The opportunities are endless when it comes to choosing the number and style of indoor and outdoor ductless heating and cooling units. Mike Cappuccio, owner of N.E.T.R., Inc., discusses the options homeowners have. Listen or read more to find out about indoor and outdoor ductless units.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Mike Cappuccio, owner of N.E.T.R., Inc., a heating and cooling company in Massachusetts with a focus on Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling products. Today we’re talking about ductless indoor and outdoor units. Welcome, Mike.
Mike Cappuccio: Good morning, John. How are you?
John: Good, thanks. Mike, ductless heating and AC systems come in two parts, an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Can you explain the difference between those?
Mike: Yeah, sure. I mean, in the outdoor unit is what we call the condenser unit and that sits outside the home and that comes in a variety of different sizes. And what I mean by sizes is BTU capacity and then physical size. Our units are not like your traditional central air conditioning unit you see outside. They’re not a square, they’re more of a suitcase. They look like a big suitcase is what I would explain to people as. They’re not as big and tall. I mean, now when you look at some of these central air conditioning units that go outside your home. . . a 36,000 BTU unit ten years ago, how big it was and how big it is today because of the capacities, not the capacities, but the SEER ratings that they’re trying to achieve with these units for efficiency. They almost look like a small hot tub that sits outside your house. Our units are not like that. They’re, like I said, they’re suitcase-style. They have one fan in the front. The fans don’t blow up to the sky, they blow out to the side. They blow horizontally, so the air comes out from the front and disperses away from the home.
Again, they come in different sizes and different . . . not so much different shapes, but they’re . . . some are one fan units and some are two fan units when you look at them stacked up on top of each other.
Indoor Unit Styles and Options
And then the indoor units, the indoor units that connect to the outdoor units, they come in a variety of different styles and different ways they can be put together and we have what’s called a single zone outdoor condenser and then we have what’s called the multi-zone outdoor condenser. So, a single zone outdoor condenser obviously has one indoor unit and one outdoor unit. It can’t do multiple rooms. It can do one space or one room, so there would be one indoor unit, one outdoor unit for something like that.
When we get into the multi-zone units, we have multiple indoor units that connect to an outdoor unit and that can either be connected directly to the outdoor unit with two pipes and wiring that come down to the outdoor unit, or it could go to what we call a branch box. Now that’s a bigger system, little more complex where we have to put a different box inside your house and we bring the piping from the indoor units to a branch box and then we bring piping from a branch box to the outdoor unit.
Now, as far as the indoor units go, we have a variety of different indoor units. We have the typical wall mount unit, but now we don’t just have just a typical wall mount unit. We have the standard efficiency wall mount unit, we have a high efficiency wall mount unit. We have the designer series wall mount units that come in white, black, silver. We have floor mount units. We have ceiling recessed units. We actually have a unit now that you can put between the 14 inch, 14 and a half inches on center studs. We cut a hole in the ceiling and it fits flush up into the ceiling. We have a two by two cassette that fits up into the ceiling, too. Sometimes there needs to be some carpentry work to make that two by two hole.
And then the other indoor unit we have now is we also have the ducted indoor units. We have three different styles of ducted units now. We have the MVZ, the SVZ, and we have the SEZ. So, those are different style indoor units. The MVZ is more of your traditional indoor unit that you used in a central air conditioning application that you can put duct work on. So, we can mix a ducted system with a ductless system in your home now and we can do a whole home solution with that. That’s mostly when we do go in and do a whole home, when we put the ducted unit in to the attic or into the basement and then we can mix and match with the wall mount units in there, but there is just so many varieties of indoor units now and how the system can be put together. It’s got so much flexibility for heating and cooling today.
Flexibility of Ducted and Ductless Units
John: Right. And those ducted units that you’re talking about allow you to use one of those zones or one indoor unit, but hit multiple rooms in your house, maybe several bedrooms on the second floor, say, something like that.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. We would put duct work on that and come down through the ceiling or come up through the floor and that would be, that wouldn’t be a room, it would be a zone is what we would call that. You could do an upstairs of a home with four bedrooms or something like that, three bedrooms. You could, you can put duct work through the attic and put a register into the ceiling there and put a return in the hallway and you could basically put a central air conditioning system in, mix that with our wall mount units as well and you do get the inverter capability of the compressor of the efficiency for that, too, as well when you put those pieces together.
Specifications for Indoor and Outdoor Units
John: How do you determine what outdoor and indoor units a home needs? You’re saying, especially the indoor units, you’ve got lots of different options. You’ve got the wall mount ones that are kind of up above your windows, say. And then you have floor mounted units that are against the wall. How do you determine, well, what does a home need?
Mike: That’s a great question, John. I mean, first thing we’ve got to find out is a few things, is first off, people, a lot of people call you for air conditioning with this and they don’t even think about the heating side of it. We want to know how you heat your home as well as how you want to air condition your home, too. We also want to run a load calculation on your home and see, okay, well, what size system do you need for your home? And the biggest question that we ask a lot of people, not a lot of people, every person, is where do you live in your home and how do you live in your home?
And what I mean by that is we find out, a lot of times we go into a home . . . for example, we’ll go into a four-bedroom home and it’s a 3,000 square foot home and it’s just the husband and wife that live there. They’ve got four bedrooms, they’ve got a living room, dining room and downstairs and you ask them where they live in their home and you’re going to find out that they’ve got no air conditioning possibly or they might have some air conditioning. I don’t know, maybe they might be using window units or something, but we find out they live in the master bedroom, that’s where they sleep at night obviously. Sometimes there’s another bedroom gets used, a spare bedroom, so two bedrooms possibly are getting used out of the four, nine times out of ten with the empty nester.
And then they have a spot where they kind of eat breakfast, eat lunch and then they have a spot where they kind of hang out. It’s usually the living room or maybe a back room or an addition or something that might have been put on the house and we find out that they live in four areas of their home. There could be a computer in that area and this is where they live. And they want to air condition the whole entire house and we say to them, “But you don’t live in all the parts of your house. Why do you want to air condition the parts of your house that you don’t live in?”
Okay. So, we look at that and we say, okay. Let’s determine your needs, let’s determine the budget. Let’s see what fits for you, what system can fit. This is the best part about our systems because we can tailor anything to your needs. We can do one indoor, one outdoor or we can do one outdoor and eight indoors. We can do two systems with 16 indoors. Depending on what you want to do, I mean, the sky’s the limit. But we’ve got to look at the budget, look at what they’re trying to do and then you’ve got to . . . there’s some objections and obstacles you need to face. Well, I don’t like that on the wall in this part of the room and well maybe we’ll go with a floor unit there or maybe we’ll put duct work in there from the attic and come down to the bedrooms. You’ve got to find out how people live, what they want, what’s the budget, what kind of comfort are they looking for?
So, I mean, example, you could do a master bedroom with a small SEZ unit with duct work and put registers in that one bedroom and then maybe the master bathroom is very important to them. That they want to be able to be cool when they’re in there drying their hair or taking a shower or whatever and we put a little piece of duct work into the master bathroom. So that’s . . . it’s finding out how they really live in their homes and the needs and what they’re trying to accomplish. But if you don’t ask those questions when you’re in the home, you’re never going to find out and you could be leaving a lot of opportunity to not serve the customer properly by not finding out how they actually, how they live in their homes.
John: Yeah. That’s an important consideration.
Mike: Yeah. You’ve really got to do an in-home comfort survey when you come into the home to find out how they live in their home because if you don’t ask the right questions, you might not be serving the customer properly.
Installing Indoor and Outdoor Ductless Units
John: Talk a little bit about the installation of the indoor and outdoor units. Start with the outdoor units. How do you, how do those get installed?
Mike: Well, the outdoor unit, it depends on what you’re doing. If you’re just doing, if you just really want the system for cooling only and you’re buying a heat pump . . . because the multizone units only come with heat pump capability, so they only come with heating and cooling, you can’t buy with just cooling. A lot of people always ask, “well, I just want to do cooling with it. I don’t need a heating system, too.” Well, you might need a heating system, too. And then we can explain that at a later time of how the efficiencies come into that with the heating.
But we come to your home, if you have a grass or if it’s gravel, we’re going to put a little more gravel, we’re going to level that out, put a concrete pad there. We like to put the units on stands. We have a metal stand that the unit sits on. It sits off the ground about 12 inches. They can go as high as two feet, depending on which one you purchase, but we like . . . so a standard one is keep the unit off the ground a foot for the snow. We don’t like snow getting in there, because if you do want to turn this on for heating, we like to have it up out of the snow. And then the other thing, too, is when you put it on the stand, it tends to keep the mice and the chipmunks and stuff out of the unit as well. And then the unit gets bolted down onto the stand and we level it up and the feet are — the feet on the stand are very adjustable and we level up the unit and then we proceed to hook up the indoor units to it.
John: Okay. And then go ahead and talk about those indoor units then. How do those get mounted onto the wall or into the ceiling, whatever you’re doing?
Mike: Yeah. I mean, however the indoor unit gets mounted into the wall, we have to get two pipes, a drain line and a communication cable back to either the outdoor unit or to the branch box, depending on the type of installation that we’re doing in the home. But the standard one condenser outside and one indoor unit inside, that would have two pipes, a drain, and a four-wire system that would come back to the outdoor unit.
So, the indoor unit, there’s a metal plate that would get mounted on the wall inside the home and we have this camera that we kind of screen over your walls to make sure when we drill that hole that we’re not drilling it through a gas pipe or a water pipe or an electrical wire. And we make sure the hole that we’re going to drill goes to the outside. And then we hook up, we do two flair fittings inside, we connect those up to the indoor unit, these flairs have to be done properly. There’s a certain angle that the flairs need to be made with. We have a tool that we make that with and then we connect those two together to the indoor unit with a torque wrench. There’s a torque wrench specification of how you hook that up and then you bring these two pipes to the outdoor unit with a drain and an electrical wire.
Now, you’re probably saying, okay, well, I’m going to have two drains, I’m going to… oh, I’m sorry. One drain and two pipes and these wires on the side of my house. Well, we encase those in a plastic casing that we call line hide. Okay. It hides the lines. It’s a two-piece system that’s made out of plastic. It is paintable. We do have it in different colors. It comes in white, brown, gray, and ivory. The white is the most common on a house because that can be painted to the color of the house. And we put the piping inside of that and then we have all kinds of different fittings and different angles and we finish it off with a nice little end fitting at the end. And we take the two pipes and the communication cable and we electrically wire those into the outdoor unit from the indoor unit and we have the drain line that goes to the outside and the water that would drip out of any air conditioner. I mean, you have your air condition in your car, you see water dripping on the ground or window units dripping on the ground. Same thing, we’re going to have water dripping on the ground outside. That’s how they go together.
John: Right. Right. And those pipes on the outside, they essentially look like if you had gutters on the side of your house and if you had that sort of vertical gutter, that downspout where all the water flows down, it kind of looks like one of those.
Mike: Yeah. Exactly. And, I mean, it is about exactly the same size as a gutter. It’s about four inches wide by about three, two or three inches on the vertical side, I mean on the horizontal side. And it’s a two-piece system that clips together so just how a gutter has all kinds of angled fittings and stuff like that, we have the same thing with that.
John: And those actually hide on the inside of that are pipes for the air going in and out of the indoor unit and also wires as well. And those wires are what help the indoor unit and the outdoor unit communicate with each other.
Mike: The indoor and outdoor unit are communicating through that communication cable. There’s four wires in there. There’s an S1, S2, S3, and a ground and two of those wires are high voltage. One of those . . . high voltage meaning 230 volts single phase is running, electrical currents running through that wire. And then there’s one DC voltage wire that is the communication wire between those. So, one of two . . . again, two being high voltage, one being low voltage, so you’ve got to be careful when you’re wiring this thing up. This is where I always kind of get into it with the do-it-yourselfer that we’ve talked about in the past where you are working with high voltage, you are working with high pressure, you are working with a lot of things that you could get hurt with so you might want to be careful . . .
John: . . . An electrician should really do that.
Mike: Yeah. An electrician’s always on the job site with us doing that and then in those pipes, there’s refrigerant running through those pipes. Sometimes people think there’s air running through those pipes, but there’s not. That’s high pressure R410A refrigerant that’s called a suction and liquid line that are running up from that outdoor unit. That’s where the compressor is in that unit. That’s a pump basically in that unit that’s pumping low pressure refrigerant to high pressure refrigerant to the indoor unit is what’s happening in there. So, I mean, you’ve got to be careful with the pressure in those lines because that pressure is very, very high and you just, you need to know what you’re doing with that.
John: All right. That’s really great information, Mike. Thanks again for speaking with me.
Mike: Thanks, John.