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Mini-Splits Buying Guide

Whether you’re building new or retrofitting your existing home, ductless heat pumps are a great choice for space heating and cooling. Also called mini-splits, this type of system is ideal when you’re retrofitting a house with non-ducted heating or cooling systems, or you’re adding a new room to your home and extending or installing distribution ductwork is not possible. You have an efficient new home that requires a space heating and air conditioning system, or the main components of a mini-split are an indoor evaporator, an outdoor condenser, a refrigerant line, and with select systems a wireless remote control.

Operation and Benefits

The heat pump works by extracting heat from the outside and bringing it inside. Basically, the refrigerant gas absorbs heat from the outside air and this heated gas gets passed to the indoor unit. In the case of cooling, heat from the inside gets passed outside to be cooled by the outside unit.

In traditional air conditioner units, the rotary compressors run at full capacity and then power down. Once the temperature in the room starts to increase, the compressor will start running again at full capacity and then shut off when the desired temperature is reached. As you can imagine, this creates large fluctuations between stop-start cycles.

By choosing a mini-split with inverter technology, your unit will operate at variable speeds. Power consumption will go up or down as it is needed. You will see significant savings since large fluctuations in energy are avoided. An added benefit of inverter technology is that these types of units tend to be quieter and are less prone to breakdowns.

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  1. Easy Installation: No ductwork is required for mini-splits making it easy to hookup. Two small lines carry refrigerant from the outdoor condenser to the indoor evaporator through a small 3” hole in the wall. Typically installed in only a few hours, some outdoor units can be located as far as 50’ away from the indoor evaporator. This makes it possible to cool rooms on the front side of the house, but keep the compressor tucked away in a more discreet location.

  2. Quiet Operation: By dividing the heat pump into 2 units, you will place the noisier component, the compressor, outdoors. This will give you some peace and quiet indoors.

  3. Individual Temperature Zoning: Since each room has its own thermostat, you get perfect temperature control per room. And by only cooling or heating occupied spaces, you will save both energy and money.

  4. Safe and Secure: Compared to traditional window-mount air conditioner units, mini-splits offer additional security. Because there is no duct, only a 3” hole, people with criminal intent do not have an easy access point to enter your home. Also, the advantage of having a permanent air conditioner is that you no longer have to remove it from the window in the winter and reinstall it in the spring.

  5. Environmentally Conscious: Energy efficient heat pump models can produce more heat energy than the electricity they consume. Not only are they efficiently producing heat, no ducts = no energy losses that are normally associated with the ductwork of central forced air systems. For example, there is less than a 5% cooling loss in a mini-split’s insulated refrigerant lines compared to more than 30% through ductwork. The unit even comes pre-charged with refrigerant which is designed to prevent the depletion of the ozone layer. Lastly, there is only a 3” hole in the outside wall, so you’ll experience less temperature loss than a window-mounted air conditioner unit.

  6. Interior Design Flexibility: As for mounting, the indoor evaporator can be hung on a wall, suspended from a ceiling, or even mounted flush into a drop ceiling. In addition to the variety of mounting options, the unit itself has a sleek looking design and will blend in with most decors.

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  1. Installation: Compared to traditional window air conditioner units or space heaters, the cost of installation may be higher since a qualified installer is necessary. This initial expense can be offset though with lower operating costs, provincial or federal rebates, and other financial incentives. The installer is responsible for correctly sizing each indoor unit and deciding the best location options for their installation. By reviewing your requirements carefully, installers can help you avoid buying a unit that is too large or too small for your room. If you get a unit that is too big, it would be more expensive to buy and operate. And if you get a unit that is too small, the result will be short cycling. This means wasted energy and improper temperature control.

  2. Appearance: Although mini-splits are less obvious than a window-mounted air conditioner, these units do not have a built in look of a central heating system.

  3. Let it Snow: Snow is inevitable in Atlantic Canada, yet snow cannot build up on the outdoor unit. In fact, the condenser needs to be mounted at least 2’ above the ground to keep it out of the snow. If the evaporator component gets plugged with snow, the compressor will spend more time melting snow and not heating the house. In addition to mounting the unit above ground, it is best to keep the unit protected by a roof so air flow isn’t restricted and snow is kept off and away from the unit.

  4. Other Considerations: There must be a place for condensate water to drain near the outdoor unit and although heat pumps are quiet, they may be noisier than some other heating options. It’s important to keep in mind though that the greater the length of piping between the outdoor compressor and the indoor evaporator, the lower the efficiency of the heat pump and the greater the installation cost.

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