The Dangers of DIY Ductless Systems

After purchasing an expensive HVAC system it might seem like a good idea to try and install it yourself in an effort to save some money. However, it is actually extremely dangerous to do this after purchasing a ductless system. Listen as Mike Cappuccio of N.E.T.R., Inc. tells you why you’re better off trusting the professionals.

John Maher: 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 the dangers of DIY ductless systems. Welcome, Mike.

Mike Cappuccio: Good morning, John. How are you?

Can I install a ductless heating and cooling system myself?

John: Good, thanks. Mike, can a person install a ductless heating and cooling system themselves?

Mike: Great question, John. I run into this all the time. People, “I can buy this online and I’m going to install it myself.”

John: Right. Save a little money.

Mike: Yes. Everyone is out to save some money here, and they’re going to buy the system online, and they’re going to go and make a shot at putting it in themselves, and then we get the phone call. “Hey, we don’t know what we’re doing,” or, “Hey, we needed this,” or “We needed that. No one ever told us that on Amazon, as far as we needed all these tools and all these things.” The dangers of do-it-yourself are endless. I could talk about this topic for hours.

John: Why don’t you start with the things that you just mentioned like the tools that you need, the expertise that you need? What are the issues in installing a ductless system yourself that maybe you just don’t even know about or understand?

Mike: The first thing is most of the time, they don’t even buy the right size unit. They don’t even know what size unit they need in their house, and they went on some calculator online and figured out, “Okay, this is what– The internet is telling me what I need in my house,” and it doesn’t even know what it truly needs.

John: You’re just going by the square footage.

Mike: Yes. There’s no load calculation’s been done. Nothing’s been done. Sometimes, they don’t even know if it’s the right power for their home, for the do-it-yourself. A lot of these do-it-yourself online sellers are over in China. When you look at the power that they use overseas– I don’t know if you’ve ever been overseas, but I just got back– you can’t plug your cell phone into the wall. You need an adapter.

Everything is different electricity, different hertz, different power. A lot of these online sellers, they’re selling equipment that’s being used in the European markets. It gets to the homeowner’s house, the do-it-yourselfer looks at it. They don’t know the difference, that it’s 50 hertz versus 60 hertz. 60 hertz is what we use here in the United States. I’ve seen that many at times. They really don’t, sometimes, understand what they need to put in their home. They don’t know the electricity of what they need. Sometimes, they don’t even know if they have enough electricity in their home to even run that unit.

This is the stuff that we do when we come out to the home, to look at. Getting into the tools, “Okay, what tools do I need?” There’s a lot of special tools you need to install this properly. We’re an HVAC company. We have these tools. They’re on the trucks. You need scales to weigh in refrigerant. You need a vacuum pump to remove the air from the system. You need gauges to charge the system. You need refrigerant to add to the system. You need electrical meters and things like that to hook up this power and do stuff. There’s a lot of special tools. You need torque wrenches to torque the flare nuts down.

These are all things that an average homeowner doesn’t have.

John: Clearly.

Mike: These are tools for the HVAC industry. These aren’t tools that they would even have in their home, most people.

What are some reasons why installing a ductless system by yourself could be dangerous?

John: Okay. Say I had the tools and I kind of knew what I was doing in terms of that, what would make it actually possibly dangerous for me to set up a system myself?

Mike: Well, the first thing is you’re working with high pressure, there’s high-pressure refrigerant. These refrigerant lines on the high side of the system can run up to 500 pounds of pressure. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a line blow off of something that has 500 pounds of pressure in it. It looks like a snake whipping all around as it explodes. You could do a possible flaring, make a flare to attach to the unit, and the flare isn’t good, it’s not on tight, it’s not made properly, the line can blow off the unit. I’ve heard of instances where people have been killed doing this, from the pressure in these lines.

The other thing is you’re drilling holes into your house. I’ve seen people, the do-it-yourselfer, drill a hole into their house, to put the lines into the house, and they don’t even know what’s in the wall. I’ve seen people drill in and hit a gas pipe. I’ve seen people drill and just some of the things that I’ve seen, I’ve witnessed it. I’ve seen holes in gas pipes. I’ve seen people take a drill and drill in with a drill and hit an electrical wire. I’ve seen people drill into a hole and hit a heating pipe, hit a water pipe. All kinds of things, because they just think, “Drill a hole through the house and put the wires in there.”

John: You could do all kinds of damage to your house too.

Mike: There’s all kinds of damage to your house. You don’t know what’s in those walls when you’re drilling into those walls. Venting, things like that, that are in those walls. We have cameras. We look at the walls before we start drilling your walls. We see what’s in the walls before we start drilling them.

John: Do you cut a little hole and put a camera in and you’ll see through to the walls?

Mike: No, we have a little camera right on our smartphone that you can actually see inside of the walls and see what’s inside the walls. You can drill a little hole, spin around, and spin a coat hanger around, see if you feel anything in there. The average homeowner just takes a three-inch hole saw and just blows a hole through. Next thing you know, we see all kinds of disasters at that time. That’s usually around when we get the phone call and the homeowner will say, “Hey, I bought this system online and I really thought I could put it in. Is there something you can put in for me because I just have no idea what I’m doing here? I just drilled a hole in my gas line and I don’t know what’s going on.” I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen.

What are the positives of having a professional install my HVAC system?

John: Wow. That’s amazing. Talk a little bit about the benefits that you get from having a professional, like yourself, install it a ductless system.

Mike: First off, like we’ve talked about in prior podcasts is that we come out to your home, we look at your home, we talk to you about your home. “How do you live in your home? What rooms do you use in your home? What size system do you need?” Again, the do-it-yourselfer, I see most people, “Bigger is better.” They buy a big air conditioning system. They think it’s going to be great. “I’m going to install it in the hallway and it’s going to cool all three bedrooms.” Doesn’t work. We come in. We do the design. We look at that. The guys that come out to the field have been trained. These guys have sat in hours, hundreds of hours of training, in Mitsubishi training centers, in our own training centers.

A lot of on-the-job training, things like that. These guys know what they’re doing. They do this every day. We install Mitsubishi Ductless every day. We’re not a dabbling company. We don’t dabble. A lot of companies dabble in ductless. We don’t dabble in it. This is our focus. This is what we do every single day.

John: You’ve seen it all.

Mike: Yes. When these guys come out to your home, they’ve got the skills, they’ve got the refrigerant tools, they’ve got the proper flaring blocks. We’ve looked at multiple different tools and the benefits of using these tools. We’re getting now involved in the Mass QIV testing, too, with ductless mini splits to know that they’re installed properly, they have the proper charge in them. They’re being certified through us by the state through the Energy Efficiency Program too that they’re charged properly. Again, training classes, things like this that we are doing.

They have all these tools in their trucks. They have these cameras in their trucks. They have the ability to go look and see what’s in these walls before we start drilling these walls. Again, let’s even talk about electrical, hooking up electrical to your home. I’ve seen people have a 60-amp service in their house. A lot of these small, older homes in the city have 60-amp services in their house, and they’re buying an air conditioning system that draws 20 or 30 amps. They don’t even have enough electricity to hook this into their panel, and they’re trying to hook the wires into the electrical panel to make this thing work. They’re not electricians. They shouldn’t even be in an electrical panel.

John: Yes, you shouldn’t be messing around with that.

Mike: Yes. They’re way over current. You can cause a fire.

John: Right.

Mike: How do they know what size wire they need? What size amperage it is?

John: Or get electrocuted.

Mike: Yes. I’ve seen electrocutions happen with guys drilling holes in walls with a drill and hitting a wire. I’ve seen that happen. I’ve seen sparks fly. I’ve seen fires inside the walls from people trying to do this. Sometimes, everyone just thinks it’s really easy to do. Hey, I’ve looked at a lot of things and I think it’s easy to do, and then when I start to do them, they’re not as easy. You call a professional at that point. If you’re going to put in any type of a multi-zone system or even a single-zone system in your house, you would want a professional to do this. You know what I mean?

Example, most cars today, you really can’t fix them. They’re not really do-it-yourself type cars.

John: That’s true. Yes.

Mike: Most people don’t even change their own flat tire today. They call someone to do it. Why? Because they don’t know how to do it sometimes. It’s the same thing with air conditioning systems. People think that, “It’s going to be really easy to do. I can do this.” It’s not when you get involved in it. There’s a lot involved that you can get hurt, you can cause danger to others, you can start fires drilling gas pipes, things like that. Be careful. That’s all I’m saying.

John: Right. Just the fact that you guys are taking classes and all of this training constantly to learn whatever the latest things are, and learn about how to install it and how to install it safely and properly, and the right size system, and all of that, it’s like going back to school, and somebody would just have to do so much work.

Mike: We’re professionals. That’s what we do. We do this every day. There’s codes. There’s certain codes, mechanical codes of what need to be done when you install certain things. Another one of the things I see with the do-it-yourselfer a lot is they go out and they buy a heating and cooling system, and it’s a heat pump. They just go outside and they just set it on the ground.

They don’t even know that it should be up on a stand and up out of the snow, and  then the first snowstorm, it’s not working or six months later, the condenser coil’s no good because the water can’t get out of the unit when it defrosts and stuff. They don’t even know how to properly install it. They don’t read directions. It’s look at it and okay, maybe go online, they get a YouTube video and this is how you put it together and away we go. It’s not that easy. I’m going to tell you, if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.

This requires work, codes, training, things that you need special tools, I mean there’s a lot that goes into this, a lot that goes in this. When we go out and we look at a job, after the comfort consultant comes out to your home, they’ll go through all of that, they’ll go through the questionnaire with you, look at design the system. After that’s done, installation manager comes out to the home. He reviews the job again. He sees and looks for any obstructions or obstacles, anything that’s going to happen safety, ladders, stuff like that, what’s going to happen, what permits do we need, what codes do we have.

A lot of towns now– There’s another thing with the do-it-yourself, a lot of towns have sound ordinances. They don’t even know what the sound ordinances are, and they put an air conditioning system outside their home now and it’s sitting out there and it’s humming away and now next thing you know you’ve got the city ordinance people coming over and telling you that unit’s too loud, you can’t put that there. Or they don’t even know what the codes are and the setbacks are that you can’t even have that unit there. You might think it’s your property and you can put something there, but you get in the city and there are certain footages from certain people’s homes and certain things that go on that I’ve seen people that do-it-yourself put a unit out there and it’s going to be moved and we get the call, “Hey, can you come move this unit?” because they didn’t even know.

These are the things that we know as professionals of what we do every day. There’s so many blind things that people don’t see that they just don’t know about. They think they can just go do it themselves and now all of a sudden, there’s all kinds of problems later on.

John: Save yourself the trouble.

Mike: Absolutely.

John: Be safe.

Mike: Call a professional.

John: Call a professional.

Mike: Call a professional. You’ve got gas, you’ve got refrigerant, you’ve got high-pressure lines in your house. Would you be touching your gas pipes in your house?

John: No I wouldn’t.

Mike: No. Well, it’s the same thing of what we do.

John: Right. Alright, that’s really great advice, Mike.

Mike: Thank you, John.

John: Alright, thank you. For more information, visit the N.E.T.R., Inc. website at, or call 781-933-NETR. That’s 781-933-6387.

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