Cold Climate Heat Pumps: Current State and Future (Podcast with Dana Fischer of Mitsubishi Electric)

John, Mike and Brett of N.E.T.R., Inc. speak with Dana Fischer of Mitsubishi Electric about the current and future state of heat pumps and ductless heating and cooling in the US.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Mike Cappuccio, founder of N.E.T.R., Inc., a heating and cooling company in Massachusetts with a focus on Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling products. Welcome, Mike.

Mike Cappuccio:  Morning, John. How are you?

John:  Good, thanks. And also with us is Brett Rogenski, General Manager of N.E.T.R., Inc. Welcome, Brett.

Brett Rogenski: Hey, good morning, John. Thank you for having me.

John: Absolutely. And our special guest today is Dana Fischer, Director of Regulatory Strategy at Mitsubishi Electric. Thanks for joining us, Dana.

Dana Fischer: Hey, John. Total pleasure to be here this morning.

John: Great. So Dana, how did you get into this industry and eventually come to work for Mitsubishi Electric? 

About Dana Fischer

Dana: Yeah, it’s been quite an interesting journey for me. I know a lot of people in the industry that get into the manufacturers have spent a lot of time in the HVAC industry or working through distributors. I’ve had a little of a different method getting in here. I’ve been with Mitsubishi for about five years and served in different roles in sales across Northern New England, as well as on the utility team covering rebate programs and incentives across the east coast. And I’ve recently transitioned to a role that’s more associated with regulatory affairs and the national scene.

But prior to Mitsubishi, I was at Efficiency Maine as a Program Manager for about seven years. I helped set up the rebate programs and loan programs for residential contractors and consumers in the state of Maine, including heat pumps, and the advent and take off of heat pumps in the state of Maine.

And so, that’s really where I cut my teeth on this particular technology that we’re going to talk about this morning.

But even before that, I was into renewable energy, and solar thermal activities. But I was also in the municipal finance business, I was a tax collector and finance director for a couple of towns in Maine. I was in the semiconductor industry for a short period of time, and back in the ’90s I was a microbrewer.

So, that’s not typically the route that gets you where I’m headed or what I’m up to, but I spent a lot of time thinking about heat pumps, just like Mike and Brett here. Pretty much, I wake up in the morning thinking about heat pumps, and much to everyone’s chagrin, I’m still talking about them at the end of the day, so I’m all in. And I just see this incredible transformation of our heating and cooling of buildings across the United States, but in New England for sure, this absolute move away from fossil fuels to just plain old stop burning stuff. And heat pumps are really the answer, and we’re really excited to be engaged with everyone to make this a reality.

John: And as we mentioned, you’re currently the Director of Regulatory Strategy at Mitsubishi Electric. What does that mean and what is your current focus?

Dana: Well, so I’m leading a team in our corporate group that basically monitors all of the codes and regulations that occur on national and international across North America and South America, so all the codes and standards and regulatory testing. And just last month, the US Senate ratified the Kigali Amendment that puts us on line with a number of other countries for the ramp down in the impact of refrigerants globally, so that’s something that we’ve been monitoring very closely. And of course, that requires transitions, and the kind of equipment over the next few years and the refrigerants that are going to be used that have a lower and lower global warming potential impact. So, it’s some pretty dry toast that I’m dealing with these days. But the bright spot is I also get to engage in a lot of these national conversations around federal legislation and incentives and that sort of thing. 

Current Trends in Ductless and Heat Pumps

John: Okay. So I’ll ask you, Dana, and then maybe we can open it up to Mike and Brett as well, what current trends you’re seeing, both in the industry as a whole, and in terms of heat pumps and Mitsubishi specifically.

Dana: Well, honestly, New England has been a little bit ahead of the curve, and other pockets around the country, the Pacific Northwest as well, have been ahead of the curve in adopting this new emerging technology around cold climate heat pumps for the United States. And we really think, “oh my gosh, it’s this new thing, and can it work here”? But frankly, this technology, this platform of mini-splits and multi-splits has been employed in Asia and in Europe for many years before we got started here in New England, and been proven to operate.

But really, the big trend across the northeast is basically, whether it’s partial or whole home, a conversion of our heating systems over to heat pumps with variable-speed compressors and advanced refrigerants that allow the systems to deliver comfort and heating performance even when it’s ridiculously cold outside. So, the systems are rated to continue to operate to -18, and I’ve seen examples of them continuing to operate below that. I live in Maine and I heat my house entirely with cold climate heat pumps, have been for a number of years, and I used exactly zero backup last year through the coldest January in 14 years. So I can testify, and my family can as well, we’re perfectly comfortable without anything besides cold climate heat pumps operating.

John: Yeah. Mike, do you have anything to add to that in terms of trends that you’ve seen recently? I mean, you’ve been in the industry and been working with heat pumps for many, many years.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, John, I have air-source heat pumps in my own home as well. I can vouch to it that it does work. A lot of people don’t think the technology is there yet, that we’re still running into some homeowners every now and then that think it’s the 1980s and early 90s where heat pumps had a bad name, that heat pumps did not heat when it was cold out. And they were very, very expensive to operate and a lot of the reasons were, below 32 degrees, you really couldn’t get a lot of heat out of them. And it had a very high kilowatt electric heater in the ductwork that was pretty much like putting a gigantic toaster in your duct work and turning that on and turning the heat pump off and letting that run. So, basically you’re providing full electric heat into your home and people were getting enormous electric bills to heat their homes when it was below 32 degrees, saying, “well, why is this”? It’s a heat pump. Well, it’s really not. It’s electric heat at that time.

Dana: But that’s your grandmother’s heat pump, that’s not now.

Mike: Those times have changed now, and we’re trying to spread that message across with our customers now, because you still sometimes hear that from people that they don’t fully understand what these cost to operate sometimes.

Dana: Yeah. I mean, granted, I live in a relatively small place in Portland, Maine, a nice place to hang out, but it’s an old house, like 1820s, and it’s petite, 1400 squared feet of heated space, and I have two units in my house to heat the entire space. And last year with electricity, it’s a little cheaper — electricity in Maine — than in other parts of New England. At 21 cents a kilowatt hour my total electric bill for my heating for the entire season was $1,100.

Brett: Wow, that’s amazing.

Mike: That’s amazing.

John: Brett, do you have any recent trends that you’ve been seeing?

Brett: Well, yeah. I mean, the consumers are becoming much more educated to heat pumps, but you’re right, there’s a lot of common misconceptions that are still out there about heat pumps, which we just talked about. The other thing is I think there are some misconceptions about actually the area that we live in, for instance, Boston. Once people understand that heat pumps are effective to -13 easily, then people are like, “Well, yeah, but I live in Massachusetts, it gets cold here,” and that sort of stuff. I was looking at something Mike shared with me a while ago, in Boston, and this is from one or two winters ago, we only spent a total of, I think, 46 hours below zero in Boston itself — below zero, so well within the range of heat pumps.

And I think a lot of times, folks, we have this idea that we’re rugged New Englanders and it’s super cold. Well, we really don’t spend that much time in that coldest part of the zone, so it’s really not much of a challenge for heat pumps to keep up. So, that’s something that I think is a misconception out there with consumers that we’re working hard to help them understand.

John: Right. It does get down to, like you said, below zero, but only for a few days, and even on those few days, maybe only for a few hours in the middle of the night, and that’s it. And then during the day it warms back up to 10 or 20 or even 30 degrees, or something like that.

Brett: Think about that, 46 hours total over the course of an entire winter. You’re talking a couple hours here, a couple hours there. We’re not in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Dana: Yeah. Well, even where it is ridiculously cold, I got a social media text from a contractor out in Colorado up in the mountains last year, and he went to check on a property that he installed a Mitsubishi Hyper Heat in, and the ambient temperature was negative 26 degrees Fahrenheit, and the indoor temperature of that vacation home up in the mountains was 69 degrees Fahrenheit. So, even when it’s beyond what you would think is possible, these heat pumps can perform and deliver incredible comfort. Like I said, no backup heat last winter at all. And even when it was, I took snapshots of January 11th, here in Portland it was 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

And one of the strange things about last winter is, we had a bunch of really cold weather with wind, and usually it’s pretty still, but it was blowing like 30 miles an hour. So, I had a windchill factor of -14, and I know it was similar down in Worcester County and everywhere else around that neck of the woods, and the two heat pumps that I had were only drawing at its peak, on that incredibly cold day, 3,100 watts. It’s the same as running a vacuum cleaner and a toaster oven. I mean, incredibly efficient. And as I mentioned before, just perfect comfort.

John: Yeah. We forget that the wind chill factor is not the actual ambient temperature outside. The heat pump doesn’t know that the wind’s blowing.

Dana: Yeah, totally. Yeah, it doesn’t mind the wind chill at all but, I mean, it does increase the load on your house for sure, just like it does for people walking around outside. 

How Will the Inflation Reduction Act Affect Consumers?

John: Right. So Dana, how will the recent Inflation Reduction Act affect the heating and cooling industry and consumers as you see it?

Dana: If anything, it’s just going to really dramatically increase demand all across the country for the next 10 years. There are some pretty substantial incentives incorporated into that, but there still a little ways off. They’re probably not going to get implemented until some time into 2023. The rebates that people talk about, the amount of money that’s actually allocated to that, when you separate it out to all the states, because the state energy offices are going to be the recipients of those grant dollars to set up the programs, they’re probably not going to receive guidance on those programs until mid to late spring. And then the states are going to take some time to set those up. And frankly, when you start breaking it all up into the individual states and looking at the criteria, there’s a very good chance that most of those funds are going to — appropriately I might add — be allocated towards lower income homes that really have tremendous heat burden.

And so, folks that are on the fence, trying to decide whether they’re going to pull the trigger and do heat pumps now or later based on some of those things, they might want to really just focus on Massachusetts. The incentives are incredibly rich, and what a great opportunity to just jump at the heat pumps right now.

So, there may be things coming down the road, but it should not dissuade you from taking steps to get a package sooner than later, particularly with the incredibly high fuel costs this winter. I mean, if you’re on oil or propane, boy, it’s going to be a tough winter for your pocketbook. And having a heat pump augment that or displace that is going to provide you a pretty big bonus set of savings in this first year. And I don’t know what the price of fossil fuels are going to do over time, but I’m willing to bet that we’re all going to do better by having heat pumps. And frankly, as the grid gets cleaner and cleaner, it’s just better and better for the environment to have a heat pump instead of continuing to burn stuff.

John: Brett, how does the Inflation Reduction Act line up with you in terms of, again, the current Mass Save rebates that are available right now, and what are you advising for consumers at this point?

Brett: Sure. As Dana said, Massachusetts has really taken a good leadership position in what’s available through Mass Save rebates. So, without going too far down the details, there are rebates, whole home rebates available to consumers up to $10,000, and then other partial rebates available in other increments below that. That’s a very robust program. And also, as Dana said, it’s going to take months for the Inflation Reduction Act funds to be allocated and for the programs to be set up across the various states. So, our advice to consumers is, it’s a little bit of “bird in the hand, two in the bush” here. Do you really want to wait until next summer when that gets settled, and pay for — I don’t know what oil’s going to be, I saw predictions the other day in the media of $6 or $6 plus oil — so do you want to wait until next summer and pay for $6 oil all this winter? Or would you rather implement a heat pump now and take advantage of those robust rebates that are available?

The other thing that Dana mentioned as well is the IRA is going to really increase demand. So, there’s already a lot of demand in the heat pump market and, as demand increases, we can only serve people in a first come, first served manner. So, the folks who wait till next summer when maybe demand is peaking on that may have to, unfortunately, wait a little longer for the implementation of those heat pumps than the folks who decide to take advantage of it now, take advantage of those fuel savings and take advantage of materials that may prove to be a little more readily available. 

Upgrading Electrical Panels

John: What about upgrading electrical panel service? Is that part of the Inflation Reduction Act? And is that a necessary part of upgrading your home before getting heat pumps installed, or is that just a good idea, given all of the electronics that current houses use, to make sure that your electrical panels are up to date?

Dana: Yeah. Again, we’ll see how the programs actually get implemented. I think that there’s a pretty good chance that some of those programs and federal funds might get rolled into existing programs. And so, for some states that already have robust rebate programs, it might just get folded in. There are plenty of states around the country that don’t have any energy efficiency rebates whatsoever, and so the federal dollars might really make a big impact and stimulate the start of something.

But in states that are more established, like Massachusetts or Maine, it’s probably going to get folded into existing programs. But Mike and Brett might have a better understanding of exactly how frequently people have to upgrade their panels. There are potentially incentives for that. And while if you have a really old panel or service, it’s plausible that if you’re going to go and put in an electric car and completely switch over to heat pumps that you might need to jump up to 200 amp service.

But most homes, it’s plausible to convert over to heat pumps and continue to use a 100 amp panel as long as you’ve got space. And even if you don’t have space, you might be able to set up a sub-panel that wouldn’t require you to totally change your service. It really depends. And so, I don’t know, when I gauge people, contractors, generally it’s a pretty low percentage of homes that need to have a sub-panel added, and even lower percentage of homes that need to have a panel upgrade. But you’d totally have to consult with your heat pump professional and the electricians that they work with. Mike, how often do you see that kind of thing happen?

Mike: I would probably say a full upgraded panel from 100 amps to 200 amps is probably 10-15% of the time, because most homes that have a 100 amp panel are natural gas homes, so they’re not using an electric stove, an electric dryer, things like that, electric hot water. When you start to look at all of those things on the panel, a lot of it is, they’re lighting loads, lighting and just refrigerator, basic appliances, things like that. And if you actually strap an amp clamp on that during the day on the main two lines and you look at what those houses are drawing, sometimes it’s 20, 30 amps. I mean, you do have enough electricity most of the time with a 100 amp panel. Sometimes a sub-panel needs to be added, I mean, that could probably be 30-40% of the time.

But a lot of homes do have 200 amps now. And you see those in the natural gas homes, too. But I mean, using heat pumps with natural gas too, I mean, it can be used in conjunction with natural gas. I mean, most people you see doing that are more of the environmentally conscious people with natural gas, because there’s a lot of calculators out there that you can run natural gas against a heat pump. And there’s a lot of myths, it could be more, it could be less, that all depends on what the envelope of the home is like, too. If the home is well insulated, it could be cheaper to use a heat pump. You just don’t know. So, a lot of that needs to be brought into the equation when you’re looking at installing one of these into your home. But electrical is definitely a major part of it. And I do know now at N.E.T.R. we have a full electrical staff on board and we can perform those services, whether it’s an upgrade, a panel upgrade or a service upgrade as well. So, we’re equipped to do that now.

John: Dana brought up a good point too, which is that a lot of states don’t even have these environmental regulations where maybe they’re offering rebates for upgrading your home and things like that. I know you’ve had a lot of experience on the state and municipal level over the years and seen a lot of things that Massachusetts has done to really push for more efficient systems like heat pumps. Can you talk a little bit more about that and what you’ve seen over the years in terms of, again, both Massachusetts as a state and towns around the Boston area?

Dana: Yeah. I mean, it’s exciting, the activity that’s happened all across the state. I was just on a call the other day with representatives or members of Heat Smart all across Massachusetts. And I mean, you just have all these people that are charged up to make this transition happen. It’s a phenomenon. It just rockets and takes off like the microbial growth or yeast population increase that you might see in making beer. And that kind of growth pattern occurred in Scandinavia about 10, 15 years prior to the start in New England. And at this point in Norway, 60% of homes in Norway are using heat pumps to heat their homes, high performance variable capacity heat pumps, and they’re installing a hundred thousand units per year. And their population is comparable to Massachusetts. So, can we get to four or five times the number of installs per year in Massachusetts? Absolutely. If they can do it in Norway, we can certainly do it here.

Mike: Pacific Northwest, as well, in the United States. I heard the other day, I was talking to a distributor out there and he was telling me about 32% of homes in the Pacific Northwest now have a heat pump in them. So, that’s a big number up in that Washington, Oregon area, Idaho, out in that area. That’s an exploding area in the United States right now for heat pumps. Even up in Alaska. I spent some time at a big distributor out there in Washington state a couple years back, and I was amazed at how many contractors from Alaska were there. So I mean, think about that, Alaska, and a lot of heat pumps getting put in Alaska now, too.

Dana: Yeah. No, there’s interesting energy dynamics all over the place. The Pacific Northwest has an awful lot of hydro, so they have a higher percentage of electric resistance homes. And so, you put in a heat pump on a home that has electric resistance, you’re cutting your energy costs by two-thirds. I mean, it’s dramatic. And so, there’s really a big incentive to do that. And similarly, there are a lot of parts of Alaska that have significant hydro resources and rely on electric. So it’s really, every part of the country has a different energy mix and different issues.

So even Texas, in the south, we think of couple years back where they had these big problems in Texas with the electric grid and the peak heating. Well, more than 50% of Texas uses electric resistance heat, and so when it gets really cold, everything’s going to electric resistance heat. But if all of those homes had had high performance cold climate heat pumps, even though it’s Texas and you wouldn’t think of it as cold climate, they would have not had the crisis that they experienced, just because the electric demand for heating would’ve been two-thirds lower. I mean, heat pumps are the solution to a lot of different energy problems all around the country.

Mike: And the efficiency they would’ve got on the cooling side too — the cooling demands are drastically high too — they would’ve won both ways. But I want add something to what Brett was saying as far as installation goes, too. You start thinking of the heating season, for this heating season coming up, but when you roll the clock forward a little bit and here comes May, June, July of next year, well you know what, you’re not waiting for that one month to six week installation to happen for your air conditioning at that point because at that point it’s already done. You’re way ahead of the curve at that point, from an air conditioning standpoint. So again, it’s a twofold.

Brett: I couldn’t agree more, Mike. I mean, this isn’t a seasonal item, we’re installing year-round here. And yeah, you’re right, maybe your primary thing is that, “hey, I’m going to put this in to help reduce my fuel cost in the winter”, but then all of a sudden when that temperature or humidity spikes up in June, you’re not wondering what to do with your air conditioning, your system is right there, it’s the same system. Because again, a heat pump is replacing, in a traditionally heated and cooled home, it’s replacing your heating system and your cooling system all in one.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, I roll the clock back 20 years ago, 25 years ago when I first started selling heat pumps and it was just a one unit for maybe a sunroom or something like that, or an addition on a home. It was mainly used for air conditioning, it didn’t really heat that well. And then the two-zones and the three-zones came out. Here’s a little bit of a partial home application for a little bit of supplemental heat and air conditioning.

And now, fast forward the clock 20 years later, now it’s not really an air conditioning product. It still is, don’t get me wrong, but it’s becoming more of…all we’ve spoken about on this podcast is about heating. And it’s a heating product, it’s a whole different ballgame for heat pumps now. The way things have changed, and I mean, I’ve had a lot of fun doing it and I’ve learned a lot over the past 32 years of being in business, but I’ve watched this, I’m going to say “snowball”, just keep rolling and rolling and rolling to a gigantic snowman now, is what I’m going to say.

Dana: Yeah. You’re tickling me with that because it’s like…we’re just coming out of the summer here and I mean, we don’t use a ton of air conditioning in Maine, but when it does get humid and it gets hot, boy, these heat pumps work fantastic for that. And the cost of operating them is so low relative to just about every other way of providing air conditioning. They’re so quiet. What a pleasure to have an oasis during those uncomfortable periods of time that occur in the middle of the summer. So, when you put in the heat pump, you’re really getting high performance year round, comfort year round. It’s an incredible luxury to provide for yourself and your family. 

Heat Pump Form Factors & Styles

Brett: I also think that there’s some, as I hear Mike talk about how it’s evolved, form factors of the units themselves have evolved, too. Mike, when you started, it was probably all wall units, correct?

Mike: Oh, yeah.

Brett: And now we have wall units, we have floor units, we have recessed ceiling cassettes that just blend away into the ceiling. We have ducted air handlers that tie into existing duct work like a more conventional hot air or cool air system. So, it’s probably a pretty amazing evolution for you to have seen.

Mike: It’s been really fun watching, because I’ve been involved in a lot of those talks with people where we’ve sat at Mitsubishi dealer meetings and we’ve sat around a table with a products person and they’re like, “what do you guys need in the industry? What do we need for change? What are we seeing?” And when you get guys talking about, “hey, we need a ducted unit, we need to be able to replace an air handler with a ducted Mitsubishi air handler that will give heat and cool, and we want to replace it or add it in a home, and we need a ceiling recessed unit.” I mean, all of those products have evolved out of contractors telling the manufacturer what the United States market needs today.

I mean, it started with — another example — the EF units, the wall mounted units in black, silver, and white. We need different choices, we need different designer units, we need ceiling recessed units. It’s all come from just an evolving group of people with knowledge on heat pumps that know what we want in our marketplace. And I’m going to tell you, they go back to the drawing board and they design it and a couple years later, here it is. And I’m hearing a lot of chatter about some new products coming out. And I think there’s going to be a lot more changes in the next three to five years. It’s not going to stay the way it is, it’s going to change even more now.

Dana: Well, we don’t even have to wait that long, we’re very close to the launch of the “intelli-air” units that will basically add on — if you have a gas furnace right now that has an air conditioning coil on top that’s getting ready to give up the ghost, we’re going to have a product rolling out very shortly that will basically replace that case coil and allow you to receive all the benefits of a Mitsubishi system, the heating capacity, it’s super cold temperatures, incredibly efficient cooling, in place of that coil, and it will be able to communicate with and leverage the blower and controls on your gas furnace to optimize your usage of the heat pump throughout the season.

So, it’s sort of a swap in, doesn’t require you to make drastic changes to your overall system. And then for those folks that are still on the fence as to whether this technology can do it or not, they can have that security blanket in knowing that the gas furnace is still there and that if there was ever a need for their gas furnace to operate, that would automatically kick on. Honestly, I think it wouldn’t take very long before you figure out that you’re really not going to end up using very much gas.

Mike: No.

Dana: But it’s a great format for that and we’re very excited about that. And that should be available to contractors and consumers just in the next couple of months. 

How Does the US Compare to Europe in Heat Pump Saturation?

John: Dana, you brought up Europe briefly. How does America compare in terms of saturation of people using heat pumps in America versus other countries or regions like Europe? And how does America get to that point where they’re on a comparable stage to where Europe is?

Dana: Yeah, so, I mean, the world leader in terms of saturation really is Norway, and they’re at 60% or above, and most of Scandinavia is right around that level. And then as you get into Europe, it tails off a little bit down into the 10-20% range, something like that. At this point, I think Maine and Vermont, if they haven’t already done it, they’re right at 10% at this point. Maybe approaching 15% of utilization. I’m not exactly sure where the rest of New England is, but below that. And I think what happens is you get this early adopter phenomenon where people start installing and then it spreads by word of mouth. Having incentives, like the ones available at Mass Save are a big, big part of it. But one of the other keys that occurred in Scandinavia and has spread to other parts of Europe are bans on fossil fuels over time.

So in Norway, a while back, they set a thing and said, “No new oil boilers in new construction.” And then they set this future date, and they ended up setting it for 2020, that was the end of their timeline. They said after 2020, no more oil can be burned in homes. And so, everybody was given the heads up way in advance, like, okay, we’ve got to transition to something else because we’ve got a limited amount of time before we can’t use that. And this varies very much by state. I mean, there are plenty of states that ban bans, but there are plenty of states on the east and west coast that are instituting fossil fuel bans of one form or another. And that’s the other part of this, is that in order to manifest this transition in the fastest time possible, you need both incentives, but you also need an end of the road for some of these other technologies so that we can make this transition methodically, thoughtfully, and with the least amount of disruption to homeowners and the industry. 

Heat Pump Referrals

John: Brett, do you see a lot of change in terms of…Dana mentioned that one small part of that would just be word of mouth. Do you see a lot of word of mouth spreading around now, where you’re going and installing new heat pump systems for, maybe, neighbors of people that you have previously done work for, and they’re just looking at their neighbors and saying, “oh wow, I love your heating and cooling system, I want to get one of those too.” Are you seeing a lot more of that?

Brett: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I’ll be candid about it. The biggest single segment of our customer attraction, people coming to us, come to us by, I’ll generalize it and call it “referrals”. So, it’s people telling their friends, telling their neighbors, telling their family members, people they work with, about the experience that they had with heat pumps and with N.E.T.R, and referring those folks to us to sit and have a consultation and see if it’s a good match for them. So it’s absolutely huge. And that really speaks to, I guess, two pieces. Number one, it speaks to the technology, that it does everything that we promised that it would do, otherwise people wouldn’t be telling their friends, families, etc. And then the second part is that N.E.T.R., we’re serving these customers well. And that actually also goes back to doing that right.

We have a very specific process that we follow when we propose someone, and it’s a process that Mike pioneered and it’s integral to us. But properly doing load calculators with people so that we’re sizing units right, we’re not over-sizing, we’re not under-sizing them, and for a lot of reasons. Number one, energy consumption, number two, most importantly, their comfort. If you do this wrong, unfortunately your home’s not going to be as comfortable as it could be, or your energy costs will skyrocket, or worse yet, both. So yeah, we have a huge amount of people who are happy with their Mitsubishi systems, happy with how we executed them, and they like telling their friends, family, coworkers. And we take a lot of pride in that and it makes us feel good.

I’ll share a personal story. This spring we were doing a home show in Foxborough at the Patriots practice field. And so, we had our show booth out there, first time post-Covid, we hadn’t been out in a couple of years. And I’ve been involved in sales for 20 plus years. I was astounded by the number of people who stopped by the booth for no other reason except to say hi and how much they loved their mini-split system that they got, a Mitsubishi mini-split they had gotten with N.E.T.R. They weren’t there to get anything, but it was a wonderful sales tool when you’re talking to someone who’s finding out more about their home, and Mrs. Jones stops by and says, “best thing I ever did, I did it with you six years ago, I wish I had done it 10 years before that.” So, it made me really, really proud and very happy. 

Where Are Mitsubishi Electric HVAC Products Manufactured?

John: Absolutely. Dana, where are Mitsubishi Electric HVAC products manufactured?

Dana: Well, Mitsubishi Electric has factories all over the world, more than a dozen factories positioned all over the world. The US marketplace is currently served by factories in Japan, Thailand, but a huge portion of our products currently for the US market come from a factory that’s just over the border from San Diego in Mexico. So, a lot of production. We’re continuing to expand that factory and we’re looking around at possibilities for, with a given demand in the United States, we’re looking at opportunities to establish a factory here domestically.

So, the supply chain has been very tricky the last couple of years, and demand is off the charts and it makes it really a challenge to try and meet demand for everyone around the country in the different product markets. But we’re absolutely committed to that. And what’s more is that Mitsubishi Electric US, we’re a US based company, we have hundreds of employees that work with contractors all across the country to support and service the consumers here in the US and develop the products that are needed for the United States market.

So, we’re very proud of our engagement here and we work so closely… N.E.T.R. is a fantastic elite diamond contractor, and has been for many years. They’re one of about 4,000 diamond contractors that we have around the country that we have go through our training sessions and work closely with us and their distributor and our distributor partners to ensure best outcomes for consumers. This entire network and supply chain is really designed to ensure best outcomes for consumers so that you get what you need, you get what you want. And if there’s ever any problems down the road, we are there to make sure it’s right. 

What Mistakes Should People Avoid Regarding Installation of Heat Pump Systems?

John: And my final question — and you can all chime in on this — what mistakes should people avoid when getting heating and cooling installation done and making sure that they’re selecting the right options?

Mike: First thing is, always remember bigger is not better. I can always remember as a kid, and I mean, I lived without air conditioning until I was probably about 13 years old, 14 years old, and your dad’s like, oh, just go buy the biggest air conditioner you can find to cool the house. And sometimes that sounds good because it’s big and it’s really going to make the house really cold, but proper load calculations on homes, looking very closely at the envelope of the home, weatherization with the home, working with a Mass Save contractor that has also done Mass Save training as well because of these rebates and stuff. I know I’ve done extensive training on Mass Save’s website as far as just different things, I’ve spoken to many people at Mass Save, I’ve done a lot of different talks with them on integrated controls and how to use integrated controls properly.

There’s a lot of mistakes with people installing integrated controls where they’re putting them in for reasons that they shouldn’t really be putting them in, I’m going to say. So, really making sure that the outcome of the system is going to give you what you ultimately need, and working with the contractor that is experienced in air-source heat pumps, with a good distributor-manufacturer network, because there’s a lot of manufacturers out there and there’s a lot of distributors out there, and there’s a lot of manufacturers that claim that they have great support. And here comes the first problem, and no one answers the phone, you can’t get parts, you can’t get this, you can’t get that. Just really understanding the network. I can’t agree with Dana more than working with a… It’s a team of people, all the way up to VPs that you can call and get answers from, on just supply chain products and all these other things that a lot of manufacturers don’t have.

I mean, Mitsubishi’s been in the United States, there’s a couple of them that came over first and they were one of the few, so this isn’t their first rodeo. They’ve been doing this for, I think, over 30 years in the United States. Where some of these manufacturers have been in the United States, they’ve left the United States, they’ve come back to the United States, they’ve left the United States, and they’ve come back again. I’ve seen that with many. So, just be very, very cautious, because sometimes it’s not all about price, it’s about quality and the team that you’re working with.

Dana: Yeah. I bump into some of those systems that are 30 years old and still running sometimes, they’re extremely durable. But yeah, it is about the network and making sure you get good outcomes. And I think that part of the struggle is relearning how to interface with your heating system. People are used to growing up with central thermostats and heating systems, and heat pumps perform a little bit differently, and getting used to how they operate is a little bit different, and they do a lot more than people expect them to. I’ve gone through a couple of different iterations of heat pumps on my own house. My wife calls it the “test house” because I’m always working on different strategies and things. And so, for a period of time I just had one zone in my house and it was a small, small system, just a 9,000 BTU system, and I spent a couple of winters just seeing just how far I could get with it and treat it like a wood stove and just crank that sucker as hard as I could.

And it’s really astonishing how much heating load you can displace with just one unit, nevermind just a couple of units. And the heat does transfer pretty well across the house, particularly when there’s a big difference to cold outdoor air temperature. And so, when I only had that one small unit, there were occasions where I had to supplement, but when you think, well, what if I don’t have enough heat and what if it gets too cold and I’m beyond my design temperature? Well, the worst case scenario, if you’re dramatically undersized, is that the house, on the coldest day of the year, will only be 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not a crisis, it’s just not a big deal. And so, having it be appropriately sized is not difficult. The hazard of having something that’s oversized is you have a tendency to have higher electric bills. The cooling will happen so fast that it doesn’t have a chance to remove the moisture in the summer and you end up with high humidity levels.

And then if it’s dramatically oversized, you have too much cycling over the course of the winter season, it uses more electricity than it needs. So really, the picture perfect, the Goldilocks, is really to make sure you’re doing a very good energy model and doing a gut check against what your prior year fuel consumption was and then matching systems to those loads. And not really just saying, well, I have X number of rooms, I need X number of indoor units and the corresponding outdoor unit is this. That’s a great methodology to ensure over-sizing. You really want to select the indoor units on where you spend the time and where you need the heat, and then the outdoor units end up getting matched to the seasonal loads. Not just looking at the maximum load that you’re going to need on the coldest days, but also looking at what the minimum loads are going to be during the shoulder seasons to ensure that you have a sustained, even, smooth operation. That’s where you really get incredible, off the charts benefits.

Brett: Very well said.

Mike: Very well said.

John: All right, well that’s really great information. Dana Fischer, thanks again for speaking with us today. I really appreciate you being here.

Dana: Yeah, absolutely my pleasure gentlemen. Thank you so much and good luck to everybody out there with your projects. Go heat pumps!

Mike: Thank you. Take care guys.

John: And I’m John Maher, for Mike Cappuccio and Brett Rogenski, thanks for listening. And for more information about N.E.T.R., visit the website at or call 781-933-NETR. That’s 781-933-6387.