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Ductless, mini-split-system for air conditioning and heat pumps make good retrofit add-ons to houses with “non-ducted” heating systems. For century homes with hot water heat, electric baseboard heating, radiant panels, and space heaters, this system could be a solution. They are also a great choice for room additions or attics where extending or installing ductwork is not feasible.Be sure to choose an installer familiar with the product and its installation.
Like standard air-source heat pumps, mini splits have two main components — an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit (s). A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units.
The main advantages of mini splits are their small size and flexibility for zoning or heating and cooling individual rooms. Many models can have as many as four indoor air-handling units (for four zones or rooms) connected to one outdoor unit. The number depends on how much heating or cooling is required for the building or each zone (which in turn is affected by how well the building is insulated and air sealed). Each of the zones has its own thermostat, so you only need to turn it on in
occupied spaces. This will save energy and money.
Ductless mini-split systems are easier to install than some other types of space conditioning systems. The hook-up between the outdoor and indoor units generally requires only a three-inch hole through a wall for the conduit. Most manufacturers of this type of system can provide a variety of lengths of connecting conduits, and, if necessary, you can locate the outdoor unit as far away as 50 feet from the indoor unit (s). This makes it possible to cool rooms on the front side of a house, but locate the compressor in a more advantageous or inconspicuous place on the outside of the building. Something to consider if you are in a heritage district, where the location for placement of the outdoor component may require approval.
Mini splits have no ducts, so they avoid the energy losses associated with the ductwork of central forced air systems. Duct losses can account for more than 30% of energy consumption for space conditioning
In comparison to other add-on systems, mini splits offer more interior design flexibility. The indoor air handlers can be suspended from a ceiling, mounted flush into a drop ceiling, or hung on a wall. Floor-standing models are also available. Most indoor units are about seven inches deep and have sleek, high tech-looking jackets. Many also offer a remote control to make it easier to turn the system on and off when it’s positioned high on a wall or suspended from a ceiling.
Split systems can help keep your home safer, because there is only a small hole in the wall. Through-the-wall and window-mounted room air conditioners can provide easy access for intruders.
The cost of installing mini splits can be higher than some systems, although lower operating costs and rebates or other financial incentives, offered in some areas, can help offset the initial expense.
The installer must correctly size each indoor unit and determine the best location for its installation. Oversized or incorrectly located air handlers can result in short cycling, which wastes energy and does not provide proper temperature or humidity control. Too large a system is more expensive to buy and operate.
Qualified installers and service people for mini splits may not be easy to find. Check with local heating and cooling contractors to find out how common these systems are in your area and who has experience installing and servicing them.
As an owner of a mini-split system, I have to admit the heat pump was not as efficient as expected. As a matter of fact, after two years after installation I have had my outdoor unit replaced. The heat pump is just that, a heat pump depending on exterior temperatures….with very cold temperatures the amount of heat circulated is not always efficient, and back-up heating is still required. On the other hand, the air-conditioning component is fantastic, cooling within minutes.
Costs vary, depending on the size of the unit and the number in-door units required (zones). For comparison sake, my unit has two zones with remotes, cost with installation was approximately $6,000.00.