What are the benefits of ductless HVAC for commercial buildings?


If you are looking to install a ductless HVAC system for your commercial building this is the podcast for you. Listen to Mike Cappuccio talk about the process N.E.T.R., Inc. goes through when installing their ductless HVAC systems in commercial buildings.


John Maher: Hi I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Mike Cappuccio, owner of N.E.T.R., Inc. heating and cooling company in Massachusetts with a focus on Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling products. Today we’re talking about the benefits of ductless HVAC for commercial buildings. Welcome Mike.

Mike Cappuccio: Good morning John. How are you?

How does ductless work for commercial buildings?

John: Good. Mike how does ductless work for commercial buildings?

Mike: Ductless for commercial buildings John is really good, because what we do in a commercial building is you go in and you zone the commercial building. I mean I’ve seen so many commercial buildings that are just cooled and heated by one rooftop unit, and there is ductwork that runs to all multiple offices around the perimeter of a building with windows and then people sit in the middle of a building and you have different temperatures and stuff like that. Most of the time that’s controlled by one thermostat. You have one thermostat that’s controlling the temperature for maybe 30 to 40 different people sometimes.

John: Like you said, in commercial buildings often the windows on the outside of the building are quite large. They let in a lot of that solar heat, but then like you said, it’s very different on the inside of the building.

Mike: In the winter time that’s a lot different too, because you have those windows that are very cold, and in the summer time those windows that are very hot. Those people that sit in the perimeter of that building are either hot or cold. Most times in the winter time they’re cold, most times in the summer time they’re hot.

What do they do? They go out, they turn the thermostat down in the middle of the building. People in the middle of the building freeze, people on the outside of the building are comfortable and vice versa in the wintertime. They’re freezing on the outside so they are turning up the heat, so they are warm on the perimeter of the building and the people in the middle of the building are completely hot.

They’re dying out there and you go back to the summer time. I’ve been in commercial buildings where I’ve walked around on a 90-degree day and seen people with space heaters under their desks running with electric resistance heat, running at that point in time because they’re just not comfortable. With the ductless system for a commercial building, we would take that perimeter area and put a separate system in each one of those offices giving them the ability to heat or cool at any point in time of the year.

With the Mitsubishi City Multi-system or even some of the some of the smaller systems too, we put in what’s called a three pipe system, versus a two pipe system. Traditionally air conditioning system has two pipes. The simultaneous heat and cool systems have three pipes. So what that allows the system to do, is heat or cool at any time of the year. Someone could be heating an office, someone could be cooling an office. Great temperature control for everyone in the whole entire building.

Maybe take the perimeter, put those all on separate zones. Maybe take the big open area of an office space where you might have 10 to 20 people sitting in cubes, you could put that on one zone. They have their own zone out there for the temperature to keep them comfortable. The people on the perimeter have their temperatures all comfortable too.

John: How many different zones do you sometimes have in a commercial space?

Mike: Oh God John I’ve seen anywhere from four to five up to 400 to 500 depending on how big the building is. I mean typical systems I see anywhere from 20 to 30 different zones in a building. It all depends on how the building lays out and who wants to be what and what temperature.

What benefits are there to choosing commercial ductless versus other systems?

John: Talk a little bit more about some of the benefits of choosing a commercial ductless system versus other types of heating and cooling systems.

Mike: Oh God when you get into that the Mitsubishi City Multi- type products or even smaller S-Series products with, you know multiple zones in different areas, everyone is just so much more happy. They all have their own temperature. I mean most people when they’re in an office, the one of the biggest complaints, is it’s either always cold in my office or it’s always hot in my office.

When you go with this type of system, you basically you give the people command over their own temperature in their own office to operate that system. Some of the other systems, like again you have the ductwork, you have one vent in your office and that’s being controlled by the thermostat out in the common area. It becomes, what we call it in our industry is the thermostat war.

You go out, the thermostats turned down, you go back out to the thermostat, the thermostats turned up and then we get these calls you know can you come in here and put a locking cover on the thermostat? Can you make this thermostat so it doesn’t do this, so it doesn’t do that? Then you get a lot of upset people really. I heard of people leaving their jobs because they’re either too cold or too hot. They can’t control the environment that they work in.

John: I’ve been in that situation certainly where you know the boss is always hot, so he’s constantly putting on air conditioning. Then the girl a few offices down the hallway is sitting there with a shawl over her shoulders in the middle of the summer.

Mike: I can’t tell you how many buildings I’ve walked into and I see that. I see it all the time. Just you go into places and they’re like, we just want to be comfortable. How can we achieve this? Well you achieve that by a Mitsubishi City Multi-system or an S-Series system where you can have multiple zones. Again they do make the two pipe system too.

But here’s the biggest difference between the two pipe and the three pipe system. The three pipe system is a simultaneous heat and cool system that can do either or. There’s no change over season.

What I mean by that is, a lot of commercial buildings you go into pretty much after October 15th there’s no more air conditioning, the air conditioning gets shut off and then they go to what’s called heat mode.

April 15th, they turn the air conditioning on, so now you just have air conditioning you don’t have any heat. That’s pretty much how a two-pipe system works with Mitsubishi Electric too.

John: It’s either heating or cold.

Mike: Yes, and that’s a traditional heat pump. That’s either; we’re all on the heating mode now because we’ve done the season changeover or all in the cooling mode at that point. Now in the heating mode you don’t have people putting on electric heaters and stuff like that, you don’t have people turning on the air conditioning in the winter time and stuff like that.

John: The reason for this is because you have one outdoor unit that’s running everything, but then on the inside you have different air handlers for each of those multiple units.

Mike: In a lot of those small offices you can do a ceiling cassette unit versus a wall mount unit. You could even put a little ducted unit above the ceiling, you could possibly do two offices and put those on one thermostat. That could be a conference room or something like that. You got to think of this too, because in a commercial setting, example the conference room.

This is what I always see as the true advantage of a three-pipe system or even a single system in a conference room. You get 10, 15 people in a conference room, you have a meeting for an hour, you know each body throws off 600 btu’s of heat. I mean you get 10, 15 people in there. There’s 6,000 to 10,000 btu’s of heat in a small area, that’s like turning the heat on. I mean and you’ve got the heat on at the same time in the room, the room gets extremely hot.

What do we do now? Now we usually want to put on the air conditioning in that room because it’s hot from the people. Happens a lot in churches too. The churches in the winter time, Christmas time, you get 300, 400, 500 people in a church in the middle of winter it gets hot real quick. Those bodies are giving off heat they’re like a small heater. You want to be able– that’s why I always say the advantage of the three-pipe system is you can have whatever temperature you want, whenever you want, whatever time of year it is. You can do heating, cooling whatever you want to do in that space.

John: You can be cooling off that conference room that has 10 people in it, while you’re still heating.

Mike: You’re still heating the open area for the people that are in the other side. That’s the best advantages that. If you want to turn a zone off if you know you have three or four offices where the people travel or they’re out on the road a lot during the day. Why are you going to heat and cool those offices? Turn them off.

With the traditional ductless system those units are heating and cooling those offices when there’s no one in there. And they don’t have a thermostat and they usually just turn them off, shut the door and call it a day. Put them put them back on when they come in. You can put them on a building management system when the people aren’t there, I mean I’ve even seen motion sensors in rooms where they actually sense motion when people come in, it knows that they’re there and it turns the temperature on.

When they leave the office it actually sets the temperature back on some of these systems. So you’re not utilizing a lot of energy in those offices when people aren’t there, they’re sensing the human body.

How is commercial ductless installed to minimize disruption in a business?

John: That’s a great idea. How is commercial ductless installed to minimize disruption to the business? Obviously, people want to keep their business running and they don’t want to have to shut down for a week in order for you to come in and install the system. How do you deal with that?

Mike: A lot of the times that piping is getting done on the roof and coming down into the spaces where we’d be working, we would pretty much be working at one office at a time or one area at a time channeling the piping to the hallways and then bringing it out to the areas where we would be. We would only be removing maybe one or two or three or four ceiling tiles at a time. Where with the traditional ducted system you’re up there and you’re putting in ductwork, you’re banging metal, you’ve got noise going on.

You get dust and dirt drop and out of multiple parts of the ceiling where we’re working. Most of the time we’re working in a confined area where we’re going to be installing one unit at that time. Get that one installed and then move on to the next spot. Not with a whole big area opened up to put in these big pieces of ductwork.

John: It’s easy enough to just say, okay for the next couple of hours you two are just going to work in those other space and then you’ll be able to go back and then you move a couple of other people. It only disrupts a couple of people.

Mike: It’s usually half a day worth of time would probably be working in that space to do a sealing cassette or a wall mount unit, something like that in that area. But we’re not disrupting the whole entire office space at that time.

John: All right that’s really great. Great information Mike, thanks again for speaking with me today.

Mike: Thank you John.

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

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