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The Mini Split Heat Pump - Is it For You?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What is a Mini-Split Heat Pump?

A ductless mini split is a heat pump that has been growing in popularity and consists of two major components, an indoor air-handling unit and an outdoor compressor/condenser which is generally installed close to the side of the home. The two components are linked by a cable which encapsulates tubing for refrigerant, a power cable, and a condensate drain.

room with air conditioners

The mini split heat pump functions as an air-source heat pump in that the external unit extracts heat from the outside air and transfers it via the conduit to the interior of the home. Once inside, that air is distributed throughout the rooms or zones by the air-handling units.

Advantages of the Mini-Split Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps 

  • The mini split heat pump has a small footprint and is very flexible, so it can be used to heat or cool individual rooms simply by installing an air-handling unit in the room or zone which needs air conditioning. If several zones require conditioning, several air-handling units can be installed.
  • They are very easy to install, often requiring only a small hole through the exterior of the home for a conduit to be passed through for connecting the two units.
  • Since there is no ductwork associated with the mini split, there is a significant cost savings on installation. Also, there is never any heat loss from the system due to leakage in the ductwork, which is a common occurrence in systems that do require ductwork.
  • There is a high degree of installation flexibility associated with minis, especially on the indoor air-handling units. They can be mounted on a wall, on the ceiling, or even as a floor unit, and can be operated with a remote control.

Mini-Split Disadvantages

  • The cost of installing a ductless mini split heat pump is often more than a standard heat pump, because it is essential to correctly size each of the indoor air-handlers and determine the optimum positioning within a room or zone to be heated.
  • The appearance of the indoor air-handling units is considered to be unappealing to homeowners in some cases, although these units are much less bulky and noticeable than a window air conditioner. However, because they lack the small footprint of a central air system, they do have greater visibility than central air.
  • There must be a place to drain condensate water somewhere near the outdoor component of a mini split system, and this must be managed periodically.
  • It is sometimes difficult to find qualified technicians to install and maintain ductless mini split systems, so before purchasing such a system it would be necessary to check with local heating and air conditioning companies to see if qualified personnel are available.

Is the Mini-Split Right for You?

Ductless mini split heat pumps are most effective in situations where they can act as add-ons to an existing heating system which does not rely on ductwork to distribute heat throughout the home. Examples of this kind of setup would be homes heated by radiant panels or hot water, or even rooms equipped with space heaters. 

Ductless minis are also a good fit for additional rooms where installing ductwork is not desirable or simply not feasible. Still another scenario where mini-split heat pumps might be a good solution would be in a new home that is highly energy-efficient, or one room of that home where only a small space might need to be heated. If any of these scenarios matches the circumstances for which you are considering installation of a heat pump, then a ductless mini-split heat pump may be just the right thing for you. 

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