This is a story about ductless heat pumps. Don’t turn the page; the ductless heat pump is one of the hottest heating and cooling appliances around.
And Cory Eckert and Mike Meisenheimer, co-owners of an Olympia business called Alpine Ductless, plus their eight-person team, have sold and installed hundreds of them since launching the business a little over a year ago.
Although the U.S. has been slow to catch on to the ductless heat pump, it has been in use for years in Asia, particularly in Japan, the country also known for manufacturing some of the most common ductless brands, such as Mitsubishi and Fujitsu.
Ductless heat pumps are popular right now because they are an efficient and cost effective way to heat or cool a home or business compared with oil, or an electric furnace or electric baseboard, which is common to older homes.
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Eckert said a typical Northwest home uses 100,000 BTUs — a measurement of energy use — in a 24-hour period, while a ductless heat pump uses a fraction of that, but still has the capacity to heat or cool an entire home.
The business owners also have data that show how the cost of a ductless heat pump stacks up against other traditional heating methods.
Heating a home with oil is the most expensive — no surprise — working out to about $5 a day in energy costs, but with a ductless heat pump it falls to 88 cents a day.
A typical single-head ductless heat pump — meaning one unit inside the house — costs $4,000 to $5,000, and from purchase to installation takes anywhere from one to three weeks.
A single-head system will work for a home up to 2,000 square feet, although two works best for anything larger, the owners said.
They also wanted to make clear: You do not need a unit in each room of the house to effectively heat or cool the home, but you may need one on each floor of the home.
Alpine was the low bidder for a new, 30-unit Habitat for Humanity subdivision in the Tacoma area called The Woods at Golden Given, said Gomer Roseman, director of site development and construction.
“They teamed up with Fujitsu and made us a great offer,” he said.
But Roseman said they had long decided to use a ductless system, with Roseman calling it the “most efficient heating system known to man in the 21st century.”
Saving $30 on your heating bill doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is if you make $25,000 a year.
“That’s huge,” Roseman said.
Owners: Cory Eckert, Mike Meisenheimer
Location: The business operates a warehouse in the Mottman Industrial Park in Tumwater to accept deliveries, but otherwise the business and employees work in the virtual world — at home on the Internet.
Type of business: Sells and installs ductless heat pumps
Years in business: Opened in early 2012. The business started as South Sound Ductless, but then was renamed, the owners not wanting to sound so exclusively regional.
Advice to business owners: “Surround yourself with the right people, be diligent about following the business plan, and if it’s a partnership, be clear about roles,” Meisenheimer said. Eckert added that if you choose a partner, be sure to work with someone who can take on those things you might not be good at, and hire a bookkeeper.
Did you know? Eckert is a former custom home builder and Meisenheimer is a former vice president of marketing for a Toronto-based enterprise software company. Eckert also is a member of the White Pass Ski Patrol. That’s where the two met: both at one time were training to work for the ski patrol, but Meisenheimer, already spending too much time on the road away from his family, or traveling to Toronto, finally decided to stay closer to home.