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Mini-Split HVAC Systems — A Smart Choice?

by | Nov 14, 2019

You’ve decided to remodel your home. Perhaps you’re adding an addition, finishing a basement, or fitting out an apartment for elderly parents or grown children. You’re working with floorplans, figuring out bathroom fittings, considering appliances, and more. But have you given thought to one of the most fundamental needs — heating and cooling your new space?

If you’re adding on to your home, don’t assume that you can successfully piggy-back onto the existing HVAC system. The cost of adding new ductwork can be a budget-buster, and your existing HVAC system may not have the capacity to successfully handle the increased requirements of the new space.

Even if you have heating and cooling in the space you’re working on, wouldn’t it be nice to provide autonomy in heating and cooling to that location, so that you don’t run into conflicts with cold- or hot-blooded family members?

For these reasons and more, it’s worth taking a good look at mini-split HVAC systems. Whether they’re called mini-split, multi-split, or ductless systems, they have a lot to offer, and they may be just the right addition for your home across a variety of different scenarios.

How Do Mini-Split Systems Work?

Mini-split systems offer heating and cooling that can be controlled in individual spaces. That makes them ideal for home plans that require flexibility. Each system has two components. The first is a compressor/condenser unit that’s installed outside and the second is an indoor evaporator unit. The units are connected via drain, refrigerant, and electrical lines that require very little space. In fact, a 3-inch hole in the wall is all that’s necessary to allow the lines linking the units to pass through.

Control of the unit is accessed from the room where the indoor unit is installed, making it easy for the occupant of the space to adjust the temperature as they see fit. Some systems can even be controlled through Wi-Fi with smartphone apps. This is a big advantage over conventional whole-home systems where individual room control isn’t usually possible.

Some Pros and Cons of Mini-Split HVAC Systems

The configuration of mini-split systems offers some real advantages in a lot of different scenarios, especially where the home is not already equipped with ductwork, a common situation in older homes that relied on radiant heating or space heating. In particular, it’s an excellent way to add efficient air-conditioning capabilities into an older home. Keeping these advantages in mind, let’s examine some of the pros and cons of mini-split systems.

Pros:

The configuration of mini-split systems offers some real advantages in a lot of different scenarios, especially where the home is not already equipped with ductwork, a common situation in older homes that relied on radiant heating or space heating. In particular, it’s an excellent way to add efficient air-conditioning capabilities into an older home. Keeping these advantages in mind, let’s examine some of the pros and cons of mini-split systems.

  • Small size and flexibility – As we’ve noted, the ability of mini-split to serve as the primary HVAC system for a single room is one of the main attractions of this technology. You can easily add one, two, three, or more to your home depending upon your needs. You’ll never have that degree of flexibility with a central forced-air system.
  • Easy installation – With no ductwork to install, and only small access holes required to connect the indoor and outdoor components, mini-split units don’t require nearly the amount of work and potential disruption to your home when installed as a central HVAC system.
  • Individualized zone control – Since each unit in a mini-split system can be controlled individually, cooling and heating levels can be adjusted for specific zones throughout the home. That can result in savings on heating and cooling, plus improved comfort in different areas of the home.

Cons:

  • Greater expense – Based on unit prices, mini-split systems can be as much as 30% more expensive than centralized air conditioners and furnaces. However, the expense and time of adding ductwork is a consideration, particularly in older homes. And mini-split systems are more efficient, offering real savings in future energy costs.
  • Aesthetic considerations – While the in-room portion of mini-split system can be mounted in a variety of different locations, they are more intrusive than the simple duct openings that you’ll find in a forced-air system. However if your goal is adding air conditioning, mini-split units are less obtrusive and noisy than a window unit air conditioner.

As with any home improvement, you’ll need to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages and see what works best for your situation.

Mini-Split Systems in Remodeling

There are numerous scenarios in which considering a mini-split system makes sense. The flexibility of mini-split applications lets you deliver heating and cooling wherever you need it, perfect for when you’re remodeling, particularly in areas where ductwork or HVAC wasn’t considered originally, like basements or enclosed porches. Let’s examine a few scenarios where mini-split systems can be a great match for your needs.

Additions

If you’re adding on to your home, running additional ductwork can be an extra expense and hassle. In addition, your existing HVAC units may not have the capacity to regulate the temperature in your home’s increased space. Adding a mini-split unit solves these problems.

Adding Air Conditioning

Older homes that rely on radiant heating weren’t built with air conditioning in mind. Rather than an expensive retrofit to install ductwork for a central air conditioning unit or getting by with window air conditioners, installing mini-split units where necessary is a smart way to add air conditioning.

Adding an Apartment

If you’re retrofitting your home to create an apartment for elderly parents or independent children, installing a mini-split system in the apartment allows complete autonomy in cooling and heating, ensuring that everyone is comfortable and that fights over the thermostat settings don’t occur.

Mini-Split Systems In New Construction

For the reasons we’ve been examining, it’s worth considering mini-split systems in new construction as well as in remodeling applications. In particular mini-split systems make sense for vacation homes or for retirees who are building a smaller home that may have spaces, like guest bedrooms, that won’t be used on a regular basis.

Mini-Split Systems For Commercial Spaces

Commercial spaces are often excellent candidates for mini-split systems. Space may be limited, or ducts for a central HVAC system may not currently exist and your ability to make structural changes to the space is limited.

Don’t Forget Regular Maintenance

Mini-split systems have a lot of advantages, but they require regular maintenance, the same as central HVAC systems. A few of the important maintenance needs that should be addressed on a regular schedule include:

  • Replace filters regularly.
  • Keep the outdoor unit clear of obstructions and vegetation.
  • Clean and inspect the indoor unit fans.
  • Inspect refrigerant levels.
  • Keep coils and drains clean.

The importance of having regular maintenance performed by qualified technicians is essential to ensuring that your mini-split system operates trouble-free for the length of its life. Consult with your installers to set up a regular schedule for maintenance.

The Importance of an Experienced Contractor

Mini-split systems offer easier installation than conventional forced air systems, but the importance of having a knowledgeable and experienced HVAC contractor working on your installation can’t be stressed enough. It’s important to match the system correctly with the size of the area to be cooled or heated, and if you’re putting together a multi-zone system an experienced contractor has the expertise to create an installation that is minimally intrusive to your home’s exterior and interior.

Interested in learning more about mini-split systems and seeing if they’re a smart choice for you? Call us and we’ll be happy to help you examine all the options available.

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY: TEAM ENOCH

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY: TEAM ENOCH

(817) 888-8880 | mail[at]teamenoch.com

Team Enoch provides electrical, plumbing, roofing and HVAC services to residential and commercial customers in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metro with an emphasis on value (service price, quality).

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