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Mini-Split Heat Pumps: The Advantages & Disadvantages of Ductless Heating

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Is a Ductless Heating System Right for Your Home?

When it comes to heating one’s home, increased efficiency is highly sought-after. For this reason, many are electing to install ductless heating systems, also known as mini-splits.

Heating systems that utilize duct work, which are found in a majority of homes and businesses can consistently lose energy due to the way heat is dispersed throughout a home. Conversely, mini-splits can greatly reduce the heat and energy loss common among ducted systems. Additionally, mini-splits with heat pumps offer easy installation and other great features.

While ductless mini-splits with heat pumps may prove ideal with add on features, there are a few disadvantages to such systems. This can include a higher initial cost, which can be a hindrance to those on tighter budgets. The following information can help homeowners determine whether a mini-split system would be right for them.

What Are Mini-Split Heating Systems?

For those homes already possessing non-ducted heating systems, mini-splits are a great option to add onto existing heating elements. Typically, ductless heating systems require things like hydronic power (such as hot water heaters), or utilize space heating methods (which generate heat via kerosene or propane). Mini-splits are ideal when making additions to a home, as expanding existing duct work can be problematic in some situations.

Mini-splits are comprised of two main components. A compressor or condenser is situated outside of the home, while an air-handling unit is outfitted indoors. These separate components are linked via a conduit, which consists of a power cable, condensate drain, refrigerant and suction tubing. If there are numerous air-handling units, each will contain an associated thermostat. This is helpful for regulating the air temperature in each room where the unit is placed.

5 Advantages of Mini-Split Heat Pumps

From improved energy efficiency to less involved installation, mini-split ductless heating systems provide a number of advantages to homeowners:

1. Better Heating of Individual Rooms/Zones

When it comes to adequately heating individual rooms or zones within a home, mini-splits with heat pumps are highly effective. This efficiency has to do with the individual air-handling units that are placed within a given room or area in the home. These units can be adjusted to heat only those rooms which are currently being occupied, unlike conventional heating methods, which provide heat uniformly throughout a home. In most cases, better insulation of a home will have an impact on the overall efficiency of the individual air-handling unit. This can help homeowners save quite a bit on energy costs throughout the year.

2. Flexibility/Increased Placement Options

Maintaining existing interior design is far easier when utilizing mini-splits. This is because the air-handling components provide a number of placement options, which is not always the case when installing other types of add-on systems. Air-handlers can be affixed to a wall, suspended from the ceiling, and even mounted into drop ceilings. There is also the option of floor models, which can be beneficial for certain circumstances.

3. Easy Installation:

Those who’ve undertaken duct work expansion are fully aware of just how difficult such projects can be. Conversely, installing a mini-split in one’s home is an extremely stress-free procedure. Coupling of outdoor and indoor components can be accomplished with a three-inch hole, which is much less invasive than other systems. Because conduits are available in a variety of lengths, outdoor units can be situated up to 50 feet away from the indoor evaporator. This increases discreet placement options for the outdoor components.

4. Improved Energy Efficiency

Inefficient use of energy is not only detrimental to the environment, it can also greatly increase utility bills. Ducts are notorious for losing energy due to their construction, with up to 30% of generated heat dissipating while making its way through duct work. Because mini-splits don’t require ducts to disperse heat throughout a home, they aren’t subject to the same energy losses.

5. Ability to Customize

Another great feature of mini-splits is the ability to customize. Most systems come with features like timers and built-in sleep functions, giving homeowners greater control of when and how they heat their homes. Traditional heating systems usually don’t allow for customized use, which can lead to unnecessary charges, as well as a less efficient use of energy.

Disadvantages of Mini-Split Heat Pumps

A few of the advantages of mini-split heat pumps are easier installation, improved energy efficiency, and flexible placement options. However, there are some downsides to these systems. In many cases, a homeowner must determine what type of heating system makes most sense in terms of number of rooms, capacity of those areas, and the BTU rating of the unit.

Though mini-splits incur lower heating costs overall, initial installation is usually more expensive. This sticker shock can put off many homeowners, especially when other systems may be far more cost-effective to install. In some cases, incentives or rebates are available for those interested in ductless heating systems because they are more environmentally friendly.

Another disadvantage of mini-split systems also relates to installation. Proper placement is crucial when installing ductless systems, and in many cases this requires the assistance of HVAC professionals. This is because an improperly placed air-handler can cause a defect known as ‘short-cycling’. If this occurs, energy will be utilized less efficiently, which is one of the major benefits of such systems. In some areas, HVAC professionals with relevant experience may be hard to find, which can increase installation cost.

A less significant concern has to do with aesthetic appeal. Many homeowners find the look of air-handlers unappealing, especially when compared to that of built-in central heating systems. Outdoor drainage placement is another common concern, with some homeowners opting for traditional systems simply because they find such features attractive.

An Informed Decision Requires a Comprehensive Understanding

Choosing the right heating system for your home is an important decision, to ensure both cost-savings and optimum functionality. Accordingly, the right decision entails a complete understanding of all system functions. This should include all the available options, as well as advantages and disadvantages. Using the above information, homeowners can make an informed decision regarding ductless heating and its place in their home.

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