The Efficiency and Cost Savings of Ductless Mini-Splits

For a very long time, homeowners in Mechanicsburg, PA and its surrounding area only had one viable option for efficiently heating and cooling their homes. That option was a central HVAC system. The reason is the economy of scale. Central HVAC systems use less electricity than window AC units and space heaters to handle the same amount of space. But there was a catch. Central HVAC systems required extensive ductwork in a house to operate. And if your home wasn’t built with ductwork, adding it could be prohibitively expensive. So, older homes typically went without air conditioning and relied on radiators for heat. 

But today, there’s a new option available called a ductless mini-split system. Not only can you install it in almost any type of house, but it puts the efficiency of conventional HVAC systems to shame. Here’s an explanation of what ductless mini-splits are, how they work, and why they can save you so much money on your heating and cooling bills.

<h2>What’s a Ductless Mini-Split?</h2>

A ductless mini-split is an HVAC system that uses a single outdoor unit and individual indoor air handlers to provide efficient heating and cooling to your home. Instead of ductwork, mini-splits only need a small bundle of refrigerant lines and power cables to connect the elements of the system together. As a result, they’re quite easy to install, even in homes without pre-existing ductwork. In most cases, an HVAC installer will only need to drill a 3-inch hole in each wall where you plan to install an air handler. That’s all the system needs for its refrigerant and electrical lines to pass through.

Plus, unlike a conventional gas-powered furnace and central AC combination, which is the most popular heating and cooling combination here in Mechanicsburg, a mini-split offers heating and cooling from a single system. They’re able to do that because ductless mini-splits rely on heat pump technology to work. That’s also a big secret to why they’re so much more efficient than conventional HVAC systems.

<h2>How Do Ductless Mini-Splits Work?</h2>

A ductless mini-split is a type of heat pump. Put simply, it carries heat from inside of your house to the outdoors in the summer. In the winter, it does the opposite, collecting heat energy outside and bringing it inside to heat your home. To do both, it uses a refrigerant, which is a substance that’s adept at absorbing heat. In practice, the way a heat pump works is almost identical to how your home’s refrigerator works.

In the summer, a compressor in your mini-split’s outdoor unit increases the pressure of the system’s refrigerant. In the process, the refrigerant becomes a hot gas, which reaches temperatures between 120 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the hot gas passes through a heat exchanger coil, while a large fan blows outdoor air through it. Since heat will naturally migrate toward a colder surface or environment, this allows the refrigerant to release its heat into the outdoors. As this happens, the refrigerant passes into a liquid state.

Next, the refrigerant passes through an expansion valve, which lowers the pressure on it. This results in the refrigerant cooling off to between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, it passes through the indoor air handlers, where it can remove more heat from your home and begin the cycle again.

In the winter, the process runs in reverse. The main difference is that the operating temperatures of the refrigerant are lower in the winter. This is because there’s less heat to absorb from the outdoor air when it’s cold outside. As a result, a ductless mini-split will produce warm air in the winter that’s between 85 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s significantly cooler than what you’d get from a gas-powered furnace, but more than sufficient to heat your house.

<h2>The Efficiency of Ductless Mini Splits</h2>

Ductless mini-splits outperform the efficiency of conventional HVAC systems for a variety of reasons. The first has to do with them doing away with ductwork. According to the US Department of Energy, the average ducted HVAC system experiences energy losses of up to 30% due to its ductwork. That includes things like air leaks and losses due to thermal conduction. For that reason, ductless mini-splits have an immediate efficiency advantage that would be difficult for a conventional system to overcome.

However, the efficiency advantages of ductless mini-splits don’t stop there. They also make the most of their heat pump technology to conserve even more energy. This is especially apparent in heating mode. In the winter, a heat pump doesn’t consume any energy to generate heat. Unlike something like a gas-powered furnace that burns fuel to generate heat, a heat pump simply collects heat energy that already exists in the outside air. Then, it uses a small amount of electricity to amplify and distribute that heat in your home.

As a result, a ductless mini-split with heat pump technology can operate at efficiencies of up to 400% in optimal conditions. By comparison, the best gas-powered furnace will only reach an energy efficiency of 98.5%. And in the summer, while a ductless mini-split won’t be as efficient as it is in heating mode, you can still expect it to remain competitive with the most efficient central AC systems available today. Plus, ductless mini-splits will do a much better job of dehumidifying your house than a conventional AC system would. That often means you’ll feel cooler inside of your home without having to turn your thermostat way down to be comfortable.

That’s not all. Because ductless mini-splits feature individual air handlers in each room you want to heat and cool, they enjoy yet another efficiency advantage. It’s that you can set a different temperature in each room. This means you never waste energy on overheating or cooling rooms in your house. You only use the energy required to meet your comfort needs. You can even turn off individual air handlers completely in rooms you’re not using to save even more!

<h2>Your Local Ductless Mini-Split Experts</h2>

For almost 20 years, Ready & Able Plumbing, Heating & Air has served the residents in and around Mechanicsburg and the greater Harrisburg area. Our team of expert HVAC technicians has the skills and training to tend to all of your home’s HVAC needs. We offer comprehensive HVAC services, including installation, repair, and maintenance. Of course, that includes working with the latest ductless mini-split systems. We also offer complete plumbing services, and our master plumbers can handle everything from fixing slow drains and small leaks to working on water heaters, well pumps, and sewers. We also offer indoor air quality services and water filtration systems to round out our comfort-focused lineup of services. And you can always count on getting a free estimate and upfront pricing on all the work we perform. We can even help you with financing options on approved credit to help you afford a new ductless mini-split for your Mechanicsburg home. So, for ductless mini-splits and all of your other home comfort needs, call the experts at Ready & Able Plumbing, Heating & Air today!

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