In this podcast, Mike Cappuccio, founder of N.E.T.R., Inc, talks with John Maher about air source heat pumps in sunrooms. He explains how ductless heat pumps can meet the heating and cooling needs of sunrooms and turn them into a comfortable space all year long.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. 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. Today, we’re talking about ductless mini-splits for sunrooms. Welcome, Mike.
Mike Cappuccio: Good morning, John. How are you?
Are Ductless Mini-Splits a Good Solution for Sunrooms?
John: Good. Mike, are ductless mini-splits a good solution for heating and cooling a sunroom in a house?
Mike: They absolutely are, John. Most times, they’re probably one of the only ways that you can heat and cool that space.
How Ductless Helps When Your Sunroom Isn’t Connected to Your Central HVAC System
John: Right. You typically don’t have your heating system in your home with ductwork going out into that sunroom or something. It’s often an addition that gets put on the house later and maybe it doesn’t have any of that ductwork.
Mike: You’re absolutely right. I mean, when you think of a sunroom, I’ve seen 35 years of doing this, I’ve seen so many different sunrooms get put on homes. I’ve seen them with walls that come up four feet on the bottom and windows on the top and a peaked ceiling. I’ve seen them with windows from floor to ceiling.
I’ve seen them with complete glass, glass roof sunrooms where they’re basically solariums where they’re so hot that you can’t even go sit in the room. People have spent thousands of dollars on these spaces. When you think of most of these spaces, I mean they’re pretty unique spaces like you said. They’re always added on to the home, nine times out of ten, later.
Most people think, okay, I’m putting a three season porch onto the house. Well, what they end up finding out a little bit later on is that it’s a two season room, and they’re using it 50% of the time that they thought they could use it. Because the sunroom is freezing in the wintertime, and the sunroom is extremely hot in the summertime.
What do I do? You have to look at options. What are the different options that I can do to make this room comfortable? Because it’s my happy space. It’s where I want to go. I want to hang out. Most places, most times these rooms have a beautiful view. They could be overlooking the ocean. They could be overlooking your beautiful backyard, your flowers, whatever you want to go and just hang out and chill out, that’s usually the room where you’re going to go.
I mean, I’ve seen people, they take and build a window unit into the bottom section of it, or they put one of those hotel units into the wall and, oh my God, they’re so loud, John. The compressor’s running, the wall is rattling. It is probably the worst solution that you can do is put something like that into the sunroom. Again, it’s not the best way to heat and cool that space, and a lot of times that’s only cooling as well.
Benefits of Ductless for Sunrooms
John: Right, and then that’s not a place to relax when you have all that noise and things. That’s not where you’re going to go to chill out.
Mike: No, it’s not. I mean, I want to go sit in my three-season room or my four-season room. I want to have the temperature at 72 degrees all year round, or 68 in the winter, 72 in the summer. I want to be cool in the summer and nice and warm in the wintertime, and I don’t want a lot of noise.
There are different applications of how we can do that. We can heat and cool that space and there’s multiple different options of the way you can do that. A floor mount unit is nice in there. A wall mount unit would go in there nice. The easy fit ceiling recessed unit can go into a sunroom too, as well. That can get put up into the ceiling. If the ceiling is flat, that’s an option as well.
Nine times out of ten, your heating and cooling system is not designed to heat and cool your sunroom from your existing home. I’ve seen people try to do that, but it doesn’t work. If you’re not in the room and you’re not using it, you can also turn it off. I mean, yeah, you want to go out there, some people don’t use these rooms that often too.
I mean, ductless gives you the ability to make the sunroom its own zone of the home. Its own comfort zone and you can heat that space, cool that space. You don’t want an oasis in your sunroom in the summertime. You want to be able to go out there, and a lot of times you have to look at the sizing when we’re going to put a system into one of these sunrooms. It’s very, very, very critical. I can’t stress how extremely critical this is.
Choosing the Right Capacity for Your Sunroom’s HVAC Solution
Mike: I remember an application that we did where someone had gone and bought an actual piece of equipment online and wanted us to install it into the sunroom. We went down, we looked at it and it was a 12,000 BTU unit, but it was a 36,000 BTU heat load, and the woman was like, “Well, what do you mean? What are you talking about?”
John: Right, it’s only 15 X 10 feet or something like that.
John: It shouldn’t take that much.
Mike: It’s only, yeah, it’s a 10 X 10 room. Well, yeah, that’s 100 square feet. Well, that would make sense, but not when it’s a glass roof does it make sense with a westerly exposure beating onto the glass roof all day long. I mean, you have to be very, very careful when you’re sizing these sunrooms.
I mean, if it has a certain roof and is there insulation? A lot of times you have to look at them from the heating perspective too, because a lot of these sunrooms, the floors are exposed to the outside and they just have a little bit of insulation in the floor and they’re usually covered below.
John: Right, because it might be like a deck where it’s open underneath.
Mike: Yeah. Correct. Can’t tell you how many decks we see that are up on a sonotube or whatever, or a three inch round steel tube and there might be four or five of them holding it on the back of the house. But that’s all good, but you have to take into consideration what is the heating and cooling load from nothing being below it? Especially in the wintertime, not so much the summertime, but the wintertime and what is the insulation in the floor?
You got to take a good look at that and see what that is because that’s all going to come into play when you’re sizing a sunroom. You can’t just size a sunroom based on square footage of air conditioning and heating because it’s probably not going to work.
Installing Ductless Into a Sunroom
John: Right. Is installation of a ductless system tricky in a sunroom? Because, like you said, it might have three walls that are all glass or big windows that are floor to ceiling, or even the roof is glass sometimes. Does that make it tricky? How do you work around some of those issues?
Mike: It makes it very, very tricky, John. You got to know how to do them because let’s say it’s three walls of glass floor to ceiling. Well, where am I going to put the wall mount unit? The only spot it can go is on the existing home at that point. Okay. Well, what am I going to do with the refrigerant pipes? Am I going to have them just be exposed in the room and run down the wall and with the wiring and the drains and everything? You can’t do that.
Basically, we have a carpenter. You have to get a carpenter involved and basically slice open the wall on the existing home and put the unit up on the wall. Then put the piping and all the electrical and everything into the wall. Then most times you’re bringing that piping back into the existing home into the basement, because I want you to think of how that home is built? That original wall is sitting on the original slab of the home.
You’re bringing that down at an angle into the existing basement of the home, and then usually routing the pipes back outside to a condenser somewhere to the left side or the right side of the sunroom for a nice, neat installation. Then most times you’re putting a condensate pump in the basement, or there might be a washer drain in the basement where you’re then going to take that drain and put that drain into the washing machine drain that’s probably in the basement.
They’re a little tricky. I mean, I’m going to be honest with you. They’re very, very tricky. A lot of times, you want to get in there when the sunroom is being built or added onto the house because, at that point in time, they’re taking the clapboards off the side of the house because most sunrooms that are of any quality they’re going to take those clapboards off inside. You’re not going to have clapboards on.
John: Right. You don’t want to see the outside of the house on the inside of the sunroom, right?
Mike: You’re not going to want to see… Exactly. That wall is usually being stripped at that time. That’s when you want to be in there. We work with a lot of sunroom manufacturers that are putting these on homes. We’re usually in there at the time when that is getting put on, but a lot of these homes are additions too.
But carpenters are in there. They’re not just sunroom manufacturers that are doing this, so you’ve really got to be in there when the construction is going on. I mean, obviously, drywall isn’t that hard to patch and paint, but why do it twice if you don’t have to do it twice, you can just do it once?
How Quiet Are Ductless Systems?
John: Right. We talked before about if you had to use a traditional air, like a window air conditioner or something like that? Those things are so loud and that doesn’t make it a very nice experience to be out in your sunroom. How quiet are ductless systems?
Mike: Oh, ductless systems as quiet as a human whisper, John, 20 decibels. Maybe as high as 40, which is very, very low. I mean, it’s nothing like a lawnmower running outside or anything like that. You’re barely going to even hear this thing running in the room. If maybe the sound you might hear might be a little bit of a human whisper when the fan is on very, very, super, super quiet. Nothing like a window unit running or a blow dryer running or anything like that. It’s super quiet.
How Ductless Turns a Two-Season Sunroom Into a Four-Season Sunroom
John: By installing a ductless mini-split system, or an air source heat pump system, you’re able to take a sunroom, an existing sunroom that’s really maybe only used in the fall and the spring, a two season sunroom. Then turn that into a four season, round the year, usable, nice, quiet, enjoyable space for people to use in their home.
Mike: Yeah. Basically, what you’re doing, John, is you’re now going to enjoy the sunshine and everything with the natural views year round in a heated and cool space. I mean, that’s why you built this room. You built this room to use this room and it’s also going to be its own zone of heating and cooling too.
As far as efficiency goes, you’re going to pick up some tremendous efficiency with that. I mean, we have units that have IC sensors on them that can scan the room for hotspots and cold spots in there. Yeah. You can also have it setup so that when you leave the room, it can set the temperature back for you if they’re not sensing anything out there.
I mean, I see a lot of these rooms too, where people, you just use them for their plants. I mean, we just did one in a room, literally the woman just had all types of beautiful plants in her sunroom. I mean, it was her-
John: Right, it was her greenhouse.
Mike: Yeah. It was her happy place to go and do her growing and water her plants and it was a glass ceiling too, to get a lot of natural sunlight, which is good. I mean, even in the winter time, it was hot in there. I mean, she was using the system for cooling in the winter time sometimes.
John: Right. Amazing. All right. Well, that’s really great information, Mike. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Mike: Thank you, John. Have a good day.
To Learn More, Contact N.E.T.R., Inc
John: And for more information, visit the N.E.T.R. website at netrinc.com or call (781) 933-N-E-T-R. That’s (781) 933-6387.