Ductless Heat Pumps for Single Rooms
John: Absolutely. Yeah. So is a ductless heat pump or a mini split a good way to maybe heat a single room in your home like a bedroom or a family room?
Dan: Sure. I’d say absolutely. I think that’s probably the most effective way to heat a single room. People are often finding themselves looking for that warm or cold spot in their home and really able to pinpoint what it is and what they’re looking for. And I think the individual room comfort is where heat pumps in a ductless fashion really shines.
And in a way there’s multiple different options to address the needs where you’re looking at either wall cassettes or ceiling cassettes, or even a floor mounted option, or really can get detailed and granular in our approach to the application and really hear the homeowner’s needs and apply the systems as they are to really make sure we’re capturing all the pain points.
Ductless Vs. Baseboard Heat
John: So what are some of the advantages of a ductless heat pump over a baseboard electric heating system? When people think of ductless, they might think, “Well, it’s just another electric powered heating system.” But there’s advantages over the traditional baseboard heating. Can you explain that a little bit?
Dan: Sure. So electric baseboard heating is something that’s a bit of a dinosaur in its current state. It’s electric resistance heating, which is the most inefficient way to heat a home. Where technology’s so rapidly grown and expanded in this sector, you’re able to utilize the capacity of your electrical service for your home minimally and then cool and heat it in a maximum effect.
So you had a whole home laid out with electric baseboard heaters, your capacity in your electrical panel’s going to be fairly well absorbed by these heating elements. Whereas if you had a whole home heating solution through heat pumps in the same electric fashion, you’re going to be absorbing say, 40 to 50 amps of the incoming service as opposed to 100 or more. So I think just general efficiency alone is something that allows you to have the ability to pivot on that and then remove these legacy systems that have been traditionally not efficient.
Ductless Is Much, Much More Efficient Than Traditional Electric Heat Options
John: Right. So you shouldn’t just think of a ductless system as being electric heat. It’s totally different from those older systems that used a lot more electricity.
Dan: Absolutely. It’s just technology improvements alone and the ability to capture the same result is significant.
Can You Heat a Whole Home With Ductless?
John: You mentioned heating a whole home. Can you heat a whole home with a ductless heating system or air source heat pump?
Dan: You can very easily, and we do it all the time. Realistically speaking, every house is a bit different, but there’s always a way to figure out how that application can look, whether that’s one or more outdoor units. And then with the capabilities of these new systems, you can have up to eight different indoor heads or units connected to that one particular outdoor one.
So I think it’s really understanding the needs of the home, looking at the layout, determining what the best paths are to getting the end result, but it’s absolutely a possibility to have that whole home coverage with these types of units. And we do it day in and day out.
Massachusetts as a whole has done a great job in utilizing their rebate opportunities and we design our systems so that we can give the homeowner maximum results and maximum rebate opportunities for themselves to get cash back in their pocket from the state.
Number and Placement of Outdoor Units
John: How do you determine where these outdoor units should go and how many you need for the number of indoor units that you have, and you could have some units on one side of the house and some on the other side of the house, or maybe like you said, maybe it’s just one outdoor unit that powers eight indoor units. How do you help to determine and design that system?
Dan: Yeah, I think we do an assessment from the beginning and talk to the homeowner, determine what rooms they’re trying to cover with the said system. If it’s all the rooms, we basically do a walkthrough and determine how do these rooms align with the exterior of the home?
Are there pathways through attic spaces or basement spaces, or even through existing chases, where we can really be minimally invasive in our approach that we’re not cutting additional holes and we’re not creating more finish work after we’re gone, just to determine how the indoor and outdoor aesthetics will look in the end.
So we’re going through, we’re sizing everything appropriately. We’re taking measurements of the room, determining the insulation factors where the windows reside, and taking into account how the homeowner wants to see this look. ‘Cause at the end of the day, there are some outdoor aesthetics that need to be taken into consideration as well as indoors. So we’re really designing it around the homeowner’s needs and then the best way to get that application across.
Advantages of Ductless Vs. Traditional Heating Systems
John: Right. We’ve compared these ductless systems to electric baseboard heating, but what are some of the advantages of a ductless heat pump system over a traditional heating system like gas or oil?
Dan: Sure. I think traditionally, if you’re heating with gas or oil, you’re doing it in a way through a ducted system. So ducted units, which have been the traditional central air, so to speak, for both heating and cooling, is something that you usually have in your home while it’s built. And if you don’t have that existing, whether it be heat or air conditioning, it becomes a bit of a chore to retrofit someone’s home with said system.
So you’d have to do some significant cutting in and putting in these giant soffits and boxes and absorbing closet space and things that are so critical, especially in this Boston area and so expensive to own square footage in this area, that doing so with minimally invasive construction and application seems to be the best fit when someone doesn’t have something that is easily adapted to existing ductwork, and then we can go in and try a minimally invasive way to tackle the same effect of getting that comfort throughout the home.
As far as gas or oil goes, some people don’t have those options as well. Gas is not necessarily readily available for anyone’s home. They might find themselves in need of other sources like propane or oil, which can typically be an off utility type heating source. But again, that’s a bit of a chore as well.
Everyone has electricity in their home and so long as they have the capacity in their panels and you’re able to adapt and use what you currently have without adding additional fuel sources. So yeah, it gets away from fossil fuels, it helps with the decarbonization and in the lightning of everyone’s footprint as we move forward and we’re moving further and further away from utility bound heating and cooling systems.
Efficiency of Air Source Heat Pumps
John: Right. And you talked a little bit about how efficient air source heat pumps are. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Dan: Sure. Studies have shown that you’re fine yourselves in the 30% range for efficiency improvements over older legacy systems, just through technology and being able to use variable speed components and not having systems running at full tilt all the time. You’re not just having something cycling on, coming on at 100% absorbing maximum energy to turn off five minutes later.
You’re finding these systems that are able to read the room, understand what the needs are, and act accordingly. So the ability to dial down to where they need to be to appropriately heat and cool these spaces evenly is significant. So people are finding themselves looking for these higher end opportunities to… They make an initial investment upfront, but they find themselves saving on a month-to-month basis through utility savings.
John: Right. So these systems, like you said, are able to ramp down so that they’re only drawing just a very small amount of electricity in order to just maintain the temperature in a room, right?
Dan: That’s correct too. And also, it prevents what’s called short cycling. In the event that something was sized incorrectly, or maybe it was oversized or undersized, it allows it to really understand the need of the space and to adjust accordingly. So it’s pretty intuitive in its use.