Ductless mini-split HVAC systems are becoming more popular in the U.S. As with any type of A/C or heating system, the “best” solution depends on the needs of your household. Here, we’ll run through the pro’s and con’s of a split system heat pump to help you make an informed decision.
How Does a Mini Split System Work?
A mini split heat pump works similar to a traditional HVAC system. It has an outdoor condenser and indoor unit. The difference is the absence of ductwork. While some variations of mini split systems use ducts, most don’t, making installation and maintenance much simpler. A mini split system can be used for heating and cooling so you can depend on it year-round in Oregon’s variable climate.
The heat pump is contained in the outside unit. It transfers thermal energy to either heat or cool an indoor space. Using the same refrigerant, it can cool outside air or extract heat from relatively cold air in the environment.
Mini Split System Pro’s
- Energy Efficiency: Since there’s no ductwork, air leakage is not a concern. Homes can lose a substantial amount of energy through duct leaks. Using inverter technology, the compressors can run at faster and slower speeds according to demand. You never have to shut the system off, eliminating the energy requirements of starting it up again.
- Zoning: A traditional HVAC system doesn’t let you control the temperature of each individual room, without closing vents that can strain the system. A mini split can consist of multiple indoor units that you can control individually. For example, you can precisely control temperatures in a living room, sunroom, garage, finished basement, or attic by setting the appropriate thermostat.
- Easier Installation: Fewer home modifications are needed to install a mini split heat pump. Running ductwork can require extensive renovations. In terms of interior design, a mini split is more flexible. You can mount an air handler on a wall, suspend it from a ceiling, or mount it flush into a drop ceiling. Mini-split systems also only require a small hole drilled in the wall for the conduit. They can even be installed as an add-on to your existing HVAC system.
- Quiet Performance: Many traditional HVAC systems and window A/Cs produce a significant amount of noise. A mini split outdoor unit, on the other hand, generally produces about 58 decibels (dB(A)), or the noise level typically encountered in a restaurant. A Mitsubishi Electric mini split’s indoor unit can operate as low as 19 dB (A).
- Solar Compatibility: Since they’re so efficient (running as low as 15% of capacity), mini split systems are easy on solar batteries for when the sun isn’t out. This means less amp draw on your solar system overall, including on the battery pack. It’s also a benefit for home generator systems.
Mini Split System Con’s
- Installation Cost: It costs about 30% more to install a mini split system than a traditional forced air HVAC system. This is due to longer installation time and the technology that is used. However, if you can manage the upfront cost, you’ll see a quick return on investment through zoning and efficiency.
- Aesthetics: The design of indoor units varies, so there are many aesthetic choices. Nonetheless, many people don’t prefer having a visible mini split unit in each room; placement options are often limited to proximity to drainage and electrical connections. Some wall-mounted units can seem intrusive. But flush mount ceiling cassette units and ducted models can be more visually appealing.
- Drainage Issues: Mini splits collect moisture to control humidity, which is fed into the condensate line. Gravity is often used for draining condensate. If that’s not an option, you’ll need a condensate pump, which can add noise and extra costs, not to mention require additional maintenance. Also, mini split heat pumps require ongoing maintenance, such as cleaning filters, or else their efficiency decreases.
- Filtration Limitations: Ductless mini split systems use air filters, but they’re not as effective as ducted filtration systems. Dust, allergens, odors, and other indoor air quality factors aren’t addressed as well. To get around this, you can add carbon inserts, which must be replaced often. Installing an air purifier can help, but it’s often limited by zoning.
- Learning Curve: The controls and thermostats of a mini split system are a little different than with a traditional HVAC system. It can take time to get used to the fact the system is always on. Also, the air leaving the vents may not seem as hot as with a furnace. However, this is deceiving considering the mini split is much more efficient, and will nonetheless provide just as much comfort.
Contact Oregon Ductless for Mini Split Heat Pump Help
We hope our list of pro’s and con’s of a split system heat pump helps you decide on how to update your HVAC system. If you have questions about ductless system installation, browse our online resources, or call 503-878-7339 to inquire about pricing, financing, or scheduling an in-home consultation.