back to the installer who was very quick to come and replace the return air vent with a solid metal vent wrapped with thick insulation. They took no responsibility for the collapse of the earlier system, which probably would not have held up in either Arkansas or Florida, so another investment was needed on my part, making this the equal to earlier estimates for a geothermal replacement, much to my chagrin, although who knows what unforeseen costs would have come with that installation?

Now, comfortably ensconced in our Ozark home with a balmy 72 degrees inside while the wind blows at 25 mph in the 25 degree temperature outside, all is right with the world.

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