ITS Heatpump DIY Install

I bought a ITS heatpump secondhand from someone that emigrated. It started with:

I will mount it on the wall and save a plumber some time.
Then I realised my current geyser is on its last legs, water was dripping from it (dates back 1996)
So I Installed another geyser onto the same wall below the heatpump.

Then I thought to myself that copper plumbing looks very simple (and yes it is)
So I started researching the different pieces, Y-Strainer, Vacuum breakers, ball valves and and brass fittings to connect the galvanised to copper. I designed something which can be removed in pieces with compression fittings to connect them. 5 pieces in total. IT took me 3 full days building and fitting the design, and another day to cover all the pipes with R1 Insulation. I just hate it when there is air in the system so the design has 3 vacuum breakers.

I did not get the NTC with the heatpump so I plugged in the NTC that came with my geyserwise and calculated the error, and adjusted the settings to account for the error.
My heatpump has been in operation for about 3 months now and works perfectly.
Still have to neaten the wires and install an isolator switch.

All in all I spent about a week. I spent about R4-5K in copper pipes, fittings, tools, blow torch etc.
Just the insulation alone was more than R800.
My friends think I am crazy, just pay a plumber they will be done in 3-4 hours.

If I take what I earn and calculate the cost it might be one of the most expensive installs.

Reading this forum I am starting to feel better about myself, there are other people like me… Saw on another thread people are installing their own aircons. Should I be joining a support group to help me with the “buy all the tools and do it yourself” mentality?

The whole… have to service the heatpump nonsense I simply do not buy. Do you have to service your fridge every year? Flush the dust off the heat exchanger. The refrigerant is a closed loop and should never loose any gas. If it loses gas there is a leak and which requires an expert with the right equipment to detect and repair.

Next steps: Automate the heatpump to automatically run during the warmest part of the day. Once my solar is installed I will be running the heatpump from solar power only.

I am open to questions if you want to follow this crazy route youself.

Edit: Added some pictures

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It seems you did when you joined this forum…welcome :laughing:

I always find it funny when family says I waste my time and try do everything myself but if something breaks guess who is the first person to get asked, and which man doesn’t like tools, I can wonder around hardware store for hours.

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If you are a Saffa…… this is the support group and you are now the chief….


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I suffer from the same problem. I also browse online for hours till my head is spinning from all the options, and then I do not order anything, sigh.

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Last week I almost bought a roller bender for steel. And then I didn’t… :joy: There is a really nice-looking option for just a little over 1k, Adendorf stocks it, etc etc… but it can only bend up to 25mm wide, and I wanted at least 40mm. The next step up was 3.5k and I figured at this point, screw it, I don’t bend steel THAT often…

Rather just do it, it will take you 30 min once a year, but the systems efficiency depends on it. The more dirt collects on the outside, the less efficient the system becomes. A service is nothing more than a proper cleaning, same applies to an aircon service.

I agree 100% with you. I was not clear enough. Most people interpret “service” as something you need to have the expert do. I have heard arguments that heatpumps are too expensive to maintain. Previous owner paid R400-500 to “service” it yearly. He paid R16K upfront + some unknown amount for installation costs. He claimed the electricity savings was not near enough to justify the cost (Family of 4). I bought the heatpump for R4K (it was in service for 6-7 years) (and got the geyser I installed as a freebee). The owner was emigrating and wanted to get something for it. In the end I think I got a great price. He did warn me that the services are expensive and installation was also not going to be cheap. I am pretty happy to rinse off the dust every couple of months. The point I wanted to make is that the average person that is able to operate a hosepipe will be able to service it just fine, just avoid the electronic controller at the top underneath the cover. Down at the coast you might need to rinse with some special chemical to keep the rust out, but luckily in Pretoria this is not a problem. People also seem to believe you need to top up gas, this is not true. It is a closed system, the only way the gas escapes is when a pipe is damaged (by corrosion). So yes I fully agree about cleaning it regularly to ensure it runs optimally.

Yes that is our price as well. We charge a similar call out fee that includes the first hours labour. We clean the unit, clean the y strainer, do a visual inspection and just check the gas pressure. It’s very seldom that we need to add gas, only happened once before but because of a small leak… We were able to fix it on the spot.

While on the topic of running a heat pump on solar - in average how much does the heat pump consume and for how long? example using a 150L or 200L geyser

Every time I looked at the heat pumps online - I saw some figures that were 18kW, 20kW etc which seems to me a bit too much for solar coupling

OK, so first you have to understand a bit about the marketing. The number slapped on these things will be the equivalent power rating, or you could also say, how much heat it makes on the output (rather than the input). So the kW rating is not what it actually draws in electrical power.

A heat pump has a COP (coefficient of performance) which indicates how much heat it makes as a ratio to the electrical energy it consumes. As a rule of thumb you can assume that the COP is at least 3, although this varies. At very low temperatures it becomes much less, and in areas where the temperature drops significantly below freezing, some systems will even switch back to using the resistive element instead since it’s more efficient. This rarely happens in South Africa though.

A COP of 3 means the heat pump makes three times as much heat as the electrical energy that goes in. While this sounds counter-intuitive at first (surely nothing is more than 100% efficient!?), this is in the name. It does not generate heat (well, maybe a little), it pumps heat that is already in the environment (there is always SOME latent heat), from one area to another, namely from outside your house to inside a water tank.

So… now I can answer your question. For a 150 liter geyser, you would generally have a 3kW resistive-type element. You need to replace that with the equivalent heat pump, which would draw about a third of that, or 1kW. In my experience, more like 900W (which is what my ITS unit does).

Similarly, for a 200-liter tank, you’d want a 4kW equivalent, and it would draw around 1.2kW.

In theory it runs as long as the resistive element used to run. A 150 liter tank at 15 °C, that you want to take to 55°C, needs a delta of 40 °C. 40 * 150 * 1.16Wh ~= 7kWh. A 3kW element would take 7/3 ~= 2 hours and 20 minutes to heat it. So you should expect the equivalent heat pump to run for the same amount of time.

Buuuut… this is where the ambient temperature and COP comes in. Remember I said the COP drops when it gets really cold? Well that affects the output, not the input. So if we assume it is quite cold and your COP has dropped to 1, now your heat pump still churns away at 900W input, but only makes 900W output. Now we divide our 7kWh into 900W… and it takes 8 hours to get it up to temperature. Hence, at this point, most unit will switch on the electrical element to boost it.

In South Africa, such extreme low temperatures is rare though. So for the most part, you can bargain on 900W or so (on a 150-liter geyser), for 2.5 hours (ish).


It would seem that a combination air conditioner/heat pump unit would be very efficient.
Does anyone in SA have or know of such units available at domestic sizes?

I have a Sonoff POW connected, attached a screenshot of it pulling 1.1KW I have seen it using up to 1.29KW (not sure about the power factor and how accurate the POW will measure this)

The label on the side states 1.170KW of input power for a possible heating of up to 4.7KW (probably in ideal situations like +40deg that you will find in Phalaborwa, now referred to as Ba-Phalaborwa)

It runs till it reaches the target temperature with a max of 60 degrees, but 55 is recommended if you want you heatpump to last a long time. Mine usually runs for about 60-75 mintes. I switch it on during the warmest part of the day.

And then you still have the cost of the heat pump: over R15k when I last looked…
Don’t all these costs make this hot water option a bit pricey?

As opposed to the monthly price you pay to munic/escam with their yearly price increases?


No. I mean if you compare this hot water system with a solar system (thermal or PV)
I accept that in a demanding application the heat pump is on tap but in a domestic setup these RE systems are a viable option.

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But running the heat pump off RE is the best. So assume RE as the power sources - what is the best option for water heating is the question being discussed.
I must admit an “all in one” AC/Heating solution would be great for us in SA (HVAC basically with hot water storage!)

As opposed to another R15k spend on PV that can then be used to heat the old fashioned geyser?

Well here is the rub, it depends…. I have a super reliable old Ryalco copper geyser. That thing will in all likelihood outlast me and my family. No need to mess with that, also it is a low pressure system.

If you have a new fangled high pressure system, a heatpump could be an option. Also PV could be with no heatpump. It just depends.

PV heating a geyser directly is maintenance free effectively. Apart from replacing thermostat and anode and maybe element. Heatpumps need to be cleaned but are way way more efficient and will end up using about a third of the energy of an element to do the same heating work. So smaller PV system required. You can send you money on the heatpump or on Solar, same same.

Heatpump on Solar PV or direct Solar thermal heater (even more efficient) would be a good choice. All these things cost money up front. Paying the munic/escam monthly will cost you more over time, is less reliable and you keep on feeding them piggies on the gravy train and buy them more votes.

So, depending on each individual’s situation, the budget and available capital, the choices will differ. One is not better than the other, it’s just a set of personal choices.



Last time I was at KNP at one of the newer camps I noticed that all the geysers were heat pumps. It makes sense for this application since they can reduce the electrical feed to the camp. And for them this is a big deal since the supply lines are long.

I’ve thought of that too. Trouble is, it is not very practical where I live. An air conditioner is only really essential in January and February (maybe a little around Christmas). That’s the time when I use the least hot water.