Taco Comfort Solutions wins the AHR 2023 Innovation award for Sustainable Solutions with its System M. I fully expect to see a virtual explosion in the number of air-to-water heat pumps on display at the upcoming AHR Expo in February.

There was a growing number on display at the last AHR event. Most provide the outdoor condenser and an indoor hydrobox, and the rest is up to the installer to provide. A few had interconnecting refrigerant lines while others utilized hydronic water lines filled with a glycol mixture. Given the major push, more like being shoved, toward all things electric, these amazing marvels certainly fit the bill.

The good news regarding the air-to-water heat pumps that require hydronic water connections between the outdoor and indoor units is the entire refrigerant circuit is self-contained in the outdoor unit. No need to have a refrigerant handling license! Unless, of course, the local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) says otherwise, but they had better require the same regulations for window units, too! One example is Taco’s award-winning System M, which incorporates a variable-speed inverter compressor and fan in the outdoor unit while incorporating variable-speed ECM circulators in the indoor hydrobox.

Taco’s award-winning System M

Most air-to-water inverter heat pumps can provide more than enough DHW (domestic hot water), easily hitting tank storage temperature of 120° F (or more up to 140° F). Coupled with an 85-gallon indirect DHW storage tank, Taco’s System M can fully recover 85 gallons of DHW in an hour. It also incorporates a sanitization cycle of up to 140° F to ward off nasties like Legionella bacteria. The Taco 85-gallon indirect incorporates a 6-kW backup heating element that can provide an assist if needed — like the dead of winter with large heating demand.

What really impresses me regarding the Taco System M is the fact that they have designed this system with the installer in mind. There are just six connections to be made: DHW; heating/cooling circuit; and heat pump hydronic loop. The DHW and heat pump hydronic loop both have an onboard ECM variable- speed circulator. You can also utilize the outdoor reset feature with the outdoor sensor connected, or you can assign a set water temperature. There is an onboard 30-gallon buffer tank in the hydrobox, so no worries about short-cycling the heat pump.  

Flexibility is in play because we are dealing with hydronics. Your hydronic HCC (heating/cooling circuits) can be pretty much whatever you and your clients can dream up. An air handler with hydronic heating/cooling coil can be a great match or maybe some radiant heating to provide the ultimate in comfort. If you plan to utilize radiant cooling, which works remarkably well, you’ll need to incorporate some ducted cooling to manage humidity. Cooled water to the radiant side needs to remain above the dew point.

As is true for all inverter heat pumps (air-to-air or air-to-water), the colder weather does impact the COP (coefficient of performance). Taco’s System M has an excellent COP of 4 on down to 2+, and this, too, is affected by how hot you make the water. COP is a term easily explained to your customers because it relates well to dollars. A COP of 4 means that for every $1 of electricity purchased, the heat pump delivers $4 of usable heating or cooling. That also means it is operating at 400% efficiency, but that often confuses customers so I always stick to the COP. Manufacturers provide performance charts where you can easily see what your COP will be over the full range of outdoor ambient air temperatures, and for air-to-water heat pumps at various hydronic water temperatures. No need to be afraid of the technology, my friends, as it is very installer friendly and easy to program.

But, but, but, I can’t sell these systems, they’re too expensive!


Long ago I had the same mindset until one day, during a training session for tekmar Control Systems, the instructor and good friend Steve “Wheels” Wieland said this regarding higher priced tekmar Control Systems and radiant heating systems: “It’s not your money! Quit letting cost obstruct you from selling higher-end products. Instead, learn the products’ features and quality and present your customers with the benefits you are offering.”  

That was at least three to four decades ago, and long before high-efficiency modcon boilers became a reality. I reset my thinking and began increasing sales even when we often had the highest price. I had a framed cartoon on my desk depicting a bum with tin cup begging for money and the caption read, “I don’t understand it, I always had the low bid.”  

Sales 101: sell yourself first and foremost. I did that by asking lots of questions and let the customers know I was actively listening. What are their concerns and issues? Then you provide solutions. Know what rebates and tax incentives are available so you can use that to add value. If there are rooms not heating or cooling to their satisfaction, determine why and add the solutions to your sales pitch. Last, but not least, ask for the sale before you leave.

It’s not your money! Quit letting cost obstruct you from selling higher-end products. Instead, learn the products’ features and quality and present your customers with the benefits you are offering.

Know when to shut up, too! I was all set to launch into a sales pitch for a high-end heating and cooling system when the husband stopped me and said just tell us why we should go with this equipment because we are not technical people, but want top quality. They got a brief recap on the benefits and signed the contract.

They had an oil-fired furnace and water heater, but had finished their basement and installed a huge flat-screen TV including stadium seating and one bodacious surround sound system. The oil burners made too much noise and they wanted quiet heating and DHW. There was no way to direct vent and equipment because this end of their basement was below grade and surrounded by their pool area.

The solution was installing a modcon on the opposite end in their storage area that was at grade, so direct venting was easy to install. There was just enough room above the suspended ceiling for 1-inch PEX-AL-PEX with conversion to copper in the storage area and the room where the oil-fired equipment had been. A new air handler with oversized six-pass hydronic coil enabled the boiler to use a low set-point so it remained in constant condensing mode, and an 80-gallon indirect water heater enabled them to enjoy their home theater without hearing the HVAC or water heater making any noise. A full IAQ package was also included.