Mike Cappuccio, founder of N.E.T.R., Inc, talks with John Maher about how long a ductless heat pump lasts. He gives homeowners tips on how to make their heat pumps last as long as possible, and he explains the importance of professional maintenance.
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 how long a ductless heat pump will last. Welcome Mike.
Mike Cappuccio: Good morning, John. How are you?
How Long Does a Ductless Heat Pump Last in a Home?
John: Good thanks. So, Mike, in general, how long does a ductless heat pump or an air source heat pump last in a typical home?
Mike: John, it’s a loaded question. It can last anywhere from, well, five years on the low end to 25 years on the high end.
Factors That Affect the Lifespan of a Heat Pump
Mike: I mean, it really all depends on how well you take care of your system. I mean, I saw a system get taken out of a home last week that came into the shop. I saw the pictures of it being removed. It was actually a five year old system and it was just a complete lack of maintenance that was being done on the unit. Poor installation. Installation is probably one of the biggest things from a proper techniques standpoint that it gets done right, which will advance the length of the system.
Let me repeat that. That is, if it’s installed properly and then maintained properly, it should last for 25 years. If it’s not and you do absolutely nothing to it and never open up the indoor unit and clean it, never check the outdoor unit at all, and you live in an area where you might have a lot of leaves, and trees, and mice, and things like that outside, I mean, it could last five years.
I saw one come in the other day where the holes weren’t sealed properly from the outdoor units to the indoor units, where small chipmunks had gotten into the units and were eating the units away inside. Multiple feces inside the units where there were nests inside there, they were inside the outdoor unit and just chewed away at the compressor blanket that was inside because the compressor has a crank case heater in it and it’s warm and it stays warm in the winter time. So where do critters want to go live? They want to go live in the air conditioning unit in the winter time.
If you’re not doing maintenance on it in the spring and the fall, then it’s not going to last. It’s basically the same thing as your car. I mean, think of your car. If you never put air in the tires, you never changed the oil, you never changed the wiper blades, you never took it through the car wash. You did nothing. I mean, how long would your car last and what would it look like in five years if you never cleaned your car and just threw trash in the backseat all the time? I mean, what would it look like? It’s basically the same thing with your heating and cooling system in your home. How long would it last?
How to Make Your Ductless System Last Longer
John: Right. Yeah. So what can a homeowner do themselves to maybe maintain their ductless units, indoors and outdoors and make them last longer?
Mike: I mean, I think from a homeowner standpoint, one of the biggest things is to clear things away from the unit outside. Let’s start with the outdoor unit and like I said, keep things clear away from it. For example, if you’re not putting your unit up on a stand and it’s just sitting on a pad, you don’t want six inches of bark mulch into the condenser coil in the back. That’s going to just take your condenser coil and eventually just rot it out from the moisture and the dirt and everything like that.
You want to keep the unit clean. If there’s any leaves and debris all around it. I’ve seen installations where the dryer vent has been put right behind the back of the unit where there’s lint all on the condenser coil. A lot of homeowners do maintenance themselves where you clean the back of the coil with just regular water, low pressure water and some soap and detergent and clean the condenser coil on the outside, clear the debris away, clean it off.
And then on the indoor units inside, it’s changing your filters regularly. Make sure that in spring and fall, if you’re using the unit to air condition and heat, you change the filters and clean the filters, wash the filters. I’ve seen homeowners clear out their own drain lines, put a little bleach in the drain line, a little water, and blow out the drain lines. I mean, we do that as a contractor in our maintenance too, but some of them do it themselves. That’s a little advanced.
I would probably just say keeping the condenser clear and clean and free of debris, keeping your filters changed on a regular basis and also monitoring the temperature coming out of it. So if you felt last year that the temperature coming out of the unit might have felt like it was 55 degrees or 50 degrees for air conditioning and 125, 130 for heating and now this heating season it’s maybe only a hundred degrees coming out or 90. From an air conditioning standpoint, the air coming out might be 60 or 70. That’s telling you that something’s not right. It’s not operating the way that it was operating the year before. So that’s something where you’ve got to get the contractor out there to look at it.
How Can a Professional Help Protect the Lifespan of Your Heating System?
John: Okay. Yeah. So let’s talk about that. What is it that a professional may need to do to maintain a ductless system and make sure that it continues to work for a long time?
Mike: Well, I mean, I think definitely, if you’re using it in spring and fall, you want someone to come out twice a year. Beginning of the air conditioning season, you want to open up the unit, you want to take the covers off. You want to look inside, make sure that there’s no critters living in your unit, make sure that the crankcase heater on the compressor is working. Make sure the condenser fan is working properly. There’s measurements we take from an electrical voltage and amperage standpoint to make sure that those are within the parameters of the operating specifications.
You also want to check the refrigerant charge, check the superheat. You do what’s called a capacity test on it. Make sure your pressures are good. Make sure there’s a proper refrigerant charge in it. Clear any debris away from the condenser outside, wash the condenser coil. Pretty much get it ready for air conditioning season and then go inside, clear all the drain lines, flush all the drain lines, clean the evaporator coils. I mean, there’s a couple ways to do that. Clean the barrel fan. You can do that with the HydroKleen machines, if need be. We do offer those services where we’ve done some other videos on that. You actually do a nice low pressure wash and sanitation and add the antibacterial and mold spray onto the unit.
That should be being done to a ductless system, I recommend at least every three years minimum in your home. You’d be surprised. You think the filters are clean, but there’s a lot of stuff that does come out of the units when we clean those. So that should definitely be done. And then clear the drain lines, make sure the drain lines are working properly. Take the grills and covers outside, do a pressure wash on them, make sure they’re all nice and clean.
And then you want to make sure that the remote is working, make sure the remote is working well and replace the batteries. I recommend every spring to change the batteries in the remote control, just like you would in your smoke detectors. Every once a year, you want to change your batteries in that. Make sure the remote is working properly. Make sure that it does change the set point, that it is ramping the unit down, slowing down the fan and slowing down the cooling and heating when you hit the desired set point in temperatures.
So there are some things from a technical standpoint that a technician knows that a homeowner doesn’t know that would be done on a full maintenance like that. And you do that twice a year. Again, if you’re using your system for full heating in your home or even spot heating, I would recommend getting it checked before the heating season too, because that’s when it’s going to be running a lot more. I mean, when you think of a cooling season and the indoor temperature in your home is 90 degrees, and you’re only bringing it down to 70 degrees, that’s a 20 degree temperature difference. We call it Delta T, of where you’re bringing the temperature down to.
In the winter time, your home could be 50 degrees inside and you’re trying to get it up to 70 or 75. You got a bigger temperature difference, you’re trying to raise it higher. So you’re obviously running the unit more, it’s working more. So you want to make sure that it is working properly, especially from a refrigerant charge standpoint, because if it’s not, you’re going to get very, very high electric bills come wintertime if the system is not properly charged and not operating right.
We do see that a lot where, oh geez, I’m using my system to heat my home, but my electric bills are through the roof. And you go out there and the discharged air coming out of the unit might only be 90 degrees, where it should be around 120, 130. And you can tell right away, it’s low on charge, do a capacity test on it and you can see right away. We have a way to measure the capacity of what that unit should be putting out.
How Often Should You Schedule Professional Maintenance?
John: Yeah. So in terms of how often a professional should come in and do cleaning and maintenance, you’re saying ideally spring and fall, have you come out to do a basic check, make sure everything’s running properly, do a basic cleaning. And then come once every two or three years to do a wash where you’re really getting in there and cleaning out the condenser coils and that sort of thing.
Mike: Yeah. Cleaning condensers, cleaning evaporators, cleaning the barrel fans on the indoor units. The fans, you’d be amazed at how much dirt comes out of a fan once it gets… The filters can filter air, but again, going back to what can the homeowner do? If the homeowner never cleans the filters, the filters will only stop so much dust. Once they’re packed full the dust is now getting through the filters because that fan is pulling that air in through those filters.
And it gets through the filters, it gets into the coils, it gets into the fans. If you clean your filters every month or so too, I mean, that prevents a lot of that dirt from getting in there. You might be able to extend that to five years, but most times people don’t clean. They do them once a year and that sometimes is not good enough where you might have to do it once a month.
It all depends on the environment in your home too. You have a lot of pets, or you live in a dusty area, or you leave your windows open a lot. I mean, it really depends on the environment inside your home.
Contact NETR to Learn More
John: All right. Well, that’s really great advice. Thanks again for speaking with me today, Mike.
Mike: Thank you, John. Have a great holiday too.
John: You too. And for more information, visit the N.E.T.R website at netrinc.com or call 781-933-NETR. That’s 781-933-6387.