We talk with N.E.T.R. General Manager Brett Rogenski, and Chris Morin of Mitsubishi Electric and HVAC Pro Blog, about the facts and myths surroundings Mitsubishi Hyper Heat ductless heat pump systems.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Brett Rogenski, General Manager of N.E.T.R. Inc, a heating and cooling company in Massachusetts with a focus on Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling products. Welcome, Brett.
Brett Rogenski: Hey, thank you very much, John. I appreciate you having me.
John: Sure. And our special guest today is Chris Morin. Chris is a former Marine and is currently a regional sales manager with Mitsubishi Electric and owner and author of HVAC Pro Blog, where he gives advice for residential HVAC system design, quality installation, and system diagnosis. Welcome Chris.
Chris Morin: Thanks John. Appreciate it.
John: Sure. Today we’re talking about Mitsubishi Hyper Heat facts and myths. So Chris, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Mitsubishi Hyper Heat, what that is and what we mean by that?
Chris: Yeah, so it’s actually a trademarked term by Mitsubishi. We released our first Hyper Heat system back in 2009, so it’s been around for quite some time. Hyper Heat in our terminology means it’ll give you a hundred percent capacity at five degrees Fahrenheit. So the system’s rated by, let’s say AHRI, and the nominal size of our unit is actually the air conditioning size. Our Hyper Heat systems, all of the single zone Hyper Heat one-to-one ductless systems, actually perform better than our nominal size. They give you more heat output at five degrees than what the label on the unit is.
John: And is that in terms of BTU? So if it’s a 8,000 BTU unit, when you’re looking at heating, you’re actually getting more than that.
Chris: Exactly, yeah. These range in size from six to 18,000 BTUs for the nominal size. And to give you an idea, the newest model, our FS model, the 18,000 BTUs at five degrees will actually give you 23,000 BTUs in heating, so much higher than what the nominal size is.
John: Okay. And how cold can it be outside and still have a Hyper Heat system work?
Chris: So all of our single zone systems, believe it or not, will run all the way down to negative 18. So they get really high capacity at negative 18. To give you an idea, that same 18,000 BTU system will actually give you 17,100 BTUs. At negative 13, it’ll keep running, we don’t rate it below negative 13, it’ll keep running to negative 18 before there’s any chance of it walking out to protect the compressor.
It’ll kick back on at negative 14 when it warms up a little bit. And we have seen that temperature around here, and I didn’t get any reports that it actually did lock out. I think it’s because it was wind chill, to be honest, it wasn’t the actual temperature outside.
John: We’re recording this in February of 2023, just a couple of weeks ago I think we did, in places, hit minus 12, minus 14 degrees, somewhere in that range, so it was definitely pushing the line there, but not at the point where it would make the system not work
Chris: True. And that that’s just for our single zone systems, we do make Hyper Heat multi zones. Hyper Heats have been in the market on the multi zone side since 2014 and all of those models that are for the whole home that actually incorporate a branch box in order to distribute those indoor units, those don’t have a shutoff. Those will continue to run no matter what the temperature is outside.
John: And do those work basically down to the same temperature that minus 14, minus 18 degrees?
Chris: So they’ll actually continue on. So we rate them to negative 13, we’ll tell you exactly what you’re going to get for BTUs per hour at negative 13, but they’ll just keep running as long as there’s not a refrigerant issue.
John: And what are the efficiencies for Hyper Heat systems at those various temperatures as it gets, you said it’s a hundred percent capacity at five degrees Fahrenheit, and so then you’re getting less than a hundred percent efficiency at temperatures less than that. How does the scale work there?
Chris: So efficiency with the heat pump is a little different. So what I was talking about was capacity, and usually it’s a little harder to pull heat out of the air outside or transfer that heat from outside as it gets colder out, there’s just less heat in the air.
There is some, and it could be negative 18 and there’s still heat that you can pull and bring into the house. The downside is the compressor has to work a lot harder when it’s negative 18 out in order to do that. So what we talk about with efficiency, with heat pumps, it’s COP or coefficient of performance.
And the COP of, let’s say, an electric resistance heat strip in a home is a hundred percent efficient. The COP is one. And the COP of anything that burns fuel, like an oil furnace or a gas furnace, will actually be less than one because there’s a portion of that heat that goes up the chimney or out the flue pipe.
So the best of them out there are about 97% AFUE or 0.97 COP. The best thing about Mitsubishi Hyper Heat pumps is that as we get colder, even though it does get more expensive to run, most of them are what’s considered a cold climate heat pump with ratings put out by, let’s say, NEEP, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, and their rating for cold climate is it has at least a 1.75 COP at five degrees or higher, and just about every single one of our Hyper Heat pumps meets that standard.
John: And Brett, you at N.E.T.R install Mitsubishi Hyper Heat Systems all over Massachusetts and a little bit beyond as well. What are some questions that you get from customers or maybe comments that you get from customers where it just seems like maybe they don’t really understand how the Hyper Heat works or how even just ductless heat pumps in general work? Are there some myths or misconceptions out there about the systems and what are some of those questions that you get from customers?
Brett: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. And heat pumps aren’t new, they’re just tremendously improved as time goes on. So there’s some lingering misconceptions from, quite frankly, decades ago, early generation heat pumps where, oh, well they don’t work under 30 degrees Fahrenheit and this and that. And those are just legacy things that were true once upon a time, they’re just not true today. So we get a lot of questions about, well, what’s this thing going to work down to? Do I need a secondary source of heat?
And questions like that. The other thing is, so we explain to our customers, and we also have a lot of resources on our website that explain what the basic function of a heat pump is, how it’s different than say a furnace or something like that. How we’re working to take, in a heating cycle, how we’re working to take heat from one area and move it to another, which is exactly the opposite of what it does when it’s in a cooling cycle, which is taking.. Well, it’s the same, it’s except for we’re taking, in a heating cycle, taking the heat that’s in the ambient air outside, moving it into the home, as opposed to a cooling cycle where we’re taking that heat that’s outside, or excuse me inside, and dumping it back outside to cool your home.
I guess the next thing is exactly that is, “Well, gee, Brett, I read that these things work down to negative 13 Fahrenheit, but how well?” And I don’t have the exact number and Chris can correct me, but I want to say they’re 73% efficient down to negative… Or 73% capacity down to negative 13. Something very close to that. I’m going from memory.
So the point is at negative 13, you’re not running at 5% of whatever your rating capacity wasn’t, hoping your pipes won’t freeze. You really have the vast majority of that capacity available to you. To Chris’s earlier point, is it using more energy to do that? Sure it is. But everything’s using more energy.
Another thing that we talk about with our customers, and in some of our seminars as well, I call it perceptions of cold because I don’t know what else to say, is you have to remember that this is based on ambient temperature. So when we turn on the news every day, so this past week when we had, or two weeks ago, when we had the exceptionally cold Friday night and Saturday, I woke up in the morning and I’m seeing temperatures of negative.
I live in Southern New Hampshire, but I’m all over the North Shore, Boston, South Shore, Southern New Hampshire, and I’m seeing temperatures in the negative forties. Well, that’s a wind chill temperature. The heat pump doesn’t particularly care what the wind chill is. That’s not its point, it’s the ambient temperature. So the ambient temperatures may have been negative 11, there just happened to be a good strong breeze. Certainly your home is not retaining heat as well in that situation as opposed to negative evidence still, but the heat pump doesn’t care. It’s still going to produce its heat, it’s just a matter of your home may lose it faster.
So getting people to understand those things. The other thing is we’re all, or at least speaking for myself, I’m a lifetime New Englander, hey, snow, cold, we’re built for this. And a lot of folks are like, well, are you sure these can handle the winters here in New England? A lot of folks think this is a South Carolina type item. And you know what? Yeah, it can do just fine.
So I happen to have a graph up next to me that I was looking for. The average winter in Boston, we spend less than 46 hours below zero in the term of the entire winter. And of that, I would actually say it’s like it’s under a thousand hours below 20, 20 or below. So the whole point is most of the time this isn’t Nome, Alaska, it’s not negative 42 for 10 days on end. We live in a climate that’s fairly temperate and it’s well within the operating range.
And then people may ask, they go, “What happens if it gets below negative 13?” Well, those bites come in very short increments. It’s an hour or two during a tremendous cold snap like we just had, it’s not negative 20 degrees ambient for three days on end. That’s Yellowknife up in Canada, so not here.
John: Even if, at the absolute worst case, you didn’t have any heat for a few hours in your home, if your home’s properly insulated it’s not going to all of a sudden cool off to freezing in your house in just a couple of hours or a few hours.
Brett: Correct. And as a service provider, and it’s really timely, during this tremendous cold snap that we had here recently, I had literally zero phone calls. So out of the thousands of Hyper Heats we’ve put in, we had zero phone calls about Hyper Heats not being able to… As long as they were functional and there wasn’t a maintenance issue, which is usually people not having performed manual maintenance or something, all functioning Hyper Heats satisfied.
Now, certainly some people choose not to go with Hyper Heat, they go with a system that has less capability. And some of those folks, unfortunately our answer was, wait a couple of hours, it’s going to get warmer. And almost universally, they had a proposal that had Hyper Heat on it and they had elected to go a different direction. But everyone makes choices.
John: Yeah. Chris, do you generally recommend Hyper Heat for everybody in most situations, just based on the fact that we do have some temperatures…we don’t have the coldest winters here in New England or in Boston, but we do have some times when it does get down to zero degrees or even below zero, occasionally. Is Hyper Heat a good option for those types of people who are looking to really supplement their heating system during those winters?
Chris: So that’s actually changed drastically over the last few years. So a lot of times people would look to the Mitsubishi product first for air conditioning because they didn’t have duct work and that’s where we did a great job the first 20 to 30 years we were in the market. And what ended up happening was is they would run their system and realize, wow, I’m actually pretty comfortable the majority of the year, even in the winter, running this, but when it gets really cold, we have this problem where I have to turn my boiler back on, or my furnace back on. So what I typically say to our contractors and our distributors is always recommend the Hyper Heat pump in New England because then it gives the opportunity to run it as cold as you’d want to to feel comfortable, where you don’t have to turn on the other source of heat.
And really, these past two years with the push for electrification in Massachusetts, there’s a focus outside of just comfort and maybe a lower bill versus oil or propane. Now we’re talking about offsetting fossil fuel and carbon footprint. And there are some customers that want to just shut the gas off to their home, which is fine if you put a Hyper Heat pump in and you design it right. So if you don’t have enough BTUs, it doesn’t matter if it’s gas or a heat pump, it’s not going to heat the house. So that’s the key, the key is it’s the right product for that application and how they’re living in that home.
Brett: One thing that we recommend to people relative to value on heat pumps, to your point Chris, is we typically recommend or certainly at least include Hyper Heat as a choice for them. And if you think of this, this is maybe because I’m a contractor, I think about does the equipment cost slightly more to be Hyper Heat than non-Hyper Heat? Yes. But as a percentage of the total job, it’s actually a marginal increase because guess what? The labor to install a Hyper Heat versus a non-Hyper Heat system is identical the rest of the way through.
I’m still running the same line sets, I’m still setting the same condenser, I’m still making the same wall penetrations and hanging heads. They’re just a slightly different product. So when you start looking at what’s the difference to gain that extra capability as a percentage of your total project with Hyper Heat versus without, it’s actually considerably smaller than most people think. So you’re gaining a lot of flexibility without a massive difference in price.
John: Don’t just compare the cost of the units themselves to each other, look at the cost of the overall installation of the system.
Brett: Absolutely. And all of a sudden you’re going, wow, it’s really, as a percentage, not that much more. And that’s because of, again, my workload as a contractor to integrate this into your home is really, quite frankly, identical, or nearly identical at least.
Chris: And when you introduce rebates, sometimes it’s even less expensive to put the Hyper Heat system in.
Brett: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s a great point that I may be able to actually put a Hyper Heat system in your home after rebate less extensively your net cost as a homeowner than one that does not qualify for a rebate. So you actually gain that extra flexibility, you gain that extra capacity and post rebate, you may actually spend less for the entire thing.
John: And that’s because you are either integrating it with an existing heating system or potentially even replacing an existing heating system.
Brett: Absolutely correct.
John: Right. Okay. Chris, any thoughts on some of those comments that you heard that Brett mentioned that customers still have these questions about these low temperatures or the capacity of the units at low temperatures or the questions and concerns that customers might have?
Chris: Yeah, I think it may even be a generational thing. So when I started the industry 25 years ago, we had that problem with heat pumps and the heat pumps were installed, let’s say in the late eighties, early nineties, in a lot of condos, and they just were not efficient and they would have to turn on the equivalent of an electric toaster that’s sitting on top of the unit in their duct system.
And obviously it was much more expensive when it got really cold out to run just the toaster. So this negative connotation around heat pumps really got ingrained in the northeast here for a long period of time until around 2009 when that Hyper Heat heat pump was released and they realized how efficient it was and the flexibility of it. So we actually sell Mitsubishi, and I won’t give you exact numbers, but we’ll say it’s somewhere around five to seven times the number of heat pumps in the northeast versus the south.
So it’s the single largest market in the United States is the northeast. So it’s not for the south actually, they’re building this product for the northeast, and in fact we’re building more of it here in North America. So it’s one of those things that until you experience a Hyper Heat pump, you probably don’t believe it. You don’t believe the comfort, you don’t believe the cost. I think the best thing you could probably do is go over to Brett’s showroom and hear the system run, understand how quiet it is and the temperature of the air coming out, even if it’s before purchase. Not to overpromise here for N.E.T.R, but I think that’s a definite closing situation. If you’re on the fence, you got to experience it to really understand what you’re going to put in your home.
John: And what do you say to a customer who just really doesn’t understand it when you say, “Hey, we’re finding that heat outside even in the coldest temperatures, and we’re taking that heat from outside and moving it into my house,” and the person just says, “Where’s that heat coming from? If it’s zero degrees outside or minus 10 or whatever, you’re telling me that you’re taking the heat from outside and putting it in my house. Where is that heat coming from?” Is that, Brett, a typical thing that a homeowner’s going to say? Like, “I don’t understand, where are you finding this heat from?”
Brett: Yeah. That’s not uncommon at all for people to… It seems perplexing because normally we’re like, well, it’s colder outside than it is inside, so how are you actually finding more heat outside to dump into my home? And we just spend a little time and educate them on the basics of heat pumps and then as we also talk about Hyper Heat specifically, we try not to go too deep because most customers, they show me the baby, don’t tell me about the labor.
But we explain to them how the Hyper Heat, we even manage just to get more out of that by increasing its compressor speed and the compressor getting hot, us, not us, the system adding refrigerant to scavenge that heat as well. So we walk them through it, but really what I’ve found for most people, at the end of the day, once they have that assurance and the trust in the name Mitsubishi and the trust in the name N.E.T.R, at the end of the day they’re like, “Hey, if you’ve installed thousands of these, and in Mitsubishi’s case, sold millions of these, apparently they work. Okay, I got to buy in.”
So we give them a high level overview, and then after that they’re like, “Okay, it’s got to work and you both have a great reputation, so I’m not going to worry about what goes on behind the curtain.”
Chris: That’s a much better answer than I would. I usually tell them it’s magic.
Brett: Yeah, well we give the long version of magic.
John: Would one way to explain it be to say, this might not even be accurate, I don’t know, but to say it’s kind of like the reverse of your refrigerator where it could be 90 degrees in your house, but it’s still cold inside your refrigerator and that’s because of the compressor and the refrigerant that you’re using.
It’s finding cold air or putting cold air into the refrigerator even though it’s hot outside. It’s sort of the reverse of that where you’re taking the cold air and compressing it and using the refrigerant in a reverse sort of way, and then finding the heat and putting the heat back into the house. Is that an accurate way of describing it or is that just maybe a layman’s way of explaining it to somebody?
Chris: That’s exactly the case. And the hotter it is in your home, the harder it is to cool the food. So another way I used to like to explain it, because most people understand air conditioning, especially with, let’s say, window units, if you just took that window unit and spun it around, it would actually try to cool outside and heat in your house.
So that’s exactly what the refrigerant cycle’s doing. There’s a valve in there that just changes the direction of the refrigerant, so that way you don’t actually have to spin equipment around.
John: I like that way as a way of explaining it, just take your window air conditioner and spin it around the other way and that’s essentially what you’re doing.
Brett: And John, to your point, virtually everyone lives with a heat pump already. It is the refrigerator. They’re living with it and refrigerators also, are not a direct comparison, but refrigerators are pretty reliable. They work 24/7. We usually don’t do anything to them except roll them in a spot and then 15 or 20 years later when it gives out on us, we get angry. But the whole point is that thing’s working 24/7, 365 for decades and stuff, that tells you how reliable heat pumps are in general. It’s a little bit of an apple and orange here, but it’s a time proven technology, it’s just being used slightly differently here.
John: All right. Well, that’s really great information guys. Brett, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Brett: Thank you so much for having us.
John: And thank you Chris and tell us a little bit about where we can find you, and especially for contractors, how they can reach out to you to learn more about your services.
Chris: So if you’re looking for Mitsubishi information, just reach out to your distributor. If you’re looking for system design help or stuff outside of Mitsubishi, you can always find me on HVACproblog.com over on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, you name it, and look forward to hearing from everybody out there that’s looking for help.
John: All right. Well, Chris, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Chris: Anytime, John.
John: And for more information, you can visit the N.E.T.R website at NETRinc.com or call (781) 933 NETR. That’s (781) 933-6387.