Can a Mini-Split System Heat and Cool Simultaneously?
A ductless mini-split system is a great way to heat and cool a home when a traditional HVAC system isn’t the right option. If you have an older home that didn’t originally include central air conditioning, it’s often cost-prohibitive or impractical to install ductwork. If you’re renting or leasing, you also might not be able to replace the existing system. A mini-split system also offers the convenience of zoned temperature control. Here’s a look at how ductless mini-split systems work and why they’re a great option for families who want a flexible and convenient way to heat and cool their homes.
How Mini-Split Systems Work
A conventional central AC unit includes an outdoor unit and a central air handler inside the home. The air handler distributes the heated or cooled air through a system of ductwork. A ductless system delivers refrigerant through small conduits to compact units in different rooms in the house. Each unit functions as an individual air handler, and the temperature settings can be controlled locally.
Ductless vs. Central Air Conditioning Systems
Central air conditioning is standard in most homes and needs to be replaced approximately every 15 to 25 years. If you have an older unit that’s approaching the end of its operational lifespan, it might be worth considering a ductless mini-split system instead of buying a new central unit. A mini-split system can be a more flexible alternative for homes where it’s challenging to install ductwork, or homes with rooms that are consistently warmer or cooler than the rest of the home.
One of the greatest advantages of a mini-split system is that you won’t be forced to constantly deal with air leaks and other ductwork air pressure imbalances that adversely affect a traditional central air conditioning system’s performance. Ductwork can be extremely challenging to install in certain parts of homes, and it becomes increasingly more vulnerable to damage over time. You’ll need to ensure that your ducts don’t get crushed by items stored in your attic, and you’ll need to have your ductwork professionally cleaned and serviced every three to five years.
Ductless systems offer zoned temperature settings that enable you to set your comfort preferences for different parts of the home. If you have problems with uneven heat distribution in your home, a ductless system is a great alternative to loud and unattractive window-mounted air conditioners.
How Mini-Splits Are Installed
A ductless system is easy to install. Your outdoor unit connects to the inside units through a 2 ½-inch bundle of electrical cables and refrigerant lines. A single unit can connect to up to eight zoned units inside the home. You have your choice of single-zone, wall-mounted, ceiling cassette, and concealed duct units, and your professional installer will help you determine which units will be the best option for your home. You can install indoor units as far as 50 feet away from your outdoor unit, which makes a mini-split system ideal for homes with unusual floor plans.
Once your units are installed, the only maintenance that you’ll need to do is remove and clean your air filters each month. You’ll also need to schedule an annual maintenance visit to flush your lines and check your refrigerant pressure levels.
How Zoned Control Works
The first mini-splits were designed to be used as an alternative to window air conditioners and were designed for a single room. Current mini-splits can now run eight independent zones, and they distribute refrigerant to air handlers in each unit. Each zone will have its own thermostat, so you can adjust temperatures as needed for different parts of the home. Zoned control is a great option for multi-story homes, or if family members have different preferences. You can also turn off units in unoccupied rooms to help lower your energy costs.
Mini-Split System Pros and Cons
A ductless system offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to home comfort. Air handlers are easy to install and enable you to run both heating and air conditioning at the same time. You’ll also enjoy steady and even heating and cooling with whisper-quiet fans. Your ductless air conditioning system makes an average of about 25 dB of noise, which is less than half of the amount of noise generated by a window-mounted air conditioner.
Since mini-splits don’t use ductwork, they won’t have to compensate for the energy loss that accompanies central forced air systems. Leaky ductwork wastes up to 30% of each month’s air conditioning energy consumption, particularly when the ducts are in an attic or crawlspace.
If you have pets, or if anyone in the home has allergies, a mini-split system offers mesh filters that can collect dust, pollen, and pet dander. Many units also feature advanced filtration features to reduce odors and help everyone breathe easily. The filters are easy to clean, and the units are easy to service and replace.
Mini-splits are about 30% more expensive than a traditional forced-air system in terms of cooling capacity (not including the home ductwork), and about twice as much as a window unit. They’re not as unsightly or as loud as a window air conditioning unit, but wall-mounted and ceiling-mounted units don’t offer the finished appearance as a conventional duct system. Ceiling cassette and concealed duct units are a great option for homeowners who prefer a more finished look. You’ll also need a place to drain off condensation close to the outdoor unit.
Is a Mini-Split System Right for You?
A ductless mini-split system is a great option for many homeowners, but you’ll need to schedule an appointment with a professional installer to determine if it’s the right option for your home. You won’t have to run any ducts or gas lines for your system, but you’ll need to select the correct sized indoor unit for each part of your home and determine the best locations to install them.
It might be tempting to spend a little extra and purchase larger-sized units to ensure maximum heating and cooling, but an oversized unit can waste energy. Mini-split fans cycle on and off less frequently than conventional blower fans, which enables them to maintain a consistent temperature. Cycling on and off less frequently reduces routine wear and tear on the equipment, and oversized units are more likely to begin short-cycling.
Mini-split systems are also a great option if you’re getting around to finishing out a basement or bonus room that wasn’t previously air-conditioned. They’re also a great way to provide flexible heating and cooling to an enclosed porch, garage, or workshop. You won’t have to run any additional ductwork, and you won’t have to worry about interfering with the performance of your existing HVAC system.
If you have questions about ductless mini-split systems, Summit Heating & Cooling is here to help. Our NATE-certified technicians have over 200 years of combined experience, and our commitment to legendary service is unrivaled in the Kansas City area. Contact Summit Heating & Cooling today for more information and to schedule a free, no-obligation estimate for a new ductless mini-split system for your home or business!