Mike Cappuccio, founder of N.E.T.R., Inc. talks with John Maher about residential applications for air source heat pumps. He explains the ways air source heat pumps can be used in existing homes and new construction.
John Maher: Hey. I’m John Maher and 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 residential applications for air source heat pumps. Welcome Mike.
Mike: Hey John. How are you?
Air Source Heat Pump in Home Office
John: Good, thanks. So Mike, we’re going to be talking about some different areas of the home or different applications for your home where an air source heat pump or a ductless heating and cooling system might be useful in order to solve some of the issues that people have in their homes. So the first one is a home office. How would an air source heat pump help somebody with heating or cooling their home office?
Mike: Well, in my own home office at home, John I have a system in my home office. And it’s funny because in my home office, I have a TV, I have a computer, it’s hot. We look at today’s world and everyone’s working from home.
So you put a wall mount unit in your office and you can heat, you can cool the space. It basically is its own zone at that point. And you can shut off the heating and cooling in the rest of the house. Think about it, if you’re the only one at home today working and everyone else has gone off to school and work or whatever, why do you want to leave the rest of the stuff on in your home to heat and cool your home that you’re not even in? That’s a big waste of money, but you can put the unit in the office and away you go.
I actually put a black unit, the design unit right above my black TV. It looks really nice. And I’ll tell you, it stays comfortable as heck in there.
Using Ductless in Unusual Home Office Spaces
John: And like you said, more and more people are working from home now. So have you seen a lot more of these kinds of applications recently where people are wanting to put heating and cooling in their home office?
Mike: Yeah. And what’s even funny too, John, home offices, you see a lot of funny spaces end up being a home office. It could be a back hallway. I’ve seen people convert their garages into home offices now. I’ve seen people have small areas in their basement converted to a home office.
Some people are taking their dining room out of their house now and making it a home office because think about it. How many times do you use your dining room in the course of a year? Maybe thanksgiving and Christmas. And now I’ve got to work five, six days a week in my home office. So a lot of these spaces just didn’t have the heating and cooling that they needed for those spots. So our Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling units are the perfect solution for a home office, absolute perfect solution for a home office.
Whole Home Heating and Cooling With Air Source Heat Pumps
John: Our next application is a whole home. So unlike the home office where it’s just one space, we’re talking about heating, cooling your whole home with an air source heat pump system. How does that work?
Mike: Yeah. A lot of times with whole home systems, John, it’s either being done on a renovation where we’re going in and we’re putting in ductwork and maybe some wall mounted units, some floor mounted units. It depends really on what type of renovation might be happening or we use an add-on existing system that could be going into a home. Or a whole home system could be a heat pump that’s being replaced in a home.
So a whole home solution really varies as to where the people live in the home, how they live in the home. What’s going on? Is it a renovation? Is it an existing system that needs an upgrade? Is it an older heating system you’re trying to replace? Could even be you’re trying to reduce the carbon footprint of the home.
You could have oil in your home and be trying to put in a whole home solution and get the rebates that Mass Save might have. It really varies but a whole home solution is something that we’d really have to come out and determine, Hey, what, what are the needs of what you’re trying to do in the home? But whole homes are usually a ducted unit most times.
Replacing or Supplementing Your Existing Heating and Cooling System
John: Right. And are people generally trying to completely replace their existing heating system or supplement their existing heating system?
Mike: Yeah. Most times it’s being supplemented with integrated controls. I would probably say about 50% of whole home systems that you see is a ducted ductless mix, where you might be putting a ducted unit in an attic to heat and cool the spaces upstairs or supplement with the existing hot water heat that you have with baseboard heat. And then downstairs, usually two or three wall units might get placed downstairs and get integrated into the control package that they have.
But the big beneficial thing with a whole home solution is you’re zoning out your home. Most times when we go into a situation like that with a first and second floor, they’ll have one thermostat down one, thermostat up, and now you’re probably giving anywhere from four to six zones of heating or cooling in the home.
Air Source Heat Pumps for All Electric Homes
John: OK. Our next application is an all electric home. Why would somebody want to switch to all electric for their heating and cooling?
Mike: Well, John, all electric heated homes are the most inefficient way to heat a home. And there are still a good amount of homes that are out there that are all electric homes from the ’70s. That was a big push in the ’70s with electric homes, not the most efficient way. Most of them are baseboard electric heat. Very expensive to operate.
If you go to an air source heat pump system or a ductless heating and cooling system from Mitsubishi in a home like this, you’re looking at saving probably somewhere around a bare minimum of 50 to 60% on your heating bills. And again, you’re not really zoning out when you have an electric home because with electric heat, you already do have zoning. You’d have one strip of electric baseboard in a bedroom and one in a living room and nine times out of 10, those all do have their own thermostat, but they’re just not efficient. It’s just not an efficient way to heat a home.
Air Source Heat Pumps Vs Electric Baseboard Heat
John: So when you install ductless, you’re still using electricity for your heating and cooling. It’s just that the air source heat pump system is much more efficient than an old style electric baseboard heat?
Mike: The electric baseboard heat is basically like turning on 10 toaster ovens in your home all day. It’s just a glowing red heat. That’s an electric strip that’s in there. And one BTU in, one BTU out is what you get from that. There’s nothing like the inverter driven heat pump that speeds up and slows down and will give you the efficiency that you need. We measure by co-efficiency of power which I’d really have to get into with some slides and stuff. But I could definitely point out to someone that we’re three to four times more efficient than electric baseboard heating.
Air Source Heat Pumps in the Basement
John: All right. Our next application is a basement. Do you do a lot of adding air source heat pumps or ductless heating and cooling systems to basements, especially if somebody’s finishing a basement and they want to make it into a family room or something like that?
Mike: Yeah. You got to think about John, when most people are doing a basement they’re finishing or remodeling it. And the existing heating system that you have in your home is nine times out of 10 not big enough to heat and cool an additional space. And sometimes people just put a piece of duct work down there, something like that and say, “Oh, we can heat and cool it like that.”
But if you really want to make it a true livable space and be able to heat and cool it, you turn your basement into a separate zone with a ductless heating and cooling unit. You can put a floor unit in a basement. You can put a wall unit in a basement. There’s ceiling recess units that you can put in a basement.
There’s a lot of different ways you can do that. But it’s pretty much these spaces that are being refinished at that point. So you’re going to need some heating and cooling in those areas. So there’s a lot of different options you can use in those different spaces.
Options for Heating and Cooling Basements
John: What are some options for heating and cooling basements?
Mike: Well, you could put a floor mounted unit in there. You could put a ceiling cassette unit in there. You could put duct work if you wanted to. You could run a duct across one side of a basement. We’ve done that where you just put one long piece of duct across a ceiling and put some diffuses on that. You could put multiple wall units in there if you wanted.`
I’ve seen some basements that are 80 feet long by 40 feet wide. They’re pretty big. They put multiple units in the basement at different points and they might only use one side of it or they might even have a bedroom down there or something like that where you need one unit and a bedroom in the basement.
I’ve seen basements get finished, where they put an in-law apartment down there in a basement and you need to have heating and cooling in these areas. Most times more heating than cooling because they’re below ground.
John: Yeah. So they stay pretty cool anyway, usually.
Using Ductless to Dehumidify Basements
Mike: Yeah. But some of them can be damp and that’s where the dry mode comes in handy with the basements too because it can dry the spaces out in the summertime.
John: Right. So you could use it for the heating in the winter time and then in the summer, have it on dry mode. So to dehumidifier?
Heat Pumps for Bedrooms That Are Too Hot or Cold
John: Yeah. All right. Our next application is a bedroom that’s too hot or too cold. We’ve all had this issue where your bedroom might be too hot in the summertime. It’s too cold in the wintertime. Maybe you only have a couple of months out of the year where you really get a good night’s sleep because you just can’t quite get that temperature right. How would a ductless system or an air source heat pump system come into play to help somebody with a bedroom that’s just never quite right?
Mike: I just did a job like this in Beverly a few weeks ago where a customer had an addition that they had put on to the back of the house probably 20 years ago. I’ve been doing work in this home for a long time.
And a customer has always said to me, “This bedroom is always too hot in the summertime. It’s at the end of the run of the duct work. And it’s always too cold in the wintertime because I can’t get the heat down here too because I only have one duct.” And the room was never satisfied.
We went in there and we put in a wall-mounted high-efficiency unit in the peak of the bedroom. These people are just ecstatic at how it heats and cools the space because now the bedroom is their own zone. And their children are gone. They’re empty nesters. A little bit older. And basically at night time, they turn the heating system in their house down to 55 degrees. And they put their bedroom on 68 degrees at nighttime. And it’s picking up huge savings in their heating bills because they’re only heating one space that they’re in.
And he says, “You know what, and I’m actually comfortable when I sleep at night now. I’m saving money and I’m comfortable.”
John: Right. So you win on both sides.
Heating and Cooling Solutions for Uncomfortable Bedrooms
Mike: Yeah. There’s a variety of different things you can do for a hot or a cold bedroom. You usually see this in an area where there could be ductwork in an attic and you have a long run of duct and it’s just not sized properly. Or the attic is hot. The duct work might not be insulated properly.
But I can’t tell you how many homes we go into where you have that one hot bedroom or one cold bedroom and that could be over the garage. It could be anywhere in the home. A lot of times there are additions. They could be raised up off of the ground and there’s cold underneath them in the winter time. But this is a perfect solution to heat and cool a bedroom that’s too hot and too cold.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Boiler-Heated Homes
John: Our next application is a boiler heated home. What do you do when you come into a home that’s already heated by a boiler and how can an air source heat pump system help?
Mike: Well, this is another good solution, John, because this is one where we’re seeing the integrated controls working together in conjunction with this. This could be a gas, heated home oil, heated home, propane heated home by a boiler. But this is a boiler heated home that has wet heat. It usually has either radiators or baseboard heat around the perimeter of the home.
Nine times out of 10 it has no air conditioning. They’ve been using window units to cool the home. And they’re looking for solutions to air condition the home. They’re not really looking most times to heat the home. They’re looking more to air condition it, and then the conversation is going to be about heating because now we’re going to be able to integrate this with controls, to use this for a supplemental heating source and actually leave the boiler in the home and above 30 degrees, use the air source heat pumps to heat the home.
If this was a two story home and it had an attic, we’d probably put a ducted unit in an attic, put duct work down to three bedrooms that could be three bedrooms with… It could also be three separate wall mounted or floor mounted units as well. And on the first floor, most times a couple of wall units go down there to heat and cool the open areas on the first floor. You could divide this into as low as three zones or four zones or up to as high as eight zones, if you wanted to, depending on the units that you could use in that home.
But you usually supplement the existing heating system with the boiler that’s in the home at that point. I’ve seen them where we’ve taken the boiler out and done a full source of heat too. I’d recommend having the home insulated and tightened up as tight as you could before we use it as a whole source of heat. So we have to take a close look at that but there’s been a lot of whole home heating applications with boilers. Great solution.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Exercise Rooms
John: Our next application is an exercise room. I think again with COVID and everything, people are doing a lot more exercising at home. Maybe they’re going to the gym less. Do you do a lot of ductless systems and exercise rooms?
Mike: Absolutely. I have one in my own house, John, to be totally honest with you. I have a wall mounted unit in my gym downstairs in my home. I have my spin bike down there and I have my air conditioning on that in the winter time because you get hot and it’s good, because you can flip it between heating and cooling depending on what you’re doing in the exercise room.
But again, that could be a ceiling recess unit, a floor mount unit. It’s usually one zone. I see most times they are down in a basement going back to that actual basement solution that we were talking about, this could be a one off room in a basement where you would need to do that.
John: Yeah. And like you said when you’re working out, maybe you’re generating a lot of body heat anyway. So you maybe need a little bit more cooling in that space or you just maybe just want to keep that room a little bit cooler than the rest of the house because you are exercising and working out. So you can do that by having a system just in that room.
Mike: Yeah, exactly.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Garages
John: What about the next one, which is a garage? I haven’t really thought about heating or cooling a garage. Why would somebody want to do that?
Mike: I see a lot of that in Florida. I see a lot of that up in Boston. I see a lot of that all over the place and the main reason why John, think about it. When you go out into your garage in the summertime, it’s extremely hot and you’re getting into an extremely hot car.
A lot of people store things in their garage now. There’s papers, files, things like that with people working at home and a lot of that stuff gets dried out. There is stuff like that, where you want to keep the humidity down and keep the temperature proper in the garage.
I did an installation in a garage down for a gentleman who actually had a small mechanic shop in his garage at home where he tinkered a lot. The guy must have had about 15 of his own cars. He had a lot of little sports cars and stuff that he tinkered on during the day. And he just didn’t want to work in a 100 degree garage in the summertime all the time. So we put a unit in his garage, so he could be cool when he was working.
John: A lot of people have those kinds of or even a wood shop or someplace where they can do little tinkering around the house or something like that. They might have a little shop in their garage.
Mike: And a lot of times too, for storage, if you store cars in your garage and it’s 100 degrees in there… The garage gets hot. The metal doors tend to make the garage even hotter because the sun’s beating on the metal door. And then that becomes a hot plate. And if you are leaving cars in your garage for a long period of time and you’re storing them, if they’re any type of antique… a lot of antique cars and stuff like that, cars people are restoring and stuff, the leather gets very dried out. It can crack. The dashboards crack. The rubber starts cracking. We see a lot of it in storage facilities where people are storing their antique cars a lot. They have high valued cars. They have to be in a temperature controlled area.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Home Additions
John: All right. Our next application is a home addition. You must see this one a lot where people put an addition onto their home. It’s not connected with the home’s regular heating system so they want to heat it in some other way. And then they install an air source heat pump or ductless system for their addition. Is that very common?
Mike: Yeah. It’s an everyday application John. You see this every day. Someone puts a small addition on the back of the house, side of the house and again, the heating and cooling system that’s there most times is only a heating system and it’s a wet heating system or a ducted system or whatever it is.
If it’s a ducted system and you’re adding another four or 500 square feet to your home, that system’s not going to be big enough to handle another 500 square feet because it was probably only sized for the 1,000 square feet that it was in. So now you want to do another 30% more, the system’s not going to do it.
And then, “Oh, if there’s a boiler in the house, I can just add some wet heat to the room.” Okay. But by the time you get done adding a zone of heat with a boiler, adding on a circulator pump, adding a thermostat, having a plumber come in and do it. We’re going to be at probably less or the same amount of money that it costs to have a plumber to do this work. But you’re going to have the air conditioning in. You’re going to have heating in. You’re going to have your own separate thermostat in your own separate zone. Most times you’re going to save money and you’re not going to be uncomfortable either at that point.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Homes Needing Better Efficiency
John: Our next application is a home needing better efficiency. Efficiency is so important now everybody wants to be more green and use less fuel. Obviously people want to pay less as well. How efficient are air source heat pumps or ductless systems?
Mike: Well, I see a lot of homes that need better efficiency when you get into. I’ll give you an example. I went to a Victorian home a few years back. There were probably 10 to 12 rooms in the house. The gentleman had eight window air conditioners in his home. All plugged in. All on 15 to 20 amp circuits. Just do the math on that. It’s a lot of energy that they’re using to air condition the home. They’re the most inefficient way to air condition a home.
We came in and put in eight zones of wall mounted units in the home and got 50% savings just on air conditioning alone, and we added a supplemental heat source to improve efficiency in the winter time too, where they weren’t really looking for a cool climate air source heat pump there.
They might have had some hot spots and cold spots, I think in the upstairs area of the home where they wanted to have some heat in there. I can get into it in a different podcast, but I could show you how a non cool climate air source heat pump can really heat one area if you’re not using the additional units and make it super efficient that way too.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Quiet Homes
John: Okay. Our next application is a home needing a quieter solution. We’ve all had like you just said, those window air conditioners. Not only are they not efficient but they’re incredibly noisy. You put one of those in your bedroom and at night you can’t even sleep because it’s just so noisy and in your, or you have it on in the living room and you have to turn the TV up so loud because you can’t even hear the TV or what’s being said because the air conditioner running. How quiet are air source heat pump ductless systems?
Mike: Oh, it’s like a human whisper. John. I can’t tell you how many people we go in and we saw a lot of this… Well, you still do see a lot of this in these split level homes where people will cut a hole in the wall and they’ll put a big unit in the wall, maybe like a 36,000 BTU wall mounted air conditioner into the wall. It basically sounds like a car running in your living room when it comes on.
When the compressor comes on, when the fan comes on, everything that is in a 36,000 BTU air conditioner that sits outside your house is in your wall right now. And it’s very loud. Like you said, you can’t hear the TV. You can’t hear yourself think. And then the wall units in the bedrooms, in the babies room and the compressors coming on and off. The baby can’t sleep, they’re getting up crying.
Wall units or window units in the summertime, it’s just very loud, inefficient, nevermind the rumbling that it sometimes causes in the windows and the window frames and the walls. And people are definitely looking for quieter solutions too when they’re working at home… I had one lady tell me she was working in a home office and needing a quieter solution for when she was trying to do her Zoom meetings during the day. And it was a very small office where she had a window unit in there and she couldn’t even talk in the Zoom meetings because the window unit was so loud.
John: Yeah. So whether it’s a home office or a bedroom or a living room or wherever, those window air conditioning units are so loud.
Mike: Some people are just sensitive to sound too. Some people, they’re down and out sleepers and some of them are light sleepers. And if you’re a light sleeper with a window unit, you’re waking up every time the compressor comes on.
Ductless for Homes Without Ductwork
John: Right. All right. The next application is a home without ductwork. So if you don’t have any ductwork in your current home, how can a ductless system help with that?
Mike: We’ve been doing that for years, John, at least 30 years now. You’ve got homes without ductwork where it thrives. It’s where a road meets the rubber. It’s just no duct work, so ductless works.
We can put ductwork in too as needed. We can put ductwork in an attic. We can put ductwork in a basement. It’s usually where you have wet heat, boiler or steam. And we’re coming in and supplementing that or removing it at sometimes. Removing radiators and putting in floor mount units in there with homes with no ductwork. Replacing radiators with floor mount units and putting ductwork or putting ceiling recess units in the top floors, in the first floor. It’s the sweet spot for our product. That’s all I can say.
John: Right. So you can add ductwork with an air source heat pump system, or you can add those wall mounted units or a combination of those?
Mike: Yeah. You can do wall mount, floor mount, ceiling recess. There’s so many varieties of what you can use when you don’t have ductwork. Because some people that do have ductwork are already upgrading to something. They want to try and reuse the existing vents that are in the house. And sometimes that ductwork isn’t even efficient. It’s leaky. It’s old. It’s not insulated properly. And the air through the duct loss is awful sometimes where you actually have to have the ductwork sealed and the cost to have the ductwork sealed sometimes costs more than just putting in a ductless system.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Homes With Oil, Propane, or Gas Heat
John: All right. Our next application is an oil, propane or gas heated home. Tell me a little bit about again, how air source heat pump ductless systems can either replace or supplement a traditionally heated home.
Mike: Well, this is big this year, John, as we’ve spoken about it in prior podcasts with the 2022 rebates with Mass Save right now with oil, propane, or gas heated homes. There are big rebates for these homes right now. We’re trying to reduce the carbon footprint. Trying to get the air cleaner, trying to do everything, trying to remove some of these systems in homes right now.
And I think you’re going to see over the next 10, 15 years, oil, gas, and propane are going to be obsolete types of ways of heating homes. And if there is an oil tank in the home… a lot of these tanks are being removed. People are insulating their homes, spray foaming, their homes or whatever, and making them a lot more tighter, a lot more efficient, and adding in an air source heat pump to heat and cool that home improves efficiency and savings even more.
These are whole home solutions that we’re going in and doing. Now you’re seeing a lot of these being retrofitted now as we’re moving forward with the cost of fuel. Looking at the cost of oil, the cost of propane. Oil’s up 40% this year. Propane’s up 12%. Gas is up 50%, believe it or not. When you are looking at the ways to heat your home, you’ve got to look at the air source heat pump too, as well.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Rooms Over the Garage
John: All right. Our next application is a room over the garage. A lot of people have, maybe their garage has a very high ceiling that they could add a second floor onto and put a staircase up to it. Or maybe it’s already built that way but they’re just using it for storage and it’s not really finished. They want to finish it. Maybe make it into a bedroom, or even like a family room or a playroom for the kids or something like that. Where does the ductless system come into play in a room over the garage?
Mike: A room over the garage is usually… You’re going to see that, like we were talking about early Johns, more and more people staying home, living in their homes. Any type of square footage they can gain is going to create more value in the home too.
So you see a lot of rooms over a garage sometimes where they have a big peak, where the walls then come down and they go to a short knee wall. Maybe there might be a four foot knee wall. And the ceiling is peaked up where a floor mount unit is a perfect solution for a room over a garage, or the peak over the window is where a nice wall mount unit can usually be hung over the window.
And a lot of times when you’re building these rooms is when we want to come in or when these rooms are under construction, so we can get the piping into the walls. So you don’t have to see things on the outside of the home but most times you’re going to see a room over a garage’s going to be a floor mount unit in the knee wall and going out to the outside of the home, to the outdoor condenser. So this is a perfect solution to a lot of them.
Air Source Heat Pumps for Sunrooms
John: Okay. Our next application. And the last one that we’ll talk about is a sunroom. Sunrooms are often just like one or two, maybe three seasons but it’s just too cold to use like in the winter. Do you see air source heat pumps being used in sunrooms a lot?
Mike: Oh, yeah. It’s probably one of our biggest sellers, John, ductless mini-split for sunrooms. That’s where you’re coming in because again, now a sunroom is supposed to be a three season room. Most times it’s only a two season room, John, because it’s so hot in the summertime they can’t go out there. From the sun it becomes a basically unusable area sometimes. And then in the wintertime, it’s too cold. So it’s a two season room, it’s spring and fall is all we’re using it for now. We really can’t use it for the additional time.
So it’s either freezing in the winter or it’s boiling hot in the summertime. So cooling a sunroom is a floor mount unit. Most sunrooms only have three walls. They’re built usually onto the back of a home where a floor-mount unit or a wall-mount unit goes into there. It’s very hard to try to get duct work into those spaces. So again, most times it’s a floor or a wall-mount unit that would go in there when you’re cooling a sunroom.
A lot of these rooms, like I said, they’re very hot in the summertime and extremely cold in the wintertime. So it’s, “How do I air condition a sunroom in the summertime?” You need air conditioning.
Solutions for All Your Heating and Cooling Challenges
John: All right. Well, there’s a whole lot of applications here. Can you sum it up for us in terms of how air source heat pumps or ductless systems are used for all of these varieties of different residential applications?
Mike: John, I’m going to sum it up like this, any space that you have in a home whether it’s the whole home, the addition on a home, the front of a home, the back of a home, the sunroom on a home, we have a solution to heat or cool that area or that whole entire home.
John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Mike. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Mike: Thanks, John.
Contact N.E.T.R., Inc to Learn More
John: And for more information, visit the N.E.T.R. website at netrinc.com or call 781-933-6387 N.E.T.R. That’s 781-933-6387.