Benefits of Installing Mini Splits vs. Central HVAC Systems in Homes

Ductless mini split systems have several advantages over traditional central HVAC systems. Both ductless mini split and central, ducted HVAC systems can use a heat pump. Most mini splits use a heat pump, while many central systems use a separate air conditioner and furnace. Either way, mini split equipment typically costs more than replacing conventional HVAC appliances. Keep reading to learn why you might prefer to spend the extra money on a mini split system.

Compact Size

Mini split systems have an elegant, simple design. There is one small outdoor unit and an air handler in each room you want to cool.

The individual air handlers of a mini split system are much smaller than an HVAC air handler that manages the airflow for an entire house. So, there’s no need for a separate utility closet. In addition, the outdoor unit of a mini split is often smaller than for a traditional central system. This gives you greater flexibility in placement.

Easy Installation

The most straightforward installation process requires a technician to install an air handler in each room you want to cool. Typically, the handler is placed high on an interior wall of a room, away from direct sunlight or other heat sources.

After that, the installer drills a hole in an external wall and connects the outdoor compressor/condenser unit to an air handler via electrical and refrigerant lines. If you’re only conditioning the air in one room, that’s all you need to do. Occupants receive a remote-control device to turn the system on and off and set the desired temperature.

A ductless mini split does not require ductwork but can take advantage of previously installed ducts. Your installer can configure the system to use ducts where they exist and individual air handlers in areas without ducts.

Flexible Zoning Options

Homeowners can purchase a system with one air handler, two air handlers, or one that accommodates up to eight air handlers. You can buy additional equipment to heat or cool a home with more than eight rooms. Each room has an air handler with a thermostat and remote control. If you enjoy a cold room at night while other residents like things a bit warmer, that’s not a problem with a mini split. Every room can have a different temperature setting if that’s what you want.

This zoning is also a great benefit if you have a room with a fireplace. When the fire’s warming one room, it won’t affect the temperature settings in the other rooms. Many central HVAC systems have only one thermostat; if that’s close to a heat source, the rest of the home remains cold.

Easy Maintenance

Because of its simplistic design, only a few moving parts need lubricating. Keep the leaves and twigs away from the outside unit, erect a shelter over the top, or place it in a protected area to keep the rare Birmingham snowfall off the top. If that’s not possible, come outside and brush it off during the snowstorm before there is too much accumulation. Replace or clean the air handler filters in each room every one to three months, as needed.

Lower Repair and Maintenance Costs

Even though the mini split is a relatively uncomplicated system, you should have it serviced at least once a year. You want to ensure all the connections are tight and the refrigerant line is intact. The technician will change the outside filter and clean and lubricate the internal components. One expense you don’t have to worry about is duct cleaning and repair.

Energy Efficiency

A mini-split system most often uses a heat pump. Heat pumps do not have separate elements to heat and cool the air. But they don’t actually create heat like a furnace or boiler. Instead, they draw existing heat from the air and transfer it. These closed-loop systems recirculate existing air in the home after conditioning.

In the summer, the cold refrigerant absorbs the heat in the room air, and the cooled air re-enters the room. Meanwhile, the refrigerant flows to the outside unit, transforms into a hot vapor, and releases the stored heat. After that, the refrigerant travels back to the air handler, and the cycle begins again. In the winter, the process reverses at the flip of a switch, and the system extracts radiant heat from the outside air and transfers it to a room’s cooler air.

Further, many mini split configurations allow you to choose the temperature of individual rooms or areas. Rooms you don’t use often can be set to less comfortable temperatures to save energy. As mentioned before, you don’t waste energy heating a room with a fireplace. You may also have areas of the home with more shade than others. You don’t have to use as much energy to heat these areas as you do for areas exposed to full sun.

Flexible Options

If you currently have ducts installed in your home, it’s not likely that you’ll choose to convert to a ductless system. However, as previously mentioned, heat pumps can use the existing ductwork for wires and tubes. Ductless systems have an advantage because no heat escapes while transported through the ductwork, improving the system’s efficiency.

So, what type of environment is best suited for a heat pump? A mini split is a great choice to regulate the temperature in a room added to a home. All you’ll need to do is to purchase a single-zone mini split with one air handler. Maybe you converted a patio into an indoor sunroom or an unheated garage into a bedroom or den. In situations like these, a ductless mini split is a reasonable choice.

Older homes may not have ducts. Perhaps the previous owners had window air conditioners and used electric floor-board heating when the days were cold enough to warrant it. Now, as a new owner, you want to upgrade your HVAC system without spending the time and money to install ductwork. A mini split system might be the perfect choice for you.

Of course, if you are building a new home, you can choose a mini split or a central HVAC system. Do you want the simplicity and multiple zoning opportunities that a mini spit provides, or do you want to install ductwork and a central HVAC system that provides the same cooling and heating throughout the home? There is no right or wrong answer. Choose what’s best for you and the other occupants of the house.

Your Premier Heating and Cooling Choice in Birmingham

At The Lee Thompson Co., we have been providing service in the Birmingham, AL area since 2005. We are proud to offer all our customers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. We sell a variety of HVAC and indoor air quality products, and we provide duct cleaning and sealing services. We also sell and install generators, dehumidifiers, and water heaters. Contact The Lee Thompson Co. today for all your heating and cooling installation, repair, and maintenance needs in Birmingham and the surrounding areas.