Our mountain cottage
We moved to the mountain a half decade ago. Sounds so long. As I write, it will be our sixth winter. It’s a small cottage. About 800 square foot on main floor, with an 800 square foot walk out basement. The areas we’re looking to heat are a 580 square foot living/kitchen and a 170 square foot bedroom. Entire house has electric baseboard heat installed in the 1980’s. We never use it because it’s so expensive to run. (Ran it for 3 days in the middle of winter, and it cost about $50!) Instead, we currently heat almost entirely with a small Jotul F3 wood stove. We have virtually unlimited firewood, and I’ve learned how to process it. It’s the perfect backup heat source, not dependent on electricity or anything besides sweat, wood and spark. But it’s hard work. If we got the Covid, LOL, no way would I be able to manage the wood stove. And wood stoves aren’t so great for our health…
Current heat and air condition
We currently cool with a 12k BTU window air conditioner, and heat with firewood. Throwing an A/C in the window during the summer is the easy part. Firewood is more complicated. Our journey from a thermostat to an old Heatilator prefab fireplace insert to our Jotul F3 wood stove has been an experience. From having ‘dry’ processed wood delivered and receiving entire loads of pieces too long to fit the stove, to firewood cut and processed on our property and a maul and wedges, and now a hydraulic wood splitter, we burn about 4 to 5 cords of wood each winter. I’ve learned how to process firewood, how to burn the right proportion of hard or soft wood, higher and lower moisture firewood to create the amount and duration of heat desired. It seems simple, but it’s really a science. If you’ve never heated with firewood, you’re going to be cold your first winter. While I’m still very much a beginner in firewood heat, I’m confident I could muddle through heating without electricity.
What we’re looking for
It would be nice to use our wood stove only when it’s super cold, or when we feel like it, or when the electric is out (which happens often upon this hill). Using firewood for backup or supplementary heat seems more suitable than being a primary heat source. We’ve been looking at various mini-split systems for a few years, and the road keeps leading back to Mitsubishi. While there might be other, arguably better systems, they’re clearly the market leader. Mitsubishi seems to have the most dealers, and almost always the first thought when we think of mini-split in America.
Decided on a Mitsubishi Hyper Heat Mini Split
About a year ago, a local Mitsubishi dealer, Horizon Heating & Air Conditioning, gave us an email quote based on some details I provided about our place. Without seeing the place, they recommended a 28k BTU mini-split heatpump, with two head units: a 18k BTU and a 11k BTU. For this dual-head, hyper heat system, it was estimated to be about $8200 complete including installation. We were really impressed by the sales manager Marc Craig. It was really easy and convenient obtaining a quote to help us budget.
Buying the system
We finally decided to move forward with a Mitsubishi system and called Horizon back. Since we’re ready to purchase, Marc came out in person. Just as friendly as he was to work with last year, he took some measurements, made a quick drawing of our place. While we discussed various Mitsubishi options, he ultimately only left us brochures for a traditional Trane heat pump system. The visit was maybe a half hour and Marc promised to get back to us with pricing. He did get us pricing as promised. Surprisingly, we only received a quote for the Trane system. About $10500 (if paid in full, cash or check, more when we finance or use credit card) for a 2 ton Trane heat pump, including installation of ducting and vents. For the mini-split system, he said a Mitsubishi mini-split system was not capable of providing enough heat for our area. Marc was nice and easy to work with, responsive and knowledgeable. It was unfortunate to hear they weren’t able to offer a quote. So… we’re off to other options…
I’ve submitted an inquiry directly on Mitsubishi’s website, and within hours a different dealer called me back. I also got a referral for a different contractor from a neighbor. We expect visits and quotes from these two contractors within the next few weeks, and I’ll edit and post updates here. I can’t wait to post my review of going back to a thermostat, from firewood heating.