Topic: Mini-splits may have once been mostly, or in some cases only, seen abroad in Asia and Europe, but they’re gaining in popularity. Find out why the Carey Brother’s are so fascinated by this eco-conscious, hyper-focused heating and cooling technology!

Guest: Andy Armstrong, Vice President of Marketing for Fujitsu General America and 30-year HVAC industry veteran

Company website: 

Company phone: (973) 575-0380

3 Tips for Success – Andy Armstrong:

  1. Ask a lot of questions. Understand what your customer wants.
  2. Understand the trends. Ductless technology is growing fast in this country and those who adopt first tend to have the edge on the rest of the world as the as the wave continues.
  3. Think Fujitsu. It’s a great solution for comfort in the home.


Podcast Transcript:

James [00:00:00] Hey it’s really great to have you with us for another episode of CareyBrosPros. I’m James.

Morris [00:00:05] And I’m Morris and you know as professionals were always looking for ways to give our pro listeners great information that will help them to work smarter instead of harder. On this edition of CareyBrosPros we’re going to talk about the latest tips and tech to stay cool and eco conscious.

James [00:00:25] That’s right. And this is emerging technology I’m really excited to talk about it. Our guest is Andrew Armstrong he’s the Vice President of Marketing for Fujitsu general America. And by the way Andy is a veteran. That is a 30 year HVAC industry veteran.

Morris [00:00:45] Yeah. Welcome Andy.

Andy [00:00:46] Thank you very much. Guys happy to be here.

Morris [00:00:48] Give us a little insight in to some of the background with regard to what you guys do it Fujitsu.

Andy [00:00:56] Excellent. Happy to do so. About 20 years ago or so the United States started sniffing around the Douglas technology and ducklings in this case back 20 years ago met a quiet outdoor unit and then a couple of line sets coming inside and a unit hung on the wall. A very good solution for a sunroom or a garage or a master bedroom that never got any heat.

Morris [00:01:21] Better than a window unit.

James [00:01:22] Yeah.

Andy [00:01:23] Exactly.

Morris [00:01:24] Yeah.

Andy [00:01:25] That next step up and it sounds great opportunities in this country it’s all problems and contractors very quickly figured out that there was a a 1 in 50 jobs that this was going to solve a problem.

James [00:01:38] It’s about time that they woke up and smelled the hummus because when we traveled to Europe or Asia we saw this technology being used pervasively many many years ago.

Andy [00:01:51] Yes. You go around the rest of the world. This technology is dominating the market for residential applications in the 70 80 90 percent range.

Morris [00:02:00] Why.

Andy [00:02:01] When in this country we’re finding it about 20 percent.

Morris [00:02:04] Why?

Andy [00:02:04] Couple of key reasons. The heating and cooling in other countries became very very focused on make me comfortable while I’m in the room in the space and the rest of the world they were living in much smaller spaces. If you go around to Asia especially but in Europe you know six eight hundred square feet was not uncommon. And so a single unit would take care of it and they would not worry about heating or cooling the space unless they were in it. So very different concepts and what we had in this country we had plentiful power, cheap power and we had big houses so 2000-3000 square feet. It took a different technology to heat and cool that space than it did the homes in Europe and the. And the apartments and condos in China Japan.

Morris [00:02:50] Got I got it.

James [00:02:51] Right. My daughter in law as an example was raised in a three bedroom one bath home in Seoul Korea that she spent 30 years 30 years growing up until she married my son in her parents home there were the three of them again three bedrooms one bath 400 square feet.

Andy [00:03:14] Yep and a I am I am confident that there was a single yes single source Douglas unit and they were all very comfortable.

James [00:03:21] OK Andy Well let’s get some background would it be safe to say that a Douglas mini split is a heat pump? Yes or no?

Andy [00:03:30] In almost all cases they are. You can get by cooling only product but it’s become so ubiquitous that people go ahead and build the product with heating in it because even in the more warm climates and in this country and across the globe there’s a couple of nights a year where it would be nice to have some heat.

Morris [00:03:51] So how does how different. I’m just curious as all get out when Fujitsu makes a system for someone in Japan or Korea or Germany or whatever. Is it any different than the unit used in the United States?

Andy [00:04:10] They tend to be different for a couple of different reasons. One we do a lot of 50 hertz power instead of 60 hertz in other countries, and we also have different efficiency standards. So whereas in this country and even more so in different states we have efficiency standards and above and beyond that we have efficiency rebates from utilities and governments that cause us to sell higher efficiency products than most of the rest of the world. So we have to specialize the product and make it fit for this country when we build it. But there’s a lot of similarities.

James [00:04:44] All right. Let’s talk about the fuel that’s utilized to power the mini split. Is it always electricity and is there any needed or any other fuel?

Andy [00:04:57] It is always electricity so on heating and cooling its 100 percent electricity which is becoming a lot more important as we start thinking about carbon production and being able to sequester or clean carbon out of fuel sources when it’s made centrally. That’s going to become a bigger factor of course over time.

James [00:05:16] Your units are going to sell quite rapidly in the Berkeley area because you may know that Berkeley now is outlawing natural gas.

Andy [00:05:26] Yes. Yeah. And we’re seeing that in a lot of areas guys and that’s New York is looking at it very carefully. New Hampshire is. There are several states that are figuring out ways to lower their carbon footprint. And one of the best ways is to look at heat pumps and get all that heat in a home coming from electric where we can manage it a lot more effectively. So we see that as a growing trend. The other major thing that’s happened over the last five to seven years and technology for mini-splits is we’ve become a lot better heating. So we we sell a lot of product in Canada in this technology and it’s very popular there and if you think about Montreal and Toronto especially they have a big European influence in the big Asian influence. And the Ductless technology is very popular. And we do very well there because of the heating now is so much more efficient and it’s very cheap electric from the the water power up there. So ductless has become a tremendous solution to heat and cool even up in Canada where it needs a lot of heat and we’re able to do it pretty effectively.

Morris [00:06:33] And on top of everything else solar is coming in to play in a very big way.

Andy [00:06:40] Yeah the clean power is becoming more and more factor and you drive through the plains and see all the wind farms you look at the roads all across America and you’re seeing solar panels pop up everywhere and with those two combined we’re going to have cleaner and cleaner power and move into heat pumps just makes even more sense.

James [00:06:58] So Andy let’s shift gears for just a moment and talk about efficiency. We know that with traditional central units gas fired unit there’s in AFU, the annual fuel utilization efficiency, and we rating or stuff that’s a 97 percent or better we look at SEER seasonal energy efficiency rating for cooling, and we look for something that’s a 23 or better. When it comes to a mini split, what kind of efficiency can our pro audience look forward to as they integrate this product into both their residential and commercial projects?

Andy [00:07:44] Very important question, and I think we start with the seasonal energy efficiency ratio and the federal standard in the northern states is 14 SEER on the southern states 14 SEER. So we’re using that as a baseline and it’s important to recognize that because about 80 to 90 percent of the products sold in the U.S. are sold at that minimum efficiency. We start at the 16 and 17 SEER range which is 20 30 percent more efficient but then we take it all the way up to 33 SEER.

James [00:08:20] What?! That’s off the scale man. 33 percent! That’s that’s amazing.

Andy [00:08:27] Yeah yeah. We consistently get customers calling and sharing their utility bills and saying I just couldn’t believe it could be this good.

James [00:08:35] Does it have something to do Andy because you’re not running through ducts and there’s some energy loss that’s associated through ducts through you know radiation or energy loss?

Andy [00:08:47] Well there’s you last two very important factors there one is duct loss right. So if you’re running a 58 degree air through a hundred and twenty five degree attic in Death Valley here. Hundred and Sixty five degrees in Death Valley you’re going to lose some of that that cool air heat radiated from the attic. So that’s one piece. The second piece if you’re thinking about a 20 800 square foot home and you’re moving 24 hundred CSM through that space something’s got to move that air around. It just doesn’t happen. So you have a very expensive motor driving a fan that’s pushing that air through that space. So if you’re just moving refrigerant through a quarter inch tube as opposed to air through a 20 by 8 duct that changes the electricity in the power needed to make that home comfortable so we’re able to move BTUs around the house a lot more efficiently. And the second piece there is when you’re doing that and you’re moving it to multiple rooms and multiple different heads you only have to have on the equipment that you need at that time. So if you’re in the bedroom at night you like my wife and I we don’t have kids anymore so the other eighteen hundred square foot of the house can be at 80 degrees. Well we have a room nice and comfy at 72. That is to say is even more than the SEER rating would suggest.

James [00:10:13] You know we’ve been doing this for 40 years that is building and I want to share with our pro friends that in the last couple of years we’ve I can think of three jobs in particular. One was a thousand square foot garage that we did for a fellow and he had some office space there and we did a ductless mini split there which he loves and we have a friend and client who is an airline pilot from Hong Kong. So he is intimately familiar with the ductless mini split and when we created an in-law unit for him which was about 350 square feet actually guest quarters when family visits from the other side of the world, we did a Fujitsu mini split there which he absolutely loves. And then Morris designed both of those were single delivery units. Then we did an artist’s studio in the Oakland Hills and we did a split unit where we had one wall mounted delivery device and what do you call that component. The delivery device.

Andy [00:11:27] Traditionally we call that an air handler.

James [00:11:29] The air handler. Okay. Air handler mounted up high on one wall and then in another space. We did a ceiling air handler and it just worked out quite nicely. So here in our own experience where the previous 30 years we had probably not ever installed a ductless mini split here in the last couple of years we have three units installed.

Morris [00:11:55] So what question I have because we’re starting to do this more regularly what’s more efficient: a ceiling air handler or a wall mounted air handler?

Andy [00:12:07] The ceiling and wall amounts are very very close in their efficiency. As a rule the physics of the the wall mount can be a little bit more efficient. You’ll find the ratings so close that it won’t matter and there’s there’s two other delivery devices, air handlers if you will, that you can choose from in addition to the wall or the ceiling set and those are a floor mount. So think in terms of like a radiator just sits right on the baseboard and would probably be anywhere from 18 to 24 inches high. And it will just blow out air out to your space and be hidden there on the side wall and not not obtrusive in any way. The other option is to actually do a ducted unit. So if you have a an in-law quarters like you’re talking about with a bathroom and a bedroom and maybe a sitting room you could have ducts run so you’d have individual Air Supply for each of those spaces. So a lot of flexibility a lot of different ways you can deliver with the ductless system.

James [00:13:13] So that would that be referred to then as a ducted mini split?

Morris [00:13:17] No it would be a hybrid.

Andy [00:13:19] Yeah it would be a ducted mini split I guess if you want to have a lot of fun you could call it a ducted ductless system.

James [00:13:26] If it walks like a duck if it looks like it. [laughs]

James [00:13:29] All right I said we could go walk for four hours and hours back are a couple I think.

Morris [00:13:34] Boy how interesting, huh?

James [00:13:36] I think there are a couple of other things that we should share with our pro audience the designers and architects and and builders that do design who are specifying product one. When is it appropriate. I mean I know that it makes a lot of sense to specify a ductless mini split for a smaller space but you know when you look at even a single family three bedroom two bath it may be appropriate especially if you want zoning that you otherwise would not have which can even step up efficiency even more.

Morris [00:14:16] Now I’ve got another question. Gosh darn.

James [00:14:18] But he’s got to answer my question for you.

Morris [00:14:21] Well let’s say you’re gonna do eight rooms OK.

James [00:14:23] But not eight bedrooms but eight know how.

Morris [00:14:26] Eight rooms in the house.

James [00:14:27] Right right right.

Morris [00:14:28] So each room is on its own thermostat. Is that it?

Andy [00:14:33] Yeah. If you’re going to put eight different heads in that and that building.

James [00:14:36] He didn’t say it heads.

Morris [00:14:38] Yeah yeah. Eight heads.

James [00:14:39] Would you wait a minute Andy would you do eight heads in an eight room home. Not eight bedrooms but a roof. I mean wouldn’t you do one say in the family room that might affect the nook in the kitchen wouldn’t you do one and maybe the bedroom area. I mean how would you pares that out?

Morris [00:14:55] Yeah. How is that done and how does it affect the size of the system?

Andy [00:15:00] Well this is a great way to approach this for your designers and your pros because it’s about asking questions about how the space is going to be use and in most cases yes I probably combined some spaces and use either ducted or if it’s a great room for example one single unit is going to cover that space just fine.

Andy [00:15:20] So it may be three rooms are all jammed together and a quote unquote great room that can be handled by one. But given the the space and how that that family or how you expect the family to use that space there may be value in having five or six or seven or even eight heads in that space. But each one would have its own thermostat and you would each how you decide to divide it you would end up having a different thermostat to control each one of the traditional ductless technology will handle up to five different heads. So with each outdoor unit so you could do. If we were going to put eight heads into that house we could do two outdoor units with four each or a three and a five or combine them anyway or however is convenient for the builder and how they spread that out.

Morris [00:16:08] So I’m I’m my brother all of a sudden and I’m so tight I squeak OK.

James [00:16:13] Squeak! [laughs] I’m not tight. I’m just frugal.

Morris [00:16:20] So I want the smallest system I can buy for the most energy efficiency because I’m only going to cool one room at a time. So would I buy a unit that works on only one room at a time with four heads or would I buy a bigger unit that will cool all four rooms at once. What are your thoughts on how that’s done.

Andy [00:16:43] Well I think I’d ask you a couple more questions because as a rule we we humans are creatures of habit and my guess is that there’s one room that you spend 60 percent of your waking hours in and all the rest take up the rest of a kind of spread out. That’s right. And then of course the room you sleep in has in there a lot. So I’d look very hard at saying how many I need to keep those two rooms comfortable as cheaply as possible and the rest of the house I can lump into one system that’s just not going to run as much. It’s not going to need as much efficiency or as much as zoning. And so I’d maximize your comfort and your energy usage in the space that you’re gonna be in the most.

Morris [00:17:22] This is amazing.

James [00:17:22] Yeah. Yeah. Now let’s take it.

Morris [00:17:24] You know if we did this with a central unit the zoning would cost so much money that it would be impossible for most people to afford.

Andy [00:17:34] Yeah I don’t want to totally throw the the central folks out. I sold that for several years.

James [00:17:39] No no no no. I don’t know.

Andy [00:17:42] What I wanted to say was in many cases you can do both.

James [00:17:45] Yeah right. Right. Right. Well.

Andy [00:17:47] The rest of the House let’s put in that central system. But for those rooms you’re using all the time that are going to get to use and make you really comfortable. That’s where we can put on our ductless technology mind you can really combine it can contrast to make it work.

Morris [00:17:59] What about if I’m doing a mini split on a second floor OK I put the unit on the ground floor and run a pipe in the wall.

James [00:18:10] The lineset. Yeah you could you could run it in the wall or you could. Well I’m not in a race way all the exterior.

Morris [00:18:17] Yeah. And what is utter and what is it. What is it just a quarter inch copper line?

Andy [00:18:23] Yeah. You’re you’re basically connecting a circuit. So you’ve got two pipes and those pipes are insulated so you’re not creating condensate because those get pretty cold.

Morris [00:18:31] Right. Right.

Andy [00:18:32] So. But all those combined or will go into into the house and then an inch tube and that could tower for the end of your unit with that. So it’s a pretty tidy level insulation.

Morris [00:18:43]  what what are we what are we used to. I’ve always done exterior walls but in on an interior wall would it be what PVC pipe that one inch PVC pipe that would take it from down below up to the top?

Andy [00:18:58] It’d be a little bigger than that a top you need to be two inch but as a rule there is decorative molding things you can do a lot of different ways.

Morris [00:19:07] No no no no I’m I’m okay with a two inch pipe is fine. I don’t have a problem with that.

James [00:19:12] I think you raised another good point Andy and that is we talked about efficiency and affordability but in as much as the end user is concerned and how the builder can manage costs for their client that installation is really significantly less complex and thus significantly less expensive than other systems which makes it a bonus.

Andy [00:19:42] Yeah and in the cases we’re talking about here you’re here in some degree shifting your your dollars from labor to the to the actual equipment because you have more heads inside you have more things happening but when you’re talking about that that unit outside on the ground and your run some lines up the sidewall and in a chase and poking a three inch hole in the wall it’s pretty cheap to get that unit installed and running and you know a lot of leverage to do that.

James [00:20:10] Yeah since you mentioned price. Andy can you share a range. Can you say is there a comparison to a central unit. Do you have anything that you might offer to our audience?

Morris [00:20:22] Well a central unit is 25000 dollars that’s that. Yeah that’s good.

James [00:20:26] Yeah that’s about right yeah.

Andy [00:20:28] It varies so dramatically guys. So I hate to put numbers out there cause there are contractors have different realities it’s as you know in the California space the contractors have to do things differently.

James [00:20:39] Right.

Andy [00:20:39] So across the country. The numbers range a lot. But would it be and without a whole house application you can have very very similar prices.

James [00:20:46] All right. That’s what I was going to say and you end up getting the zoning as well. And by the way I want to invite you to visit Andy’s Web site. It’s really Fujitsu general America’s Web site and it is They do a marvelous job of illustrating. The value associated with the mini split. They talk a little and it’s not just many split. They have all sorts of heating and cooling systems and air handlers available. But if you have an interest in the mini split you can get all sorts of information on it. You can even find a contractor in your neck of the woods, so Andy it’s come to that time in our podcast where we like to ask our guests to share three points for success with our pro listeners. And now it’s your turn.

Andy [00:21:45] Point number one for the pro listeners who are helping their customers get a good solution. Ask a lot of questions understand what your customer wants. If you do that the other two points are secondary because it may not be my solution that may not be Douglas at all it may not be traditional but if you ask those questions then you’re going to get the best solution. The number two is understand the trends the Douglas technology is growing fast in this country and those who adopt first tend to have the edge on the rest of the world as the as the wave continues. The final final point I’d give to your pros is think Jujitsu is a great solution for comfort in the home.

Morris [00:22:29] Pretty darn good.

James [00:22:30] Well said Our thanks to Andrew a.k.a. Andy Armstrong with Fujitsu general America a 30 year veteran. Thank you for your service Andy. And you may learn.

Andy [00:22:42] My pleasure guys. Thank you.

James [00:22:43] You may learn more about Andy’s product by visiting the Web site. It is

Morris [00:22:51] And remember you’ll find our guest information as well as additional podcasts videos and articles on our Web site at

About The Author CareyBrosPro Staff

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