Is Your Home’s Footprint Changing? A Ductless Mini-Split May Be Your HVAC AnswerPublished on: February 25, 2015
A key aspect of adding to your home or finishing an unused space to make it livable, is how you plan to tackle heating and cooling. Depending on the changes you’ll make, it’s worth considering ductless mini-splits. These compact systems offer the same energy-efficient comfort that a central HVAC system does and will save the room that ducts would take.
When you change the size or footprint of your home, you may not be able to use the existing HVAC system, or you may find that doing so results in higher costs associated with extending ducts. You might also learn that using your existing system may push it beyond its capabilities, decreasing comfort during weather extremes and stressing the system.
Components of Mini-Splits
Mini-splits blow air directly from the indoor air handler that connects to an outdoor condenser with a relatively narrow conduit. The conduit supplies the power, refrigerant and drain pipe. The condenser houses the compressor and the condensing coil. The air handler contains the evaporator coil and a fan.
Mini-split systems are available in different sizes, and the largest can support up to four separate air handlers. Conduit length can reach up to 200 feet, making it simple to extend a system for additional spaces or other retrofits. The air handlers for mini-splits come in different styles that can hang from the ceiling or walls, or simply rest on the floor.
The lack of ductwork speeds the installation process, as does the engineering of the system itself. After placing the condenser and the air handler, the HVAC installation team connects the conduit to each, then checking the pre-installed refrigerant level and testing the overall performance of the mini-split.
All mini-splits, whether they’re heat pumps or just air conditioners, have to meet the same energy efficiency standards that central HVAC systems do. The cooling efficiency rating, called the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) must be at least 14. The heating season performance factor (HSPF) of a heat pump has to be at least 8.2.
Some SEER and HSPF flexibility exists for installing mini-splits that were manufactured before 2015, although the financial benefits of installing higher efficiency units outweighs the lower cost of less efficient systems, especially considering the long, hot summers in this region.
Many ductless mini-splits have upgraded features that make them even more efficient, like scroll compressors that increase heating output and improve cooling efficiency. Using a mini-split with inverter technology improves performance even more, since the system runs at low speeds continually, avoiding the frequent start ups that increase energy usage, system noise and wear on the system’s parts.
Besides minimum efficiency standards, mini-splits pick up efficiency not considered in their efficiency ratings as required by the U.S. Department of Energy. The lack of ductwork eliminates the thermal and air losses that result from uninsulated and leaking ductwork. Ductwork losses associated with central HVAC systems can account for measurable energy losses. All the conditioned air that ductless mini-splits provide is delivered directly into the room or space.
Each air handler in a ductless system has its own thermostat, essentially creating a zoned system. Zoning is one of the best ways to manage indoor temperatures because it takes into account the thermal uniqueness of each space, along with the comfort preferences of the room’s occupant.
When you’re not using the new space, it’s easy to turn the unit off or change the temperature so it uses less energy. Ductless mini-splits come with remote controls, so regardless of where you are in the room, you can easily adjust the system to your preferences.
If you’re in the process of adding or retrofitting your home and would like more information about ductless mini-splits, contact AirConditioningSoutheast.com to find an HVAC dealer near you today.