Should You Consider A Mini-Split Heat Pump For a Home?

Are you thinking about getting a mini-split heat pump for your home? The heat pump has been around for many years in the US. But, until quite recently, it was mostly used in temperate regions, places with milder temperatures. However, that is rapidly changing, and more people are leaning that way when it comes to heating their homes.

Also, there’s the fact that a mini-split heat pump can mean significant savings and comfort when correctly installed. Heating your home is bound to take up a lot of your energy expenses, mainly if you live in colder regions.

Actually, according to the US Energy Department, heating takes up at least a third of your energy bills. So, if there’s a way to heat your home and spend much less on energy, it is worth considering.

What is a mini-split heat pump?

Mini-split heat pumpMini-split heat pump

First of all, it seems like a good idea to explore what a mini-split heat pump is all about and what it does. Most likely, you might have heard about this method of heating your home, but you're not sure what it is.

Basically, mini-split heat pumps are also known as ductless heating systems, and they have been around for a while. They work pretty much like air-source or air to air heat pumps. The difference is that you don’t need to do any complex ductwork when you want to install one.

A mini-split heat pump has two main units. There’s the indoor unit and the outdoor unit, which is usually consisted of a fan, compressor, and evaporator/condenser coils. It also comes with a remote control while some others are smart systems, which means they can be controlled from a smartphone or other device.

How does a mini-split system work

Generally, much in the same way an air-source system works, the mini-split heat pump uses the heat from the outside air. So, it moves the air inside the unit where it increases the temperature and moved again to heat the air inside the house. This is a very energy-efficient method of heating your home because the heat pump doesn’t generate heat – it moves it around, so less electricity is used. 

Now, models like the Pioneer mini-split, found on Amazon.com is an excellent example of how mini-split heat pumps can be efficient, high tech, and provide a cost-effective solution. This is a ductless mini-split heat pump system that uses a high-efficiency inverter and variable speed compressor and has an option for convenient wireless internet control.

Here are the reasons why buying a mini-split heat pump is a good idea

Cost-effectiveness in comparison to propane and electric resistance

Now, there are two ways you can use a mini-split system. Either as a backup HVAC system or as the primary form of heating for a particular zone. When you use it as the primary form of heating, you don’t have to use a less efficient system to keep that zone heated. This makes the mini-split cost-effective. This is perfect for when it is not too cold outside (warmer and milder climate zones).

They are long-lasting

Again, some models like models from Mitsubishi have a very long lifespan. Mainly if they are correctly installed according to size and product specification. You will enjoy the benefits of your mini-split heat pump for a really long time. The result is significant cost savings in the long term.

It is convenient

Seriously, one of the main reasons why the mini-split heat pump is becoming a more popular HVAC option is how convenient it is. For homes that have ductwork already installed for central heating, this might not be a problem. But if your home does not have ductwork, then a mini-split is the best option for you. It knocks off the need to retrofit your home for ductwork, making it simpler and more cost-effective.

Advantages of the mini-split heat pump

Now, the mini-split heat pump is one heating system that is gradually becoming more popular for several reasons. We’ve already mentioned the cost savings associated with this heating system. Also, it helps that it is really easy to install and does not require any complicated ductwork, which can be expensive. Below are some major reasons why many more people are beginning to consider mini-split heat pumps for heating their homes.

  • High energy efficiency: mini-split heat pumps conserve energy because they don’t generate heat, but use the warm air in the atmosphere and convert it into heat. They save money because the heat is delivered directly into a room without utilizing long ducts, which are the main reason for the great energy waste and higher energy bills. Also, homeowners may be eligible for tax credits and utility rebates.
  • Long term cost savings: high energy efficiency translates to lower costs. With mini-splits, the most apparent advantage appears in your energy bill. It is significantly less than if you use a fully electric heater, for instance, or heating all the rooms in the house if not needed. Also, some regions offer rebates on these heating systems. It’s a good idea to check out if this is available in your area.
  • Easy installation: you don’t need any complicated duct or electrical work to install a mini-split heat pump. It is easy to install and an excellent option for when you’re adding a new room to your home, or for the zone climate control. Indoor units can be installed in different places, suspended from the ceiling, mounted to a wall, in almost any building type, any room type, or as an add-on to the current HVAC system.
  • Heats several rooms: with some models, you can hook up as many as four indoor units to a single outdoor unit.
  • It can be zoned to individual rooms: because each zone or room has its own thermostat, you don’t need to keep it continuously heated. You can turn off heating in whatever room is not occupied, which will cut down on energy costs.
  • It can be used all year round. Most models provide both heating and cooling. So, when the weather becomes warmer, you can still use your mini-split system like an air conditioner. Actually, most modern models have four functions; ventilation, cooling, heating, and dehumidification.
  • Convenience. Most models are equipped with remote control, timers, built-in sleep function, and several operating modes, giving homeowners flexibility and options to customize it.
  • Increased air quality. Some mini-splits offer multi-stage filtration, which can improve indoor air quality, while ducted models, if not cleaned regularly, could be a home of bacteria and different kinds of pollutants.

Disadvantages

While the advantages are many, there's no doubt that mini-split heat pumps also have a few drawbacks. It used to be that they did not provide enough heat for really cold regions. But, that's not the case now as newer models are made to cover that gap. Most of the disadvantages center around the installation of the unit. We'll list some of the cons below.

  • According to energy.gov, mini-splits cost between 1,500 and 2,000 per ton, or 12,000 BTU/hr of cooling capacity, which makes it about 30% more than central systems.
  • It is essential to appropriately size and install the unit, or it could lead to short cycling. This will inevitably lead to energy waste, which is counterproductive.
  • It isn’t always easy to find mini-split heat pump installers. So, it’s essential to check if there are any in your area.
  • Finally, mini-split heat pumps are generally not aesthetically pleasing. Because they aren't built-in, they tend to stick out like a sore thumb, messing with your interior decor.
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How to size a mini-split heat pump

Several factors are important when sizing a heat pump, to mention some: room size, climate (location) and quality of the insulation.

The room size is easy to calculate. You need an area that is calculated as length x width.

Then you use the chart below to see what is the size you need, based on the room size:

Area Size (sq.ft.)

Power (BTU needed)

150-250 6,000
250-300 7,000
300-350 8,000
350-400 9,000
400-450 10,000
450-550 12,000
550-700 14,000
700-1,000 18,000
1,000-1,200 21,000
1,200-1,400 23,000
1,500 24,000

Note: The above sizing chart takes into account the ceiling height of 8 feet, good insulation and moderate climate.

If the HVAC system is undersized, you will be wasting energy as the unit will be running non-stop, trying to meet the set temperature on the thermostat. Also there will be too much stress on the elements which will shorten its life.

If the system is oversized, you'll spend more on the unit; operational cost will be higher, so you will throw any savings out the window. The unit will turn on and off frequently so it won’t provide proper temperature and humidity level. In addition to that you might experience early unit failure.

So, should you get a mini-split heat pump for your home?

Yes, you probably should get a mini-split heat pump for your home, mainly if it’s an older house. This saves you the expense and stress of retrofitting it for ductwork.

Also, if there’s a new addition to your home, like an extra room, garage, cabin or small office, installing a mini-split is a good idea. Particularly if your central heating does not get to those areas, or it is expensive to run the ducts or change an existing system.

Finally, if you want to maintain different temperatures in individual rooms in your house, then get a mini-split. You can keep certain rooms, like the living room nice and toasty, and turn off the heating in other rooms that are used less.

To conclude, a mini-split heat pump is a great way to get your heating updated without the extra cost of ductwork. Most models have a long lifespan, and they are cost-efficient in the long run. What’s more, it’s a great way to cut down on your energy costs and enjoy all the neat features it offers.

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› Why to buy a mini-split heat pump for a home
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