New England Ductless · Ductless Heating vs Gas & Oil

John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher. I’m here today with Dan Zamagni, general manager of New England Ductless, specializing in residential and commercial ductless heat pumps and air conditioning in Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about ductless heating versus gas and oil. Welcome, Dan.

Dan Zamagni: Hey, John. Thanks for having me today. Looking forward to kind of connecting about these topics. It’s pretty exciting.

Advantages of Ductless Over Gas or Oil Furnaces

John: Yeah. So tell me, Dan, what are the advantages of a ductless heating system versus a traditional gas or oil system?

Dan: Sure. I’d say the biggest advantage of ductless heating systems versus your traditional gas and oil systems is number one, I’d say efficiency. I think you’re finding yourselves with 30% opportunities for savings through utility costs by being able to cut over to a system that’s just built better using the newest technology and being able to heat and cool your spaces in your home more evenly and more effectively using less energy overall.

I think the biggest thing too is everyone has the ability to have electricity in their home for the most part. Not everyone has the ability to have a gas line run to their home, or maybe they have the ability to use oil, but it’s a bit of a process and maintaining said systems and keeping these items full and topped off. But at the end of the day, being able to heat and cool your home with electricity is the wave of the future.

Everyone’s getting into getting away from fossil fuels, looking into decarbonizing and lessening their footprint as it pertains to them utilizing many resources for them in their homes on earth here. It’s a way to get what they’re looking for as far as comfort, both heating and cooling throughout their entirety of their home, or even in individual occurrences, whether that be an addition or a bonus room or something that just generally hasn’t been comfortable enough for them. We’re able to kind of adapt and get to whatever the needs are for that homeowner specifically.

How Does a Ductless System Improve Comfort?

John: Talk a little bit more about that comfort, and in what way does a ductless system allow a homeowner to gain more comfort and maybe consistency in the temperatures in their house versus a traditional system?

Dan: Sure. I think the beauty of a ductless system is that every room becomes its own zone by default. Whereas if someone has a centrally cooled house, typically they’ll have one to two thermostats creating one to two zones effectively. So say you have a first floor situation where you have a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and a family room or something like that. One centrally placed thermostat dictates the way that space is cooled or heated.

Whereas if you had individual rooms individually controlled with thermostats and wall units, you’re able to heat the rooms that you want to heat or cool the rooms you want to cool more or less than others as opposed to dealing with the air distribution assets currently laid out. Like if someone enjoys keeping the kitchen a little cooler than say the family room, they’re able to do all of that with this current system and really kind of dial it in and not waste the energy just to get the space as uniform as possible.

Zone Thermostats Improve Efficiency

John: And like you said, that’s another way that you gain efficiency with these systems as well. When you’re not using the bedrooms, say during the day, you can bring that temperature or turn those systems off or bring them down so that they’re not heating or cooling those rooms during the day when you don’t need them.

And then when you’re going to bed at night, you can shut off the living room and turn it on in the bedrooms, that sort of thing. So unlike your traditional system where it’s like the whole house is either on or it’s off, these systems you can determine what time of the day they want to turn off and on for certain rooms that you’re going to be using.

Dan: It’s not dissimilar from lighting. You wouldn’t walk into your house and turn every switch in the house on just to exist in one room and look for that lighting in the space. So think of it like you’re using what you need and not over cooling or overheating the house where you wouldn’t need to overall. If you had a guest room per se that you use on an infrequent semi-annual basis, that room can stay at a very low temperature or a warm temperature in the summer and not waste the energy heating and cooling spaces that are not being used.

Do Heat Pumps Work in Cold Temperatures?

John: Can you heat a home with an air source heat pump system even in cold temperatures?

Dan: Yeah, absolutely. That’s been like new cutting edge technology. Every manufacturer everywhere is coming out with new cold or climate opportunity heat pumps where they’re able to operate at a maximum efficiency down to the negative temperature range. And we just recently had, about three weeks ago now, we had a significant cold snap.

It was the coldest it’s been since the early 1900s. And everyone was kind of sitting back like, “All right, well, here’s the investment that I made here recently. Let me watch this thing and its action and see how well it performs.”

And there was a great article written in The Boston Globe talking about how everyone was very happy with how these heat pumps performed in these significant temperature drops and how it just held its own and did exactly what it was supposed to be doing. And everyone was just really pleased with the investment that they’d made. And there were initial fears of people getting away from these fossil fuels that had been these legacy systems for so long, and everyone’s kind of hesitant to make that leap. But those that have have found that they’re very happy in the result.

Heat Pumps Carried Boston Residents Through a Recent Cold Snap

John: Here in the Boston area, I think we got down to what was it? Minus 12 or something like that overnight, that really cold night? And the systems systems were able to keep up with that. These cold climate heat pump systems were able to bring heat into the house even at those very, very cold temperatures, which are very unusual in Boston, like you said. It hadn’t gotten that cold for even decades, but the systems performed well.

Dan: Right. And we just try to design the systems around making sure that we can keep these homes heated and cooled in the most extreme temperatures.

Can You Keep Your Traditional Furnace When You Upgrade to Ductless?

John: So is it possible to keep your old heating system in your house and maybe even combine that with a ductless system, and why would you maybe want to do that?

Dan: You can. People, again, for fear of loss of redundancy or the worry about what that looks like in extreme temperatures or what if this fails or they want to have some sort of backup option. And there’s absolutely ways where you can integrate both systems together so that it almost acts as a fail-safe.

Your new heat pump system would act as a primary heat source, and your old legacy system would act as a backup to that. If for whatever reason, the home was having a tough time maintaining or keeping the temperatures your desire, it has a cutover point where now you’re able to bring on that backup heating source or backup cooling source to make sure that you’re kind of giving it the extra kick it needs to maintain what you’re looking for for comfort.

Are Traditional Heating Sources More Efficient at Very Cold Temps?

John: Are there reasons why you might even want to have a system where below a certain temperature it actually does switch over to the traditional heating system? I know that even these cold climate heat pumps, once it gets down below a certain temperature, five degrees or zero degrees or something like that, they have to really ramp up in order to provide heat to the home. So you’re using maybe more electricity than you normally would in that case. Is there a point at which switching over to your traditional heating system would be more efficient?

Dan: I guess every situation is a bit different and depends on the application. We try to hear the homeowner’s needs and what they’re actually looking for, and we don’t want to sway their decision one way or the other. We kind of just really determine what it is that they need and what they’re looking for and make the application as such.

I think these systems are more than capable of holding their own, like I mentioned before, with these cold climate opportunities. But we want to make sure that we’re hearing everyone’s needs and capturing that too, and doing as they wish. Because if someone, maybe they’re having something is more supplementary or maybe they have it as a primer and they love the way that their old baseboard forced hot wash system heats, they can have both.

I mean, they can have one or the other and really kind of have the best of both worlds. So I guess it depends on every situation and what the homeowner’s actually looking for, and we kind of make our recommendations and solutions accordingly.

Contact New England Ductless to Learn More

John: Okay. Yeah, that’s great information, Dan. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dan: Absolutely, John. Thanks for having me.

John: And for more information, you can visit the website at newenglandductless.com or call (617) 915-2803.

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