Electrical Info & Energy Efficiency

This is unofficial advice given neighbor to neighbor; accuracy is not guaranteed, and any work on a unit should be done by licensed professionals with proper permissions from the building management.

Heating and Cooling

When this building was converted to condominiums in the 1980’s.  The condos were furnished with heat panels in the bathrooms and entry way.  Many people have removed these.  However, that being said, they may not have removed the wiring to these panels.  Please remember that all re-wiring should be accomplished by a competent electrician.  Many residents have used Village Electric and have been satisfied with their work.  For more on heat panels, see Heat Panels section below.

Heat Pump Winter:

Most of the cooling and heating is produced by heat pumps in your condo.  In the winter, water is heated by boilers in the basement and there is a pump which circulates this water through the entire building.  Your heat pump when activated will draw heat from the water and transfer it to the air in your apartment by fan.  The heating of the water is paid for by your condo fee but, of course, all operation of the heat pump is paid by you via your electric bill.

Heat Pump Summer:

There is a reversing valve in your heat pumps.  When you switch to the “cool” setting on your thermostat, the heat pump reverses from heating to cooling.  In the summer, the boilers are shut off and the water which travels to your apartment circulates to an evaporating tower on the roof; the water is cooled by the evaporating tower.  Your heat pump will now draw cold from the water and transfer it to the air in your apartment by fan.  Note the water will never be “cold,” but your unit will be able to draw cold from the water even if the temperature of the water is in excess of 90F.

Heat Pump Drains:

Each heat pump has a drain which drains any condensation which might form in the summer.  There have been several issues in the past with water leaking down from the heat pumps to your neighbor below.  To mitigate this issue, the drains are normally checked yearly by the management company.

Heat Pump Maintenance:

Each heat pump should have a filter in front of the unit.  You may have to cut a filter to fit but it is recommended that you install a filter and regularly replace the filter.  If the unit has no filter, dust clogs in the fins preventing the heat pump from operating efficiently.  These heat pumps are particularly susceptible to overheating or freezing; when this happens, it can usually be traced to inadequate air flow.  Over the years, many of the heat pumps have been replaced by new units.  Because the new units are different, they never fit the air profile of the heat pump cover.  The heat pump cover needs to be modified to allow proper heat flow.  If you have any trouble at all with heating or cooling, recommend you contact Steve Bedard at A1-Maintenance 978-957-5526.

Efficient Operation:

In addition to the maintenance above, the plumbing which provides for the water flow through your heat pumps may become clogged.  In recent years, there has been some work in the building to replace the cooling system on the roof, new boilers in the basement and replacement of pumps.  When this work is/was done, sediment is dislodged and circulated through the building and into your heat pumps.  When your pipes are open, there should be only a 2 degree difference between the incoming water temperature and the outgoing water temperature.

If you take the front panel off from your heat pump you will see two copper pipes above your heat pump.  The pipe on the left side contains the incoming water and the pipe on the right side contains the outgoing water.  By using an infrared thermometer (often used for checking frying pan temperature), you can measure the incoming pipe temperature, the outgoing temperature, and the compressor temperature (black coil at the bottom of your heat pump).  If the compressor is anything more than ten degrees above incoming water temperature, your unit is working too hard, your electric bill is higher than it should be and your compressor will burn out earlier than necessary.

Some heat pumps are more sensitive to air and water flow.  This doesn’t mean that the unit needs to be replaced, quite the contrary.  Most likely this unit will provide you with cooler air when running efficiently.  Some compressors will work when operating in excess of 130F.  Others will not work much beyond 120F.  Again, these temperatures are too high and either the pump to the whole building is down or the pipes in your heat pump are clogged.

A few residents have installed water flow meters in their heat pumps to verify adequate water flow.

Heat Panels

There are several electric heat panels which were installed originally in each unit.

Electric Heater by Front Door

There is an electric heater which is flush to the wall beside the front door of your condo.  This unit may have been removed but it is/was on a 20 amp service.  There is a small fan which operates by the knob on the front of the heater.  Intensity of the heat may be adjusted by the knob. 

Electric Heater in Bathrooms

There are electric heaters in each bathroom.  These are wall mounted units that are mounted at the floor.  These have knobs which activate the heat.  The knob can adjust the intensity of the heat.  These again are on 20 amp breakers.

Electric Heat Panel

There is a large ceramic electric heat panel on the ceiling of the second floor near the front door.  This panel is 2 x 6 feet in size and is controlled by a thermostat on the second floor near the panel.  This electric panel is expensive to replace.  The thermostat is actually on the 20 amp line so it’s not a typical thermostat.  The 20 amp lines are connected in the box on the wall where the thermostat is connected.  The thermostat runs across the hot lead in the wall.  There aren’t many options for smart thermostats for this kind of setup.  Some residents have recommended the Mysa Smart Thermostat or the Stelpro Ki Electronic Thermostat for the Smart Home; these thermostats are pricey. There is a breaker which feeds this panel and the electric heater by the front door.  I have turned this breaker off at the electric panel as I never use these heaters.

—Bill J

Admin note: Again, If you have any trouble at all with heating or cooling, the local company most often used by residents is A1-Maintenance: (978) 957-5526. A web search also turns up an alternate phone #: (978) 937-8250.

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