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What Is a Mini-Split Heat Pump

Home heating and cooling have many different options to choose from. Among them, air conditioning, heat pumps, and furnaces are the most popular methods of household heating and are also the most common in European living. However, in your search, you may have come across mini-split heat pumps.


Many people have questions about what a mini-split heat pump is. If you want to know what a mini-split heat pump is or how it differs from traditional heat pumps, you are not alone. Although they differ in some aspects, mini-split heat pumps offer significant advantages depending on the size and age of your home and your specific heating needs. They are technologically advanced and an economically efficient option for your home.


Shenling has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing mini-split pumps and understands the details of home heating and cooling, confidently answering your mini-split heat pump questions.


What is a mini-split heat pump and how does it work?

What is a mini-split heat pump?

Although “mini-split heat pump” may sound unfamiliar to you, you have probably seen them before. Mini-split heat pumps are also known as ductless heating and cooling systems. They serve the same purpose as most heating and cooling units, but they do not require a duct system in your home or building and are typically used to heat or cool a single room or space.


Mini-split heat pumps consist of two components: the outdoor compressor/condenser and the indoor air-handling unit. The indoor unit is relatively small and is placed high on the wall or even on the ceiling. The compressor/condenser is located outside and is much smaller than traditional heat pumps. Together, they are well-suited for heating and cooling small spaces.


heat pump installation

How does a mini-split heat pump work?

The process of heating and cooling your home with a mini-split heat pump is straightforward. The device uses refrigerant to transfer heat between the interior and exterior. In the summer, the heat inside your home is absorbed by the refrigerant and then transferred outdoors. In the winter, the heat pump works in the opposite way, using the refrigerant to absorb heat from the outside and transfer it into your home.


The indoor air-handling unit is placed in the room of your choice, typically high on the wall near the ceiling. However, mini-split heat pumps can be designed with various installation methods to meet specific aesthetic preferences and physical capabilities of customers. While high-wall installation is the standard for indoor units, they can also be installed low on the floor or in concealed attic spaces. The outdoor unit can also be customized, as it can be wrapped in insulation and hidden within paintable conduit tracks for a finished look.


The device typically hovers above the room or space you are in, but you don’t have to worry about it generating a significant amount of additional noise. Using whisper-quiet technology, the device is very quiet, emitting almost no sound to disturb you or your family.


With the help of HVAC professionals, your home can be divided into multiple zones to optimize the efficiency of your unit. They can analyze your home’s square footage, the number of rooms, air quality, and your overall comfort preferences for free. After installing the ductless system, you will have convenient wall-mounted controllers or handheld remotes to control your system.


What are the advantages of a mini-split heat pump?

One major advantage of this device is that it does not require a duct system. The installation cost of duct systems can be high, and with professional help, the installation of a small mini-split pump can be done quickly and effectively. Not having a duct system also means homeowners and business owners do not have to pay for duct system maintenance, such as duct sealing or cleaning.


For larger heating and cooling units, you may need to move or remove furniture to accommodate them. They can also be obtrusive in rooms, especially if you live in smaller areas. One advantage of mini-split heat pumps is that the indoor unit can be placed high on the wall, making it less noticeable to most people and not taking up any extra available space.

Another advantage of mini-split heat pumps is that they are an excellent solution for home renovations and room expansions. Expanding an existing duct system can be both expensive and time-consuming, while adding this type of heating system can be a quicker and more efficient choice.


Who needs a mini-split heat pump?

Mini-split heat pumps are not suitable for everyone. Although they are compact and cost-effective, they make more sense for certain households than others. Typically, people consider purchasing mini-split heat pumps if their homes are small, if there are different temperature preferences within the home, or if the home does not have a duct system installed.


If your home is smaller in size, a small mini-split heat pump may be sufficient for heating and cooling your home. Its ability to heat or cool only one room or space may be a better option compared to integrating a larger system into your home. It’s also a good option for older homes without a duct system. You can save money by not installing a duct system but still achieve your goal of heating your home.


For larger residences with residents who prefer to live at different temperatures, it’s also a good option. With traditional heat pumps, your thermostat controls the temperature of the entire unit, thereby controlling the temperature of the entire home. However, some people prefer to live at lower temperatures, and with a mini-split heat pump, this can easily be achieved. Using this type of heat pump, you can place a separate unit in each room or space where people prefer different temperatures.

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Are all mini-splits ductless?

There is also a question about the type of indoor units. Some are ductless with different styles: wall-mounted, ceiling cassette, and floor-standing. Others are ducted, which can be horizontal ducted or multi-position. Some people use the term “mini-split” only for indoor ductless units. Others use the term for any smaller capacity split system, whether the indoor unit is ductless or ducted.


Inverter-driven mini-split heat pumps

Inverter-driven mini-split heat pumps are the future of high-performance homes. Their high efficiency and variable capacity make them suitable for ultra-insulated, airtight homes like zero-energy or passive homes. They also work well in homes with lower efficiency.


They also offer some additional benefits. With their lower capacity, you can zone your heating and cooling with individual units. Using individual units provides flexibility. If one heat pump stops working, you can still heat or cool the part of the home with operational units.


The final point here concerns a one-to-one configuration. If you want the highest efficiency, the best inter-zone control, and maximum flexibility, using one indoor unit per outdoor unit is the way to go. Multi-split systems can work well, but they’re just not as good as a one-to-one setup.


Can you oversize a heat pump?

One significant advantage of using mini-splits is their variable capacity, but if you oversize, you may lose that advantage altogether. In a room with a cooling load of 1,500 BTU per hour, a small mini-split with 6,000 BTU per hour will not act like a variable capacity unit because it will always run at the lowest capacity.


So, the answer is yes, you can definitely oversize a mini-split. When you do, you’ll end up with some of the same problems as oversizing traditional systems: poor humidity control, short cycles, and wasted money.


When a contractor proposes seven indoor ductless units for a 2,100 square foot home without doing a load calculation, the system is almost guaranteed to be oversized. Even new homes that undergo load calculations for their loads can experience this issue. You must look at the specifications of any mini-split heat pump in conjunction with the heating and cooling loads of your home and install a heat pump that can fully utilize its variable capacity.


Heat pumps are the future of HVAC

Regardless of the temperature environment you live in, using heat pumps is a great idea, especially if you are looking to replace a gas heating system. Unlike fossil fuels, electricity is becoming increasingly clean, and mini-split heat pumps are the most efficient way to heat and cool using clean energy.


As technology advances, the efficiency and performance of mini-split heat pumps will continue to improve, making them an even more attractive option for residential and commercial heating and cooling needs. With their versatility, cost-effectiveness, and environmental benefits, mini-split heat pumps are poised to become the future of HVAC systems. Whether you have a small home, want precise temperature control, or need a system without a duct system, a mini-split heat pump could be the perfect solution for you.

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