In this podcast, the team from Jones Services talks about ducted heat pumps. These systems get installed in attics, crawlspaces, or other discrete locations. Then, they carry warm or cold air through your home using ducts. They give you the efficiency of a heat pump, without requiring you to put a mini split on the wall or in the ceiling.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Matt Torre and Tim Schofield of Jones Services, a service company in Goshen, New York, with a focus on ductless heating and cooling systems. Today we’re talking about ducted heat pump systems. Matt and Tim, welcome.
Matt Torre: Hey John. Thanks for having us.
Tim Schofield: Hey John.
What Is a Ducted Heat Pump System?
John: Hey. So Tim, we think of heat pumps as being ductless, but what is a ducted heat pump system?
Tim: Yeah, neat question John. A lot of people always associate a heat pump as one of those things on the wall. There’s a lot of different ways that we could deliver the energy to the house. The unit on the wall is just one of them.
So in the Mitsubishi product line, they make two different types of ducted units that allow us to conceal the piece of equipment and run a more traditional duct system or perhaps adapt to an existing duct system so we can still deliver the heating and cooling from an inverter system to the house without having any cosmetic disturbances in the house, if that specific customer may not want to see the units on the walls. So it’s a neat way to deliver the energy into the house.
Connecting an Air Source Heat Pump to Your Existing Ductwork
John: So if I had a forced hot air system or something like that where I already had ducts in my house, you actually might be able to use those existing ducts and put an air source heat pump system onto that?
Tim: Yeah, John, that’s actually like a really neat retrofit for somebody to be able to go from a fossil fuel system to a heat pump if they already have the ductwork and it’s sized properly and distributing the heat properly, it’s a great way to get into an air source heat pump without having to put units on the walls or change anything inside the house otherwise.
Areas of the Home That Can Benefit From a Ducted Heat Pump Installation
John: Okay. So what are some of the areas of the home that could benefit from a ducted heat pump installation?
Matt Torre: Well, there’s really a lot of different reasons you might benefit from having a ducted system as opposed to a ductless. The first one that comes to mind for me is the smaller rooms of the home. So maybe a room that’s a small bedroom or a small sitting area, you might not want or have the space to put a wall hung unit or a floor mounted unit into that particular area. So by having ducted, you’re able to really capture heat and cooling in every room of the home. Plenty of rooms may not really be accessible to having a wall or a floor unit.
So small rooms come to mind as something where the space is limited and you wouldn’t want to sacrifice that wall space or that room space to hang a ductless unit. The other spot is really the opposite. It’s the larger rooms. So if you can imagine a large room, like a great room, if you’re putting a wall mount on one wall and you’ve got 20, 30 feet to get to the other side of the room, you’re going to find that there may be some sort of temperature variance between the portion of the room that’s close to the unit and then the portion of the room that’s the furthest away.
So in having a ducted unit, you may determine that you want to put two registers in that room supplying a more balanced heating and cooling by supplying the room with air on the far left and the far, far right of the room. Another thing to keep in mind is that when you’re doing a strictly ductless system, there’s likely going to be some rooms in the home that may not have an actual unit in them like a bathroom or a powder room. So those rooms are going to rely on having the door open and the actual transfer of air and heat to keep those rooms to temperature. When you’re utilizing a ducted system, we’re able to put a supply directly into that room, so that room is getting the same attention that all the other rooms of your house are. So those are really some of the key rooms and key benefits that may come from choosing ducted.
When Are Ducted Heat Pumps Less Expensive Than Ductless Heat Pumps
John: And is it more cost efficient as well potentially? I know you’d have to maybe install some ducts and things like that. So there’s some other issues that might raise the cost of installing a ducted system. But overall, say you had a second floor and you had three bedrooms and a bathroom and you were going to put a wall unit in all three of those bedrooms, is it less expensive to put a ducted system on the second floor and have those three bedrooms and bathroom all handled by the ducted system?
Matt: In most cases, yes. Again, there’s a lot of factors that would go into that. Is the ductwork already present? Are we having to install the ductwork ourselves? Anytime you’re dealing with that scenario where you’re buying three pieces of equipment to do three separate rooms compared to buying one piece of equipment to be able to manage all those rooms, there is some initial cost increase by buying the three units. But again, that may be offset by the cost of the ductwork.
So it really is a case by case scenario and that’s why having a comfort advisor come to your home and take a look at these types of things with you, is always recommended. And if you’re dealing with any company like us, one of the things we want to do is be able to provide you the options and show you both ways. So this is what it would cost if you had one in each room, this is what it would cost if you were to do all three rooms off of one unit and then let the customer make the decision. A lot of times the prices are going to be relatively similar.
Outdoor Compressor for Ducted Indoor Heat Pump
John: Okay. Tim, do you need any special type of outdoor compressor unit in order to run a ducted indoor unit?
Tim: Well, there’s a few different types of outdoor units that can be used. So in the Mitsubishi product line, they’ll have an inverter heat pump that may be a single zone, which means one outdoor unit is controlling one indoor unit. But what’s neat with the versatility of the Mitsubishi systems is you can have a multi-zone where you could have a ducted unit and then you can have a ductless unit and you can mix and match based on what accepts the house.
A cool project we’re actually working on right now to tell a quick story, is a house that had fossil fuel oil heating on the first floor with a furnace and ductwork and another fossil fuel for the second floor with ductwork existing.
But they had another area of the house that they wanted to air condition. It was actually the basement. So the customer was finishing the basement and wanted to get off of fuel oil, so it made sense to do a mix and match where there were some ducted units to feed the existing ductwork that the oil used to feed. And then we were able to put a wall mounted ductless unit in the basement and now that customer had full coverage of the whole house. So it was a neat way to mix and match based on the Mitsubishi product line.
Types of Indoor Heat Pump Units
John: Right. And there’s all kinds of indoor units that you can connect to a system like that. You have the wall units, like you said, and the ducted units that we’re talking about, but then there’s like ceiling cassette units, there’s floor mounted units, lots of different variables.
Tim: Yeah, sure. And what’s neat is there are six ways to deliver the energy to the house, and now Mitsubishi just came out with a seventh way. So I could go through each one of those and they’re all pretty neat and it’s custom to the home to have a good evaluation to make sure that it fits the design of the home.
John: Yeah. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us what those different options are?
Tim: So, we’ll start with the one that’s the most familiar to everybody, which is the traditional wall mounted unit, or some people might call it a high wall mounted unit where it’s going to get installed close to the ceiling and condition the space.
The next one is also ductless, but it’s a ceiling cassette and there’s two different types of ceiling cassettes. There’s a square one that would be more appropriate for like a drop ceiling or reframe a ceiling, but it’s a traditional two-foot by two-foot square. The linear cassette is a long skinny unit, which is made to retrofit between existing beams in a residential house. So that unit’s long and skinny, but it’s still ductless without any ductwork.
The next one is a low floor mounted model. This one’s very popular for upstairs of houses that may have a sloped ceiling or a very old home that already had big radiators on the ground. It looks like a square that’s going to sit lower to the floor, but it’ll still deliver the same performance as the units that go up on the wall.
So after that, there are two more ducted units and those ducted units are meant to be concealed, whether it’s in a basement or if it’s in an attic, but it can connect to an existing ductless system. Or in some instances we may be installing a new ductless system to make that application fit the space.
And the last one, which is the newest one that’s just getting introduced… Mitsubishi came out with an indoor coil that connects to an existing gas or propane furnace. So if you have a propane or a gas furnace that’s newer and you wanted to keep it, we can retrofit a Mitsubishi heat pump to get all the inverter technology, the benefits, and an auto changeover switch so that it can work with your gas furnace and determine what’s the most efficient way to heat that house at that time, which is a pretty cool product that I’m excited about.
Installing a Ducted Heat Pump
John: Great. So back to the ducted heat pump systems, what’s involved in the installation of that? Obviously there might be some issues depending on where it’s installed and like you said, that we’re going to maybe potentially be able to use existing ducts in the house, but you might have to install your own ducts. So tell me a little bit about the installation, maybe some of the issues that could come up as the installation is happening?
Matt: Yeah, sure. So I mean there’s multiple scenarios and each home is different. That’s what really makes this industry so exciting is that we have the ability to come up with solutions and ideas for each and every home. So in the instance that you’re working with either maybe a furnace that has been heating your home through an existing duct system, or maybe you have just an air conditioning system up in the attic that has ductwork that supplies most of the house.
In most instances, we should be able to adapt the Mitsubishi ducted system to your existing ductwork provided that we can give it a quick inspection and make sure that it’s appropriately sized and in good working shape. So in that instance, really all we’re doing is we’re removing your existing furnace or we’re removing this existing air conditioning unit.
And we’re sliding that out and then we’re sliding in the new Mitsubishi air handler in place of that, which is basically a coil and a fan that is just creating the heat and delivering it throughout the home. And it’s relatively simple. In the instance that maybe you have a boiler and you have baseboard and radiators in your home and you don’t have any existing ductwork, then you would need a comfort advisor to really come out and take a look at the usable space that you have.
Now, ductwork in itself is not something anybody would necessarily consider pretty, so you’re generally not going to have ductwork running through your actual finished space of the home. So in most instances, we’re going to be looking to either put the ductwork down in your basement or up in your attic. And basically a site inspection is going to be used to determine which is going to make more sense. In a lot of cases, the attic is a great way to do it. There’s a lot of open space up there.
The ductwork itself doesn’t take up a lot of space, so you’re still able to store your Christmas tree and all your extra stuff that people keep up in the attic. You should still be able to keep that there. But installing the ductwork in an attic is a great way to be able to supply the entire home with the heating and cooling that a heat pump will provide. Again, without having to see anything in your living space other than a couple registers that would get cut into your ceiling or if installed in the basement, would generally get cut into the floor.
So that’s really the simplest way to explain it. There’s not a lot of problems that we can run into with it, provided that we have the opportunity to come out, sit with you, look at your home, take some measurements and lay out the most sophisticated design that we can come up with.
Contact Jones Services to Talk About Ducted Heat Pumps
John: All right. Well that’s really great information, Matt and Tim, thanks again for speaking with me today.
Matt: No problem, John. Thanks for having us.
Tim: Thanks John.
John: And for more information, you can visit the website at JonesServices.com or call 845-294-1010.