Sometimes, it’s a challenge to keep an old Boston area home warm. Mike Cappuccio, founder of N.E.T.R., Inc., discusses the variety of ductless heating options available to home, apartment, and condo owners. Listen or read more to find out about heating installation in Boston, Massachusetts.
John: Hi, I’m John Maher. 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 heating installation in Boston, Massachusetts. Welcome, Mike.
Mike: Good morning, John. How are you?
John: Good. Mike, what types of heating systems are available for homes in the Boston area or, what types of systems do you typically see that homes already have installed?
Mike: Well, we see a lot of different types of heating systems in the Boston area and the surrounding areas, John. We see gas heating, which is your typical gas furnace, ductwork, things like that that are in the home. Then, we’ve got oil heat in homes with steam radiators and hot air coming through the vents from an oil furnace in the basement. I’ve seen electric heat in homes, and some people are using propane in the surrounding areas to heat with. Each different type of fuel or generation of electricity uses different types of pieces inside the home.
I’ve seen electric heat. I’ve seen ceiling panel heaters. I’ve seen ceiling units with fans in them. I’ve seen your traditional little electric baseboard heater, radiators with the old oil heat with the steam crackling away in the home. Then, you get your traditional gas furnace that’s in the basement with ductwork and warm air blowing out of the ductwork, and then you’ve got the oil furnace in the basement or an oil boiler in the basement. Water heat baseboard with water running through or warming up the water and running it through traditional baseboard.
Now, sometimes that’s controlled by a condominium association possibly, where you have five units in the building and the heat might be being controlled by one big boiler in the basement and possibly, everyone has control over the heat and they’re billing people for X amount of heat being used. We’ve seen all different types of ways they can do that in homes in the Boston area.
John: Sometimes, do you see combinations of those two where you might have those old radiators in maybe like an older part of your home, and then, electric baseboards in an addition or something like that?
Mike: I’ve seen hodgepodges of everything when I go out to homes. Sometimes, a house that’s had . . . sometimes, I call them, the house that Jack built. They’ve got five different additions on them, they’re heated five different ways. They’ve got a radiator over here. They’ve got electric heat over here. They’ve got a gas furnace over here. They might even have a Mitsubishi ductless unit over here and, they’re just doing it five different ways to try and just get heat out of something to make it work in the home.
John: Right. I grew up outside of Boston in Arlington and I remember when I was young, when the heat would kick on in the winter. I think we had . . . they were maybe radiators of a type that were built into the walls, it’s like a grating over it and man, those things would bang and bang as the heat came on.
Mike: Yes, crackling, just crackling when they bang and that’s the heat as they’re warming up. They sit in the wall about two or three inches, and then they come out. That was probably a home built in probably the late ’50s, I would assume probably mid-’50s to early ’40s. The big old cast-iron radiator is that, God, some of those things was four feet tall by three feet wide depending on how much heat you needed and you had the little whistle on the side and the steam would come out of them. Your mom would [get] a pan of water and put it on top of the radiator to get some humidity in the house, the water would start steaming up and get something. That wasn’t a bad way to humidify the home at the time.
Old Heating Options in Boston Area Homes
John: Right, but change happens slow and you still see a lot of those types of things.
Mike: Yes, we still see a lot of those old cast-iron radiators. You’re seeing them as these homes in the Boston area, now we see a lot of what’s happening now is urban renewal and they’re just going in and gotten these places out. People buy a three, four unit home in the Boston area, it might have been owned by one family and it was possibly tenants in there. Now, they’re taking those and they’re making condominiums out of them and it has a central heating unit in there. Now, they’ve got to get rid of that.
They need to have a separate heating unit for each individual condominium where each owner can control their own heat and they pay their own utility bills. They’ve got to separate those utilities. Now, that’s where it comes in, well, with our products, they’re good to do that because, we can separate each unit and provide heating and cooling at the same time. We have units that will run down at zero degrees, minus four degrees and, a lot of times, when we see these renewals of remodels getting done in the Boston area, they’re going in, they’ve got bill to the new building codes now, and you’ve got to provide the right insulation. You’ve got to put the 2×6 construction.
Now, this is a tight home. It’s got new windows. It’s got new insulation. The heat loads is high as they used to be back in the ’40s and ’50s and stuff when people . . . you’re using very thin insulation. Now, you’ve got to use better insulation. A lot of times, they’d put the spray foam in there and the ice and in foams and when they do that, I mean, these homes are so tight that the heating loads, they require practically nothing sometimes.
Mitsubishi Ductless Heating System
John: Right. Talk a little bit more about the Mitsubishi ductless systems for heating, and why those are a really good option for heating in a lot of homes.
Mike: Well, in the past, I’m going to say, five years now, we’ve come out with new products now with Mitsubishi Electric that they called hyper-heating units. The hyper-heating units, when you talk about your traditional heat pump back years ago, they did not provide heat after 30 degrees, 28 degrees, the electric heat strips were coming on and, you just couldn’t provide the heating that you needed out of the condensing. Well, that’s all changed now in the past five years.
We have condensers that can give you full heat at -4 degrees. You can have a 48,000 BTU heat pump that gives you sometimes, even more than 48,000 BTUs at these lower temperatures. Even at like 17, 18 degrees of 48,000 BTU heat pump is giving you upwards to sometimes 50,000, 55,000 BTUs of heat. That’s what a hot air furnace puts out. We’re looking at a lot of the way that the heating is changing now in Massachusetts, too. I was just in a meeting this past week. I was sitting down with Mitsubishi people in there, they’re coming at us now and they’re saying, “Hey, a lot of these Mass CEC rebates are going to be changing for the year 2019.”
What’s going to be happening now is if you install a kumo cloud station, which is, I’ll get into what that is in a minute but, if you have oil heat or you have propane heat and you’re going to use a heat pump to supplement or heat your home with the existing heating system that you have with oil heat or propane heat right now, they’re going to be offering $1,600 a ton for these rebates. Just think about this. If you’ve got a four-ton system or 48,000 BTU system you’re going to install, you’re looking up to $5,400 in rebates to install one of these stations in your home to control your heat pump and your boiler.
What’s going to happen with this is, the kumo cloud station goes in the home. What the kumo cloud is, is it’s a Wi-Fi app to run the indoor units in your home. Basically, you control it from your smartphone and tell it what to do. What this is going to do is tie into this big station that we put into the house. It’s not real big. It’s probably about 12 inches long by eight inches wide by about two inches thick, we’re going to install it probably in the basement or in a closet somewhere. It’s going to hook up through the Wi-Fi system. It’s going to monitor your outdoor temperature, your indoor temperature, your humidity levels, things like that, but what it’s going to do . . .
Here’s the big function. Here’s where the rebates are going to come in, and they’re going to say, “Okay, at 20 degrees, I want to switch over to my boiler. I feel my boiler might be more efficient at that point. I have an older home. So, at 20 degrees, I’m going to switch over to my boiler, anything above 20 degrees, I’m going to have my Mitsubishi system control my heating.” A lot of towns now too, what we’re seeing is, they’re all looking for that carbon neutral footprint. I heard in the meeting a couple weeks ago too . . . Somerville. Somerville’s looking at by the year 2050, they’d like to have a carbon-neutral footprint in their city where they don’t even want to have natural gas burning heat in these areas now.
They’re trying to get rid of the oil, they’re trying to limit the use of the oil. They’re trying to limit the use of the propane because, these fossil fuels, they’re expensive to operate, they’re not good for the environment and that’s why these rebates are really kicking in hard. I was shocked when I heard the amount of money that people are going to be able to get for this. All right, so people will probably say, “Okay. Well, what is the cost of this system that you have to put in and I get this rebate?” You’re probably looking at somewhere around $2,500 to $3,000 to install the additional controls, but you’re getting back $5,400 on some of these things.
Depending on how many tons and what we put, 2019, there’s going to be a lot of changes in the way that people heat their homes now when they see what’s going on. Oh, and on top of that too, these products are all going to fall right into the 0% massive loans that you can get for seven years through the state that are unbelievable. We can come in your home, we can do a 0% loan for seven years. Have you save money on your oil and propane bills, on your heating bills and you can finance this for seven years at no interest through the state.
John: Yes, that’s great.
Mike: They’re using a lot of these small local banks and not using your bigger banks and stuff but, we guide you through that process. We’re going to help you with that. This from a heating perspective is, this is going to be a lot of change in the next three to five years on the way people heat their homes.
Kumo Cloud Station
John: You talked a little bit about this kumo cloud station. Does a ductless HVAC system then replace a traditional heating system, or does it supplement it and work with it?
Mike: It can replace it or it can supplement it. With the kumo cloud station, you’re going to be supplementing it. You’re going to supplement your oil or your gas or your propane or your electric, however you’re doing that, you’re going to supplement that. That’s if the Mitsubishi system can’t do the full heating load. I mean, some days — last winter that we got down to -10 at a couple of days there. I’m not saying the heat pump can’t do the job but, it’s going to struggle on a -10-degree day.
I always say to the people, “Hey, just leave the system in your house. If you never use it, you never use it. If you need it, it’s always there.” There are plenty of homes we do with their full source of heat. We don’t put anything else in the home, but then you wouldn’t need the kumo cloud station. You would install the Wi-Fi devices to set your timers and do what you want to do with your zones in your home with the kumo cloud app.
How Heating Systems Deal with Older Boston Homes
John Maher: Okay. What types of homes and apartments do you find in Boston and areas around Boston? How does that affect the choice of how you install or what types of installation you do for ductless heating units?
Mike: Well, it all depends on the type of building, John. If it’s an apartment that’s all owned by one owner. We’ve done some stuff in the North End of Boston where we have one builder there who . . . he might have five stories there and we put five individual units. Most times, they want to get the utilities on to the tenant or the owner — get it off the owner and get it on the tenant. We do many jobs like this. They want to take the electric panel that’s in that unit and be able to tie the heat pump on to that. Here’s where it really falls into play too because a lot of these units don’t have big electric services.
They might have 100 amp service or they might have a 60 amp service coming into the building for just that one floor. Our units don’t draw a lot of currents, so most times we can either use the 60 amp panel depending on what’s in it or the 100 amp panel. Then, we can put the unit outside, put it on the roof, put it where we need to put it and zone out each floor, so each tenant is now paying for their own heat. The big thing is, they want to get it off of them. We’ve done apartment buildings in . . . we did a big one in Lynn. We did in Evans Landing and Lynn that was built by a developer. That was almost a 50 unit building that we put 50 systems in.
We had everything from three zone units in there to two zone to one zone. There were studios, one bedrooms, and two bedrooms. We put three zones in the two bedrooms, two zones in the one bedrooms and then, we put one unit in the studios. We placed all the condensers strategically outside around the building. They covered them in with a landscape and stuff, the way they put them together. We ran all the piping up through the walls when the construction was being done. Again, each heat pump is now on each tenant in that building.
They have their own zones, and I mean that the heating is very economical because you can remember, you get in a big apartment building, you have four walls on it. If you’re the unit in the middle, you’ve only got one exterior wall. You got the hallway and two walls on the right and left there with other tenants, then the other one is the hall. You’ve got one exterior wall. You’re not drawn . . . you’re basically heating your home for what you’re paying for air conditioning, probably $30, $40 a month sometimes on the studios. The exterior ones with two walls on the corners, maybe a little more because it gets a little colder in the winter time.
The big thing with that apartment building was again, square footage. They didn’t want a closet. These square footage is just worth so much money now. You got 50 units and you’ve got 54×4 closets in there. You’re giving up a lot of square footage. Square footage is how they sell these units with prop, with the money and how they get their rents of square footage versus a closet, versus living space.
John: That sounds like that’s good for tenants as well that, not only are they getting a system where . . . which is very efficient and keeps the costs down overall, but then, for a cost-conscious tenant who is cognizant of how much electricity they’re using or how much energy they’re using for heating and hot water and things like that. They can really regulate how much energy they’re using to keep their own costs down.
Mike: I was in one a few months back, the two bedroom. One of the rooms was just shut off. It was a storage room. They basically had just junk in there. They had that zone turned off, the bedroom turned up, I mean turned down, to like 59 degrees and, they were in the common area. Might have that turned on 70 degrees. The zoning on them is incredible. They could turn off the living room and kitchen at nighttime when they go to bed. You’ve got so many interior walls. You can just close your bedroom to 70. I mean, if you know how to use this system as a tenant, you can save yourself a ton of money on electricity and on your heating costs.
John: All right. That’s really great information, Mike. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Mike: Thanks, John.
John: For more information, visit the N.E.T.R. website at www.netrinc.com or call 781-933-NETR. That’s, 781-933-6387.