Consider the heating/cooling flexibility of a mini split heat pump system

When you’re adding a room or renovating a home without ductwork, a mini split heat pump could be the easiest, most efficient solution to heating and cooling.

These ductless systems allow you to add heat and cooling to specific rooms or areas of the home without tearing into walls or compromising your available space. The indoor air-handling units are joined to their outdoor compressor/condenser by a conduit housing the power cable, tubing, and condensate drain. This conduit requires only a 3″ hole in an exterior wall and may be as much as 50′ long, allowing for convenient, unobtrusive placement of the exterior component.

Many models can handle as many as 4 interior units per compressor/condenser. Each is controlled by its own thermostat, so you don’t need to heat or cool unused rooms.

Because mini splits have no ducts, they’re more energy-efficient than ducted systems. Traditionally, central forced air systems lose more than 30% of their heating and cooling capacity as the air travels through ductwork. This is especially troublesome when ducts run through un-conditioned attics or crawl spaces.

The mini split’s indoor air-handling units, which are typically 7 inches deep, can be mounted on a wall, suspended from a ceiling, or mounted flush into a drop ceiling. Remote controls are available with many systems.

When you’re thinking of adding cooling to an existing home with non-ducted heat, the mini split is the better, safer choice. Window units do cost less, but they must be installed and removed as seasons change, and they do present a security hazard. It’s a simple trick for a thief to shove a window air conditioner out of the way, but no one is coming in through the mini split’s 3″ hole in the wall!

What are the disadvantages of a mini-split system?

The cost is typically 30% more than central systems (not including the duct work). In general, mini split systems cost between $1,500 and $3,000 per ton of cooling capacity. (One ton equals 12,000 Btu per hour.)

If you’re remodeling a house with no existing duct work, the time, mess, and expense of installing duct work may make the mini-split the more favorable choice.

The biggest disadvantage is that the system must be installed by a qualified installer. It’s important to correctly size each indoor unit for the room/space. These qualified installers are not always easy to find, as most heating and cooling contractors are still focused on installing whole-house ducted systems.